A tale of two families

Coaches, family members talk about the balance between sports and home life

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Every once in a while, Craig Mortensen thinks back about "the question."

The Moffat County girls basketball coach was having a discussion about basketball with his principal when he was asked about the sacrifice of coaching.

"(The principal) said he was sitting in the stands at a game and he was surrounded by parents who were focused on how their daughters were playing. Then he looked over at me on the bench and saw that even though I had a daughter on the team, I was giving all of the players equal attention," Mortensen said. "He then asked, 'Are you sure you want to do this?'"

It's a question that coaches -- who share time between home and home court -- ask themselves from time to time. Mortensen has looked back after coaching four daughters and considered his dual role as father and coach.

"I do think, 'Was I really their father?' at times," he said.

Mortensen brought up that story when talking about the resignation of boys basketball coach Mike LeWarne. Mortensen said he admired his former assistant for resigning for the right reasons.

"He's got his head on right," Mortensen said. "He loved basketball but it wasn't his life."

The extra time put in after school and on the weekends makes the balance of family and coaching a challenge for all of those involved. Seventeen of 18 head coaches at Moffat County have families and make the balance something they deal with often.

"His first year here I never knew what was going on," said Nadine Scranton, the wife of football coach Lance Scranton. "There's a lot of need for communication."

Communication has been the key for volleyball coach Becky Howlett.

"We (she and her husband Josh) have to talk about things at least a day ahead of time," she said. The two work to make sure that, Thorin, 8, is cared for.

"I'm fortunate that my son is older and is pretty independent," she said. "I couldn't imagine coaching with an infant. I understand Mike's desire to be at home with a newborn because I don't know how successful I could have been as a mother if I had coached during Thorin's first three years."

Football coach Kip Hafey said it takes a special spouse to be married to a coach.

"My wife is the ultimate coach's wife," he said. "Some wives are working wives, house wives and coach's wives. Mine is all three."

The balance between the football family and regular family was challenged for the Hafeys when Jill was expecting twins during the state playoffs in 2003.

Logan and Ethan Hafey were born the Tuesday before Moffat's game against Berthoud in the first round of the playoffs. Coach Hafey traveled separately from the team to and from the game on the Front Range so he could be with his wife and newborns.

" I wouldn't be able to do any of this without her," he said.

Jill Hafey and Nadine Scranton also share time together when the dads are on the road.

"We've become good friends," Scranton said. "When they're gone we'll chat on the phone or go with everybody to McDonald's sometimes."

Coach Hafey recognized that during the season he might not see his sons, including 4-year-old Kaden, as often, but he makes the effort to make sure he does see them.

"A lot of parents say they spend time with their kids, but some of that time is just sitting around staring at the TV," he said. "It's important during the season that I spend quality time with them when I have a chance."

When things slow down he said he also enjoys the chance to cuddle up and watch a movie with his boys.

Understanding is another word that everyone used to describe a key component of successfully balancing time.

"I have a very supportive and understanding husband," Howlett said. "He knew my passion was volleyball when we met and he is very good about making sure the needs of Thorin are being met when I'm not around."

Road trips, summer camps and long practices are just a few of the time-consuming aspects of coaching.

"It absolutely involves communication," Nadine Scranton said. "Just the other day (Lance) took the laptop and said he needed it for football. The season seems to go so long. But he always make the point to spend time with the boys." (They have four.)

LeWarne made the decision to not have to balance coaching and caring at home, but for those who do, they know it takes quite a bit of work.

"It's a whole family effort," coach Hafey said. "I have a forgiving, understanding wife which makes it easier. But the big thing is that God and family take precedence."

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com.

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