The Life of a Coaching Family – Part 2: Being Married to the Coach

By Jeff Greenberg

Every Saturday afternoon in the Fall, fans flock to college stadiums all over the country to watch their favorite football team. After the game, there is usually a press conference where the head coach appears for the media and answers questions about the game or about that week’s preparation for the game. One question that isn’t usually asked is how much time the coach was able to see his family during the week leading up to that game. Another person in that room that knows the answer is most likely standing off to the side and watching the coach answer the other media questions. That person is the coach’s wife. Typically, the end of the press conference signals the start of the limited amount of quality time the coach and his wife and family get to have together before preparations begin the next day for the next game.

Family life isn’t easy in the coaching world as it is difficult to find life’s most valuable commodity, time. The coach not having a lot of time to spend at home leaves a lot of the everyday family-related tasks and responsibilities sitting squarely on the shoulders of his wife. That is not an easy proposition for anybody, yet, a coach’s wife lives that life every day. As hard as the coach may be working to find ways to be successful on the field, the wife is working as hard, or harder, off the field to find ways to make a great life for their family.

People can write or theorize all day long what life must be like for a coach’s wife. However, the experts on the topic are the wives themselves. To help bring some color and clarity to the conversation, we sat down with Christi Fedora, the wife of North Carolina Head Coach, Larry Fedora. Part 2 of our series, The Life of a Coaching Family, is our conversation with Christi and Larry about being a head coach’s wife.

Did you know what marrying a coach would entail for your future?Christi:  “I don’t think anybody could ever really know what it will be like until you’re in it and you’re living this life. I never thought about it then but I remember telling that guy(not Larry) I followed to Austin College that he should be a football coach because it seemed like that life would be a lot of fun. The only way you could really have a sense of what it’s like before you get married is if your father was a coach and you grew up in the coaching world. It’s always way different than what people expect going into it. Looking back now there is no way I could have predicted anything about how our life in this business would be.”

Your husband was a graduate assistant when your first child, Dillon, was born. GAs work endless hours, so was he able to be there for any of the early baby duties?Christi: “Uh, no. I think he would get up and get them when they cried in the middle of the night and bring them to me, but that was about it(laughing).”

Were there any moves that were particularly hard on you?Christi:  “Absolutely. There were several moves where I was crying from the moment we pulled out of the driveway until we arrived at our new home. The longer we were in any one place the harder it was to leave. Then, as the kids got older and we became more involved in the community and meeting other people in our kids’ lives it became even more difficult to move. Moving is never easy when it is happening. Plus, the coaches’ wives do everything involved with each move. Your husband has to leave immediately to start the new job. That leaves you alone to handle every part of the move, while also maintaining everything going on with your kids. That level of stress may contribute some to those tears in moving.”

Larry:  “I would say that she’s not wanted to go to any place where we’ve had to move. But then I’d also say she’s not wanted to leave any place we’ve been after living there. She’s always been able to make good friends where we live and enjoyed becoming part of those communities so it’s been hard for her to leave those situations. Every move has been difficult in its own way because it’s the people that make the place. That’s what makes each place special. You become part of the community. I think that’s why it’s always harder on the family than the coach because your wife and kids make more friends and spend more time in those communities with those friends than you do.” ”

Christi:  “I did want to go to Florida.  Ultimately I think we’ve always made the best out of every situation.  There was a coach’s wife at Baylor that told us, ‘Your roots are where you’re planted.’ There is a lot of truth in that, and I think we’ve experienced that throughout our marriage. ”

What’s it like trying to make friends each move?Christi:  “It’s not easy all the time. First, you always have to make sure they genuinely want to be your friend and not just your friend because of your husband’s job. Then, once your kids are older it’s harder. When they were younger and involved in more activities it was easier to make friends with other parents at those activities. The move here was harder to get to know people because we had two kids heading to college and the other two being older and not in as many activities. Of course, wherever you go you have an instant group of friends with the wives of the other coaches on the staff. That’s always been a blessing and something that helps transition into a new job.”


How is Larry with the honey-do lists?Christi:  “He’s good, when he’s home long enough to get to doing the honey-do list. The thing about that is he doesn’t like me paying anybody to do work around the house. He likes to do the projects like that with the house. I usually have to wait for him to be home to get things done or get things fixed.”

Larry: “I have a hard time paying somebody to fix something I think I can fix myself. It’s just the way I was raised. If you can fix it you fix it.”

What would surprise people to know about what he’s like at home?Christi:  “I think the fact that he is very handy around the house. He’s always said that if he wasn’t a coach he’d be a home builder. We had our bathroom done last year and it killed him not to be able to do it himself.”

Larry: “Again, that’s just the way I was raised. My dad taught me how to do a lot of things. Like if our sink disposal stops working I know I can fix it and I will. I like doing those type of tasks and I really dislike paying somebody else to do it.”

Christi:   “I think a lot of people would assume he’d call somebody to fix things like that.”

After all of these years, are you interested in what’s going on at work for him?Christi:  “I am, but he didn’t always tell me what’s going on. Early on in his career I would usually find things out from other coaches’ wives. As the years have gone on he tells me more, which I like.”

Larry: “That’s true because for me, I try to turn all of that off when I get home. I feel like I’ll be a better husband and father when I do that so that I can just focus on them and what’s going on in their daily lives.”

Did you like football when you met Larry? – Christi:  “Yes, I loved football.”

Do you still like football?Christi:  “I do. I’m already ready for next season. It’s crazy that I love the season with everything that means for our family life, but I really do.”

What were the differences for you being the wife of an assistant coach compared to being the wife of the head coach?Christi:  “It’s hard when you’re the head coach’s wife when he has to let somebody go. As the head coach’s wife you try to make the wives a cohesive group and making sure everybody feels involved. You want to make sure we’re all there for each other. So when one family is let go that’s hard on the wives. That’s always tough. I also think it’s different with the assistant’s wives because I know there can be a separation between the head coach’s wife and the assistants’ wives. The same thing can happen once you become a head coach. Where once you hung out with all of the other assistants, once you’re the head coach it’s not the same. Sometimes you need a break from the boss.  That can exist amongst the wives too. But here, I really feel like we’re a really tight-knit group with the coaches’ wives. We’re usually constantly communicating with each other about sorts of things. I love our staff family at UNC.”

Can that group be like a counseling group?Christi:   “I think we all counsel each other about the challenges this profession presents a family’s life. I think that’s why it’s important that we get together a lot. We can mentor each other and be there for each other in any and all situations. Nobody knows what a coach’s wife is going through like another coach’s wife.”

Do you feel protective as the head coach’s wife?Christi:  “Maybe to some extent, I do feel protective of all of them. But I feel like we’re all protective of each other. I feel like we’ve built genuine friendships here at UNC. And it’s not always like that in every program you work at in football.”

How do you feel when the coaching carousel season comes around?Christi: “I hate that time of year.  Hate it. It’s hard because again, you hate to see any part of your football family leave or go through any hardships. You understand because you’ve been in their shoes, but you hate to see them go.”

Both: “And we worry about them and the moves they’re making. You worry about their well-being and sometimes you don’t always agree with the decisions they’re making because you don’t think it’s in their best interests in the long run.”

What was the hardest move for you? – Christi:  “Oklahoma to Mississippi was hard because all four kids were with me and we had made really good friends. Stillwater is a small community and we really felt loved there even though we had only been there for three years. But then leaving Mississippi was difficult because I felt like I was leaving two kids behind as they went off the college. Dillon was at Southern Miss and Sydney was heading to Texas. That was the first time a move had caused us to split up as a family. We were excited about the job at North Carolina, but the logistics of it all early on were hard on the family.”

What are the biggest misconceptions that non-coaching wives have about your life?Christi: “I don’t think they ever really understand how much our husbands are gone for work. It gets to a point where they know not even to ask about “us” coming over anymore. If Larry is there then great, but they come to expect just me coming over. I think people have a hard time believing that he only eats dinner with us once during the week when the season is going on. Or that he doesn’t see us before we all go to bed for most of the week. The other big thing that is hard to grasp is how sudden their job can change. That’s the other factor in why the moving is tough. In most cases, those job changes happen at a moment’s notice, with no warning in some cases.”

When the job stresses him out do you feel that stress too? – Christi:  “Yes, I feel the stress when he’s feeling it. I can tell when I’m acting differently around the kids when things are stressful. I do my best to snap out of it but it’s hard. I try not to read anything anywhere because it can be brutal. I mean in Mississippi early on we had people putting ‘For Sale’ signs in our yard. That can be uncomfortable and hard to explain to the kids. And we laughed some after the first reaction and a neighbor actually pulled them down before we saw them. But it’s crazy to think about.”

Do you ever talk things out when work is stressful?Christi:  “He didn’t in the early days but he does now. He’ll vent to me like any other husband does and I’m glad he feels that he can do that. I want to know what’s going on so that I can keep a pulse on what he’s going through at work. I think he realized as time went on that we’re in this together and it’s not a situation where he’s burdening me with his problems. I want to know what he’s feeling, just like any wife would want to know how their husband is doing.”

What changes in this profession have you noticed most in recent years? – Christi:  “It’s amazing these days now with the younger assistants who are getting jobs at schools like UNC as their second jobs in their career and making the kind of money they’re making. I mean, when we had Dillon we were broke.  I knew I couldn’t go into stores like the Gap or shop at all. So it amazes me how far things have come for them compared when we were at that stage in our career. The other change that is noticeable is the rate of turnover in coaching.”

When you’re watching a game that starts to go downhill and isn’t looking good, where does your mind go when thinking about how he’ll be after the game?Christi: “I start thinking about all sorts of things. I’ll wonder why we’re playing poorly and what’s going on. Then I start wishing we didn’t have to do a press conference after the game. It usually depends on whether we have company in town too. It’s always better when we win. He can still make it fun even when we lose, and actually it’s usually the company that gets down more because they’re expecting him to be down. He tends to be able to relax while he is with us and block out the game. When we win, everybody is happy.”

When the day comes for him to retire, who will miss it more? Christi: “I think we’ll both miss it to be honest. But he’ll probably miss the connection he has with the staff and the players. I know that’s important to him. I’ll miss having that close connection with the other wives on the staff, and their families. Honestly, I don’t know how we will react to it, at first. Life will be different for sure.”

Do you make a point of getting to know the players?Christi: “I try and get to know as many as I can.  It’s not easy because of how many players there are but I enjoy it. I’m always amazed with them because I forget how young they are in college. Their size will trick you into thinking they’re older but in reality they’re always just 18-22 year old kids. But I want to know them and I want them to see the other wives get involved. I want them to see and feel that family atmosphere. When Larry was a position coach I got to really know his players really well and I miss that. They’d come over to our house for dinner and play with the kids and just became part of our family. As the head coach’s wife I just try and get to know as many as I can. I really wish I had more time to get to know more of their parents. I love interacting with the parents because we have kids in college as well so there is a lot of commonality there.”

What would you say to your daughters if they came home and said they were going to marry a football coach?Christi: “I used to tell them to never marry a coach(laughing). However, it’s all they know so I think they would be better at it than most, and they would be better at it than I was because they know this life. They love football and they love being around it. Plus, they’ve seen us make it work in this profession. So it doesn’t worry me as much as it used to when I thought about that. I would be open-minded about it.”

What do you like most about Larry now and when you look back at your marriage? – Christi: “I think I love that he never gives up on anything. Whether it’s relationships or his job, he’s one the hardest workers I’ve seen in so many different aspects of his life. He’s been like that since Day 1, and it’s one of the main reasons he’s still able to do what he loves to do.”

What do you think has been the key/secret to having a happy marriage in the coaching world? – Christi: “There’s no doubt the key to a happy marriage in this profession or in any profession for that matter, is having a Christ-centered marriage.  We’ve had our share of struggles as any marriage does but leaning on our faith in God keeps us grounded.  Also, I really feel that having a coaching staff that is close and gets along, both coaches and wives, is important.  I think Larry does a great job when interviewing coaches in making sure they are going to fit with his philosophy as a coach, but also with our philosophy as a staff of men and women that love each other and work well together. Finally, at the end of the day, we are a team. This could not work if we didn’t work together and support each other. We’ve survived this lifestyle because we’ve always done it together. I don’t know any other way to do this life.”

That concludes Part 2 in our series. The next part in this series, Growing Up In The Coaching World, will look at what it’s like to be the child of a head coach, as described by Sydney Fedora. Look for that story next week here on

FOLLOW Under The Headset on Twitter for new articles and interviews posted on the site. You can follow UTH at @undertheheadset and @jeffgberg