I have lived the life of an activities director’s wife for 12 years after seven years as a coach’s spouse. Some of our first “dates” were spent chaperoning dances or line judging volleyball games. When I directed the high school plays, my husband helped to build the set, and he worked the tab room when I coached the speech team. When our oldest daughter was a year old, he was promoted to activities director – while also maintaining a full-time teaching load. At this point, the adventure really began.
While the activities director’s schedule is definitely busy, the director’s family schedule is often just as busy. As our two daughters got older and became involved in their own activities, we have learned the art of a color-coded family calendar.
When my husband accepted his first activities director’s position, I knew he would spend many evenings away from home attending events. What I did not expect were the 5 a.m. phone calls when a bus did not arrive, the late-night setups for gymnastics or wrestling meets, the Sunday afternoon concerts, the many miles driven to state tournaments, the school board meetings, booster club meetings, filling in for absent event workers, restocking concession stands, chaperoning dances – not to mention the phone calls, text messages and emails received while on vacation.
My husband technically works an 11-month contract, but that is the biggest misconception of his job (along with the 40-hour work week). He begins working on the next school year before the state tournaments finish for the spring season and continues that work and planning throughout June. He is technically “off” in July, but he usually goes into the office at least once a week, and he checks emails and takes phone calls multiple times a week.
The new year begins on August 1, and fall sports begin at the end of the month.
Generally, he is at a ninth-grade football game every Monday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he attends soccer, volleyball, tennis and swim meets. Friday night is for football, and Saturdays are for soccer or junior varsity football. At these events, he may be running the clock or scoreboard, checking in with the event manager, assisting the athletic trainer or just visiting with parents and alumni while cheering on the team.
The fall season is usually completed by late October, but when teams are successful, the season can extend until late November and overlaps into the winter season. A similar schedule continues throughout the winter and the spring. Wednesdays and Sundays are usually sacred for our family, as there are not usually events on the calendar those days. This is when we plan a “sit-down meal” and try to all be home together.
While I did not expect the magnitude of my husband’s time commitment, I also did not expect the tremendous impact that he would have on young athletes and students, nor did I expect my pride when watching him do his job and interacting with the coaches and young people in his programs.
Scheduling games and events, dealing with transportation issues and scheduling officials are tasks most people realize that he handles, but most do not realize the immense number of hours required to do that job. When a team or individual qualifies for a state tournament, extra hours are required – usually on a weekend – to be sure that those students and coaches experience the full excitement of their state tournament berth.
During one successful streak, he did not have a break between seasons – other than summer – for seven consecutive seasons due to teams making state championship finals.
And he is always trying to make sure these programs remain viable. When it was suggested that a program be cut, he came to the parents with ways to raise money and cut costs to save that program.
He also will be sure to correct you if you call him an athletic director. He knows that a well-rounded student may find his or her passion in the classroom, the theater stage or the basketball court. Some may find it in all three and that is why the Triple A award is his favorite student award.
Among his activities duties, he attends band concerts on Sunday afternoons, opens the school at 2 a.m. to assist the orchestra as it departs on a trip, and views the one-act play, 3-Act play and musical, while also supporting the FFA, student council, robotics team and more.
Our home life reflects this diversity of activities and athletics as well. One of our daughters is following in her father’s footsteps and will likely be a three-sport athlete. In fact, she may struggle to narrow it down to three. Our older daughter follows more in her mother’s footsteps as an artist, musician and actress. Her father enjoys watching her perform on stage as much as he enjoys watching her sister play catcher on the softball field.
Our oldest daughter was an infant when my husband first became an activities director, so our girls have grown up on the sidelines and behind the scenes of the school activity world. They started out in strollers at football games, napped in play pens in the tab room of speech meets, braided hair and made bracelets with basketball players, danced to the pep band and ran around the football field after every home game.
Now as they grow older, they are moving into the spotlight and to center stage rather than watching from the wings. While they move into this new role, I cherish the lessons my daughters have learned from family life with a high school activities director.
Our daughters have learned the importance of community, the results of hard work, the value of a team over the individual and how to persevere and continue fighting even when victory seems unlikely. They have learned how to win with grace and to lose with pride. They will carry these lessons with them as they make their own way and follow their passions. And, they have learned that their dad will work as hard – or harder – for them as he has for every other student in these programs.
The largest struggle our family faces is finding the balance between our love for Winhawk activities and our need for Indra family time. Sometimes the two worlds collide and we must attend a basketball or volleyball game just to have a few minutes with dad that week. We have learned, however, that we must schedule time for our family. We protect our Wednesday evenings and Sundays as much as possible. We still haven’t mastered this balance and many conversations still revolve around finding that balance, but it is an elusive unicorn we will continue to chase.
People often comment that they “don’t know how we do it” or “I would not want that job.” Believe me, the schedule is crazy, and it is hard to juggle everything at times. I would be lying if I didn’t say that there are days I would love for him to have a regular job that allowed him to be home every evening for dinner. However, I know that this job is his passion and he would not be happy doing anything else. Therefore, we will continue to juggle the rainbow calendar and wear our spirit wear. For behind every great activities program, is an overworked activities director and behind every amazing activities director is a family of super fans cheering him on.
Amanda Indra lives in Winona, Minnesota, with her husband and two daughters (ages 13 and 10). This is her 20th year of teaching and is currently teaching fourth grade in the Rios Spanish Immersion program at Jefferson Elementary School in Winona. Her husband, Casey, is activities director of Winona Senior High School.