Any mother can probably recall a time when the world’s circumstances meant she had to take her infant child to work, to class or to someplace unusual.
For example, here was what one day looked like for Clearfield High health teacher and softball head coach Karly Bates.
Her husband, AJ, usually picks up the couple’s infant son, Boston, from daycare. AJ had some later meetings one day, so Karly left softball practice early to feed Boston, pick him up from home and head to the region softball coaches meeting.
So there she was at the meeting with Boston, who “luckily” slept in his car seat on the table the entire time.
It doesn’t always go like that.
Motherhood (and parenthood) on its own is challenging. One night during a particularly jam-packed week in late April, Boston was sick, crying and threw up on Karly and AJ.
“In the morning I’m like, I don’t want to have this repeat as I’m trying to leave for school at 7 o’clock,” Bates said.
Teaching full-time at a high school on its own is challenging. Sitting in her classroom after school, Bates paused in the middle of an interview to scrape a piece of chewing gum off the floor.
Coaching a high school softball team on its own is challenging. The Falcons had two games (one of which was a fundraiser) and a tournament scheduled that week.
Mix all three together?
“A whirlwind,” Bates said.
How does Bates do it? A good support system is critical, as is time management — and the pure hope that things go as smoothly as humanly possible.
At pretty much every Clearfield softball game, one can see AJ with a stroller near the Falcons’ dugout.
At nearly all Weber High girls soccer games this year, one could see Cloee Marble’s husband, Tyrell, sitting near the corner of the field with the couple’s two young children. Marble, the head coach, has a lot of family that lives within 25 minutes of her that often helps, depending on their schedules.
“I have a really good family support system, especially during (soccer) season, my husband’s awesome. He tries to get his work done early so he can take the kids, come help with the kids,” Marble said.
But why do they do it?
From 2009-12, the Roy High softball team enjoyed its best period of success in its history. The Royals won state softball titles in 2009, 2011 and 2012.
In 2014, head coach Mandy Koford stepped down. She didn’t move to another state or decide one day that coaching wasn’t something she liked anymore.
At that time, she and her husband, Ron, had a daughter in kindergarten, a preschooler and an infant. Roy softball practices were an hour long so Koford could get home and spend time with her kids.
“I had to,” Koford said of stepping away. “I knew when it was too much. And I knew that I wasn’t giving my kids enough and I wasn’t giving my teams enough, so I took off some years.”
Five years later, Koford, a former state-championship ace at Roy High, is enjoying being back on the softball diamond as the head coach at Fremont. The Silverwolves finished second in Region 1 a year after missing the playoffs.
Koford smiled when she thought of Bates at the region softball coaches meeting with her son.
“It brought back all those memories of how you’re trying to pitch batting practice when you’re 4-5 months pregnant, trying to figure out how to help this team when you’re double your size,” Koford said.
It’s easier now that her children are older, said Koford, who’s in her first year as a school counselor at Fremont after more than a decade teaching at Roy. She also recently graduated with a Master’s degree in school counseling from Utah State.
For the past two years, six hours of every Thursday has been spent in classes and internship hours at USU.
For her, and many other women and mothers, the relationships they make in coaching and teaching are why they juggle so many tasks.
“(Coaching has) helped me figure out that I wanted to be a high school counselor because I do love the relationship part of coaching, of being a mom, being around kids. I do believe that the relationship part of it is the most important part,” Koford said.
The relationships benefit many. Some high school kids may have issues going on at home that they can’t talk to their parents about and for them, a trustworthy person at school or on the softball diamond is vital.
“As long as my athletes, as long as my students that I serve here, as long as my kids know that they’ve got me in their corner and that they can always come and talk to me about — whether, what’s going on on the field, what’s going on in their lives — I want to be that person for them,” Koford said.
Teaching and coaching are labors of love, as they say, especially in a state like Utah that ranks as low as it does in per-pupil public education funding.
“If I didn’t have such a love for the game, there’s no way I’d be a head coach for it. That’s part of it,” Bates said. “I could seriously spend so much time at the ball field and I’d never get sick of watching it.”
Enacted in 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 mandated the creation of school-sponsored female athletic teams. The law gave universities until the year 1978 to comply with that law.
At the college level, the percentage of women coaching women’s teams before the 1972 law was enacted was more than 90%, according to the “Women in Intercollegiate Sport” study conducted by two Brooklyn College professors emerita.
In 2014, that number had plummeted to 43.4%, according to the same study. Nobody’s been able to put their finger on any concrete reason or reasons; however, some college coaches have stipulated as to the reasons for the decline.
An explosion in good-paying jobs coaching women’s teams at the college level attracted more male applicants, who were interviewed by male administrators and then hired en masse instead of female candidates. On the other side of the coin, women are rarely head coaches of men’s teams.
There’s no hard data available at the high school level but all indications point to a similar trend. So one might see the importance of young girls having female role models to look up to.
“These girls need to see that it’s possible to work and have kids and have fun and have a good life,” Marble said. “A lot of people will ask me, ‘You really wanted to teach PE?’
“It’s a great mom job. Any teaching position is a mom job. You get summers off, you get all the (same) vacations as all the kids.”
Nicole M. LaVoi, co-director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota, told the New York Times in 2017 that she was concerned about the declining percentage of women in the college coaching world.
Young women not having a female role model is “detrimental to development,” she said in the article.
Many prominent women’s basketball coaches have spoken about this trend, namely Notre Dame women’s basketball head coach Muffett McGraw and Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer.
Before this year’s Final Four, McGraw spoke at length about gender inequality in the coaching ranks.
“How are these young women looking up and seeing someone that looks like them, preparing them for the future? We don’t have enough female role models. We don’t have enough visible women leaders. We don’t have enough women in power,” McGraw said in response to a reporter’s question at a pre-Final Four press conference.
That clip went viral on social media and sparked conversation.
Speaking of social media, its advent and rise means gaining access to information about how other people raise their kids is just that much easier.
It’s easy to browse through social media, see how other parents raise their kids and wonder, “Why are they doing that?” or start second-guessing and wonder, “Should I be doing that?”
With the multi-dimensional life of coaching, teaching and motherhood comes something else, though.
“I feel extraordinarily blessed to have the opportunities I did,” Koford said. “You say, ‘how did I do it?’ And I say, looking back, no it wasn’t that bad.
“Did I feel guilty? Yeah, I missed my kids ... but no one ever made me feel like less of a mom or less of. I loved my job, I loved my teams, I loved my kids, so I felt like it was all good.”
Assuming mothers of young children get about six hours of sleep per night (perhaps wishful thinking in many households), that leaves 18 hours remaining in the day.
Subtract the eight-hour workday, any time spent at a practice or game and early bedtimes for many young children, and time runs short to spend with kids on the weekdays. If children are at the age where they’re still breastfeeding, time has to be spent for that, too.
“Let’s say I’ve got to leave (for a road soccer game) at 2 p.m., I don’t see (my kids) until 9 o’clock at night because you get home late,” Marble explained. “You want to work and contribute to your family as far as finances go but, at the same time, you also want to contribute as far as nurture with your kids.
“It’s a very fine line. It’s hard. I know several teachers (who) are women that have kids who aren’t going to be teaching this next year.”
In Marble’s case, she and her husband get everything ready for the kids the night before because mornings are too hectic to scramble everything together.
Marble gets up at 4:30 a.m. to go to the gym, gets back home and goes to work at 7 a.m. Depending on if its soccer season or not, she’ll get done around 3 p.m. or 5 p.m. and be home shortly after.
It’s a typical reality for many mothers who coach and teach, especially once they’re in season (Koford and Bates are right in the thick of softball season, currently).
There’s something called mom guilt (there’s probably dad guilt, too) that describes how parents can feel in these situations when they’re working, coaching and whatnot, meaning time left for their kids is reduced.
“Assuming I continue to coach, as my kids grow up, I really hope that they don’t resent me for the time I put in with other people’s kids, which has its rewards and its payoffs,” Bates said.