Pregnancy & Coaching; Rachel’s Story

Our series of blogs about pregnancy and coaching aim to share stories of women’s experience as to how they juggled being a new mum and a coach.  Following on from our latest blogs, Rachel Sandler (a T&F coach from USA) got in touch to explain her experience of coaching whilst pregnant and her thoughts on the Q&A blogs with Erika, Rikki and Shelli…

“I was the assistant Cross Country and Track & Field coach at a Division III liberal arts college for 4 years, and coached all 3 seasons (cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track). I was a three-season runner at a similar college and after job hopping in a corporate rut, I decided to pursue my passions and thus became a coach. I loved it – my team…the head coach with whom I worked and became very close to…the athletic administration. It was nothing like any job I have ever had before. It was great.

I got pregnant in October 2012 and coached all the way through (three seasons) to my son’s birth in May 2013 (he was 1 month early). I had a complicated pregnancy. My son was breech, low birth weight, and born with a club foot. I had to visit the hospital twice a week for tests. I was also working on my master’s thesis and about to graduate from a sport management program. (My son came too soon for me to defend my thesis, but I still graduated with honors and just this summer presented my research at 2 national conferences)!

I was a part-time assistant but worked just as hard – if not harder – than a full time head coach. My hours were long and I continued work (recruiting, planning practices, fielding athlete issues, etc.) at home. In fact, the head coach used to always say that I deserved more for the work I did, but it was never available to me. I had no health benefits nor a salary to match my efforts.

I chose to return to coaching when my son was only 2 months old. No one forced me, but I also didn’t have any benefits, let alone maternity leave. I coached all three seasons that year, while struggling to care for my newborn son, who had doctor visits every week and an eventual surgery for his clubfoot. Working nights and weekends was taking a toll on me. Furthermore, as a cross country and track & field coach, there are no seasons “off.”

I didn’t go back to work this past academic year. My son is now 2. He finally started to walk and is doing really well. His development has flourished and I have been able to see every second of it. While I have finally come to terms with being a “stay at home mom,” I do miss coaching…a lot. I keep telling myself that I will go back one day, but not sure when. I want to be around on nights and weekends to have dinner with my family and to see my son at his own sports and activities. And I would like to have another child. I have always been an “all or nothing” person. I have to give 100% to everything I do. Therefore, coaching and being a mom simultaneously seem impossible. I would love to learn how to “make it work.”

While I was glad to see Q&A with some coaches who are moms, I didn’t quite feel that I connected with them at all. Honestly, they made it sound easy, as if everything eventually wound up falling into place. Yes, I understand that having a supportive husband is key, but I DO have a supportive husband and still find it challenging. My husband is the clear bread winner in our family. It was cheaper for me to stay home this year than to coach. My assistant coaching salary was not enough to cover the cost of childcare and travel. Do I need to become a head coach to enjoy the benefits of still being able to coach while being a mom at the same time? And what are your thoughts on coaching three seasons? Are there any other coaching moms out there who coach three seasons? I would really like to know more about the challenges and how – in detail – we coaching moms overcome them. I think the articles you put out thus far are a great start, I just want to learn more.”