Coaches wives’ connect on

Wives who married into some of the nation’s bitterest rivalries
are bonding, thanks to connections made on a social networking

Joani Crean and Jerri Painter are two examples.

While Indiana and Purdue are beating each other’s brains out on
the court, the wives of Hoosiers coach Tom Crean and Boilermakers
coach Matt Painter share hugs, smiles and stories.

”It’s funny because Indiana and Purdue is a pretty tough
rivalry,” Crean said. ”The guys compete on the court, but there
has to be a real-life connection.”

The women met through, a Facebook-like site
for coaches’ wives. It was created by Roberta Martin, wife of
Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin.

More than 700 spouses are members of the site, which is open to
wives of collegiate coaches in any sport and allows members to post
photos, leave messages or participate in forums. The members share
their gameday fashions, talk about bringing children to games or
commiserate about their husbands’ absences during recruiting

Martin said she had the idea for MarriedToTheGame after her
husband left his job as a Purdue assistant and accepted the head
coaching position at Missouri State in 2008. She left her own
full-time job and became a stay-at-home mom in the process.

”It was my first time being a stay-at-home mom, and I was
running on the treadmill, and I was like, ‘Certainly there are
other wives who have gone through this transition,”’ Martin said.
”I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have a way to connect with
them,’ and I was just getting into Facebook at the time.”

After finding a hosting site, Martin asked her friend Shenetta
Webster to help administer the site. Webster and Martin had gotten
to know each other when their husbands were both Purdue assistants
from 2003-04 and have been reunited in Knoxville, with Webster’s
husband, Tracy, joining Cuonzo Martin’s staff this season.

Transitioning from one city to another while following their
husband’s coaching career is one topic members talk about. They
reach out to other members who can help them become familiar with
their new homes, advertise a home for sale or just talk about the
stresses that come from frequent relocations.

Connie Whitesell is currently in the middle of her own
relocation after husband Jim was fired from Loyola and accepted a
job as a Saint Louis assistant. Through connections on
MarriedToTheGame, she’s gotten to know St. Louis as she prepares to
move there from Chicago.

”I think the thing I appreciate it the most is that there are
some really unique challenges that are faced by the families and
spouses of coaches,” she said. ”All the movement that goes on and
how your husband can get a new job and have to be there within
hours while the spouses are coordinating the efforts back at

That’s one reason why it’s helpful for spouses to have a support
network, said sports psychologist Bill Cole, a former collegiate
tennis player and coach.

”You don’t feel so strange or ostracized,” said Cole, who is
also founder and president of the International Mental Game
Coaching Association. ”It normalizes what they’re going through.
They realize, ‘Wow, I’m not the only one, although I still don’t
like it.”’

Martin said her husband would joke that he’d lost his wife to
MarriedToTheGame as she and Webster put many hours into developing
the Website early on. But the coach came to appreciate it when he
attended the Final Four the following year and was approached by
coaches whose wives were excited about the site.

”There’s constant feedback that we get when we run into wives
at national conventions and at games,” Martin said. ”They always
say, ‘I was thinking, why wasn’t there something like this when I
found your site.”’


Beth Rucker can be reached at