Coaches wives’ connect on MarriedToTheGame.net

Wives who married into some of the nation’s bitterest rivalries

are bonding, thanks to connections made on a social networking

Website.

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 MarriedToTheGame.net, 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

season.

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

home.”

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.”’

Online:

http://www.marriedtothegame.net

Beth Rucker can be reached at http://twitter.com/bethrucker