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Buc Report: Coaching couples

November 26, 2013

It is said that working with your spouse can be bliss or a nightmare, all depending on the couple’s approach to the endeavor. Within the Beloit College athletic department, two couples have crossed the threshold from spouses to colleagues--and they couldn’t be happier with their decision. Head Women’s Basketball Coach Jennifer McCormick and Head Women’s Soccer Coach Nick Chapman share the benefits, trials, and troubles of integrating personal and professional life.

McCormick and her husband and assistant coach, Kyle McCormick, are entering their third season as a coaching duo. “When I told (my husband) that I had the opportunity to take this job, I was wanting a good staff that I was close with and I felt comfortable with and at the time I didn’t know who that would be,” McCormick says. “We talked about how if the college would allow it then he would love to help me and that gave us the opportunity to work together.”

As the head coach, McCormick does most of the scouting, recruiting, and game planning--with the assistance of her husband.

“He does a little bit of everything with me honestly, but one of the biggest things that he helps me with is recruiting. He will go recruit with me throughout the summer and the year,” McCormick says. “He also has a really strong background with strength and conditioning, so he does a lot with the workouts and conditioning for the team.”

Being the only male on the roster, players and coaches included, Kyle is able to bring a different dynamic to the team. “He’s light-hearted, he brings some fun analogies and stories, and also his expertise is through a lot of research, strength, and conditioning… a lot of aspects that help me become a better coach and a better all-around person as well,” explains McCormick. “We more or less supplement each other and help each other see one side versus the other and play devil’s advocate, but really most of the time we come to a conclusion together.”

Ultimately, according to McCormick, having the chance to work and collaborate together actually makes them closer. “If anything (coaching together) enhances our relationship because it allows us to problem-solve together, be creative together, use each other’s strengths, and try to make each other better in other areas,” she said. “This job requires so many hours, and I couldn’t imagine him not being part of it.”

This past fall, Chapman made his debut not only as the latest addition to the Buccaneer athletic department, but he and his wife and assistant coach, Lindsay, had their first season working together.

“We work really well together,” says Chapman. “We have the same soccer philosophies and ideas on how to coach and how to run a team, so it just works well. I mean, if we were completely different, it wouldn’t work well at all.”

Chapman says that their partnership works especially well because Lindsay is able to forge a different relationship with the players: “They kind of (relate to) her a little bit more than me, both because I am the head coach and also a male. I have fun with them, but there’s just a different dynamic there. They’ll tell her things that they won’t necessarily tell me.”

Although their current work relationship is solid, Chapman explains that this wasn’t always the case, hitting a few communication roadblocks early in the season. “There were some stressors at the beginning and the biggest being getting over the feeling like you’re being personally attacked. When it’s your spouse and they disagree with you it’s like you get a little defensive,” Chapman says. “It’s interesting because she would come up in a game or practice and say something like ‘hey, I really think we should change something,’ and I would just feel myself getting defensive like she was telling me that I was doing a bad job… Generally though if I listened to her, it was just her enforcing what I was already thinking.”

To other couples exploring the idea of coaching together, both McCormick and Chapman urge the importance of understanding yourself and your partner before diving into working together. “You really have to understand each other because it’s not for every couple,” says Chapman. “You have to make sure you understand what your roles are and where those levels are so that you learn to talk to each other and listen to each other.”

McCormick echoes this sentiment, but also believes that if a couple is thinking about coaching together, don’t be afraid to try it out. “This job also takes a certain level of understanding between each other and each other’s skills and professions,” says McCormick. “Do it if you’re thinking about it because I believe it’s a great experience, but you also have to find a balance because you don’t want it to be all work all the time.”