Behind every great coach is a great spouse.
Florida Gators baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan and his staff are living proof. O’Sullivan said coaches’ wives are every bit as “invested” in success as the coaches themselves.
College coaching in any sport is a year-round business. Seasons are a grind that would make the typical 9-5er want to drive their Toyota Prius off a Suwanee River bridge.
There is no “off” time during the offseason, either. It’s the same arrive-before-sunrise-and-leave-well-after-sundown approach that occurs 24/7 during the regular season.
It takes a special spouse, and family, to handle the routine. Coaches learn, thanks to words of wisdom from coaching fraternity veterans, to make sure their wives-to-be understand the profession before they become wives. To understand weeks may go by where the only quality time is the kiss-on-the-cheek goodbye or goodnight.
“She’s known about the schedule for a long time,” O’Sullivan said of his wife, the former Barbara Jo Davis. “She knows my love for this job and what all that entails. She understands the amount of time and effort it takes to be successful at this level.
“She’s always been extremely supportive. That’s never been an issue with us.”
One article published in 2007 said the divorce rate for “successful” coaches in one professional sport mirrors that of Hollywood’s. It didn’t offer any data to support that claim but the simple truth is some wives cannot handle playing second base to any husband’s job that comes first, demanding much more than the normal 40-hour work week.
It’s not that coaches love their jobs more than their families. Not in the slightest. There’s just a competitive spirit and pride, perhaps engrained in them by hard-working parents, driving them daily to be the best.
“When I am home, I do spend as much quality time with everybody as much as I possibly can and have a normal family life when I get home,” O’Sullivan said.
All college coaches, at least the successful ones, work tirelessly. The light in Florida football coach Will Muschamp’s office must be an LED bulb because, unless the team is practicing or out of town, it’s almost always on.
Burning the midnight oil so much means families often must go to the coaches’ workplace if they want to “see daddy” for a quick visit.
Coaches often refer to their team as “a family,” and it truly becomes an extended family as players get to know their coaches’ sons or daughters thanks to those few precious moments when family and teams mix.
That’s why it’s not surprising to see coaches’ kids or wives hanging around the Florida baseball complex from time-to-time. It certainly helps create that family atmosphere — and that’s an awesome thing.
“Starting in January the season starts and then when the season is over you’re on the road recruiting — literally the next day — and you go all the way through August when school starts,” O’Sullivan said. “Then when school starts it’ a combination of practice with team and individual work and also recruiting because there is a lot of recruiting in the fall and then it goes all the way through now.
“So if one of our coaches can spend some quality time, even an hour, having lunch with their family down at the baseball facility then we’re certainly all for it.
“It makes for a healthy environment.”
Three months ago O’Sullivan and his wife welcomed their second child, a son named Finn Thomas, into the Gator Nation. They also have a three-year-old daughter named Payton Tyler.
While Finn’s birth did delay the start of fall practice by a few days, it hasn’t changed O’Sullivan’s daily routine of readying his young team for a run at a fourth consecutive College World Series berth.
“I’m still putting in the same hours and the same amount of time,” O’Sullivan said. “One thing that did change a whole lot more is I’m changing a lot more diapers, but as far as the day to day stuff, it’s about the same. It’s just a lot more crowded in the house so to speak.”
One of the small windows when college baseball coaches can take a break is Christmastime. The O’Sullivan’s often would travel for the holidays, but a new baby means this Christmas will mostly be “very relaxing just being around the house.” Even still, O’Sullivan — and Barbara Jo — knows he will be fielding phone calls and exchanging emails while going over all aspects of his team and even planning practice schedules.
The Gators open 2013 with a three-game series against Duke that begins Feb. 15. Fortunately for the coaches, and their families, the first 22 games are in the state of Florida.
In other words, they’ll be home for the first month of the season. Of course, little actual time will be spent at their actual homes.
“I would say that the success that we’ve had here definitely has lot to do with the wives we have,” O’Sullivan said. “That’s not just my wife, all of our coaches have wonderful wives who understand it because it’s not easy for wives and families in this profession.
“You’re only going to be as good as how supportive your wife is.”