Coaches' wives take one for the team
By RANDY GONZALES
It's not always easy being a coach's wife, but Daphne Brown and Summer Harris can't imagine anything else.
Brown has been married to Fort Hays State University head football coach Chris Brown for 15 years, and Harris has been married to Tiger defensive coordinator Cooper Harris for almost seven years.
"I love being a coach's wife, and I love football," Brown said.
"It can be stressful at times; it's not just a game to us," Harris said. "Obviously, when you're winning things are better than if you're losing. I've always been a very positive, upbeat person. I think that helps me out quite a lot."
The wives do love their football.
"I've always been a sports nut ... I enjoy the games," Harris said last week, before Saturday's game at University of Central Missouri, where the Tigers were looking to extend their five-game winning streak after dropping their first four to start the season.
"The first four games we had, that definitely was more stressful than the last (five) that we had," Harris said. "One good thing about football, one game's over, you go to the next."
The coaches' wives are there for each other.
"I love the other coaches' wives," Brown said. "It's always kind of like a family. ... I know they're there for me, and of course I'm there for them."
The wives typically sit together for home games.
"I love going to the games," Brown said. "Sometimes, I scream; sometimes I think people think I'm crazy, because I yell and scream.
"Every game day, I'm very superstitious. There's been tons of crazy things I've done -- this is how we're going to win the game."
One superstition involves what Brown wears to a game.
"If I get a shirt at the beginning of the season, we lose, I won't wear it (again)," she said. "I wore four different shirts the first four games, but then I stuck with the same one the last five."
Harris, who could be seen high-fiving other coaches' wives after touchdowns in the Tigers' last home game, likes to dress up her little girls -- Collins, nine months, and Piper, 21âÑ2, -- in Tiger apparel.
"I thought, 'Might as well dress them up; at least they'll look cute,' " Harris said.
Brown is so jumpy before a game, she can't eat.
"I am always extremely nervous on game day," she said. "I never, ever eat anything before a game; I'm just very, very nervous. At halftime, if we're winning, I can go grab a hot dog, eat something."
While Brown lets her emotions show, her husband is just the opposite.
"Chris is a pretty even-keeled guy, he doesn't have a lot of emotion," Brown said. "I think that's what makes him a great coach. He was able to get past the first four games, come back and win five in a row.
"He had to keep the team motivated, the coaches motivated, because that was tough."
The long hours the coaching staff puts in is tough on the wives and their children. The Brown family has two sons, Hunter, 14, and Hayden, 11.
"They have to sacrifice as well," Brown said of her children. "They play football, and their dad doesn't get to watch them play their games as much."
Her kids take losses hard, too, Brown said.
"They both have shed some tears," she said. "They want their dad to win as bad as he does. They take it pretty personally if he loses a game."
During the season, on weekdays the coaches will go to the office around 7 a.m. and get back home around 7 or 8 p.m. On Sundays, they leave the house mid-morning and don't return until around 10 p.m. In the offseason, when they are off recruiting, they might be gone days at a time.
"I would say recruiting season is always a little bit the hardest, because you never know when they're going to be home, when they're going to be gone," Harris said.
"It's kind of hard to plan things that time of year," Harris said
Brown prefers the offseason schedule.
"The thing I like abut recruiting time is he might be gone for three straight days, but then he's home some. During football season, it's pretty much no days off. He's just not home at all during football season."
A coach can be a vagabond, moving from one job to another. Both Brown and Harris have been lucky, making few career moves so far in their marriages.
"We have been fortunate in that aspect," Harris said. "I know lots of coaches that have moved every two years."
Brown, who moved here in 2011 when her husband got the FHSU job, said she and her husband have decided to stay in Hays until their kids are out of school.
"We just made the commitment when we were moving here that we would not move our family again, no matter what, until the boys are graduated from high school," Brown said.
FHSU plays its final game of the season Saturday at Lewis Field Stadium, against University of Nebraska-Kearney. You can count on the coaches' wives being there, sitting together, cheering on the Tigers.
"It's kind of nice to have a close-knit group," Harris said.