Behind the Whistle: Coach/Mom/Wife Life

PHOTO COURTESY OF MORAVIAN ATHLETICS


This story initially appeared on Behind the Whistle, the official blog of the IWLCA, and is being republished with permission from the organization. Kristen Nicholson is the head coach at Moravian College.

Seeing the headline “Coach Adia Barnes pumps breast milk at halftime,” sparked so many emotions in me as a coach, a mother and a wife.

First, I was proud to see this coach/mama out there doing what needs to be done. She is absolutely incredible, and so are all the other coach/moms out there who are doing the daily juggle of raising their children while leading their programs. Coach Barnes is hardly the first to pump at halftime of a game, but I am so glad the media finally took notice and shined a light on just one small aspect of what we manage as mothers while coaching. Not to mention, she did this while on an amazing championship run on the biggest stage possible.

Thank you, coach, and congratulations to you and Arizona women’s basketball on an outstanding year. 



I have wanted to be a coach since my lacrosse career began in college. I have also always wanted to have a family. I became a wife and a mother just a short time into building my program from the ground up. I admit now that I was wildly unprepared for the constant balancing act and fundamental struggles that were to follow.

Gavin was born in the summer of my fourth year at Moravian College. Relocating for the position, my husband and I do not have family in the area. My husband is an athletic trainer and understands the responsibilities and demands of my position as a coach. We lean on each other every single day and are true partners in raising our son. Thankfully, our parents are able to make the occasional trip from central New Jersey and Long Island to help us fill in on days we simply cannot make it work. I am beyond fortunate to have my husband and Gavin’s grandparents supporting my choice to stay in coaching.  

Gavin is no stranger to our campus community. He was strapped to my chest on the field during practices as an infant, and now he plays with his trucks on the floor of my office as a toddler. He loves coming out to see mommy’s team, and I am so grateful he gets to see me doing what I love every day.







Like Coach Barnes at halftime and so many other breastfeeding coach/moms I know, we all have stories of pumping in less-than-ideal locations. Like on the back of a bus at an away game, in our car in a remote parking lot on campus, or blocking off the window to an office door to pump while watching film. This is just one small part of what we have to endure and manage as mothers in this profession.

The unfortunate truth is that many of us end up leaving this career path because of the constant struggle and the overwhelming feeling that we are fighting the system at every turn. 

Practice plans, daycare, film, grocery shopping, recruiting, laundry, mentoring our athletes, breastfeeding, secondary department duties, diaper changes, staff meetings, sleep schedules, campus events … and the list goes on. The demands may change as Gavin grows, but I am well aware that fulfilling all my roles will still require a juggling act. I know I will not be able to bend his daily schedule around mine as I do now. He will attend school, enroll in his own activities and maybe even join a sports team or two one day (hopefully he chooses lacrosse). And, when that time comes, I will do everything I can to give him what he needs and also remain present for my program. I will navigate that time as I do now — by making sacrifices and leaning on my husband. I will do all of this while trying to retain the idea that as a female coach in a male dominated industry, we are capable.  

I am ultimately here to say that we are MORE than capable; we’re CRUSHING IT! Hats off to all the mom/coaches who compete hard on the field and at home every day. You are all rock stars. I applaud you and I support you. Keep doing what you do, and we can change this industry for the better. 

We are women, coaches, mothers, partners, wives and female role models. We are getting this job done and showing the next generation what is truly possible. We are paving the way and proving that it’s time for society and our industry to simply catch up.

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