By Laura McAlister
No matter where a high school football coach’s career may take him, Linda Anderson and Donna Goodwin agree that to be a coach’s wife you’ve got to have strong faith.
The two should know. Both their husbands are successful high school head football coaches, and both women are always at their husbands’ games.
For Linda, wife of Vestavia Hills High School’s Buddy Anderson, this year will mark her 40th season sitting in the stands in Vestavia.
And for Donna, wife of Homewood High’s new head coach Doug Goodwin, this will be her first year strolling the sidelines of the Patriots’ field. But she knows what it’s like to be a coach’s wife. She’s been doing it all across the state for almost 25 years.
“It’s been great,” Donna said. “We both have very strong faith and feel God has led us everywhere we’ve been.”
Despite these wives’ different backgrounds, they both agree that it isn’t easy being a high school football coach’s wife. But they wouldn’t have it any other way – not even during a losing season.
Linda said the fall is by far her favorite time of the year.
“When the pine straw starts to fall a little and there are those little blue flowers in the monkey grass, I say, ‘It’s almost here,’ ” she said. “You’d think after this long, I’d be tired of it, but I love it. I love it.
“I love Buddy Anderson with all my heart and admire and respect him. This is what we were called to do.”
Linda said she’s fortunate that she and her husband have spent his entire career at one school – Buddy’s first coaching job was at Vestavia in 1972. Her three daughters attended Vestavia Hills schools, and now her grandchildren are enrolled in the system.
The Rebels’ tradition hasn’t been lost through the generations.
“All the little ones have their little Rebel clothes,” Linda said.
They also have their family traditions. They tailgate on Friday nights, and there’s a special place in the stands where Linda and family are always watching the game.
For the past 40 years, the couple has also started and ended each game day the same way – win or lose.
“When he leaves the morning of a game, I get his clothes ready, and I give him a hug and a kiss and tell him ‘I’ll see you at victory field,'” she said. “And it doesn’t matter what’s going on in the game. I walk to the sidelines at exactly the three-minute mark, little ones trailing, to either celebrate with him or soothe him.”
Though Donna and Doug have moved around, they too have their traditions when it comes to game day. For Donna, it’s walking the sidelines.
“That’s where you’ll find me. They’ve gotten so used to me in the Super 6,” she said. “It’s just something I can do for the mommas. I take pictures and video, and not just of the players, but of the band and cheerleaders. We’re very supportive of them.”
Linda said she didn’t always stroll the sidelines but found that was a way she could stay in the game and push out some of the negative comments that often come with dedicated football fans.
When it comes to dealing with criticism of their coaching spouses, Linda and Donna have learned to take it over time. But it’s still hard, they said.
“Where I sit, I surround myself with people I know won’t be doing that,” Linda said. “But I still hear it sometime, and I might glare, and clinch my fists.”
Donna said after having her husband as head coach and her sons as quarterbacks on his team, she’s heard the worst. Her sons, Dustin and Devon, are still in the field with their dad, now as assistant coaches.
“I’ve been there, done that,” she said of the criticism she heard while her sons played for their dad. “I’ve faced the worst. I really just try to get very involved with the game and let all that go.
“I try to focus on the good, and that’s the kids, coaches, everybody out there working and doing the best they can.”
After all, it’s the kids, the players, that they’re there for anyway, Linda and Donna said. Both said they’re not just coaches’ wives. They’re team mothers.
Linda invites players to her house on Wednesday evenings for fellowship. She and Buddy are deeply involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
“We have enough Bibles for all the players,” she said. “For some of them, this is their church. I think this time strengthens them. It brings us closer as a team and Christian friends.
“We’re at Vestavia because God called us to be here. This is our home. This is our life; we’re serving students at Vestavia.”
Since moving to Homewood, Donna said, she’s had the opportunity to get to know the players. She looks forward to riding to away games on the bus with them, something her husband has always insisted on. Whether it’s making sandwiches for players or taking pictures for scrapbooks, she said it’s been her joy and Doug’s to work with so many young men throughout the state, and now in Homewood.
Doug kicked his career off as an assistant coach in Lanette and then made three other moves, with his last stop in Russellville before taking the lead at Homewood. Each move has been a calling, said Donna.
“Each move we made, God called us to do it,” she said. “They’ve been hard, and some I haven’t wanted to leave, but there’s been good reason for leaving.”
In Homewood, it was to be closer to their aging parents in Sylacauga, and also, Donna added, to get her two young grandchildren into what she considers a great school system.
In addition to being the head coach’s wife, Donna is also a teacher. This year, she’s teaching algebraic connections and algebra II with trigonometry at Homewood High School.
“Homewood is a great system,” she said. “They do it right here, and the city sees the importance of the school system. I’m really hoping my grandchildren will be Homewood graduates.”
Linda also has a background in education. She tutors from their Vestavia home, which is less than a mile from the high school. She said it’s been fun to see some of her students’ children enrolled in the school system.
Linda thinks she and her husband were meant to spend their lives in Vestavia, and one of the best things about it is Fridays in the fall, of course.
“There is just something magical about it,” she said. “Every Friday night is a story, and something is going to happen. It may be absolutely wonderful and you win, or maybe it’s a loss, and that’s hard.
“Either way, you can’t stay there long, because next week you could always win. Football is really a lesson in life.”