For Valentine's Day, I asked three couples in different stages of their lives how they are able to make it work in sports. The couples I interviewed were:
Emily and Chas Dorman
Mary Ann and Chris Mitchell
Mary Ann Mitchell is the Associate AD for Media Relations at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Chris is the Assistant AD for Communications at Washington University in St. Louis
Married 10 years in August, together since the summer of 2004
Alisa Petercuskie and Tommy Galt
Alisa is the marketing coordinator for the New England Patriots and Tommy is the Offensive Coordinator at Assumption College
Engaged and will marry on June 8, 2019 / together for 3.5 years
How did you guys meet?
ED: We met when we were both assigned to work with the wrestling team. I was the athletic trainer and Chas was the sports information director. While we “met” when the season began, we didn’t actually start to date or even think about dating until towards the end of the season. Towards the end of the season we were driving home from Penn State after the team had a big win. Chas and I decided to go to McDonald’s for Shamrock Shakes. That was really the first time we’d talked – almost six months into the season! We got back to the bus early and somehow the Daytona 500 was brought up. It turns out we are both NASCAR fans, so we struck up a conversation about that. It wasn’t anything major, but it broke the ice. A few weeks later, we carpooled together to the airport on our way to the NCAA Championships where we again had a great conversation. We spent a lot of time together that week in St. Louis, and kept finding we had a lot of common interests. It kind of went from there, but we often look back and laugh at how we spent six months with the person we’d eventually marry, and didn’t say a word!
MAM: I was working at Drake University and was in St. Louis for Missouri Valley Conference meetings during July. We had a mutual acquaintance: Lou Antoine, who was at SIU Carbondale at the time. Lou invited Chris out the one night a bunch of us were going out and I guess you can say the rest is history! Ironically, I was actually not even in the mood to go out that night. We had been playing golf all day in the hot sun and I was tired. But it’s a good thing I went out! The night after Chris and I met, we exchanged a few emails and phone calls and the following weekend he made the six-hour drive up to Des Moines. We somehow did the long-distance thing for a little more than a year until I made the move to St. Louis in the fall of 2005.
AP: Tommy and I met at Penn State University in the football office. I was finishing up my undergrad degree while working in the recruiting sector of the office and Tommy was finishing his graduate degree while also serving as an offensive graduate assistant coach.
What kind of role did/does sports play in your relationship?
ED: A huge part, but one that is constantly changing. It brought us together and, in our younger days, it was a big part of our free time together since we’re both pretty big sports fans in addition to our professional roles. Life has gotten busier with our roles expanding and the addition of our twins last January, so it is nice to work football together in the fall. We know that we get to share the same experience and we have those guaranteed blocks of time now that we are busier and have less downtime.
MAM: Obviously had it not been for us both working in sports at the time, we never would have met! And, I think today it’s still a big part of our relationship. It’s helpful to have a spouse who truly gets my job and understands what I do and why I sometimes work the hours I do.
AP: Sports, especially football, is a huge part of our relationship. We both come from a long line of football families and football coaches. My grandfather coached in college and in the NFL for 40-plus years, my uncle coached collegiate football for 40 years and my dad played at Penn State and in the NFL. Tommy’s twin brother is also a football coach at Old Dominion, coaching strength and conditioning, and his dad is the strength and conditioning coach at Penn State.
How do you make it work with busy schedules and jobs? What is the secret for you guys?
ED: What is working for us now that we had the twins is living by a master calendar. It’s a place to mark every event that every member of the family needs to do. It is centrally located and easy to access. We add events as soon as we know about them. This helps for short- and long-range planning, to know who will pick up and drop off the kids and who will watch them on the weekends. It also allows us to identify when we will need help watching the kids. Combine this with daily communication on the logistics of our day and things have been working out pretty well so far. I will say we cannot do it without help. Despite all the planning, there are still instances where we both have to work. It sounds weird, but being honest is a big help - prioritizing what we absolutely have to be at for work and what is something we can delegate. If we tell ourselves that everything is super important, we can’t solve anything. Work was always super important for us and we never felt like we were missing out on growing our relationship because we were spending time together while we were on the road or at the office late. Now, we have two one-year olds who need our love and attention. It’s been a challenge, but I know it’s forced Chas to slow down and prioritize – which he needed to do – and we also know that life is always evolving for us now. We have to communicate and be adaptable, just like athletes on a team.
MAM: We make it a priority to make time for each other. We have Mexican date night every Thursday – unless its during basketball season and I have a home game that night – and then we make it a different night. Just like any other marriage, it takes effort to make it work. Communication is key, as is having a work-life balance. Both of us are good about not staying in the office late. We’d rather work side-by-side at the kitchen island at 6 p.m. than apart in our respective offices. We also talk about our schedules quite a bit so we each know what the other has going on that week.
AP: Dedicating planned time ahead when possible is our secret. For example, during football season we are both "in season". So, we dedicate Thursday night as our date night (from August to November that is usually the only night that Tommy is home before 10 p.m.). We make it a point to get home to spend the night together.
What do you do to prioritize your relationship and maximize time together?
ED: This has been an adjustment for us and I know we can do better. I think now that we have less time together it helps you appreciate and enjoy what little time you do get. We enjoy road trips together, having lunch dates, and, now that we are parents, enjoy movies or TV shows together. Even the difference from when our kids were newborns and we were waking up every three hours to when they started sleeping through the night was huge. It’s not sexy and glamorous, but knowing we’ll most likely have a good chunk of time to catch up, have a drink and enjoy each other’s company is huge. We’ve been lucky to have our parents nearby, and they almost force us to take vacations or get away for a night. Chas and I took a trip to Disney (where we spend a lot of time) this past December right before Christmas. It was nice to laugh and think back about how different things are now than they were in 2010 when we visited for the first time together, but how we wouldn’t change any of that.
MAM: Date nights, whether it’s our weekly Mexican date night or a late-night date night after we both get done with games and we both bring our laptops to a local establishment to finish our postgame responsibilities. Also, I think we really take advantage of our time together when we’re not working or don’t have games to cover. We like to travel and enjoy going to country concerts, so we do quite a bit of both of those in the summer!
AP: Although the date nights are our big things, we do little things too. I will go to Tommy’s office just to pop in and say hi if he has a minute or drop off dinner. Sometimes it even means meeting at Assumption for a quick 20-minute workout! We try to maximize any and every minute we have in-season because there are so few and when we do have them, they are often short. We even include Tommy’s players if it means being able to have dinner together during the season! Sometimes we will have the guys over for dinner. I like to be as involved in Tommy’s players’ lives as I possibly can. I know they mean the world to him and that means the world to me!
What advice would you give to couples who both work in the sports profession and also juggle crazy schedules and responsibilities?
ED: Take advantage of the time you do have together. If you work at the same place, enjoy those opportunities. We’ve celebrated great moments together. How cool is it that we both have championship rings from football and women’s lacrosse? Even just being in the same meetings and being able to laugh at what is happening is a cool moment. If you don’t share a school or team, take some time to attend the other person’s sporting event and let them know you support them. It’s also important to not be competitive in the relationship. We’ve been lucky that for most of our time together, we’ve shared sport assignments so our schedules have overlapped. That’s made it easy to “get through things” together. But if you have a particularly busy fall and your partner doesn’t, don’t hold that against them if they get to do more than you do. Most likely, that will switch the next season and you’ll have more free time or be less sleep-deprived. We know it’s hard to explain to those outside the profession what we do and why our lives are all over the place because our team went on a miracle run from the eight-seed to win the conference, and now we’re on our way to Boise for a week and we don’t know when we’ll be home. Use that familiarity and sympathy to strengthen your relationship! Finally, have a regular place you can meet after work for a margarita and nachos and laugh about what the heck just happened in that game!
MAM: Communication is the key! Also, make sure to make time for each other, especially during the busy seasons. Also, I think it’s also important that you share interests outside of your profession so that when you do get that time together, you’re both doing something you enjoy.
AP: Know that you have a special bond having the same passion as your significant other. If there is one person in the world who understands long hours in our lives, it is each other. Never get too caught up in your jobs or career that you forget the backbone of it all and for us, that is each other, our relationship and our future family. We both recognize that we would not be as successful in our careers without the support, encouragement and guidance from the other.