We are in the trenches of glorious football season in Georgia. The sound of the band playing echoes for miles. Friday night energy is as electric as the much talked about lights that illuminate the fields. And Gwinnett always has some of the best of the best talent shining under those well-known lights at the start of the weekends in the fall.
We hear from the players. We hear from the coaches. But we don’t always get to hear from another important part of these teams. The coaches’ wives are very much a part of the family that forms between the members of these teams. These women may rarely step foot on the field, but their presence is evident.
I am so thankful that two wonderful women, Halie Conn and Courtnye Smith, shared some of the story of their family with me. They shared part of who they are and part of who their husbands are, through their eyes.
Halie Conn (Mickey Conn- Varsity Head Coach, Grayson Rams)
Halie’s energy is infectious and engaging. It is apparent that her focus is always how full her cup is from the bottom and not how far it is from the top. Halie is a caring and seemingly tireless teacher at Grayson Elementary School.
Courtnye Smith (Chad Smith- Varsity Assistant Coach, Central Gwinnett Black Knights)
Courtnye’s heart is as sweet as her accent. But I know that she is also tough. I can tell that her strength lies in quiet waiting for when she needs it. Courtnye owns “Salon C by Courtnye Smith” that is part of Sola Salons at The Avenues in Snellville.
Halie is used to competing for Mickey’s attention. The first week they met Mickey invited Halie to join him at a football game. This had a bit of a complication because Mickey had already invited another date to the game prior to meeting Halie. Oops. Halie didn’t let that deter her. In fact, she was determined to be the one who got the second date. She won that day, and she continues to win every day with Mickey as her husband for 20 years and counting. She may not always get his attention but she does always get his love. They also enjoy to compete against each other in basketball as Halie explains: “I have only beat him in 21 one time, but I usually win in H.O.R.S.E.”
Courtnye and Chad have realized that their competitive spirits are better used fighting for the same goal. “Our family is definitely not a house divided,” she says. “We try to stay on the same side of things to keep the amount of arguing who is the winner is to a minimum. We both HATE to lose.”
And sticking together like that makes losing impossible.
Sometimes being a coach has more to do with things they do off the gridiron than on it. Courtnye is so proud of Chad in so many ways. But her proudest moment is when Chad had to stick to his guns about a discipline issue with a player.
The young man was extremely talented and thought that would give him a pass for everything else, including not following the rules. The player continued to be disrespectful and suffered the consequences by not playing. Instead of changing his behavior, the player dug in his heels. Chad knew that this was a life lesson that the player needed to learn. Chad also knew that the football coaches might be the few, if not the only, male influences that this kid might get. So as the player continued with his disruptive, disrespectful behavior, Chad stayed consistent with the consequence.
I wish, along with Chad and Courtnye, that there was a happy, movie-type ending to this story. But unfortunately this young man’s potential may never be realized because he could not see the need to be a part of a team and listen to its leaders. Courtney recalls, “Chad would remind the player weekly that he wouldn’t start unless things changed, and he made himself part of the team. Sadly the young player would not make the adjustment and didn’t start a game all season.”
I’m sure every time Chad had to implement the consequence it took a toll. I know Chad wanted to use the raw talent of this player to make the team better. I know Chad saw the potential. And this is Georgia, where a win in football is about as important as Sunday School. So I deeply applaud Coach Chad Smith for holding with his decision. It showed the rest of his team that they were equally important. It also showed the young man that he was more than just his talent, even if he didn’t want to see it at the time. And you can tell that Courtnye’s pride for her husband only deepened as she watched him through it. I know that this story is evidence of the character of the man that Courtnye fell in love with.
When Halie talked about what makes her most proud of her husband, the emotion just visually welled up out of her. Everyone can guess how much time it takes to be a high school football coach. You can probably even add a couple hours a day to what you think it is. And Mickey Conn is no exception. But Mickey always said that he didn’t want to coach other people’s kids and not have time to coach his own. So during football season, he finishes with his high school coaching and then stays at his practice field to help with his 2 sons’ practices. He gives permission to the teams of his coaches’ children to practice on the high school field so that it is possible for the coaching parents to be just that. A parent.
“Mickey gives up all leisure activities so that he can give his own children the same commitment that he gives his high school boys,” Halie says. Mickey takes the boys home after practice and gives his time as a dad and husband. Then, after his precious family is asleep, only then does he return to his coaching duties to plan and watch film and critique, forgoing sleep. I admit that I even got a little choked up as Halie told me this. You can tell that the Conns’ most important team is each other.
Often, the moments that make us most proud of our people aren’t necessarily the moments themselves. But how our loved ones shine in those moments. It is how the deep parts of them come to the surface in those moments. Chad and Mickey both have lines on their resumes to be proud of, for sure. But the women who love them most dearly see them for more than awards and wins. A wife sees her husband and his struggles and feels most proud of him for his quiet victories. As evident in these stories, a wife is most proud when her husband digs deep and gives that last part of himself when it would be easier to give up.
Tomorrow we’ll share Part Two of Tiffany’s discussion with Halie Conn and Courtnye Smith.