Coaches offer tips for balancing sports, school, family

Many of the Cedar Falls teachers spend their afternoons coaching sports and their nights grading papers. With so much time taken up with their passions, how do they and the athletes they coach balance it all, from their free time to spending time with their families?

Colby Grothoff has been teaching ninth grade U.S. history for seven years. He’s currently at Peet Junior High and is the head freshman football coach and head coach of high school wrestling, which he grew up playing. 

He’s been a part of coaching since he graduated from high school in 2010 but officially started coaching in 2012. 

“I love working with kids and seeing them excel; there are so many more life lessons that students can learn while doing activities that I adore getting to be a part of,” Grothoff said. “I make sure to have all of my school work done before I even think about touching my coaching duties; I do work before school, during my planning period and weekends if need to be.” He said even with all that planning, the trickiest part of coaching and teaching is finding time for his personal life due to the time commitment, especially during wrestling season. 

Brett Williams teaches special education at Peet Junior High, which he’s been at for six of his 13 years teaching. He’s been coaching seventh grade football and varsity baseball since 2001. 

Williams grew up playing football, baseball and wrestling, so he finds “lots of reasons to coach. I love competing at a high level, but a lot of it has to do with helping student athletes become better at the sport,” Williams said. “I enjoy helping athletes become better teammates, helping to inspire them to be the best teammates they can be knowing that if I can accomplish that, we will become the best team we can be.” 

Williams said making time for this family is also a top priority. “I grew up being a Cedar Falls Tiger and want to help athletes contribute to the success of all the teams at the high school level. This is certainly a tough thing about coaching being busy; it does take time away from family time. During the winter when there is more time, I try to make sure I am at home with my family as much as I can. I am fortunate that my family enjoys coming to events, so having them at many of my games is awesome. My wife, Karen, does a great job of coordinating schedules also to keep our family going.”

Renae Beneke has been teaching for 26 years as a seventh grade science teacher at Peet Junior High. She’s been coaching eighth grade volleyball for 26 years as well. 

“My first coaching experience was as a volunteer as a junior high track coach,” Beneke said. “I also coached volleyball at the junior high level and moved to the assistant and then head volleyball coach at the high school. I have since moved back to coaching at the junior high. Outside of school I have coached club volleyball and soccer. In high school, I played volleyball, basketball, and ran track.” 

Like other coaches, she has lots of experience balancing her family with her teaching and coaching roles. “I have jumped around coaching different things mainly because of my family.  My son Ethan was born in October of 2005 in the middle of the volleyball season, when I was head coach. At less than one month old, he made it down to the state tournament to watch our Tigers play,” she said. “That was the last year as head volleyball coach. My family comes first, and I want them to know that I support them in any way possible, so my coaching experiences have changed and followed them as they have grown.”

All these coaches noted that even though they have more on their plates with their commitments to teaching, coaching and family, the sum of all this is greater when blended together, though it’s still a challenge. Williams said, “Work hard at both aspects, learn to manage your time. This helped me as a student athlete long ago. My grades were much better when I was involved in a sport. I had to be more focused during the day in the classroom, but that helped me find success.” 

Though physically draining for coaches and student athletes, Grothoff said, “Do it anyway. One will always be tired after practice or any event—ergo, they need to find an efficient system to get school work done before they can play—finding that routine will help both in school and in activities.”

He said it’s important to “first, play to have fun. Sports are so serious in today’s world, and I am as competitive as it gets, but the reason you are there is because you have a talent or an interest in that sport. You can play and be part of something even if you are not the star of the team. Also know that you don’t have to commit to one sport at a young age. Even college coaches are looking for well rounded athletes. Be part of your school, be part of a team.”

Beneke also has some tips for juggling it all. “To balance things, I suggest using the time you have effectively. Use power hour and your time in class to complete as much as possible.  Stay in contact with your teachers and ask for help if you need it. That is what they are there for. Having a well rounded education will take you far in life, so make sure that comes first, but make it the best experience possible by being involved in any way you can.”

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.