Football coaches say their wives are a major part of the program

Yaneek Smith

Press Contributing Writer

Football, for the most part, has been a sport reserved for participation by almost exclusively men, whether it’s the players or coaches.
But sometimes a coach’s wife can play an integral part in helping to support her husband, the players and the program as a whole.
Two local coaches, Gibsonburg’s Joe Wyant and Northwood’s Ken James, have been fortunate to have supportive women by their sides for the better part of the last four to five decades.
Wyant, now in his third year coaching the Golden Bears, has been married to his wife, Virginia, for 48 years. The two met at Lakota High School when Joe was a senior and Virginia was a sophomore.
She’s been there for the couple’s daughter, Jessica, as well as their three grandchildren — Dylan, Logan and Alivia, all of whom attend or attended Fremont Ross High School.
“My wife was a great mother, she and my daughter get along really well. They do a lot of things together, and she’s an excellent grandmother, too. All three of (our grandchildren) are swimmers,” said Wyant. “My wife never missed a swim meet or a softball game of Alivia’s, and she would text me about the games. My wife did the timing at the swim meets when there was COVID, just so she could see the grandchildren swim.
“She worked in the banking industry for 45 years (but) never missed an event my daughter played in, whether it was volleyball or softball,” he said.
Wyant, who graduated from Lakota in 1971, coached football, wrestling and baseball at the school and then softball when Jessica, who graduated in ’98, got to high school. He also worked at Whirlpool in Clyde and is now retired from the MR/DD facility in Wood County.
“I did coach my daughter in softball,” said Wyant. “I used to be the baseball coach at Lakota, and I (switched) to softball because my daughter was going to school. I did coach the girls in her grade for three years before coming to the high school.”
To say that Wyant has had a demanding coaching career would be an understatement. He currently coaches football at Gibsonburg and wrestling and softball at Eastwood. Wyant was an assistant to Gary Quisno at Oak Harbor for three years before coming to Pemberville in 2005 to be the defensive coordinator for Jerry Rutherford.
“Obviously, I coached a lot of sports for 48 years now, and I’ve been a three-sport coach for the past 40 years. I started out just doing wrestling and baseball, then I went into softball and football and did all three,” said Wyant. “My wife is very supportive and she knows I enjoy coaching.”
As for James, now in his 36th season coaching the Rangers, he’s had tremendous support from his wife of 37 years, Kris, he said.
Kris, a native of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, met Ken when the two attended Bluffton College, where he played football. She taught English at the high school and now works for the school’s library. Ken, who is now the athletic director, used to teach English and history. Their oldest son, Ben, who played football at the University of Findlay, works for one of the nation’s most renowned Chevy dealerships just outside of Detroit, graduated from Northwood in ’01. Twins Nate and Chelsea graduated from the school in ’09, subsequently graduated from Bowling Green State University and work for the school district in special education.
“My wife has played a huge role, not just in our own kids’ lives, but the lives of the football players. She’s on the sidelines keeping stats, she used to cook dinners for the players, and the players know that — she’s an integral part of what we do,” he said. She’s been a huge part of things, she’s a very giving person of her time and energy, and she’s that way with everybody.
“She’s done stats for me since we got here in ’86, and she’s as much a fixture there on Friday nights as I am,” James said. “My wife is a phenomenally giving person, and does what she has to do to help people. She’s a great teacher, too.”
James has won 214 games with the Rangers and the program reached a new stratosphere when it left the old Suburban Lakes League and moved to the Toledo Area Athletic Conference, a league with schools more similar in size to Northwood, in ’01. Northwood has dominated the TAAC for the better part of the last two decades and won 12 league titles.
To this day, Nate is the team’s defensive coordinator. He and Chelsea grew up around the program. Ben, who just turned 40, was adopted by the Jameses when he was in high school.
“Nate spent a lot of time getting run over at practice, and Chelsea would tell people what to do at practice,” James says with a laugh. “They grew up with the program, and they were at school events from the time they could walk. If Kris had something to do, they would hang out with me at practice. That’s kind of the way our lives have evolved around football.”
With Ken and Kris, coaching and teaching is about staying young and connecting with the students.
“I think we got into education because we enjoyed the subjects we taught. She is a voracious reader,” James said. “As we’ve aged, the people have become the most important part of education. A lot of families are not in very good shape these days, and with some of the difficulties kids face, it makes our jobs more difficult but also more important.
“Football is an educational thing — it’s about holding men accountable, teaching them to be dependable, and those things have become more important to us as we’ve gotten older,” he said.


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