By Kinda Lenberg, AVCA Contributor
The New Harvard Guide to Women’s Health recently ranked life’s most stressful events on a scale of 1-10. In addition to things like the death of a spouse, trouble with your in-laws (which is, apparently, just as stressful as taking out a mortgage) and being sentenced to jail, Nos. 5 and 7, respectively, are pregnancy and changing jobs.
Perhaps someone should have emailed a copy of this guide to Linda Hampton-Keith, associate head women’s volleyball coach at Arizona State University. She decided it would be a good idea to take on stressors No. 5 and No. 7 at the same time.
Surprisingly enough, it worked out great!
Hampton-Keith, who has been at ASU since February 2011, has always wanted a collegiate head coaching position. She began her coaching career at the prep level at P.K. Yonge High School in Gainesville, Fla. She then moved on to be an assistant at Texas Christian University from 2005-10.
“It’s no secret that anyone who knows me knows that eventually I would love to be a head coach,” Hampton-Keith states. “At the same time, I am really happy where I am (at ASU).”
|Courtesy ASU Volleyball|
And, as usual, opportunity tends to knock at the most “inopportune” moment, and Hampton-Keith decided to interview for a head coaching position in December 2014. The ASU season was over; it was time to take on a new challenge and perhaps fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a collegiate head coach.
The kicker is, she was well into her third trimester of her first-ever pregnancy. That means no flying, as most airlines are unwilling to “welcome aboard” a woman who is more than 28 weeks pregnant because of the risk of premature labor.
The result? Thanks to the nearly 140-year-old technology of the telephone, as well as the 12-year-old technology of SkypeTM, Hampton-Keith was able to conduct the interview remotely, starting in December and running through January.
“I told myself I have to at least interview, to see where it takes me,” she says. “So I actually interviewed for one position; I had two interviews in December. I had gotten through the initial phone interview and instead of doing an on-campus one after they invited me for a second interview, [it was done via] SkypeTM.”
In fact, Hampton-Keith ended up interviewing for a couple of head coaching positions in January. Then, she and her husband, Maark, welcomed baby Yaeli in mid-January 2015. Hampton-Keith had yet another interview for a head coaching position when Yaeli was only two or three weeks old, and the institution was very accommodating.
“They got me in and out in one day because I [expressed my concern] I was breastfeeding. But I ended up getting stuck in a snowstorm and that was tough, but we made it through. My advice is to expect the unexpected! You think that you have no control over situations and you go ahead and do the best you can and then you come home and pick up where you left off.
And she has.
“I interviewed for those [head coaching] positions and I ended up either not being offered or not accepting them. I really just love where I’m at and what we’re doing here [at ASU]. To be quite honest, I had a lot of anxiety regarding how [having a baby] was going to work.”
Indeed, having little control over a situation is definitely not where Hampton-Keith wanted to be, so while interviewing for the head coaching positions at the beginning of this year, she had a well-laid plan in place. She knew going into the interviews that she had to have a timeline for how everything would work with the new baby – especially since she was going to be a first-time mom. Of course, as all mothers know – and Hampton-Keith now does, as well – babies don’t really adhere to timelines, and that is where flexibility comes in.
And Hampton-Keith says, that has also made her a better coach.
|Courtesy ASU Volleyball|
“I think the main thing is just being more flexible and being able to ‘roll with it’ a little bit more. That has really helped me to be a better coach because this is the same thing with coaching – and even recruiting, to a certain extent. I think as coaches we try to control a lot of things, and a lot of variables are outside of our control.”
According to Hampton-Keith, one of the major things that helps her keep her “new” family life balanced with her “old” coaching career, is surrounding yourself with friends and family who are willing to help. You have to know how you will react and go with the flow.
“If I have any advice to give at all, you’ve got to know yourself and you’ve got to know the people that you are surrounding yourself with. You have to know your priorities. When you are looking for jobs or you are looking for other opportunities, you must surround yourself with the right people who are going to help you be the best that you can be.
“And if you are a mom or not a mom, either way you have to know the people that are around you because that is going to be your support. And if they are not supportive, then you are just going to be fighting a bunch of battles that you don’t need to be fighting. I am incredibly fortunate. Maark and I are here (in Tempe) and we don’t have family close by, so we are kind of doing this on our own, but our staff and team are wonderful and very supportive and so they are our family while we are here.”
In other words, make use of your friends, colleagues and even your players!
“I have been coaching almost 15 years without a child and so I have no idea what it looks [or feels] like. Luckily, I have made a lot of friends and know a lot of other women in the profession whom I really look up to. I even made some phone calls to ask questions about how the [career-family dynamic] works.”
Over and over, the answer was to take it day by day; basically you have to figure it out as you go.
“And for me, it is kind of anxiety-causing,” Hampton-Keith explains.
Fortunately, now that she is in the middle of the ASU women’s volleyball season, the balancing act has gotten much easier. In fact, Yaeli will begin to make her first road trips next month.
“My husband, Maark, and Yaeli are going to go on a couple of road trips coming up in October.”
As far as Yaeli’s care on a daily basis, Hampton-Keith says every day looks a little bit different.
“There are some days she stays home with dad, and some days I take her with me [to the gym]. Then I hire one of our former student-athletes who is in grad school now and is available [to babysit]. Everyone is always willing to help and is more than happy to hold Yaeli while I am talking to somebody [or doing other things].
“I am really fortunate because the environment that our staff and team have is very conducive to [having a little one around]. My head coach (Jason Watson) is amazingly supportive. It is just a great atmosphere to be able to know that you are supported and it is not a problem. There are days where I bring her to [the gym] and I just put her in the baby carrier and wear it during practice.”
To be sure, Hampton-Keith and her husband, Maark, have definitely felt the excitement – and stress – of adding a new little one to the family. The No. 10 stressor on the New Harvard Guide to Women’s Health list is taking a vacation. Maybe after the women’s volleyball season ends in December, they might try taking on that one.