Coaches' wives fit football into family life

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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By Cecil Conley Sports Editor Greg Benzel and Jeff Tisdel spend their afternoons surrounded by young men on football fields in Rocklin. Once the two coaches go home, they are outnumbered by their wives and daughters. Mike Gimenez has the odds in his favor. He has two sons and one daughter with his wife, Kimberly. Eight-year-old Kendall throws a better spiral, Kimberly pointed out, than either of her brothers – 10-year-old Cade and 5-year-old Jax. Dorothy Tisdel cannot count the number of football outfits she and her husband received when she was pregnant. The couple accepted all the gifts even though they knew a girl was on the way. “We didn’t tell anybody,” said Dorothy, who celebrated her 20th wedding anniversary with Jeff in July. Jennifer Tisdel attends Sierra College and visits her father’s office most mornings on her way to class. Jeff takes a brief break from the X’s and O’s for a few quality minutes with his only child. Benzel “comes home to some estrogen for a nice balance,” said his wife, Julianne. Greg’s Rocklin High team will not benefit from his offspring. Chances are his four daughters will not play football. Well, Paige might. The 9-year-old is a faithful fan of the Thunder, Julianne said, and loves the sport. Paige and her sisters – 7-year-old Marin, 4-year-old Brooklyn and 2-year-old Delaney – go with their father to the freshman football game each Thursday and then attend the varsity team dinner. Greg never has to worry about finding lunch at school. His wife brings it when she arrives for her part-time teaching job. Julianne and Greg both teach U.S. history and even share a classroom Julianne takes the girls to the varsity games each Friday even though they will miss their 8 p.m. bed time. They bring lawn chairs to home games and sit on the field beyond the south end zone. “The kids love it,” Julianne said. “They get to run around.” Road games leave Julianne with no choice but to sit with her daughters in the bleachers, within earshot of folks who may not know she is in the vicinity when they choose to criticize her husband. “I’ve heard the comments,” Julianne said. “I’ve toughened up my skin. I used to be really sensitive.” Once a game ends, Julianne takes her daughters home and then waits for Greg to arrive an hour or so later. “We definitely debrief,” she said. “He needs to get it out of his system.” Such is the life of a head football coach’s wife. Their husbands are consumed by games, practices, offseason workouts, film study sessions, staff meetings, travel arrangements and fundraising. Their wives and children might not take a back seat, but there are only so many hours in a day. “I don’t see much of (Jeff). He puts in some long hours,” Dorothy said. “He’ll come home from a game and relax a bit. Then he goes back to his office to watch film. He doesn’t sleep that much.” Jeff and Dorothy met when he was coaching at the University of Nevada in Reno. As their relationship became serious, they huddled to discuss how football would fit into their life as a couple. “He told me this is the way it is. It wasn’t a secret,” Dorothy said. “It’s such an important part of his life.” Jeff had similar chat with Jennifer once she was old enough to wonder why her father was gone so often. “He sat her down and explained it to her how he explained it to me,” Dorothy said. No explanation is needed when it comes to how Jeff wears his emotions on his sleeve as a coach. He hides them once he gets home, Dorothy said, as to not “burden the family with football.” “When he walks into the house, I’ll say ‘good win’ or ‘tough loss,’” Dorothy said, “and ‘do you want dinner?’” Daily routines such as dinner are a challenge for a coach’s family when no one has a clue when he will get home from practice. Friday nights are spent at stadiums across Northern California. Kimberly Gimenez never has to worry about where her husband goes after a game. All the coaches, a few of their wives, a couple of teachers and even some neighbors huddle at her house. “They’re all here and we watch the (game) film,” she said. “I don’t get to see a lot of the game because I’m keeping an eye on the kids, so I like watching the film. I get to see what happened.” Mike and Kimberly, a former Sacramento State cheerleader, met when he was Woodland High’s coach. She realized from the start that marrying a coach would be a 2-for-1 deal with football. “The same crazy intensity and passion that you see on the sideline, that’s him all the time. He gets fired up to go to the pumpkin patch,” Kimberly said. “It’s always football season, and sometimes there are games.”