Mom’s a coach. Dad’s a coach. So everybody is a coach, right?
When UNOH softball coach Tracy Coffman and her husband, Jon, the men’s basketball coach at Indiana/Purdue-Fort Wayne, first moved to Fort Wayne, their then pre-school age son, Tommy, had two questions after a visitor left their house.
“He said, ‘Who’s that?’ and he said, ‘What does he coach?’ “ Tracy Coffman said.
Tracy Coffman is in her fifth year in charge of the University of Northwestern Ohio softball program and in her 14th season as a college coach. Jon Coffman is in his fourth year as NCAA Division I IPFW’s head coach and has been in college coaching for 20 years.
They are believed to be one of only two married couples who are both college head coaches and the only ones who coach at two different universities. The only other head coaching couple which shows up on Google searches is at Lehigh University, where Sue Troyan is the women’s basketball coach and her husband, Fran, is the softball coach.
While their job situation is uncommon, Tracy Coffman says in most other ways their family is similar to a lot of others and that anyone who thinks they have “a crazy life” is just wrong.
“We’re very typical,” she said.
Typical at home, but unusual in the gym and on the diamond. “Usually one has to get out,” Tracy Coffman said about two-coach families. “We’ve been very fortunate that with every move I’ve been able to find a home because we have followed him.”
She graduated from Lima Central Catholic High School, played softball at the University of Toledo and decided to get into coaching after college.
Her first college job was at Stetson University, where she and Jon met. They were married in 2006 and have two children, Tommy (9) and Lucy (6). She also was an assistant coach at Central Florida and head coach at Hamilton College before UNOH.
He played basketball at Washington and Lee University and spent 15 years as an assistant at Emory and Henry, Charleston, Stetson, Colgate and IPFW before being named the Mastadons’ coach in 2014 when Tony Jasick left to become Jacksonville’s coach.
IPFW was 16-15 in his first season as head coach in 2014-15, then followed that with 24 wins in 2015-16 and 20 wins last season, including an upset of Indiana, which was ranked No. 3 at the time. This season, IPFW beat the Hoosiers again, 92-72, in Assembly Hall.
UNOH’s softball team has gone from 17 wins in the program’s first season in 2014 to 25 wins in the second season to 27 wins in 2016 to 31 wins last spring.
The Coffmans’ path to IPFW and UNOH was set in motion when Jon’s boss, Colgate coach Emmett Davis was fired in 2011 after 13 seasons.
She was a stay at home mom the first year in Fort Wayne until one morning when she got a call from UNOH athletic director Chris Adams.
“Jon had a really good job and I knew I would get something going eventually, maybe leave coaching and go into teaching. I still picture it (the call from Adams) vividly,” Tracy Coffman said.
“It was like 10 o’clock in the morning and we had cartoons on. My son is three and he’s in a Spiderman costume, jumping off the couch into some pillows he has piled up and I’m feeding the baby and phone rings.
“It’s a 419 number and I’m just dying to talk to anybody. I answer it and it’s like, ‘Tracy, this is Chris Adams over at UNOH. We’d like you to come over and interview to be our head coach.’ ”
Part of the reason having two head coaches in one family whose jobs are at schools 60 miles apart works is family support. Her parents and her sister live nearby.
Keeping track of everyone’s schedules has an element of old school in it. There is a monthly paper schedule taped to the refrigerator. There is a film room in the house so Jon can watch video at home. The Coffman kids are regulars at their parents’ games, too.
“The thing Jon says a lot is the best thing about how we do it is we’re all in. When it comes to his job, I’m all in. Our kids, they’re all in. If you come to a doubleheader here on a Saturday both my kids are usually in the dugout. Our whole social life and everything is wrapped around our careers,” Tracy Coffman said.
Jon Coffman said, “My son sat on the bench for that Indiana game. He sat on the bench at Notre Dame. He sat one seat behind me at Duke when he was two years old. He goes to the Final Four with me every year. He has seen some pretty cool things.”
But maybe the biggest reason it all works, Jon Coffman says, is that Tracy is “the master scheduler, the master organizer.”
“She owns that stuff. I pride myself on the details of our program. I’m really, really good at that. But we couldn’t do this without her skill set of being able to organize our family,” he said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.