NFL Heartbreaks: Hero Coaches Are Sometimes Absentee Fathers

National Football League coaches who pour endless hours of time and emotion into nurturing their players often find hero worship on the field, but heartache at home.

In the world of professional sports -- where salaries and the pressure to win are always escalating -- family is often the first casualty.

Just this winter, the sons of several high-profile coaches raised Cain with the reputations of their revered fathers.

Andy Reid took a five-week hiatus as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles when his sons faced legal troubles after a January car accident. Garrett Reid, 23, tested positive for heroin, and Britt Reid, 21, was arraigned on drug and weapons charges.

Last October, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick's 18-year-old son Stephen was arrested for marijuana possession.

Rebel children have not been confined to the NFL. North Carolina State basketball coach Sidney Lowe's 21-year-old son faces charges on crimes ranging from armed robbery to drug possession. Sidney Lowe Jr. was arrested in connection with an attempted robbery and dorm shooting in March.

In the image-conscious NFL, where the average coach's salary has soared past $2.5 million a year, these incidents of bad behavior are highly publicized, even though they are far more common among players than their children.

"These controlling men have far more control and influence over their players than they do over their children, and that is sad," writes Bill Conlin in New York's Daily News.

Heavy Workloads, Less Family Time

The 32 NFL coaches work 90-hour weeks from July to January "without a day off," according to Larry Kennan, who coached the Oakland Raiders for 16 years. Almost half of them change jobs each year, sending their families looking for new homes and schools.

But most children cope well, said Kennan, who founded and directs the NFL Coaches Association.

"They adapt like military kids and are not intimidated by people because they've been around great players and great coaches," he said. "The wives understand the profession and keep the family going well while we are out coaching."

Kennan doesn't deny the stakes are high for coaching performance. The NFL philosophy is "some is more, more is better and too much is just right," he said. "A lot of people have self-induced pressure, but they are not judged by a quarter million fans every Sunday."

"The job is unforgiving," Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick told reporters at the annual NFL meetings this year. "It never stops, and it doesn't let up for a second. It doesn't care if you've lost a family member, or you're dealing with difficulties. It does not stop, so you ask a lot of your family."

Counseling on Family Issues

College coaches have already begun to address family issues with counseling programs to help keep their families intact.

"We talk about balance and how it's not about the quantity of time you spend with your family, but the quality," said Steve Portenga, director of sports psychology at the University of Denver.

"Some athletic directors understand this, but others like to have meetings on weekends and Sundays because they believe having a family takes away from being a truly committed coach."

For the last two years, the NFL has worked with coaches on issues of stress as part of their employee assistance program, according to spokesman Dan Masonson, but the emphasis is primarily on how coaches should handle problems with player, not children.

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