This week's WAG Feature Wednesday is of the super sweet supermom Lori Warhop. Lori and I connected after she heard of WAGS Redefined from another coach's wife. She is the wife of an NFL coach and has been for the past 20 years. I was very interested in learning more about Lori's story, her business Living Pro Sports, and the advice she had to offer NFL families. We had the most enjoyable (and lengthy) conversation over the phone last week. Lori shared so much valuable and intriguing information in this interview that you'll want to read to the end... NFL WAG Stats
Name: Lori Warhop
Husband: George Warhop
Anniversary: March 10, 1990 (25 years)
Husband’s Coaching Tenure and Teams: University of Kansas (1 season), Vanderbilt University (2 seasons), New Mexico (1 season), World League in London (2 seasons), SMU (1 season), Boston College (2 seasons), St. Louis Rams (2 seasons), Arizona Cardinals (5 seasons), Dallas Cowboys (2 seasons), San Francisco 49ers (4 seasons), Cleveland Browns (5 seasons), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2 seasons -Present)
Children: Daughter Olivia (freshman in college) & son Jacob (senior in high school)
Cities You've Lived in with NFL: We've moved 11 times due to college and NFL coaching changes (See Husband's Coaching Tenure)
Describe “Home”: It’s so interesting when you move frequently because when you start out in a new city, all you have is each other (since you don’t know anyone yet). It gives you an opportunity to really get to know each other. It’s great when you have teenagers and they invite their friends over because they like hanging out with us. It might have to do with George's cooking but I don't want to believe they just want good food. Home for us? I think we’ll end up as close as our kids will let us be to their own lives and families.
Favorite Food: Pumpkin pie
Music on your playlist: A little bit of everything. The one my kids made for me.
Where are you from originally and how did you get to where you are now?
I was born in Wyoming and spent most of my adolescent life in Kansas. I attended the University of Kansas.
How did you and your husband meet?
We met after college when he was coaching at the University of Kansas. My best friend introduced us. He left Kansas and took a job at Vanderbilt in Nashville. We married in 1990. The funny thing about our wedding was that we were both living in Nashville, but after football season he took a job in Albuquerque, New Mexico so we moved there. We had made all our wedding preparations in Nashville so we flew back for the weekend to get married in Nashville. That was my first indication that my life was not going to be normal but I didn’t pay attention to the red flag!
That is too funny! What’s life like as an NFL coach’s wife?
That’s a loaded question. It’s independent. If you’re not independent in the beginning, you will be in the end. You’re by yourself a lot because your husband is always working. I think a misconception is that when the season is over, he has all this time off. That’s just not true. Coaches are getting ready for the draft. My husband works out the players before the draft. He’s on the road a bit too.
What are some of the challenges of being married to an NFL coach and what do you like about it?
The challenge for me is the frequent moving. I think what I like about it is that he loves it. He grinds out 18 hour days without complaint. He loves what he does. He loves the relationship he has with his players. He’s a really great talent evaluator from what I’m told. He’ll see a player and say, “He could really be amazing if I could just get him to do [this, this and this].” He loves the teaching, developmental, and team-building part of it. He enjoys creating something great, the challenges, and the competition. Anyone who can play in the NFL is exceptional so you’re working with exceptional athletes every day. I didn’t really understand that until I went to training camp one year with the (Cleveland) Browns. I happened to get a good spot and saw Shaun Rogers (defensive tackle). He’s this 300-plus pound big, enormous guy who moved like a gazelle. He was so powerful, graceful and quick. It was amazing to see up close. Their physical ability is almost immortal in a way. My husband loves developing that player and competing at the highest level. That’s what I love about it for George. It’s about making his players and team the best 100% of the time.
What are your hobbies?
I study Italian. When we moved from Dallas to California, it was tough to meet people because the city is so big. San Francisco was the hardest place to feel like you belong in a community because people are moving 100 miles per hour. I thought to myself, “What is it you would really like to do that you’ve never had a chance to do?” So I started taking a beginning Italian class. Another positive aspect about this life is that it forces you into trying things you would never consider otherwise. It’s made me very uncomfortable but in a good way. It's forced me to grow.
What is your occupation?
When you’re moving an average of every two years, my first obligation is always to make sure my kids feel safe and connected in our new community. I’ve become really really good at getting my kids plugged in fast with activities (art, sports, camps, etcetera). I think it’s difficult to have a career as a wife married to someone in this profession. I always wanted to have a business for myself. My kids are now going off to college (one is a freshman in college and the other a senior in high school) so I have the opportunity to focus on this now.
You recently started a business, Living Pro Sports. Tell us about it and what inspired you?
When I started thinking about creating a business, I asked myself “What do I know how to do well?” I know how to move! Many people move, maybe not as often as us, but people are moving. Between 2012 and 2013, 35.9 million people moved to a different residence (US Census Report).
Experts say the top most stressful things that can happen to a person include: moving, getting fired from a job and starting a new job. Most of my personal experience has been in starting over and moving. I thought, how can I share my experience to help someone else? The frequent relocation was the inspiration behind my business. I’m really resourceful. I’ve kind of learned through experience the little tricks about finding good information. For example, if you want to look for great camps for your kids, most schools offer those.
Many of the NFL teams don’t really provide you with this information. I’m speaking to the nuts and bolts of what you need (i.e. school systems, handyman, etc.). If a coach is going to be fired, it’s normally at the end of football season. When my husband takes a new job, he’s off. I’m left to manage the emotional and logistical transition. I have to help my kids and manage, “Yes, we’re moving,” and make it sound like a fun and exciting adventure.
If you move after the school year is over, they haven’t had a chance to meet any kids before school starts. If you think you’re going to get to the new place in June and plug them into a camp, it’s not going to happen. Camp sign-ups are in April or May so now you’re spending all your time trying to sort things out. My goal is to give everyone a virtual rolodex of information so you can move into your new home, get plugged in and catch your breath. All of the resources I’m curating are from families in coaching or in sports. They’re the people that, if I were moving into a new town, I would ask for information. They’ve lived there, so they can make honest recommendations. I trust that resource and recommendation.
What was one of the toughest experiences you’ve had moving?
My daughter was diagnosed with cancer six years ago during a transitional period. We were preparing to move from San Francisco to Cleveland.
Read the full story on Sports Illustrated here.
Wow! That is the first story I have heard of it’s kind. Thanks for sharing. I’m so glad she’s healthy now. Do you have any advice to current NFL families?
Don’t take job changes personally. I think that’s important but it's hard to do. There are a lot of different reasons why decisions are made and most of them are not personal. There's a funny saying I always think about: "When one door closes, another one opens but it is hell in the hallway!" Fortunately, we’ve always been retained with the next head coach coming in and George has always been lucky where he’s had a couple of choices.
Being a part of sports is wonderful. It’s a place where people come together from different walks of life and work together to try and achieve something great. You will meet amazing people. Some leave you in awe of their physical or artistic gifts (Vernon Davis). Some will inspire you to push yourselves because their story is one of overcoming great hardship. On game day, the environment couldn't be better. No one cares about the guy in the seat next to them. Not their race, religion, political position or what they do for a living. They just want to root for their team and have fun! Sports neutralizes all the nonsense in the world. Even if it's just for a few hours. Enjoy the ride.
LM: What is your love advice to women? You’ve been married 25 years so I know you have some good pointers!
LW: There’s never just one thing that makes it work. If I were to choose one thing, it would be to recognize and respect the differences in the way your spouse handles things. Because he is gone so much, it puts me in a position to be both mother and father at times. I know I'm a good mother but I'm a terrible father. My spiral is awful (he agrees).
A sense of humor helps too. He recognizes that a lot of "dad things" are not my strength and just goes with it (then calls the neighbor). The way George is impacted by a job change and the way I am is very different.
When he takes a new job, he has either worked with a coach or player before that he gets to work with again, or he’s getting to work with someone he’s met previously. When we move, he’s got a built-in network. He may not know every coach but he’s met them or knows of them, so he can have dinner with that coach when he arrives in the new city. For me, I wouldn’t know that coach’s wife and she wouldn’t know me. I’m moving to a new town, I don’t know my neighbor and most of the time I don’t know the women. I’ve built some great relationships over the years with other coach’s wives and player's wives but most of the time I don’t know the other women. If we can just keep that in mind and be respectful of that difference and be patient, then it kind of works.
What would you like people to know about you?
My website was mentioned on Sports Illustrated about a month ago.
How has the NFL life affected your children?
I think moving a lot is tough. As a child, you don’t have the life experience to put it into the proper context. Routine and familiarity is really important to kids when they grow up and when you have uncertainty and no routine it can be challenging. It’s not detrimental, but it puts you in unfamiliar situations. My daughter went off to college and called one night to say, “I’m sorry that I haven’t cried about leaving.” Many of her friends were homesick and missing their families. She said, “I recognize that I’m not responding the same way a lot of my friends are.” I said, “Because you’ve already done it! You’ve been the new kid a few times and they’re just now experiencing that for the first time.” What was tough as a child has now become a benefit for them. It's given them a broader perspective. It hasn’t always been easy (starting over never is) but you learn a lot about yourself and how to depend on yourself. You also learn how to stick together and depend on each other, and there’s nothing bad about that.
Living Pro Sports is currently available to the significant others of professional athletes, pro athletes, scouts, front office officials, and anyone involved in sports. If you would like to sign up to be notified when Living Pro Sports goes live, click here.
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