Before I knew my fiancé Brian, I was like most people out there who assume that NFL players have it easy--work for 16 weeks of the year and get paid the big bucks to play a sport they love. I’ll be the first to tell you, I was SO wrong. What I learned very quickly is that football is not a 16 week year job; football is every single day of the entire year: watching what they eat, working out constantly, icing sore limbs and studying film. What was even harder for me to grasp was the fact that at ANY POINT they could be cut. Contract or not, if you're not performing, you’re out. My point in saying all of this is that every single day since Brian and I have been together I think to myself, “How does he do this? How does he possibly deal with all the stress he’s under 24/7?"
Brian deals with stress well. He has the ability to push things to the back of his mind and power through because he knows he has to, but contract year stress is a different kind of stress. For most, the rookie contract is the most important. The second contract is the one that sets you up for the remainder of your career. Securing a second contract means committing more hours than you did before and increasing your day to day workouts. My fiancé is the hardest working man I know; he never complains, he puts his head down and works harder than anyone, but I can sense he gets bothered by the stress of it all sometimes.
Brian does what he does for us, which entails waking early and staying late everyday. I figured the least I can do is figure out how to create a stress-free environment at home, right?
Here’s how I help my fiancé ( & myself) deal with the stress of contract year.
- I Taught Myself to Cook (sort of)
With the help of Food Network and A LOT of hours spent Pinterest-ing quick & easy meals, I’ve become a pretty good home cook - which is really a win/win for both of us. I find that cooking is a great stress reliever and Brian loves coming home after a long day at practice to home-cooked meals that he knows are healthy and nutritious.
Here are some recipes Brian and I love:
Chili Rubbed Salmon
Gluten-Free Garlic Bread
2. We Made Date Night Mandatory
It’s hard to find time for date nights during the season. Most nights, Brian comes home and just wants to lounge and ice. Often, we find ourselves calling a movie on the couch “date night”. Just recently, we’ve started making Monday night date night and it’s been wonderful. It’s become a night to dress up and look good for each other, a night where I don’t have to cook and Brian can just take a load off and destress. Date nights create a place and time to connect and put aside the shuffle of the football world. We don’t have kids but we do have a dog with the attention span of a fly; we love her dearly but escaping her craziness for a few hours is an added bonus!
3. I Keep The House Stocked
I make it a priority to keep the house stocked with plenty of… epsom salt. Pretty boring, I know, but a sore athlete appreciates a warm bath loaded with epsom salt more than you could imagine.
4. I Surprise Him
Surprising Brian with anything is extremely difficult. If Brian wants something, he goes and buys it right that second, so surprising him with gifts is always a challenge. A few weeks ago he had to go in for treatment and I woke up early, made him breakfast before he got home, ran to the store and picked up a video game he had been talking about and grabbed all of the ingredients for dark chocolate banana bread (his fave). He was so excited when he got home. He was glued to the TV with his video game all day so I know it definitely relieved some of the stress.
Four simple things that make contract year, or any year, a little less stressful and a little more fun. I encourage you to try them. Even if your gluten-free garlic bread burns into an inedible pile of char and your date night is at SmashBurger, some happiness and relaxation are sure to come of it.