Previously written on thebrunchingmama.com
WAG: acronym for Wives & Girlfriends of Professional Athletes.
WAG: a highly strived & prized title so many young, superficial women who believe is all lights, camera & action.
WAG: stuck up women who just want to be famous & spend their men’s money.
True definition of WAG: a partner, teammate & soulful foundation of their significant other, who happens to play professional sports for a living.
Where do I even begin with this one? I’ve been asked so many questions about what being a WAG is like, as if it is some superb, unattainable title & world that I’ve magically made my way into. Sadly, the ‘WAG’ shows you watch on your tv are NOTHING like the real WAG world. In the show you see a bunch of Instagram models living in LA, being petty towards one another, taking luxurious vacations together & waking up with their weaves extra tight and face painted like a mofo. These shows and these women (who some I’m sure are wonderful ladies) have given us all a bad name outside of the sports world.
Yes, I’ve been asked to be on multiple shows before, & I won’t lie, I entertained it for awhile. In my innocent & hopeful mind I thought I could use this huge platform to show what it’s really like as a WAG, inspire & promote confidence & strength to other women, after all that is my true calling in this life. How naive was I to think that, though? Immediately the producer wanted me to pick out a home via Air Bnb that was ‘my home’ for filming purposes. They wanted us to pose in a luxurious beach side home as if it were our own, and it made me feel very uncomfortable lying about my life like that, because that’s not what it’s like at all. I suppose chasing around my 1 year old in my Lululemon sweats with no make up & making ice baths for my fiancé wasn’t TV material.
As a young professional athlete you are constantly moving around team to team, city to city, trying to prove yourself. You may be on one team one day, another the next, and spend your offseason traveling & training in another 1-2 cities. Essentially, we are gypsies, so we don’t have a home base. Mostly we live in rented apartments with rented furniture because you never know when you’ll have to pack what little belongings you have to move to another city. This is why many athletes wait until their second contract or retirement to purchase their family home. So no, we aren’t all living in mansions, and at times we even stay with our parents in our childhood homes.
Because of this gypsy lifestyle & commitment to your man’s ever changing career, many women are unable to work, by choice, not because they are incapable. Many WAGs are successful women who are college educated & have given up their careers or put them on hold so that they can be with their men & raise families together. Some of my best girlfriends were previously lawyers, doctors & established sales professionals. Can I get a job? 100%. I am a strong female who graduated college early in 3 years with honors, was financially independent in every single way, & worked for one of the most popular & ground breaking start ups who went public, before I left to be a top Senior Account Executive at the third largest software company in the world. Yes, boss bitch shit right there. And I gave it all up to sell everything I had worked so hard to build, sold my car, quit my job, packed my life into 3 suitcases & moved across the country to support the love of my life. But not many people know that about me, they just think I’m some ill defined WAG. Which leads me to my next point:
In the NFL at least, there is zero security & stability. No matter what your contract states, you can be cut tomorrow with no money guaranteed. You could be making $25k+ a week one week, and be unemployed with no income, severance or promise of a job ever again in the industry tomorrow. You could be with one team today, and get a call into the office tomorrow saying you’ve been traded or released. It all happens so quick. Everything happens so quick. And that’s frustrating to many people around us, understandably so. We’ll call our family or friends & try our best to make plans, but then an event comes up that we have to go to, or we made the playoffs, so now our flights have changed. Or Tyler got a call this afternoon at 3pm so we can’t make dinner because he has to be on a flight tonight to Denver for a tryout. IT. ALL. HAPPENS. SO. FAST. You learn real quick to adjust on a whim. Literally, your entire life & livelihood can change in one second.
I know all about adjusting. I’ve seen just about it all. I’ve seen Heisman talk, the draft process & stress, the long, brutal training camp, the preseason hype, journey to the Superbowl (twice), & of course, what seems to be unavoidable in the NFL, injuries. Having just come off our third invasive & season ending knee injury, I’ll dig deeper into this subject. Every Sunday when you watch a game & see a guy go down, many people think nothing of it, or ‘there goes my fantasy.’ When I see it, my heart breaks for the player, even if I don’t know them personally, & I pray for him & his family. There he is one second playing out his dream career, making money & getting the opportunity he so desperately worked his ASS OFF for, the next, it’s gone. And when you see an injury happen, whether it be a bad hit or a a bad planted foot, you know it when you see it. The player knows it, too. Each time Tyler tore his knee he knew right away, and believe it or not, all three were non-contact, just shitty fucking luck (excuse my language here, but what else can you say on something like this?)..
Tyler went from being a breakout star in preseason to a forgotten hero just like that. Gaff is out, the next guy is up. So easily you are hyped up, given confidence & a promising career, & next thing you know, they don’t care about you. Your paycheck gets cut to 2/3’s, and you still have a 12 hour work day away from your family & participate in everything but practice & games. You’re a part of the team, but you aren’t. You work your ass off, you rehab all day, sacrifice your mind & body, go to meetings, but still have this longing to compete & succeed. After all, these men have gone their entire lives basing their careers and confidence off statistics. What happens when it’s gone? It really fucks with their head. And that’s when I come in.
Being a WAG is so much more than the glitz & glam life style it is projected to be. Sure there are some pretty cool events, & it’s a dope feeling knowing your man is working alongside some future Hall Of Fame players & coaches. But aside from the occasional nice pair of shoes & free Nike gear, we live a humble life. No, I do not hang out with Giselle on the reg & yes, I’ve met Tom Brady (both lovely people, but there are so many more lovely people we have met & built friendships with). I want to say our lives are ‘normal’ but they’re not. I’ve spent the last 3 years bouncing back & forth across the country, becoming a first time mother, all while playing on again off again nurse to Tyler.
To give you a glimpse of the REAL WAG life, check out the last year of our lives. I became a first time mother while living in Foxboro, MA, across the country from both of our families who live in California. As if nine months of your body drastically changing, hormones shooting through the roof & the emotional toll your mind & soul take as you take on the most beautiful challenge in the world wasn’t enough, I gave birth to our first son & just six days later I was completely alone. Thankfully Jaxon was born a week early (shoutout Castor Oil), otherwise there was a chance Tyler would have missed the birth of his first child. Oh you’re having a child? Cool, go ahead and spend time with your family, we’ve got 20 other guys we could call right now that will take your place. It’s like that. Training camp had commenced & what many people don’t know is that this is not only the hardest, most grueling time- both physically & mentally, & the biggest mind fuck for each & every player for 4 weeks straight, but it is the loneliest time for the WAGs.
Every camp Tyler would live in a hotel room. This is not a choice, but a requirement by the team, no matter how close you lived to facilities. He would wake up at 5am, have meetings, practice, more meetings & treatment every day. Every single day was mapped out for him to the MINUTE. I wouldn’t talk to him all day, aside from the 5-10 minutes I saw him at open practice. Yes, a week out of the hospital, my fat ass lugged around our newborn to & from practice every day just so that we could see Tyler, and he could see us. After all, that’s all the time we had together. Like I said, I was a first time mother, alone, without family & without my rock by my side. It was hands down the most emotional time of my life. My nipples were bleeding from breastfeeding, I was sleep deprived, crying feeling helpless as I had a newborn who didn’t want to nurse or nap. It was one of the most challenging times of my adult life. However, as a WAG, I had a duty to fulfill. This time was not about me. Shoot, football season is not about me. It’s about survival. And my job has and always will be to support him. “How did you do today?.. How does your body feel?.. Are you comfortable with the playbook?” And the most important question of all, “How can I help, babe?”
Fast forward to the end of the season, this last February we went to Houston to experience our second Superbowl victory. And an emotional rollercoaster of a game it was. Tyler was inactive & did not play, however we had been a part of history, & somehow everything had led up to this moment. It was truly an unexplainable high. We did it. We got those rings.
Even though our season & Super Bowl experience was incredible & once (*or twice*) in a lifetime, I had never been so relieved- I got my man back. Going back to these WAG shows that take these luxury vacations with big girl groups.. ya, not happening. I didn’t see my man for damn near 6 months, best believe I am spending every second with him during the offseason. We went to Thailand for two weeks where we had the absolute time of our lives. It was such a beautiful country where we felt so free & like ourselves. We got tattoos, we ate good food, we swam naked, we jumped through fire (literally), we soaked up the culture & made unforgettable memories. Another high. How could life get any better?
The day after we got back from our offseason vacation, we were hiking when Tyler got the personal call from Bill Belicheck. Bill & Tyler had a unique relationship. I believe they viewed each other less as player-coach, and more as two men who mutually respected each other and each other’s intellect and work ethic. But at the end of the day, like we all say in the WAG world, “it’s business.” And just like that, Tyler was unemployed. We didn’t see that coming one bit, especially considering Tyler had just signed a new contract with the Patriots.
So just like that we went from a Super Bowl Champion to unemployed. The next day Tyler flew across the country and spent the week there packing up our apartment, shipping our cars to California, and tying up loose ends, all by himself (I had to stay home with Jaxon). No goodbyes to team mates or coaches, no severance, no two weeks notice, just gone.
Over the next few months Tyler trained his ass off with other NFL players here in San Diego, CA. He had become the biggest, fastest and strongest I had ever seen him- it was truly remarkable to see what the human body is capable of. My job was to support him both mentally & physically. Every day I made sure to boost his confidence & remind him what a stud athlete he is, how ridiculous his body had become & how all of his hard work would eventually pay off. I also spent most of my time in the kitchen building meal plans that would align with his physical goals of adding healthy muscle weight while still being shredded. I know so much about the human body & nutrition through research & experience now that friends & family often come to Tyler & I for workout & meal plans. But aside from the pretty surface level things you see on Instagram, we both were going crazy. We had no idea what was next for us, we didn’t know if we’d be gone again tomorrow, where we would go, how long we would be there.. there were so many unanswered questions. There was so little that was in our control.
And just like that, a Super Bowl champion & Stanford graduate was living back at home with his parents, his girlfriend & 1 year old son. Sure we could have rented a house- but why sign a year lease when you don’t know how long you’ll be there for? Why spend thousands on furniture when you’d just have to spend thousands more to have it shipped again? It’s things like that you have to consider in this life. And man were we frustrated.. We knew how talented & crazy smart Tyler was, how could he not have a job by now? Is it the agent’s fault? Is it ours? What could we be doing more of? Less of? There were a million questions we had. And then, right when you’re really pissed off, you get a call. Boom, “Tyler, here’s your flight itinerary, you fly out tonight to Green Bay & have a try out tomorrow.” This happened six different times before Tyler finally signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. And just like that, in a matter of hours, my fiancé was gone across the country & I went from full time hubby to 3600 miles apart & living the single mother life again. Like I keep saying, it all happens so fast.
A couple weeks into a new organization, the Jaguars were flying to Foxboro to have joint practices & their first preseason game with none other than the New England Patriots. What an emotional feeling that must have been for Ty, flying back there, seeing all of these guys he considered his brothers and fought side by side in battle every day with. It was a build up of a week, he.. we.. just wanted to show them they made a mistake.
And then it happened. Again. I remember getting the call like it was yesterday, I’ll never forget it. The day before the big ironic game, Tyler called me to tell me he thinks he is seriously hurt. Before any tests were done… we both knew. I did my best to tell him it’s going to be okay, that miracles happen, that for all we know it’s a manageable injury, that there was hope, but we both knew deep down. Tyler went in immediately for an MRI where they found that he had torn his lateral meniscus in his knee. This was his third season ending knee injury. When he called me he broke down, I had never heard him like this before. Now Ty is the most masculine man I have ever met or known. He shakes things off, he has a good head on his shoulders & I’ve never seen him lose control or yell, I swear to you. But when he called to tell me this.. it absolutely broke my heart hearing him. We knew this was it for us, we weren’t going to let another year pass us by because of injury. I hated that he was alone, across the country with no one. I hated that he was in Foxboro of all places. I hated that he was in a new organization where he had no brothers or support around him. I hated everything about it. All I wanted was to be there for him, to hold him & tell him everything was going to be okay, but I couldn’t. We didn’t know anything, we didn’t know next steps, we didn’t know his job status, we didn’t know when or where he’d have surgery. We knew nothing & had control of absolutely nothing.
Fast forward a few days, we got everything in place & within a few hours I had booked an Air Bnb for a week, a rental car, and round trip flights to Vail, Colorado, where Tyler would be having his third knee repair. I had to get someone to watch Jax for 8 days (thank God for Grandmas), prep for him, pack a bag for myself & Tyler, & get on a plane later that night. Like I said, happens fast.
Trainers, like most NFL teams often suggest, gave us the option to do a quick knee fix, which essentially means it’s a quick fix that will allow him to come back & play in 4-6 weeks. What they didn’t tell us is that it meant max two more seasons for his career before he had a full knee blowout, guaranteed arthritis and a knee replacement before he was 40. The NFL only cares about what you can do for them now, they aren’t thinking about you or your family 5-10 years from now. Thankfully I’m marrying a smart man who thinks big picture & we went with the full repair. After waiting nine hours in the waiting room, I got the call back to see him post surgery. God, it was so sad. He was coming down from the drugs, he was nauseous as hell, it was not pretty. I wanted to cry for him & the pain he was enduring, I wish I could take his pain, but I still had a job to do. I was to be his rock & help get him through this.
We spent a week in Vail, CO to recover, which was actually quite beautiful & a great escape from reality. I will say it’s always interesting to see who reaches out to offer support & casseroles when you get injured vs. who reaches out when you’re playing well & wants tickets (best believe it is noted). Anyway, we went back to San Diego back to living with his parents until Tyler was able to walk again. He was in a knee brace, taking medication, & couldn’t walk for 6 weeks. He spent hours every day rehabbing just trying to flex his surrounding knee muscles again & gain strength. Within 3 weeks he had lost 20 pounds of muscle that took him 6 months of intense training & discipline to build. All of this meant I was playing mom to a 1 year old, cooking, cleaning, trying to work out and take care of myself, and play nurse and do everything for Tyler who was pretty much couch ridden. Oh ya.. did I mention that I’ve been pregnant through all of this? Oh ya, that too.
Ty began rehab right away, but he was unable to drive as he was on crutches for 6 weeks. So that meant I drove him everywhere. It was difficult for him to do anything, including going out and socializing, it caused too much pain standing around on crutches. And when we were finally able to have a date night, we got great tickets to a music festival where I pushed around a huge football player around thousands of people in a wheelchair (talk about a workout).
Thankfully the worst is over and Tyler is up and walking, working out with weights & has his goofy, fun & active spirit back. Our family is settled for the first time in our relationship here in Carlsbad, California. We own our furniture, we’re decorating the house, and building memories as a family in our first home together. After all Tyler has been through in his career, and this year especially, I’m truly honored to stand by his side as his wife-to-be. His strength is admirable, his ability to keep going during tough times is commendable, & his determination in health, training, & doing absolutely everything he can to support our family is sexy as hell. He can truly say he did everything in his power & gave it his all. We gave it our all.
I know it might sound like I’m complaining a lot in this post, but that is not my intention. My intent is to shed light on what it really means to be a WAG, to tell you what it’s really like being in the NFL as both a player & a significant other who is by their side through it all. It’s a brutal, cold blooded business that I’m happy to say is in our past. These men are modern day gladiators who fight & sacrifice their minds & body every single day to support their families. Most of these women, the true partners that stand by their men through thick & thin, through injuries & releases, through changes in salary, status & emotional state.. These women are strong ass women that deserve more credit. This job isn’t for everyone, but the true ones last. Dating a man in the NFL, or any professional sport, takes an understanding woman who is loving, nurturing, their man’s biggest fan, & ultimately patient. These women are the rocks behind their men’s success.
I am forever thankful for all of the memories we have built, the people we have met & the thousands of lessons we have learned- both in relationships & business. But in the end we chose to spend these years in the NFL because we knew what an incredible stepping stone it would be in our future, and now we are here. We are at that moment where we ask ourselves, yet again, what’s next? Except this time, we are in control.
- Kristen Louelle