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Friday, June 3, 2011
Coaches' wives share online social network

By Eamonn Brennan

No matter what demographic niche you inhabit, the Internet probably has a social network or forum for you. Roger Federer fan? Here you go. Hard-core gamer? Take your pick. "Arrested Development" devotee? You better believe it.

Wife of a college coach? Believe it or not, yes, there is a social network for you, too.

It's called MarriedToTheGame.net, and it sprang forth from the mind of Roberta Martin, wife of newly hired Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin. The site, which is open to wives of any college sports coach, allows users to post photos, leave messages and chat in forums -- like a miniature, hyper-niche Facebook. According to the AP, members "share their gameday fashions, talk about bringing children to games or commiserate about their husbands' absences during recruiting season."

Since Martin conceived the idea in 2008, the site has amassed around 700 users. Those members include Joani Crean and Jerri Painter, the wives of Indiana coach Tom Crean and Purdue coach Matt Painter, who met on the site and developed a friendship that crosses heated rivalry lines. According to Martin, that's essentially the point of the site. From the AP:
Martin said she had the idea for MarriedToTheGame after her husband left his job as a Purdue assistant and accepted the head coaching position at Missouri State in 2008. She left her own full-time job and became a stay-at-home mom in the process.

"It was my first time being a stay-at-home mom, and I was running on the treadmill, and I was like, 'Certainly there are other wives who have gone through this transition,'" Martin said. "I thought, 'Wouldn't it be nice to have a way to connect with them,' and I was just getting into Facebook at the time." [...]

Connie Whitesell is currently in the middle of her own relocation after husband Jim was fired from Loyola and accepted a job as a Saint Louis assistant. Through connections on MarriedToTheGame, she's gotten to know St. Louis as she prepares to move there from Chicago.

"I think the thing I appreciate it the most is that there are some really unique challenges that are faced by the families and spouses of coaches," she said. "All the movement that goes on and how your husband can get a new job and have to be there within hours while the spouses are coordinating the efforts back at home."

College coaches live strangely. Addicted to Crackberries and travel, driven by the same competitive instincts he attempts to instill in players, the modern college hoops coach doesn't get much time to rest or pause or -- especially among the ambitious youngsters -- be selective about where the next coaching destination is. A job opens. It's better than the one you have. You take it. Typically, the calculus is just that simple.

Lost in all this, of course, is what it means to be a family member -- let alone the significant other -- of someone in such a topsy-turvy profession. Lots of college coaches' wives find themselves in small, middle-of-nowhere college towns. When they get there, they may have few, if any friends in the area. Their husbands are frequently traveling. An image of a large, well-appointed, empty house comes to mind. Sure, you could do much worse in this world. Still, that can't be fun.

Married To The Game may not be the tech world's latest hot IPO, but it's an awfully cool idea.

My question is, what's next? Fathered By The Game? Family Pets Of The Game? When no niche is too small, the possibilities are endless.