How does she do it? U.Md. women’s lacrosse coach Cathy Reese juggles work, family

Cathy Reese has led the University of Maryland women’s lacrosse team to five trips to the NCAA Final Four, three appearances in the title game and one championship since she took the job as head coach in 2006.

But her occasional posts on Twitter are not about Terps lacrosse. Instead, her personal feed is a record of her other coaching job: mom to Riley, 9, Brody, 7, Cayden, 5, and Braxton, 22 months.

“First call from the school nurse- 950am the first day of school. Fat lip from PE- Welcome Back everyone,” she posted at the beginning of the school year. Her account is peppered with photos of the kids — usually proudly displaying Terps sportswear.

Reese, 37, jokes that her ultimate goal is to leave a place with the same number of kids she arrived with (and that they’re her kids). But there’s a grain of wisdom in her humor: By not expecting perfection all the time, she is able to have fun with a hectic life that would leave many moms begging for scheduling mercy. Reese and husband Brian have interwoven family with their deep love for — and attachment to — U-Md. athletics.

It’s not easy. Cathy Reese’s job, while somewhat flexible during the day, involves a lot of nights, and she rarely has a weekend off. During the lacrosse season there are games, team dinners and road trips. In the off-season, there’s recruiting. She is constantly in motion, but she likes it that way.

It works for the Reese family because she has made her husband and children an integral part of her work life. They come to team meals, practices and games. They attend football, basketball and soccer games at the university. The kids have embraced this life and see themselves as pint-size Terps. Cayden once joined the lacrosse team in signing autographs after a game. Riley labored for hours over personalized good-luck cards for each player before the NCAA Final Four in May. It’s their normal.

“The kids love it,” says Reese, whose smartphone sports the Terps’ yellow, red and black logo. “They love our girls, they love our team, they are totally warped Maryland people. They’ll only wear Under Armour [the apparel brand for U-Md. athletes], especially my boys, and if you ask them where they’re going to college, it’s ‘Maryland. Duh, like why?’ ”

Three of Reese’s kids play multiple sports. She keeps everything straight with a color-coded dry-erase board in their mudroom — which Brian says no one else is allowed to touch — and they sometimes enlist the help of her sister, aunt or father and stepmom to make sure everyone gets where they need to go, whether it’s a birthday party, a soccer game or a doctor’s appointment.

“Relaxation” is not part of Cathy Reese’s vocabulary, and never has been. Questions about how she spends her free time draw a blank stare. “I’m not good at that,” she says, shaking her head.

She manages to be high-energy without being Type A (except for that calendar). In Reese’s world, drinking coffee and listening to non-kid music on the radio during her commute from Glenelg to College Park constitute “me time.” She recalls being back at work three days after Cayden was born in March 2008, because the Terps had a big game, or taking Braxton to a team meal at a Japanese steakhouse when he was 2 days old.

“There’s always something,” Reese says. “You have to sleep when you can, because you’re up and at ’em when the day starts. There’s no time to rest. That’s the phase we’re in.”

While other parents stand on the sidelines at their kids’ sporting events and heckle the coach, officials or other players mercilessly, Reese, who has the perspective of leading an elite athletic program, said she stays out of it. She says she is content if her kids have their shoes on the right feet.

Being a mom is a lot like being a coach, she says, even though there is a big difference between college-age women and young kids. “In the job we’re doing, there is a lot of focus on wins and losses, but at the end of the day you’re dealing with someone else’s kids,” Reese says. “It’s about helping, mentoring, supporting and guiding, both as a mom and when I recruit kids.”

The upside is that her job is flexible enough that she can often leave during the day for an appointment with the pediatrician. But there are also times when she misses being able to chaperon a field trip to the zoo because it falls two days before a big game.

“Then I get the little mom guilt that we all have at some point,” Reese says. “But they’re growing up and seeing us stick together, and seeing me doing something I love. Hopefully, that will inspire them down the road.”

Cathy and Brian Reese met when they were freshmen at U-Md. She played women’s lacrosse there; he was on the men’s team. They dated all through college and for a few years after. They got engaged in 2002, married in 2003 and Riley was born in 2004.

Brian Reese took a job in August teaching health and fitness at Glenelg Country School, about five minutes from the family’s home in Howard County. Before taking that job, he coached the Chesapeake Bayhawks, a Major League Lacrosse team, for a number of years, commuting an hour each way to Annapolis. He left in November 2012 so he would be available to help out with the kids’ practices.

The Reeses’ shared love of lacrosse and similar career backgrounds help them work together to handle the chaos of life with four children. During one recent grueling stretch, Cathy Reese said, it felt like they didn’t see each other for two weeks, between work and the kids’ activities. Brian had just started his new job, and the kids were having tryouts for travel teams in the evenings, around the same time that Maryland students reported for the new school year.

“We’re working together to raise these four great kids we’ve been blessed with, but he respects my responsibilities at work, too,” says Reese, adding that her husband is great about asking her what she needs him to do, then pitching in with what is on the agenda each day.

“I’m along for the ride,” Brian Reese said. “She’s the organized one. We just kind of expect a little bit of craziness and then just go for it.”

It ended up being fortunate that Brian Reese was between jobs when oldest son Riley was hospitalized for a month last winter with a nasty stomach virus. Riley, who got a diabetes diagnosis in March 2012 and a celiac disease diagnosis in June of the same year, lost 17 pounds while he was sick.

After a doctor told her Riley might not make it out of the hospital, Cathy Reese sat her team down in the locker room one day and asked for help lifting his spirits.

“I told them I haven’t seen my son smile in three weeks. And he’s an 8-year-old boy and it’s just heartbreaking,” Reese said in her office recently, tearing up at the memory. “I told them I need for you guys to come in and do your thing. Next thing I know, I have three or four girls on my team who are in the hospital with him every day, hanging out, making him smile, making him posters.”

Within a few months, Riley had gained back all the weight he lost, and he is back to playing football, soccer and lacrosse at full throttle. Even though the worst of his illness is behind them, Reese finds herself less inclined to lose her temper over the small stuff.

“You go from having this super-athletic kid to watching him trying to learn how to run again,” she says. “It makes you appreciate the little things a little bit more. . . . Of all the things you get so angry about, who cares? Why have I gotten so mad at things in the past? And I still do, I get mad at little things sometimes, but it can put things in perspective.”

One in an occasional series.

washingtonpost.com

Gallery See more photos of Cathy Reese and her family.

8 Going Out Guide Find kid-friendly events in your area at goingoutguide.com/kids.

Mari-Jane Williams covers parenting and family issues for Local Living and schools for the Prince William and Loudoun Extras.
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