How does Connie Unseld-student, budding carrer woman, mother of two and wife of the Washington Bullets' center-cope with the demand made on her by the rigors of the NBA and her own goals and family life? Amid the tensions of the playoffs, we asked her to pause a moment an tell us how it is.
My life with a professional basektball player tends to go through the same basic cycles that his does-regular season, playing the pressure s and pleasures offered by each phase.
Making all the right adjustments requires careful planning, and that planning revolves around the National Basketball Association schedule.
I must admit I'm a bit apprehensive at the beginning of each season when I receive the Bullet itinerary. I eagerly skim the schedule with the hope that Wes will be home on birthdays, our anniversary and holidays.
It's hard for the children, for instance, when their dad's away at Christmas. And last fall I couldn't register for graduate school until I saw the team's schedule. I go to all the Bullet home games, and I didn't want to take a class take would meet on a game night.
When Wes is on road trips, the children and I-Kimberly is our 5-year-old and Westley is 3-we eat out and justify the indulgence as doing something special for ourselves to compensate for Wes not being with us.
Every morning the comments around the Unseld household are, "Do we eat out tonight? Or is Dad coming home?"
Playoff time is another situation entirely. Life becomes hectic. I become a bundle of nerves and usually end up not sleeping or eating. It doesn't make it much easier that this is the 11th straight year the team has made the playoffs.
My plans-and my feelings-revolve around whether we win or lose.
This year, I defended my masters thesis between two playoff games. If you have ever been caught up in playoff fever, you can imagine how difficult it was for me to concentrate.
But Wes is always the same, whether it's regular season or playoff time. He mentally prepares for a game and says that he will do the best he can and that I shouldn't worry. But I can't feel that way. I still get nervous.
The day of any game is more hectic for me than anyone else in the family. I have to readjust meal schedules, so Wes can have a well-balanced meal early in the day as well as prepare meals for the children, and be ready to leave the house at 5:30 for an 8 o'clock game.
I often read up on the team the Bullets will play that night and carefully study Wes' opponents.
I read up on the individual to find out what his capabilities are. I study his moves, the way he executes his shots, how he blocks out, his offensive and defensive strength, and his overall abilities. Often I discuss my findings and my opinions with Wes on the way to the game. He reacts by saying, "Okay, coach."
I guess you could call me Wes' best fan. It all stems from watching him at the University at Louisville, where we met, and then following him through his professional carrer.
After 15 years of watching him, I think I have become a pretty good observer and somewhat knowledgeable about the sport.
Last semester, I wrote a research paper entitled, "Offensive Weapons for Big Men in the NBA." I sent out a questionaire to all the big men in the league and got an excellent response from them. Even Wes was impressed with the paper.
Off season is the best time of the year for the family. We simply love relaxing and often go bay and ocean fishing. Wes is the expert, but I have better luck with the fish than he does.
We enjoy doing things together. We both like photography-Wes has been at it a long time and has 35 cameras and a dark room-and to my surprise I even got a new camera for Mothers' Day.
We frequently travel abroad-this year we'6l be in Greece, Italy, Israel and China-and we both try to get good pictures of places we visit.
We also shoot a lot of pictures of the children. We have photos of their first everything.
Reading is pleasurable to us and an important part of our lives. We constantly discuss books and try to find something that we can carry on a debate about. Wes was a history major and reads a lot of historical books and political things. I'm in education and try to read everything on children and how to be a better mother.
Wes reads a lot during his free time on the road and we will call to recommend a book. Then I'll get it and try to finish it before he gets back.
Sometimes I try to find something in history that he hasn't read and surpirse him by knowing something he isn't familiar with, and he does the same to me with education.
Books are important to the children, too. Wes reads them bedtime stories each night when he's home, and they accept me as a subsitute when he's away.
For the children, going shopping means they get to buy a new book. Kimberly has some 400 children's books. Her current favorite is one we brought her from Israel last year.
Our children love basketball and enjoy seeing their dad play. But they are somewhat concerned about their dad's image. During the recent game, they heard their dad referred to as the Incredible Hulk.
Westley has been patiently waiting for his dad to burst out of his shirt and turn green.
Kimberly is more sophisticated but nevertheless gets indignant when her dad is described as the Baby Bull, or the Bulldozer.
I am caught somewhat in between. The names don't bother me so much because I've seen Wes just about burst out of his shirt. In Game 7 against Seattle last year, for instance, Elvin Hayes had just fouled out and then they called one on Wes. He is a calm person with excellent control of his temper, but he wanted to win tha game badly, and I could see he was ready to explode.
After nine years of marriage to a professional athlete, I have survived the long road trips, the practice schedules and the delayed planes.
The late planes, for instance, can create problems. Wes and I are both from Kentucky and have no extended here. So you can't just call anyone on a moment's notice to sit with the kids if a plane is late.
That sometimes means waiting with the kids in the airport or in the parking lot for up to two hours. Then you hear, "I'm hungry" and "I've got to go to the bathroom" and all that.
If you have a 4 o'clock appointment and the 2 o'clock plane is late, you end up leaving word for Wes that he'll have to take a cab while I take Kimberly to her piano lesson or Westley to swimming.
I have my own interests and the responsibility of being mom and dad for a great percentage of the time.
I have a full life. I keep as active as I can by playing tennis, swimming and jogging.
I enjoy participating and being involved in my neighborhood associations (we have lived in Baltimore County for nine years) and I serve as a volunteer at my children's schools.
I previously taught kindergarten in the Baltimore public schools for three years. Now I'm involved with programs for teen-agers, work as a pianist and church school teacher and sometimes substitute for Wes if he is out of town and can't make a public appearnce.
I have just completed my master's degree in early childhool education and hope to use my knowledge to set up a quality day-care and nursery school for youngsters 2 to 5 years of age.
I previously took real-estate courses to give me enough confidence to secure the proper land for such a facility.
Proffesional basketball is simply a job for Wes. It is not our whole life.
While he plays, life goes on. And I deal with situations by smiling first. CAPTION: Picture 1, and 2, Connie Unseld; "Wes is always the same, whether it's regular season or playoff time." Photos by Richard Darecey - The Washington Post