My Wife, My Teammate: A Behind the Bench Exclusive
By Ritchie McKay

Julie and Ritchie McKay with their three children: Ellie, Luke and Gabriel
When I was first approached by FCA to submit an article for Sharing the Victory magazine, I was (#1) humbled, but also (#2) excited to be able to publicly appreciate my wife. Little did I know that this would be one of the most difficult things that I ever venture to do. God has more than taught me through this process, and I feel as if I would be dishonoring what I’ve been led to do if I didn’t write from the heart. Besides, there is no real victory without real authenticity. So, that being said, I’d like to share the following with you.

I was asked to share about what I appreciate or am thankful for about my wife and the ways that she helps me. Yet, in order to fully appreciate that, you need to know a few things about me.

Like many coaches, I am motivated by my own insecurities. I need to win. I need to succeed. If truth be told, I am in part driven by fear – fear of failure, of abandonment or of not measuring up. Those fears manifest themselves in a variety of ways, not just professionally but even more importantly relationally. And what I’ve come to learn in sharing life with a spouse (it can also apply to other relationships, such as those in the workplace) is that I have a fear of “getting into the circle,” if you will.

You see, most of us have this circle that can be a dangerous place simply because there is hurt in that circle. Perhaps a past relationship or experience with a particular person in that circle has damaged us and made us fearful.Growing up as a man in my generation and in my home, I was always taught toughness, discipline, not to show weakness and not to let anyone see you cry. That’s fine in certain settings, but it can produce a measure of inauthenticity that manifests itself in fears of vulnerability and intimacy. And because of that, I can tell you quite honestly that I would never be able to share this with you if God hadn’t given me my wife, Julie.You see, like most coaching couples, we were going along doing life with me as the coach and she as my cheerleader, my supporter. It was only recently that I learned who Julie really is.

Guys Listen Up!

To the men…I want to encourage the men reading this article to take this piece of advice.

As I mentioned Pastor Bill McCartney’s influence on me, I encourage you to find someone whom you will allow to mentor you. They can be pastors – I personally have been blessed with wisdom from men such as Pastor Jim Cymbala, Pastor Tony Evans, Pastor Brett Fuller and McCartney – but they also can be someone locally whom you would allow to keep you accountable at even the deepest level.

Remember, marriage isn’t just about finding the right person, it’s about being the right person.

Former University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney, has had a great impact on my life. I have not only had the privilege of meeting him face-to-face, but also to have devoured what he’s written and said. I have really grown to identify with some of the things he has been taught and has thus passed on. One of the things that he has shared has been based on Ecclesiastes 4:9, which states, “Two are better than one because they have good reward for their efforts.” McCartney really emphasized the “two are better than one” part. Joining together with another multiplies our joy, brings out the best in us and raises our commitment level.

But teams like this aren’t just for sports. Far from it. The fact is, we all belong to teams in our lives with others who are in pursuit of shared goals or belief systems. So when McCartney suggested that his wife, Wendy, needed to be his teammate it really changed my view of who Julie is. It made me realize that she actually possesses things that have been given for my benefit. Genesis 2:18 (NIV) says, “I will make a helper suitable for him.” God knew we, as men, would need help and vice versa. And in my case, a lot of help.

I wish I could tell you I’ve had the perfect marriage – one without struggles, hardship or disagreements, but again, I want to be authentic. My wife has sustained our marriage with her great strength and her great sense of resolve. She has emulated Christ’s love in many ways by loving me unconditionally and by sacrificially putting her needs aside for my benefit or the benefit of my person or career. For that I’ll never be able to repay her. God truly has graced her with a sense of discernment and compassion, and I can see His Spirit in her.

Like a lot of men, I grew up in a competitive generation. There are plenty of enticing worldly lures such as money, possessions, appearances and careers. But I want to be a man who brings glory to God and His name. In spite of these lures, I want to be a man who strives after His heart. I can honestly say that Julie spurred me on in that way and has made me a better man. If I were to give advice to any woman – especially a coach’s wife – on how she can help her husband, I would take a page out of Julie’s book: find a way to praise him. No article or accolade from anyone else can do for my self-image or my self-confidence what words of encouragement from my wife can do.

For example, I remember feeling so proud when, for my 40th birthday, Julie gave me a list of 40 reasons why she loves me. It now sits in my office, framed, and is something that I look at every day. I’m so inspired by that gift and know that those words will last forever.

Another way I would encourage a wife to help her husband to grow is to always speak the truth in love. Sometimes we may not want to hear it, but timing is everything in how we receive what is said. If your husband’s like me, he’ll be defensive at first, and if you tell him in the wrong way or the wrong tone of voice, he’ll react negatively. But if you can find a way to lace your truth or your encouragement with a positive first and with the right tone, it will do wonders in how he hears you.

Finally, I want to encourage you to never compare your private life with someone else’s public life and to remind you that our God is a God of miracles. He can change circumstances in a moment. He moves the hearts of kings, and He can make a way when there appears to be no way. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through the gift of marriage it’s that the better our marriage, the more it is attacked. But may I say again, God is faithful. And though He uses circumstances to mold us, to shape us and to make us depend on Him, His gift of marriage is still just that – a gift.

God bless you!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The head men’s basketball coach at the University of New Mexico, Ritchie McKay has been married to his wife, Julie, for 16 years. They have three children: Ellie (12), Luke (8) and Gabriel (6).

Photos courtesy of Ritchie McKay, Univ. of New Mexico