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Coaching and motherhood: Parents share their stories of work-life balance and unforgettable moments

For a mother, there’s nothing more valuable than the time spent with their children. For a coach, there’s nothing more valuable than leading a group of players in the sport they love. Often, the two worlds intersect.

In the Baltimore area, many undertake the challenge of balancing high school coaching and motherhood. Here are their stories:


‘They grow up so fast’

The spring sports season is the most condensed of the three, with typically several practices and games a week. That packed schedule means coaches don’t often get home from practice or games before their child is asleep.

Katie Freeman, the girls lacrosse coach at Harford Tech, understands. Her daughter is almost 11 months old, and Freeman coached last season while pregnant.


She also works a full-time job outside of the school district. Working all day, she isn’t able to spend much time at home before heading out to games or practices. During those hours coaching, Freeman often relies on her husband.

When Freeman gets home, her daughter is usually asleep, or she’ll have a quick opportunity to say goodnight. She’s taken advice from her assistant coach and parents on striking that tough balance.

“My parents are coaches, so that’s been a big part of our life, that coach-child dynamic,” Freeman said. “I kind of got to grow up watching my parents coach and work and be our coaches. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of support from my family, but also my team, my team’s parents. Especially my assistant coach, giving me some good advice on how to balance it all.”

Centennial tennis coach Erin Parisi shares many of the same challenges with a young child. Parisi’s daughter, Sydney, is 19 months old and is usually asleep when she returns home.

Her daughter was born in September 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic and this spring is the first traditional tennis season since she was born. While that return to normalcy has been nice, Parisi has found that she’s more exhausted now balancing a full plate.

That exhaustion, compounded with the limited in-season time with her daughter, makes every second they spend together even more valuable. It also brings a heightened appreciation for the little things.

“I have tried to take a little bit of time to video chat with her for a couple minutes,” Parisi said. “So that when I do get to see her, I don’t feel so absent from her. The time that I’m with her is always valuable, but I do think in a lot of ways you appreciate it more.

“One of the hard things too, especially when they’re so little, is they grow up so fast. Until you have kids, I feel like you don’t really understand how fast things really move and how much kids change in their younger years. One day they’re crawling and the next day they’re walking. ... When you aren’t there, it makes it that harder. You feel a little bit like you’re missing out on their childhood or them growing up.”


‘At that very moment it meant a lot to me’

Winters Mill softball coach Felicia Knill has experienced both sides of that balancing act with her 2-year-old daughter, Kinsley. Last season, Knill stepped away from coaching, serving in more of a flexible volunteer role. It allowed her to spend more time with her daughter.

Now, Knill has returned to the dugout, sacrificing much of the time and nightly traditions she used to share with Kinsley. Those routines have shifted to the car rides home from day care.

Knill’s father, Greg, has coached in Carroll County for over 30 years, serving as a role model. Growing up, Knill watched her father’s commitment to her and her sisters, making the time spent in the offseason together that much sweeter.

During the season, Knill’s mom typically takes care of Kinsley during practices. With her mom out of town earlier in the season, Knill brought Kinsley to practice.

“It was so awesome, seeing my girls really embrace her,” Knill said. “She was standing there with her hands on her hips, watching everybody. She took her little chair and wanted to be involved. The girls were awesome and embraced her and look forward to those games and practice days that they do get to see her.”


Nicole Trunzo, girls lacrosse and field hockey coach at Glenelg, has experienced that same kind of bond. Trunzo’s daughter, Mckinley, is 19 months old, and Trunzo is now pregnant with her second child.

Trunzo’s husband, Will, coaches football at Hammond. Coaching during the same season, both are understanding of that balance required between coaching and family.

Trunzo often has Mckinley around the team during practices or games, having her daughter on hand for some of her team’s best moments. She was present this fall when the Gladiators field hockey team won the MPSSAA Class 2A state championship.

Seeing Mckinley standing next to standout lacrosse player Emma Kennedy, who will be playing at Navy next year, is burned in Trunzo’s memory.


“It was such a great moment to have. Watching a future United States Naval Academy student holding my daughter, standing, looking at the flag during the national anthem. I could just see them in the end zone and it was a really neat moment,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘Wow, a lot of kids don’t have those opportunities.’ It might not mean much to somebody else, but at that very moment it meant a lot to me.”

‘They know it’s because mommy’s coaching’

Coaching takes on an added meaning for Wilde Lake softball assistant Suzy Vo. As a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field, she feels a large sense of responsibility to serve as a role model for the Wildecats players.

That responsibility is accompanied by sacrifice as Vo spends less time with her two boys: Brendan, 8, and Collin, who turns 5 on Monday. While Vo is coaching, her husband remains supportive, spending time with their boys. Many of her practices and games often coincide with her son’s athletic events.

At Wilde Lake for 12 years, Vo learned not to take anything for granted, including the time spent with her children both on and off the field. Those moments with her team are particularly special.

“The mentality that I go on is how awesome is it for my boys to see their mom coaching when I feel the number of female coaches is not what I think it could be,” Vo said. “It’s such a cool experience for them and that’s kind of what keeps me going. Because even when I miss something of theirs, they know it’s because mommy’s coaching and impacting some other youth in their sport that they play.”

Atholton tennis coach Wendy Heger is in a more unique situation as a single mother with two daughters, ages 10 and 21. Her older daughter moved to California last summer.


Heger has adapted new ways of balancing coaching tennis with her younger daughter’s schedule, finding help from her mom as well as family and friends.

At times, her younger daughter’s athletic activities can be put on the back burner during tennis season. Heger began canceling weekend tennis lessons to ensure she can spend more time with her.

“It does make it really challenging and I do have to make a conscious effort to tell my other families that I coach on the weekend that I just can’t,” Heger said. “I need to spend time with my daughter. ... I’m constantly trying to make sure that we have time on the weekends to do things that are important for us within all of these other things that we’re doing.”

Marriotts Ridge girls lacrosse coach Amanda Brady is no stranger to the time management game. In her ninth year with the Mustangs, Brady has three children, ages 10 1/2, 9 and 4 1/2. While it can be challenging, Brady believes there’s a lesson in the balancing act.

“For me, I think it’s a great thing to show your kids that you’re capable of doing things that are hard and take up a time commitment,” Brady said. “You have to be able to balance your time and work hard at that to be successful.”


With their mother building one of Howard County’s top girls lacrosse programs, Brady’s children — particularly her oldest daughter, Claire — enjoy watching the success, including last year’s 3A state championship victory.

While Brady hopes her children learn the value of teamwork and dedication from her players, she also coaches Claire’s club team, the MD 2029. She started coaching them three years ago when Claire was in second grade.

“It’s so fun to watch these girls grow, and not just grow to great young ladies, but also really fun lacrosse players to watch at such a young age,” Brady said. “I know that there’s a really long road ahead for girls in fifth grade and lacrosse. Some are going to continue on and play it through college, and others are going to make different decisions along the way.”

‘I tried to involve them as much as I could’

Long Reach track and field coach Rosalind Sheppard has extensive coaching experience. With four children — now ages 25, 23, 19 and 16 — she used to coach all year, but that proved to be particularly challenging.

With her 16-year-old daughter now playing lacrosse, Sheppard is figuring out how to adapt her schedule.


Over the years, she’s learned the importance of relying on her resources, specifically the other members of her coaching staff. While they also have their own families and obligations, it’s a collective effort to provide coverage for one other when necessary.

As her kids have grown older, Sheppard realized they’ll only be kids for so long. That meant bringing them to practice.

“I think they were really excited about me coaching and seeing me at meets and practices and being part of it all,” Sheppard said. “I tried to involve them as much as I could and tell stories when I came home so they would feel like they kind of knew what was going on with my athletes.”

Like Sheppard, North Harford softball coach Christine Mullin has older children, with a 17-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son. When her daughter, Maggie, was playing softball growing up, Mullin couldn’t commit fully to coaching as she was working full-time with the Maryland State Police.

However, after retiring in 2018, Mullin started working part-time for the Harford County Sheriff’s Office and began coaching Maggie as a volunteer assistant. In Maggie’s sophomore season, Christine became North Harford’s head coach.


Now with Maggie a senior, Christine is making a concerted effort to enjoy things more, including the life lessons from the game she and Maggie both love.

“Her freshman year, when we had our initial first win of the season, that was probably one of the highlights because it was like, ‘All right, we got this, we’re actually going to be pretty good.’ That was pretty awesome,” Mullin said.

Marriotts Ridge girls lacrosse assistant coach Katie Lettinga also has the unique pleasure of getting to coach her daughter, Hayley, a senior on the Mustangs. Lettinga also has two other children, a 14- and 11-year-old.

Lettinga also leads Hayley’s M&D 22 Black club team. Each year, Lettinga asks Hayley if she still wants her to coach and Hayley’s kept saying yes. Fortunately, Lettinga’s been working from home, which allows more flexibility for attending practices and games.

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For Lettinga, one of her favorite things has been not only Hayley’s development as a player, but also the opportunity to have relationships with all of the girls and help them grow into young women. Despite her love for coaching, Lettinga recognizes that her family is always her No. 1 priority.

“Your job, whatever it may be, no matter how passionate you are about it, your family and that time with your family is so important and especially your time with your kids,” Lettinga said. “You only get one chance with them. That’s hard sometimes when it’s the middle of the season and there’s a tough game coming up and you’re poring over film and scouting reports. Being able to keep that priority takes some constant reminding.”


Coaching Hayley both at the high school and club level for such a long time has brought plenty of valuable memories, none more memorable than last season’s 3A state championship game.

“So many good memories with our club team. I had those girls since they were in fifth grade,” Lettinga said. “When that ended, I cried — that was just tough closing that chapter for those girls. For my own my child — to be able to have that club experience with her, but then culminating in a state championship win her junior year and then working toward that for potentially this year as well — is just awesome.”

Balancing coaching and home life is a challenge, but it can be achieved, often thanks to strong support from family and friends. As a result, new relationships are created, lasting memories are made and unbreakable bonds are built.