Kristin Kasowski usually is at East Grand Forks Senior High football games, standing somewhere along the fence in front of the concession stand with her infant daughter.
If she misses a game, however, Kristin Kasowski doesn’t have to ask her husband of the outcome when he comes home. The body language of Green Wave coach Ryan Kasowski usually tells the story.
“Ryan puts his heart and soul into his coaching,’’ Kristin Kasowski said. “If they win, he’s smiley, happy, upbeat. If they don’t he’s more serious. He’s kind of quiet. Those guys on the team are his second family. If they don’t do well, he takes it pretty hard.’’
Officially, the wife of a football coach isn’t a part of her spouse’s team. She isn’t on the sideline, nor in the press box. She calls no plays and attends no practices.
But football is a part of her life.
”It’s a little crazy,’’ said Tami Byklum, wife of Polk County West coach Darrin Byklum. “All we do is watch, talk and breathe football.’’
Each of the four Greater Grand Forks coaches has his own habits after a game. For Trish Muir, a late night can be expected if the Grand Forks Red River team coached by her husband, Vyrn Muir, doesn't play well.
“Vyrn usually walks into the house the same way,’’ Trish Muir said. “But sometimes, like after the Bismarck game (a 44-35 Red River win), he comes in really chatty.
“If he gets home late and the game bothered him, he’ll stay up late and watch game film. If he’s had a good game, he’ll sit and tell about every play.’’
The football wives see what a time-consuming job their husbands have. It’s not just from the first practice to the last game of the season. It’s also time spent in the weight room. It’s not from the start of practice to the end of it. There is planning and meetings with other staff members.
Gerri Lorenz, wife of Grand Forks Central coach Bill Lorenz, knew what she was getting into when they married. Her father was a long-time coach.
”That’s helped,’’ Gerri Lorenz said. “It offered me insight and patience. I understand that (coaching) is very time consuming, and that it’s not just practices and games. It’s practice and game preparation. It’s film watching.’’
All four of the wives of the Greater Grand Forks head football coaches admit they aren’t great students of the game.
“Before I met Vyrn, I knew nothing about football,’’ Trish Muir said. “I wasn’t a fan. Now, after 10 years of marriage, I know what a good play or a bad play is. It’s probably good that I’m not too football savvy. I think he likes me being a good sounding board.’’
Said Tami Byklum: ”I’ll try watching Vikings game on TV with Darrin and our boys. Sometimes I’ll say something like, ‘Wow, that was a good blitz’ And they give me a look like, do you know what you’re talking about? Obviously, it wasn’t a blitz.’’
The wives can be a sounding board for their husbands. But there’s also the possibility of hearing more than they want during games.
Kasowski stands by the fence. Lorenz usually walks along the track at Cushman Field during games, away from the fans. Occasionally she’ll sit with a few friends or past coaches.
”I made it a point quite a few years ago to not be in the stands,’’ Gerri Lorenz said. “I do that to tune out the critics, the criticism about the play-calling or who is or isn’t playing.’’
Muir and Byklum sit in the stands with friends.
”You hear things in the stands that I probably shouldn’t,’’ Tami Byklum said. “People talk who don’t necessarily understand the game or what Darrin is doing. Darrin knows the game very well. There’s a method to his madness.
“If you hear comments during a game, you just let it go. I walk away. Maybe I’ll give a look. Or if I’m with other moms, I’ll try to explain what he’s doing. It’s important that they understand what’s going on, to get some insight.’’’
Their husbands are under a microscope to the public eye, open to criticism. But beyond the wins, there are rewards that out-weigh any negatives.
”Vyrn got a graduation card one year from one of his players,’’ Trish Muir said. “And he got the sweetest note written on it by the kid. It’s not about the wins and losses for Vyrn; it’s the impact he has on kids that is most important. He loves working with the kids.’’
Said Tami Byklum: ”It’s been a fun ride. I didn’t know what I was signing up for when we married 23 years ago.’’