By Lauren Goodman
The LSU Tigers are 8-4. They are ranked No. 24 in the College Football Playoffs and are fifth in the SEC West. They are eager to find out which bowl they will be attending, even if they are not in contention for a national championship, plus the outcome of the search to fill the vacant head coaching position at Michigan.
There is a lot of chatter about coach Les Miles. There is always a lot of chatter about Les Miles.
But there is another side to Coach Miles that the public rarely gets to see, and that is Les Miles, the husband and dad.
Miles has been with his wife Kathy since his coaching days at Michigan. They married in 1993. They are parents to four kids: Kathryn (Smacker), Manny, Benjamin, and Macy Grace.
All four are athletes and play sports. All four understand that their dad is not like the other dads.
It is not always easy to have a coach as a father.
“He understands really quickly where his weaknesses are. He’s not a swim coach,” Kathy Miles says with a chuckle.
The Miles’ oldest daughter, Kathryn, is a swimmer at the University of Texas.
“When they were younger, he would try to coach them on their technique, now he just tries to keep them motivated and on task,” Kathy said.
Manny and Benjamin both play high school football. Having a father who has coached national championship teams should be an advantage.
But Coach Miles does not let his role as head coach of the LSU Tigers compete with his role of being a dad.
“Les understands that the boys are doing what their coaches are teaching them to do,” Kathy said. “And they have some great coaches.”
It is a fine line between coach and father, and Miles walks it well.
Macy Grace, a fifth grader, plays youth soccer and softball. Her dad loves to watch her play.
“He loves meeting the other kids,” Kathy said. “People always ask for photos or autographs. He’s happy to do it. The kids understand. They are independent and understanding when he can’t make it to one of their games.”
Being the wife of an SEC head coach requires a special woman.
“Les gets in a great routine during football season with his staff, practices, game days,” Kathy said. “It makes my job a lot easier. I can just help the kids, finish my errands, and I run lunch up to him about once a week.”
Every football team has its own routine during the season. You would think the intensity of a game every week would be the hardest time of year for a coach’s family, but Kathy says the offseason is much more chaotic.
“Football season seems like down time,” she said. “It’s consistent. After the bowls and in the spring, he is in and out of town to recruit, go on tours, and speaking engagements.”
The idea that being a head coach for a football team is just being busy during the fall is off base. There is always something to prepare for, a recruit to meet, an interview to give.
And then there are the games themselves.
We have all seen the camera zoom in on a coach’s wife and family during the game. Some like to sit in the stands, some in a suite, and some cannot even handle watching the game with other people. Family members have their own routines, too.
“The games are intense for me,” Kathy said. “I am focused on watching the game. There’s not a lot of side chatter for me.”
Kathy said now that their kids are older it is easier to make to all the games.
She has maybe missed one or two away games in the past four years. She makes it to all of the home games, as long as the kids do not have a sporting event of their own.
And what about the Miles’ children? They enjoy watching their dad in Tiger Stadium too.
“When they are older, I think they will appreciate the opportunity they had to go to LSU football games,” Kathy said.
Inevitably, as all coaches do, they lose one of these football games. The scrutiny that head coaches are under, especially in what many consider the best conference in the nation, the SEC, not only affects the coach, but his loved ones, too.
“I’m not an internet person,” Kathy said. “I read The Advocate, always the sports section. I’ll tell Les about an article. He reads even less than me.”
Criticism doesn’t just come from the media. It comes from the fans, too.
“As far as LSU, the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” Kathy said. “There is always a fan with something to say, positive or negative, but the people of Louisiana have been great to Les and our family. It has been such a positive experience for our family.”
It is not always easy to be in school with a famous father, at least not in the football loving state of Louisiana.
“The kids have grown up with it and are used to it,” Kathy said. “There are down times after losses, but they surround themselves with good friends. They understand that people will say negative things.”
At the end of the day, these men, who have dedicated their lives to football, to fulfilling their dreams of winning national championships, and helping kids fulfill their dreams of playing in the National Football League, are husbands and fathers. They are not so different from every other parent trying to figure out how to balance a career and a family.
They show up to work every day, they do their jobs to the best of their ability, they work to showcase the talent of their players, and of course, try to win football games.
But, at the end of the day, they return to their families and play a very different role.
“Les is very involved as a dad,” Kathy said. “He is interested in their grades, school, their social life.”
It is clear that the Miles’ family has learned what is most important.
“To the kids, he is just their dad.”