Oct. 3, 1997
Cathy Wright-Eger balances coaching with being a wife and mother.
Coach Juggles Motherhood, Team; Enjoys Both
This article was written Wednesday, June 25, 1997
On the desk of Purdue women's swimming coach Cathy Wright-Eger sits a picture drawn by her 9-year-old son Tyler. The picture is done in crayon, with Lambert Pool as its setting. In the picture a Purdue swimmer is lapping swimmers from the Universities of Indiana and Kentucky.
While the picture is amusing, it also serves as a reminder of Wright-Eger's other full-time job as a mother. In addition to Tyler, Wright-Eger and her husband, Rob, have 2-year-old Tory. Wright-Eger is entering her 10th year as both a head coach and mother. When she was hired in 1988, Wright-Eger was three months pregnant.
"It was our first child and my first head-coaching job, so here I was, a first-time mom and a first-time coach," said Wright-Eger. "That was a tough time for Rob and me."
When Wright-Eger went into labor with Tyler, she said there were six potential recruits on campus. She said that by 5:30p.m. there were 23 swimmers at the hospital waiting to see her., including all six recruits. Three of those six signed to swim at Purdue. "I thought to myself, 'That's a pretty good recruiting trick,' but I didn't want to do it every year," said Wright-Eger. Around the time Tyler turned 4, Wright-Eger decided she wanted another child. A miscarriage suffered at a swim meet at Penn State in 1993 reinforced this ever further. Thus came Tory and even more responsibility.
Wright-Eger said that she manages to handle her everyday tasks by economizing her time. Every day starts with waking up at 5a.m. By the time she has arrived at her office at Mackey Arena at 8a.m., Wright-Eger said she has already conducted swim practice, ran, showered, fed the kids and done laundry. "She's one of the most efficient people I know and best at allocating her time," said Rob Eger, a supervisor of six Discount Den stores. "She doesn't waste any time."
Wright-Eger said that she is ordinarily very energetic and the family is a very active one, but she always knows when things are moving too fast.
"When things are going too fast, Tory will say, 'Mommy sit down, 'and that's how we know," she said.
For Wright-Eger, parenting and coaching parallel one another. Every year, Wright-Eger's swimming teams boast one of the University's highest team GPAs. She tries to instill the same work ethic, as well as values, in Tyler and Tory. Like she does with her team, Wright-Eger uses any means possible to do so. "Sometimes you have to push them, some times you have to hug them and sometimes you have to get all over them," said Wright-Eger. "but sometimes you just have to sit there and listen to them." As a parent, Wright-Eger hopes to become something she never had the benefit of, a role model for other coaching mothers. "I'd say about 90 percent of my athletes want to get married and have kids," said Wright-Eger. "So to them I'm a role model. They see the good times and the bad times."
Wright-Eger the only female coach (head or assistant) at Purdue with children, said that her team is great with the kids, as are many of her colleagues in the athletic department, starting with associate athletic director Joni Comstock.
"She is wonderful," said Wright-Eger about Comstock. "the kids know just where to go in her office to get candy. If I had a different boss, I don't know if I could do this."
Comstock said that despite it being more challenging, Wright-Eger is "able to take care of business just like all our other coaches." It isn't just administrators helping with the kids. There are athletes, as well.
Men's basketball player Brian Cardinal went to Tyler's most recent birthday party.
"Tyler got a magic eight ball and asked it if Brian and his teammates would get the Final Four this season," said Wright-Eger. "He turned it over and it said, ' You can count on it.' All 14 kids were jumping up and down screaming, and I look over and Brian's cheering, too." The kids' ties to the athletic department have naturally made them Purdue fans. Wright-Eger said that Tyler's first picture after his birth was of him with his parents and Purdue Pete. Wright-Eger also said that Tyler thinks Gene Keady "is God" and was upset when former football coach Jim Colletto resigned. Wright-Eger is thrilled that her children are growing up with the right allegiances, but discourages the kids from getting too wrapped up in rivalries.
"Tyler asked me one day, 'Mommy, why do some people hate IU?'" said Wright-Eger. "I told him he should root for Indiana unless they're playing Purdue. The same goes for Notre Dame. You should cheer for your home-state schools."
While she gets help form her colleagues, Wright-Eger said that she could not handle all of her responsibilities without her family, starting with her husband.
"Rob loves my job," said Wright-Eger. "He's the team's biggest fan." In addition, Wright-Eger's parents and sister live in Lafayette and help with the kids.
While the responsibilities on his mother are great, it is clear that Tyler, for one, is proud of what his mother does for a living. On the inside of the crayon drawing is text that concludes by saying, "I like it that she is the coach."
By Brian Neubert