CHAMPAIGN – Kevin and Quinn Hambly have a standing date at the breakfast table.
"She wakes up really early," the Illinois volleyball assistant coach said of his 2 1/2-year-old daughter. "Our time is kind of breakfast, before I go to work. We eat, goof around. We have our routine."
It's a routine Hambly embraces in the midst of a time- and travel-consuming job. The father of two girls – including 4 1/2-month-old Maura – Hambly has learned that the demands of coaching are rarely compatible with a stable presence at home.
"It's a major challenge and it's something that I struggle with all the time because I feel like, as a parent, I'm not around enough," he said.
It's a sentiment Hambly feels even more keenly now that Quinn is older and aware that her daddy sometimes is away from home for days at a time.
"These last few months especially have been really tough," the fifth-year Illini assistant said. "It pulls on your heartstrings. You'll call when you're on the road and she'll say, 'Daddy, come home.' Or when I leave for the office, she'll say, 'Why do you have to go to work again?' "
When Hambly isn't away for a road match or to recruit, he tries to mesh coaching and fatherhood during the work day whenever possible. Mary, Quinn and Maura are frequent visitors to practice. These treks to Huff Hall are a particular hit with the Hamblys' oldest child.
"She loves coming to the gym," Kevin Hambly said. "She's always talking about it. She'll sit on the side while we're scrimmaging. After drills, she knows that we go pick up the balls and put them in the cart, and she'll often help."
Hambly says he's fortunate to be married to someone familiar with the demands of his job. Mary Hambly was a UI assistant coach from 2004 to '06 and remains the program's summer camp director.
"It helps that she has been an assistant and understands what the grind is about and what you need to do to be successful," he said. "Without Mary and her accepting this role (as a homemaker), I don't think it would be possible I could coach."