TUSCOLA – For years, Robyn Wienke has listened to people criticize her husband. But she had an idea that would be the case when she married Stan Wienke, then a coach at ABL, 25 years ago. Part of being a coach's wife is learning to deal with the criticism, and Robyn has tried to distance herself from it.
She typically stands outside the fence in the west end zone at Tuscola High School, apart from some of the more rabid fans.
"It keeps me away from that," she said. "I started doing that when we were first married – separating myself from everybody else – because I hear everything."
Robyn has heard her husband called all sorts of names through the years, but the last two years a new dynamic has been added. Robyn and Stan's oldest son, John, has been quarterbacking the Warriors. And though the Warriors have enjoyed unprecedented success during John's run – they will try to defend their Class 1A state championship Friday against Galena – he still draws the ire of people in the stands, mostly from opposing fan bases.
Take Saturday's semifinal game against Arcola for instance. Robyn took her usual spot near the west end zone. But with such a large crowd – close to 4,000 fans took in the game – trying to avoid people was virtually impossible.
"There were some boys from Arcola doing everything in their power to irritate us," Robyn said. "They were saying John wasn't that good and John was this and John was that, and we stood there and listened to it for quite a while and all of a sudden, (daughter) Jenna just went berserk.
"It's so frustrating to sit there and listen to somebody criticize your kid. Thankfully there are enough good friends around me to keep bolstering my confidence about what goes on with my kids. But it is tough."
The fact that his wife has been subject to these types of scenarios doesn't surprise Stan Wienke. He hears only a fraction of what's said about him and his son. But he knows his wife can handle it better than most.
"She comes home and says some stuff sometimes, but she takes care of herself pretty good," Stan said. "She's got Johanna and Jenna with her and her sister, so I'm pretty sure they can take care of themselves. I don't have to worry about them much."
In the past, when Stan was coaching daughters Jenna, 23, and Johanna, 20, in basketball and track, they often would bring their problems home and argue quite a bit.
"There were a few times where our marriage was on the rocks a little bit," Robyn joked. "The girls were a little more stubborn. Jenna especially. She's just like Stan. So they clashed all the time."
But to Robyn's surprise, John and his father never argue about football. They'll talk about a play or a strategy here and there, but for the most part, they leave football at the school.
"I think John just has a way of relating to pretty much anybody," Robyn said. "They have such a good relationship, not that he didn't with the girls, but they seem to have an understanding of each other."
John credits his mother with being the calming influence over the whole family. He said without her patience, the whole family dynamic might be completely different.
"She's always been real helpful," John said. "She helps my dad out with organizing things and keeping him calm at some points, too."
Robyn was especially helpful to John during the summer when the phone at their home was working overtime with all the different college coaches trying to woo the star quarterback, who eventually committed to play at Michigan.
"She was great during the recruiting process," John said. "Just pretty much anything she did during that time was real helpful."
With all the attention during the recruiting process, Robyn never thought of it as stressful. Having so many people interested in her son, and fighting over the opportunity to have him play for them, was more fun than anything.
"It was always interesting to me to hear what they were saying to him," she said. "The really interesting time was after Indiana offered him, then Michigan called him and wanted him to come there. John never got bothered by it. We were just very excited about the whole process."
Even though John will be headed to Michigan next fall, Robyn's days as mother/ coach's wife will continue.
The Wienkes have another son, freshman Jud, who is expected to take over for his big brother at quarterback next year. Jud is a little more fiery than John, so the peaceful days in the home might be coming to an end.
"It's going to be another story altogether," Robyn said. "I'm not even looking forward to it."