SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Anita Howard remembers when she realized the toll her coaching career had taken on her family.
“My son fell. He was hurt and crying, and my sister was at the house, and he went to her instead of momma," she says. "I said whoa, he feels more comfortable going to his auntie than his mom.”
The Georgia Southern women’s basketball coach says that moment changed how she looked at her role as a coach and a mother.
“Realize what’s important," Howard told herself. “The one thing I learned the most was love on your family, because they’re going to be there through thick and thin.”
As Howard moved up the ranks of the college basketball world, she and her husband also raised three children. All three are all grown and playing college sports.
But she still has mom duties to fulfill.
Many of Howard’s players at Georgia Southern are off on their own for the first time ever. She says that means she’s often stepping up as a second mom of sorts for them as well.
“Although I have three biological children, I also have a lot of children on my team that I have to take care of,” Howard says.
St. Vincent’s Tess Tvrdy agrees.
In addition to being a mom to her own two children, Tvrdy is the leader of a Saints’ soccer program that has won three consecutive state titles.
She says being a mother and a coach sometimes leads to those two roles bleeding together.
“We had my daughter’s birthday sleepover the night before I went off to state," she laughs. "We had eight 8-year-olds at the house. I finished practice, came home, we ate cake, and they had their sleepover. And the next morning I drove off to state.”
Both say juggling being mom and coach can oftentimes be overwhelming. But it was when they combined those motherhoods, both at home and with their team, that they found their biggest success on both fronts.
“I started incorporating my kids and my family into soccer way more, and I feel like it completely changed the dynamic," Tvrdy says. "I felt like we could do anything because we’re a family and families can accomplish anything together.”
Howard says she hopes she and other moms in coaching can be role models to younger women, that career success and motherhood can go hand in hand
“It shows them that you can be a strong, empowered woman. And do exactly what you want to do.”