They are the unsung heroes of football season - the women in the stands who show up, game after game, decked out in spirit gear, and support their coaches and players on and off the field. Meet the amazing wives and mothers in Katy ISD football.
KATY MAGAZINE I October 2017 By Ashley Lancaster Photography by Sara Isola
(From left to right: Sheila Joseph, Cydney Wright, Rhonda Clayton, Lisa Gotte, Leslie Matus, Karla Beek. Not pictured: Debbie Kuithe)
Rhonda Clayton - Cinco Ranch Rhonda has been married to Don Clayton, the Cougar's head coach and athletic coordinator, for 35 years, 30 in Katy ISD. She was a teacher for 34 years and graduated with a degree in elementary education from Lamar University, which is where she met Don. They have two daughters, Lindsay (32), and Lacey (28) and two grandchildren, Grant and Cailynn.
During the course of their marriage, they have relocated five times for coaching opportunities, and she still attends every single game with enthusiasm; she's a coach's daughter after all. "I grew up watching my mom support my dad and she brought me to every game. I always want to be there to support Don and the players. Our girls started going from the time they were born, and now the tradition will continue with our grandchildren."
Coaching is not without it's challenges, but it's also very rewarding. "[I love] watching the relationships grow between coaches and players. We love attending their college games and then being able to celebrate weddings with these young men we’ve watched grow up. It’s been exciting to have taught boys in elementary school and then watch them on the football field being coached by Don."
With their children grown, the game day routine has calmed down a bit because they no longer have two daughters dancing for the Cougar Stars like they used to, but the excitement never goes away. "Even after 35 years, the butterflies are still there!"
Favorite Memory: "From the first district win, an overtime win over Taylor, to many district and playoff wins, they have all been very memorable."
Game Day Traditions:
"A cup of coffee to start the day, and good luck clothes and jewelry."
Sheila Joseph - Katy High School For Gary and Sheila, Katy football is a lifetime legacy. Gary has been a coach for the Katy Tigers for 35 of their 38-year marriage. They have three children, Jon (36), Jeff (34), and Julie (32) who is married to former KHS football player and college football coach, Eman Naghavi, and a granddaughter, Austin Ann.
With their lives so deeply connected to the Tigers, the Josephs enjoy every moment they can together. "Any time we get to spend with our grandbaby is a bonus, and we have an occasional date night." But really, they have a huge "extended family" in their team. "I think the most rewarding part is the players. They become a part of our family, and seeing them graduate and become hard working citizens and husbands and fathers is such a reward. We receive calls, texts, Christmas cards and visits from so many of the former players," says Sheila.
Winning eight state championships requires endless hours, effort, and time spent on the field and away from home for coaches, and it can be tough for the families they love. But Sheila has seen the blessing it brought into their lives, and always found a way to make it work. "When our kids were young, I took them to watch practice three or four days a week so they could see their dad and spend some time watching him work. It did influence them as all three have degrees in education and two are coaches."
Sheila is proud of how much her husband has accomplished in his career, and for being such a great Christian man and wonderful father and husband.
"The two best would be seeing each one of our sons win a State Championship ('97, '01) with their dad as their coach - dream come true for us."
Advice for Football Parents:
"Feed those boys as much as they can eat! They need to stay strong for a long season. Stay positive with your son. Be at every game they play, if possible. They will remember your support forever."
Lisa Gotte - Paetow High School
Lisa is married to Paetow High School's first-ever head football coach and athletic coordinator, B.J. Gotte. They have two children, Keegan and Gavin, and have been married for 12 years - 11 of those spent with B.J. as a football coach. Gotte has coached in Deer Park, La Marque, and Flower Mound, but Katy is definitely not new territory - he played and won a state championship for the Katy Tigers in 1997, and until this year served as the running back and tight end coach and offensive coordinator for Katy High School.
Starting a brand new program can be tough, but she's prepared to be the support he needs. "(As a wife) you have to have thick skin. If they make “a wrong call” not only is it talked about in the stands, but it’s also all over social media, in the grocery store, my child’s school, etc. You have to try to not take things too personal."
There will certainly be lots of eyes on the Panthers program in the near future, but Lisa is confident in her husband's abilities. "I am so proud of the man he is all around. He is the kind of person that sets goals and achieves them, without a doubt."
"Winning a state championship for the Tigers. I can’t explain the feeling you get as a proud wife seeing all of your husband’s hard work and long hours pay off for this very moment."
Favorite Date Night with the Coach: Dinner and a movie
Debbie Kuithe - Cinco Ranch High School
Debbie is mom to three kids, Brennan (24), and twins Brant and Blake (17) who play varsity football for Cinco; Brant as running back and Blake at defensive end. Both boys also compete in track and field events like relay, shot put, and discus. Blake competed and medaled at state level for discus throwing in 2017.
It goes without saying, she's a busy woman. "Track events can take all day depending on the schedule, and when you take in locker room decorating, coaches lunches, team dinners, sendoff, pre-game, and the game itself, you can spend as much as 10 hours doing sports-related things."
That's a lot of commitment, on top of the natural stress that comes with watching your son play a sport so physical. One of her biggest challenges? "Worry! You just think over and over - Are they hydrated enough? Did they have enough to eat on game day or any other day? Do they have everything they need on game day from gloves, extra socks, etc.? Are they motivated to pump up their team today? You just want to see them come home happy and injury-free after the game," she says.
Still, it's well worth it to watch them bond with their teammates, and grow as young men and athletes. She is also grateful to the coaches for teaching her sons patience and confidence, and allowing them to be who they are and improving themselves with guidance.
Favorite Memory: "Watching them last year overcoming the obstacles and making the playoffs. Nothing is more rewarding when the team knows they left it all on the field."
Special Shout Out: "We love the support of our cheerleaders, band, drill team, trainers, coaches and fans. They make a difference at every game!"
Leslie Matus - Katy High School
Being a part of the Katy Tiger football program in any capacity requires a certain amount of dedication from the parents, and Leslie Matus, mother to team captain Michael Matus, is certainly dedicated. She spends approximately 20 hours per week getting prepped for the game or doing other Katy football-related activities, in addition to supporting her daughter, Brooke, who plays freshmen volleyball. Both kids also participate in track and field events.
The boys play, practice, or workout everyday of the week except Sunday during football season, and with the rest of the family's schedules to balance, connecting can be a challenge. "We have some family time by eating dinner together at home a few days a week and talk about how their day went, and we spend time together on Sundays," she says.
On game day though, it's all business. "I make sure that Michael has everything he needs for the game ready to go in the morning, make sure he gets a late lunch after school so that he can eat before the game, I get dressed head to toe in my Katy jersey and spirit wear, help decorate the stadium, and join the parent spirit line to see our boys take the field right before kickoff."
Leslie feels blessed and honored to be a part of such an outstanding program, and for what the coaches have taught her son, on and off the field. "They are great mentors and have taught him about the importance of team, discipline, respect and excellence in everything you do, and that there is no substitute for hard work, that respect is earned not given, and that tradition matters."
Favorite Memory: "Everything about the 2015 State Championship Game for sure! Watching Michael and his teammates go out and win Katy’s 8th State Football Championship was one of the most exciting days ever. I also got to watch him win the State Finals Defensive MVP Award – it was one of the proudest moments of my life."
Advice for Parents New to the Program:
"My advice to parents new to the program is to get involved as much as possible and support your son in what he loves to do!"
Karla Beek - Taylor High School
Karla is an assistant principal at Stockdick Junior High and a mom of three, two sons and a daughter. Ethan is 19 and plays football at Houston Baptist University, Ean is a senior at Taylor and plays as an "all-purpose" back on varsity and runs track, and Evan is 16 and dances competitively for Top Flight Dance Company.
On a typical game day, Beek will wake up and say a prayer for her kids' safety, put on her Taylor blue earrings, kiss the kids and tell them to be better than they were yesterday. She will send reminders to THS football parents about dinner. If it's a weekday, she'll head home from work, throw on her jersey, and maybe shed a few tears behind her shades after send-off and before the parent dinner; it's her youngest son's senior year, after all. She and her husband help blow up the Mustang football, and then it's off to their seats.
It's an emotional experience. "I am no good and cannot hold a conversation,and I typically won’t see my husband until after the game. I spend most of the game hiding tears, and hitting the person next to me when I get excited. Last year I was worked up on almost every play, because Ethan played defense and Ean played offense. Game days are some of the most emotional days for our family."
But the Beek's know that the family bond has to remain strong, so they reserve critiques or comments for 24 hours.
Karla is passionate because she believes that parents can make or break the team dynamic. "Coaches need the support of the parents to create a strong team. One team, one goal," she says.
Favorite Memory: "Watching my boys run out of the tunnel and around their squad to chest bump each other will stick with me. The one moment that I will never shake was the embrace my two boys shared after their last game together."
Most Challenging Part of Being a Football Mom:
"Not being able to put on pads and block for my baby. It is hard to watch your precious angel get hit over and over and over. Ean’s teammates do a great job and I have to give that up to them."
Cydney Wright - Taylor High School The Wright family are athletes all around, so busy schedules and nervous energy are nothing new for mom, Cydney. Miles Wright plays baseball at St. Edwards University, daughter MaCKenzie played volleyball at St. Mary's, and the youngest, Max, is a superstar defensive end for the Taylor Mustangs.
Max has been a varsity starter for Taylor High School since his freshman year, so Cyndey and her husband Keith are seasoned pros when it comes to volunteering with the Mustangs.
"A special thing that we really got going last year was just after the players took the field many of the parents and grandparents that were in the run through line all got together and prayed for all our players and coaches before the game," she says.
On game day, Cydney likes to get up and have a big breakfast with her husband and son, head to work, attend the send off, and then get to the game at least 45 minutes early to watch the players stretch and warm up.
This is their youngest son's senior year - so it's natural that the coaches and players would feel like second family. "The coaches have watched over and supported Max from day one. Max was a Freshman when Coach Herrmann took over the program and we are so thankful for his leadership along with the support of Coach Jensen. These coaches have truly been like second fathers to our son and all these players."
She feels that the coaches at THS have been instrumental to her son's success. It was because of the coaches showing Max's game film to a few people from the University of Georgia at a coaches clinic that Max received his first offer as a freshman in high school. But the coaches teach and mentor the players off the field as well. "They teach them to work hard, take care of your teammates , finish what your start and never quit," she says.
"Max getting his first start on varsity as a freshman was really so incredible!"
Advice for Parents New to the Program: "Host team dinners and take time to get to know the team and their families!"
ASHLEY LANCASTER is the digital editor for Katy Magazine and a little league football momma who will take the sage wisdom provided by these lovely ladies to heart in her own #BoyMom adventures.
Do you know an amazing football wife or mom in Katy? Leave it in the comments!