Most people actually live two lives: a work life and personal life.
But for a few Lehigh coaches, these two lives are intertwined.
Debbie and Matt Utesch coach Lehigh women’s and men’s track and field. Softball coach Fran Troyan is married to women’s basketball coach Sue Troyan.
Fran Troyan first met his wife while he was in law school at Dickinson College and she was an undergraduate student there. She received an offer to be a graduate assistant for the Lehigh women’s basketball team, which brought her to Bethlehem. He followed her to Lehigh with every intention of becoming a practicing trial lawyer.
After Sue Troyan had completed her MBA and Fran Troyan had clerked for a judge for a year, the couple was deciding what to do, thinking they might pursue careers in their respective fields.
“Dr. (Joe) Sterrett created a position for her as an assistant basketball coach and also named her head coach of the softball team,” Fran Troyan said. “In the first few years, I was a practicing trial attorney, I was an assistant along with Sue for the women’s basketball program and I was her assistant for softball as well.”
From 1989-1995, Fran Troyan was a part-time employee at Lehigh, but in 1996 he took over as the head coach for women’s softball when his wife became the head coach of the women’s basketball program.
The Uteschs met as Level 1 coaches school for collegiate track and field coaches in Boston. At the time, Debbie Utesch was coaching at St. Francis University and her husband was coaching at Bucknell University. Both went on to different jobs before coming together at Lehigh.
“Matt (Utesch) was an assistant at Lafayette at the time and I was coaching at Millersville,” Debbie Utesch said. Matt Utesch knew the Lehigh coaches pretty well, which is why the former head coach reached out to the two of them when he realized he was planning on accepting another coaching position and leaving the Lehigh program.
The two were fortunate enough to both get hired at Lehigh — however, they acknowledged working with a spouse has its ups and its downs.
Both couples agreed having such similar jobs has put a strain on life at home with the time commitment, weird schedules and traveling. They added that having children doesn’t make it any easier.
“It is certainly a challenge,” Sue Troyan said. “Especially when the kids were younger, but we looked at that challenge as an opportunity.”
She said since the time her children were able to walk, they were in gyms, on buses and at different campuses.
Both coaching couples give credit to Sterrett, the dean of athletics, for being so accommodating with them and their children. Sterrett understood that coaching requires odd hours, and finding a babysitter or a daycare service was not always an option. Debbie Utesch said her children were always allowed at practices and meets and were able to travel with the teams whenever necessary.
Although a struggle at times, the couples liked the environment they were able to raise their kids in.
“My daughter grew up thinking that all of her best friends were in college when she was eight,” Debbie Utesch said. “They both definitely matured and even developed outstanding vocabularies and saw the commitment level from Division I student athletes just from growing up in this environment.”
All coaches would agree they are pretty lucky to get to work together.
Not only is it nice to have someone to get a bite to eat with during the day, but also to have a trusted support system to ask for advice on anything or get a second opinion.
Sue Troyan said having someone to trust 100 percent of the time and whose opinion you respect is invaluable. She feels she can go to her husband about anything and knows that his advice and support will always be genuine.
“The very first thing that came to my mind about working with my husband was sharing separate offices,” Debbie Utesch said with a laugh. “But really just having someone that I trust and having a different relationship that most married couples get to have.”