Alicia Thompson is in the dugout, coaching the Auburn Mountainview High School softball team.
Her husband, Brett, runs amok about the bleachers, trying to corral his five-year-old son Brodie and keep him from jumping into the opposing team’s bullpen.
How the tables have turned.
Alicia is the one gallivanting in the grandstands during the fall, when Brett is in the midst of the high school football season coaching at Kentlake.
“I have a substantial amount of Kentlake gear,” Alicia laughed.
But on this day, at an Auburn Mountainview vs. Auburn Riverside softball game, Brett is prominently strutting in an AMV baseball cap.
That wasn’t quite as difficult as when Brett’s Falcons opened this past football season against Alicia’s Lions.
“I sat on the Kentlake side and I got called a traitor,” Alicia said. “I took it, though. There’s loyalty that we try to keep.”
The Thompson household morale can fluctuate based on the current state of their teams.
And right now — times are good.
Alicia has coached the Lions’ softball team to an 11-0 record. They’ve scored the most runs of any Class 4A in the state with 160 to date and have allowed just 18 runs. They’ve had two games so far that have gone the full seven innings, while the rest have ended in the mercy-rule five innings.
They have four batters hitting over .500 — Lily Hope (.606), Emily Bartholomew (.583), Emily Martinez (.561) and Zoe Collins (.525). Collins’ glove almost looks bigger than her 5-foot-3 frame, but she also doubles as AMV’s ace with 61 strikeouts in 53 innings pitched.
But what Brett is most envious about in his wife’s team is their chemistry.
“You can see it,” Brett said. “They have fun together and that’s something I’m trying to foster out of my guys.
“I think Alicia — I look up to her as far as her swagger and confidence. To me, she’s got tremendous clarity and vision as far as what she wants out of her program. She’s great at teaching fundamentals, she’s great at team building — and that’s the stuff that I’m drawing from her.”
Brett turns his gaze over to an empty softball field. It’s now close to 10 p.m. and Brodie is running zigzag across the turf outfield like he’s finished drinking about three Red Bulls.
Ayla, their 8-year-old daughter interrupts her father mid-conversation.
“Dad, can Brodie ride home with you?” she whimpers.
“You are witnessing our life,” he chuckles.
Brett and Alicia are also both part of the increasingly rare breed of teacher-coaches. Both are teachers with National Board Certification at their respective schools; Brett teaches social studies and Alicia is a beloved math teacher.
Both are from Auburn but they met at Western Washington University, where Brett had begun his college football career.
Brett graduated from Auburn Riverside and Alicia from Auburn High.
“She was wearing Auburn sweatpants the first time we met,” Brett said. “It feels like we are switching loyalties all the time.”
Alicia’s first assistant coach position was at Sehome, while Brett was student teaching and coaching at Nooksack Valley. Then Alicia got a job at Auburn and Brett at Auburn Riverside before Alicia took over at Auburn Mountainview and Brett got a job as the ninth-grade football coach and seventh-grade baseball coach while teaching at Tahoma Middle School.
“We could do that before we had kids,” Brett chuckled.
Brett has since spent the past two years as Kentlake’s football coach and Alicia is in her sixth year at AMV.
“I think we’re pretty similar as coaches,” Alicia said. “But I might be more of a yeller.”
Brett takes his eyes off his kids running around the field to chime in.
“Yeah, I think so,” he said.
“He’s just thinking that because he hears me at home,” she laughed.
Their entertainment is going to high school games and taking their kids with them. Alicia handles most of the household upkeep and cooking during the fall and Brett takes over — some — in the spring.
“I’m getting pretty good. If it’s a Blue Apron meal and I have the instructions right there, I can handle it,” he said. “But we’re definitely not the home-cooked meal every night, in bed by 8 kind of family.”
And he’s learned that date night is not scout night.
“He made that mistake once,” Alicia laughed.
They had eaten out for dinner and Brett wanted to stop by French Field to get a feel for Kennedy Catholic and Kentridge playing each other.
He said he’d be back to the car in about 15 minutes.
“And it was one of those things where all the sudden 15 minutes turns into … a while,” Brett said.
“Fifteen minutes turned into like 40 minutes,” Alicia said.
“And I come back and I’m like, ‘Oh, God, that was my bad,’ ” Brett laughed.
But they love this life. Brett grew up in a coach family with his father spending four years as a volunteer coach for the late Bob Jones at Auburn after moving from Louisiana (where Brett says he gets his slow drawl).
Alicia wanted to be a coach, she said, ever since she stopped playing softball at Auburn.
And being a household of two coaches makes it much easier to understand why one is spending hours on a Sunday putting away a batting cage, or waking up early Saturday to watch game film.
“I can’t wait to talk to her about the game,” Brett said. “She’s super honest, but very encouraging and she gets it. It’s really nice to be able to vent after a loss and she celebrates the victories with me, knowing how hard it is to win.
“And the hours — that’s the biggest thing. To be honest, I think it’s hard for couples where one of the spouses doesn’t coach because they don’t understand why you put so many hours in.”
“I couldn’t do this without him,” Alicia said. “He knows where I’m coming from. We can go to each other with issues because we both deal with these things. And I don’t have to explain why I’m at Auburn Riverside High School at 10 p.m. on a Monday night.
“It feels like our household is like 70 percent really cool and 30 percent crazy,” she said. “But it also comes with the success of my team right now, too. It would be a lot harder if we weren’t winning games.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677