NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. – It is not uncommon for husband and wife coaching combinations to exist in NCAA sports. Though perhaps, it’s definitely not as common a trend as the NCAA Bowling Championships would suggest.
Of the eight teams in the field, two are led by a coaching staff that shares more than a bowling program.
Steve Lemke and Amber Lemke got married while both were on the coaching staff at -- the former Amber Griffin’s alma mater -- Wisconsin-Whitewater just before the 2010-2011 season and together took over the program at Stephen F. Austin in 2012. The couple welcomed their first child in September.
Shannon O’Keefe partnered with her husband Bryan O’Keefe to take coaching jobs at McKendree prior to the start of the 2014-2015 season.
For the O’Keefes, the spousal partnership is overshadowed on the lanes by a sturdy trust the couple has for in each other's bowling expertise. Shannon O’Keefe competed in the inaugural season of the Professional Women’s Bowling Association last spring and was a 12-time member of Team USA.
Bryan O'Keefe is a former All-American and former member of the Team USA coaching staff, but lets his wife's accomplishments speak as the main source of the team’s instruction, immediately reciting – a very abbreviated version – her resume when asked about what makes them work as a coaching pairing.
"Throughout her time on the ladies tour and competing for Team USA, we've gotten used to separating the husband and wife, player and coach," Bryan O’Keefe said. "So when we came to McKendree and took the jobs, it was something that we knew we would have to just add another element to."
Steve Lemke also grinned when asked about his working relationship with his own wife, saying that there was a personal balance between the two that made running the program that much easier.
"It’s a good thing because she does all the work that I can’t do," Steve Lemke said. "We make a great pairing because I'm more of an on-the-lanes person and she's more of the off-the-lanes: make sure we get here, make sure this is set – so it's just a great tandem duo that way."
Though Steve Lemke may be more hands-on during a match, Amber Lemke isn't far removed from the action and – to the benefit of her husband and her team --often finds the perfect time to provide some analysis.
"When sometimes I don't see something and she's like, 'It could be something as simple as this' and she’s dead right," Steve Lemke said.
Bryan O'Keefe echoed that sentiment when talking about the differences between the interactions of a husband and wife and a coaching combination.
"There’s times when we have to walk a fine line," Bryan O'Keefe said. "Treating each other like husband and wife can be a little difficult and then there’s times where having the openness and not being afraid to say what’s on our minds to each other -- because we do it all the time -- helps the girls out."