Story by Emily Robertson
Anne-Marie Sanford’s life has changed quite a bit since her time growing up in Los Altos, California. After living in one town while growing up, Anne-Marie has now moved a dozen times. Her latest move brought her to Bowling Green, as her husband, Mike Sanford, takes over as the head coach of the Western Kentucky University football team. While Anne-Marie may still be adjusting to life as her husband begins his new role with the football team, her own passion about football is nothing new.
“I definitely grew up in a football family,” Anne-Marie says. “My dad played football in high school and in college, at Cal Poly. He was actually the backup quarterback to Mike’s father in high school.”
Anne-Marie’s love of college football, in particular, came a bit later though.
“My dad grew up as a huge Stanford fan, but I don’t really remember going to college games,” she says. “We were big 49er fans during the Joe Montana and Steve Young era. In terms of college football, it wasn’t a big thing until I married Mike. Now I fall in love with it more and more each day.”
I was a student at Azusa Pacific while Mike was a player still at Boise State and he had two years left to play, so I moved up to Boise to be closer to him. At the time, I couldn’t have told you I would move 12 more times before we came back to Bowling Green this year, but it has been a great ride.
Interestingly enough, with every child we had we moved shortly thereafter. Peyton came just before our first move to WKU, in 2010. Gunnar was born prior to our move to Notre Dame and Griffin was born six weeks before we came back to WKU this year.
As football season begins on The Hill, the Sanfords are ready to dive into everything that WKU and Bowling Green have to offer.
In your time here so far, what do you think makes WKU such a special place?
It is a special place because of how far it’s come from when we first lived here. The facilities were always there, but to see how far the team and the town has come – loving and supporting WKU and being excited about it, it’s really amazing.
The players are such a special part of WKU. Our kids just love the game of football and they want to play the game for the university and for the staff. As a coaching staff, we think it’s really important to have relationships with the players. We’re new, but we have the players in our home and out for dinners so we can make sure we are building those relationships.
What kind of role do you play with the team? How do you view the players in relation to your family?
My role on the team is to be there to support Mike. I want to make sure we are building the relationships with our players. I want to know their names and faces and making sure that our coaches are having them in their homes. We want to get to know them on a personal level. There are so many different stories and so many different kids, but we love showing them life outside of the football office. I want to make sure we put a human touch on our coaching staff for our players.
What would you like to tell all the WKU fans? What would you like them to know about you and your husband as the coach?
First, our faith is the most important thing to us, so everything trickles down from there. We’re all about winning, and chasing after that New Year’s Six bowl game, but the most important thing that Mike and I see as his job is growing the relationships with the players, getting to know them and building strong bonds.
What most excites you about the upcoming football season?
I’m just excited to see Mike in this capacity as the head coach. I love to see him during warm ups. I’m just so excited to watch him lead his team out of the tunnel and go into that role as a head coach on a Saturday. Right now, there’s a lot of “What is this going to look like?” It’s mostly logistics right now, but the fun will be on Saturdays during games.
What are causes that you care deeply about? Have you had a chance to become involved with any causes here in Bowling Green yet?
As the mother of three young kids, it’s been such a whirlwind getting settled into Bowling Green again that I haven’t had a chance to delve into the philanthropic side of our community like I want to. Mike and I are very passionate about organizations that aide women with children or families who have suffered from cancer, as well as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
We have hosted and will host a number of events around the football program to raise funds for these types of organizations, and I hope to be even more involved as we continue to get settled.
One of Mike’s program pillars is to serve the community, so we really enjoy getting out in Bowling Green and south central Kentucky to help at food drives or with the Special Olympics. Really, anywhere someone feels that our football program can help serve, we want to be involved.
Tell us a bit about your family.
Interestingly enough, one of my two siblings is on our coaching staff, Offensive Graduate Assistant Matt Mitchell, and my sister is a pediatric oncology nurse at Stanford. Mike and I have three children of our own: Peyton, Gunnar, and Griffin.
How do you maintain family structure in the midst of all the busyness of football season?
I’m a pretty structured person, and I think a lot of coach’s wives are. We can’t control a lot of things like wins, losses or schedules, but we can control the structure of the family. At home, we have the days where we go see Mike and the team, and we have days where the kids have other activities. In our home, when Dad is home, everything kind of goes by the wayside but when he’s not, we keep a structured routine.
Outside of football, what hobbies or interests do you and your family have?
I have a sleep training business, called Sleep Beauties, with a friend who is based in Portland, Oregon. We help mothers learn ways to get their kids to sleep at night.
For Mike and I, we go, go, go and so when the kids are around, if it’s just extracurricular stuff, we love going to theme parks or going to the pool or golfing. We’re an active family, so we are always doing something. We also love to travel. During the season though, it’s pretty much always football.