When Tift County head basketball coach Eric Holland began dating his future wife, Melissa, he did his best to let her know what she was getting into. But there are some things you just don’t fully understand until you experience it firsthand. That’s the exact situation that Melissa found herself in when she and Coach Holland started dating.
They met in Americus, where Coach Holland was coaching basketball and football. A few years later, he stopped coaching football and focused on basketball. The couple moved to Turner County and, eventually, to Tift County. Earlier this month, they celebrated their 11th wedding anniversary.
“When we married, I didn’t realize all that it entailed,” Melissa says. “I didn’t know I would have to hold the household down while he was away. I didn’t know the extent to which I’d have be both Mom and Dad.”
The journey has been challenging, but rewarding. In the process, the Hollands have had two sons; Eric Jr, 11, and Aiden, 5. Through it all, Melissa has remained her husband’s number one fan.
“I see my role as being his top fan and supporter,” she says. “I support him all the way, all the time. I’m a very positive person, and I seldom look at negatives. The biggest challenge is tuning out the negativity. But that’s more of a motivation than a challenge.”
Melissa Holland is very much a part of the Tift County basketball team. She schedules the concessions and makes sure the concession stand is stocked. She views the kids as her children when they’re with the team, and each one holds a special place in her heart.
“I’m a team player,” she says. “We’re all on the same team and we’re all in this together.”
Still, it’s not easy being a coach’s wife, particularly when your husband is a high-profile coach in a high-profile sport. Eric Holland has experienced tremendous success at Tift County, winning a state title in the highest classification in a sport traditionally dominated by the metro area teams. It means long hours, a long season, and constantly being under public scrutiny.
“There are nights when the kids don’t see Daddy,” she says. “There are some mornings when they don’t see him, either. They understand. And he tries to get home before bedtime and see them before they go to school. It’s difficult, but we make it work.”
The attention her husband has gotten over the last few years hasn’t been a distraction, either. She says that she conducts herself the right way, no matter where she is or who is watching. Melissa remains positive and upbeat, no matter what’s being said or how the team is doing.
“I always do the right thing regardless of whether someone’s looking at me or not,” she says. “I’m always going to portray myself in a positive way, no matter who’s watching me. I try to turn every negative into a positive.”
At the end of the day, the team’s success hasn’t changed much for the Holland family.
“Yes, he won a state title and yes, he runs a great program,” she says. “But he’s still Eric Holland to me, my husband and daddy to my boys. The success hasn’t changed us at all.”
Over the years, Melissa Holland has attended every one of her husband’s games except one.
“The one game I missed was when I gave birth to Eric Jr,” she says.
It’s safe to say she gets a pass on that one.
While the success Coach Holland has enjoyed hasn’t changed the family, the way he conducts his program does impress Melissa. She is particularly impressed with how he motivates the kids.
“He is a very motivating person,” she says. “He’s dedicated to his job, and he loves the kids like they’re his own. He changes lives, and I admire him for that. It’s an inspiration to me. He has a passion for what he does, and I really admire that.”
Coach’s Corner/South Georgia/January 2016
Tift County High School
Melissa Holland: “I Didn’t Realize What I Was Getting Into Until I Got Into It!”
By Robert Preston Jr.
Photography by: Marque Milla Reese