Lisa Howe & Wendy Holleman
It’s been more than one year since Lisa Howe and her partner, Wendy Holleman, made national news for being gay and having a child. If you somehow missed the headlines, here’s a quick recap. Howe was Belmont University’s head women’s soccer coach. Howe wanted to tell her team about her and Wendy’s pregnancy (Wendy carried the baby),the Baptist school refused to give her permission; Howe told her team anyway. A maelstrom followed, with Howe no longer at Belmont and a “mutual agreement” reached that neither party will discuss.
Fast forward one year later in the Howe and Holleman home in East Nashville, where baby toys decorate the living room. Lisa and Wendy look happy, if a little frazzled from the life of being new moms. Their five-month-old daughter, Hope, sleeps upstairs.
Lisa’s currently staying at home with Hope while Wendy continues to coach and teach at University School of Nashville (USN). Wendy says she originally planned to take a year off while Lisa coached, so the Belmont fiasco actually, “turned out to be a blessing in disguise that [Lisa] gets this opportunity to bond with Hope.”
Lisa says motherhood is a little like coaching: “It’s going better than I expected. I certainly didn’t know I could fall in love so easily and so quickly."
Of the national headlines, Lisa and Wendy both say they’re still shocked.
“The unintended consequences changed my life," Lisa says. "That it did happen, I wouldn’t call it an obligation or opportunity, but now I do have a platform to inform people about equality and our rights. Especially now that we have a family, I am even more passionate about standing up for our rights."
“I relive it a lot,” Lisa says. “I did what I needed to do. I was a successful coach with a good competitive and academic record. I thought it would be fine to do what I needed to do.”
Lisa says it’s difficult to find her life without soccer. Even through the homophobia she faced as a woman in sports, she says it was worth it to coach.
“I was so used to the homophobia and I was accustomed to the sexism," Lisa says. "I grew up in that job. It’s the only job I’ve had as an adult, but I loved coaching athletics, so I turned a blind eye toward the homophobia and some of the obstacles. If I continued to coach, I’d have to continue to turn a blind eye to it. You lose a part of yourself when you’re hiding everyday just to make it in your career. For some people, having to hide can become paralyzing.”
For all the negativity Howe received from Belmont, the opposite was true for Holleman. “I wasn’t ‘out’ out, but I told my team at the end of October  and got amazing support from all the families… Parents would tell me ‘good job’ and some people gave us baby gifts. They’re so good to me there. If I wasn’t at USN, then I might be fighting every day, too.”
Howe still has contact with some friends from the athletic department, but she says the healthiest move for her “was to completely remove myself.” This is the first time in 18 years that Howe hasn’t been involved in soccer season.
What does the future hold for Lisa and Wendy? Lisa is currently speaking at local universities.
“I’ve learned not to close any doors, but right now I’m not looking at coaching," she says. "I’m starting my own business as a diversity consultant and strategic management. For sixteen years I’ve helped individuals and teams set high goals and then encouraged them to reach them. I can help people do that in many other environments.” Lisa’s business is called Howe About Consulting, and more information can be found at her website, www.HoweAboutLLC.com.
But for the moment, the couple are enjoying motherhood. “Watching Hope develop is like a watching a little miracle everyday. You hear people say that, and I’m like ‘Yeah. Whatever.’ But it is. Being with her everyday and being a part of the development and growth. I would have never said that about training a soccer team,” Lisa says.
“I really like watching Lisa and Hope. She’ll send me pictures throughout the day just spending time with her.” Wendy says of their current life.
And Hope’s future soccer career? “She’ll probably hate soccer, and I’m okay with that. If she’s not into it, bless her heart.” Lisa says, laughing.
“She’s going to have lots of exposure to it!” Wendy agrees.