Finding herself: Lang-Montgomery ‘needed some help’ with postpartum depression

DSC_0319By Matthew Pagels |

Like most coaches, Erika Lang-Montgomery, 42, often has to balance coaching with parenting. But for the Flagler College women’s basketball coach, that balancing has also taken a toll on her.

In September 2002, six months after having her first child, Lang-Montgomery developed postpartum depression (PPD).

“I was tired from the responsibilities of work and being a new mom,” she said. “I had to make time to pump during the day so I could continue to nurse my son. I felt guilty because I did not feel I was giving my best to both sides (family and work).”

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, postpartum depression is moderate to severe depression in a woman after she has given birth, which may occur soon after delivery or up to a year later.

Lang-Montgomery said she thought it was a “no-brainer” to go back to work following her pregnancy.

“I continued back at work full-time completing my daily tasks and responsibilities, including summer recruiting and working our summer basketball camp.”

But eventually it had caught up with her.

“There were just not enough hours in the day,” Lang-Montgomery said.

Even when she tried to, Lang-Montgomery realized she couldn’t be in two places at once.

“I didn’t want motherhood to interfere with my job,” Lang-Montgomery said. “My lowest moment was the day I forgot about a workout that was scheduled with my players. I was mortified. Here I am, the superwoman who could do it all.”

Lang-Montgomery learned she needed to “find a balance between motherhood and coaching and make some changes.”

And that is what she did.

“I knew I wasn’t myself and I needed some help,” she said. “I met with our team physician (at the University of Wisconsin) who advised me I should see a counselor and began treatment to help me through the tough time.”

To the untrained eye, coaching and parenting may seem like a normal, fun and capable day job. It consists of the simple things: picking out matching clothes for your children and laying them on the bed before school, saying goodbye to your loved ones as they make unique faces out the glass windows from inside the bus, and then making your way over to the gym to coach your 13 “overgrown” children you like to call as players.

Well yes, there is that, but there is much more than just the basics.

Lang-Montgomery, who is one of two women head coaches at Flagler, has two children: Jaden, 11, born in February, and 8-year-old Justin who was born in March. She is not always there to celebrate their birthdays because they occur during basketball season.

“Every year I am on the road playing for one of their birthdays. This year it worked out that our whole family was able to travel to Columbus for the Peach Belt Conference tournament, and we were able to celebrate Justin’s birthday together.”

“Sometimes, because of games or practices, I have to miss special events at school or miss holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving,” she said.

After nine consecutive losing seasons, Lang-Montgomery helped coach the Saints to a winning record of 15-13 in 2013. They clinched their first ever PBC playoff birth since joining the conference in 2009.

Lang-Montgomery has come a long way. When she accepted the Saint’s head-coaching job in 2009, it was not an easy transition. She says her family was unable to move with her to St. Augustine, Fla., because they still had a house in Texas (where she previously coached at the University of North Texas). Her husband, Larry Montgomery, was still employed there, too.

“It would have been nearly impossible for the boys to be in Florida with me because of my long hours, and my husband living in Texas having not established a support system here yet,” Lang-Montgomery said.

They collectively made the decision for her husband and children to stay in Texas for the year while Lang-Montgomery move to St. Augustine. The plan was for them to relocate at the end of the school year.

“That was the hardest thing I ever had to do,” she said. “That was a long and hard separation. Thankfully, we came to our senses and decided that everyone would move to Florida in December (winter break).

Lang-Montgomery started off her coaching career as a high school coach for three years. She then coached at Purdue University for a year (1995-96). A year later, she coached at Florida State University before moving on to the University of Southern California (1997), where she coached for three years.

“Before I was a parent, I didn’t have to check everyone’s schedules. I could just do things right then on the fly if needed. I didn’t mind being away from home as long because of recruiting or games.”

From 2001-03, Lang-Montgomery continued her coaching career at the University of Wisconsin. It was during her second year there when she gave birth to her first child, Jaden. This became the first time Lang-Montgomery dealt with coaching while being a full-time mother at the same time.

“I still wanted to be able to do it all,” Lang-Montgomery said. “When he (Jaden) was three weeks old, he traveled with me to our conference tournament. Then when he was six weeks old, I took him with me to our National Convention. When he was five months old, he went recruiting with me in July. I was doing way too much too soon.”

Dealing with children has its rough patches at times (we all were kids once, we know the stress we can put our parents through), but Lang-Montgomery says her faith allows her to maintain focus for when she switches over to coaching.

“My faith is very important,” she said. “I truly believe that the Lord gave me the strength to do the things I need to do. That is what keeps me focused and grounded.”

It’s been a little more than a decade since Lang-Montgomery gave birth to her first child. Even though she now has two children to look after, she feels more comfortable.

“I like the flexibility that being a head coach allows me. If I know something is going on at their (Justin and Jaden’s) school ahead of time, I can schedule practice around that event.”

Lang-Montgomery says patience is the key to success. She handles her children and team as if they were one.

“My players have been entrusted to me so I try to coach them fairly and treat them as I would want my own children to be treated,” she said. “It is important to give them a balance of love and support and discipline when needed.”

The women’s basketball team also plays a big role in Lang-Montgomery’s family life.

“My family gets to experience the highs and lows of coaching first hand,” Lang-Montgomery said. “They help to keep things in perspective. They are very connected to my team. My players are big sisters to my sons.”

With all the coaching experience Lang-Montgomery has to offer, her children could have the upper in hand in the future.

“This year my children discovered basketball,” Lang-Montgomery said. “They have both been to camp in the past, but this year they actually watched the games and understood what was going on. They want to play H-O-R-S-E everyday when they get home from school. They have had a basketball in their hands more this year then they have had in their life.”

Lang-Montgomery faced difficulties as a coach and parent, but she’s willing to bring out the best in both worlds, one of the many reasons why she is successful.

“I really try to connect my family and team together,” she said. “I want both to know why I do what I do and understand the sacrifices I may have to make for all of them.”

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