Sandy Colby, Hannah (Christopher) Colby and Joni Colby
Herald Photo / Provided
Sandy Colby, Hannah (Christopher) Colby and Joni Colby Herald Photo / Provided

As the old saying goes, “Behind every successful man is a successful woman.” Such is the case for the women of the Colby family. Sandy Colby, Joni Colby, Hannah (Christopher) Colby, and Anh Pham bond over the game of football and the time they spend together as a family during the season. Each is involved with the team in their own way.

Sandy has been involved with football the longest, about 50 years by her estimation. Her husband, Ron, has filled the role of defensive coordinator for the teams he coaches. Ron began assisting Brett’s teams 27 years ago, when he took a head coaching job at South Newton.

“He was a principal at Western for several years, and then he would drive to where Brett was. His commitment was a lot more than mine. My commitment was basically to support him. I would always be at the games,” said Sandy. 

“From the first season Brett was a head coach, Sandy has attended nearly every single game with me. Very rarely missed a game,” Joni added. 

Sandy recalled one game they missed early on. Joni was pregnant with her oldest son, Austin, and was too sick to make the trip from Lafayette to South Newton.

“She was sicker than a dog, so sometimes I stayed with her on Friday evenings,” Sandy said. “Joni and I, through the years, always knew we were going to be at the game. We may not get there until 7:30 p.m., but we’re there. And we sit together. If she can’t come or I can’t come, we’ll let each other know.”

The newest generation of Colby women include Hannah, who married Austin in 2016.

Anh will join the Colby tribe when she and Cameron wed next December. Both Hannah and Anh are currently in school.

“I think it’s difficult right now. All four of us are career women. Sandy is now fortunate that she is retired. Through the years, especially this being Brett’s 28th season as a head coach, Sandy was working full time and committed to a long-term career at Western. Hannah and Anh are both in school. Anh is getting ready to graduate in engineering for her undergrad and is possibly going to grad school and planning a wedding. Hannah has her commitments to school, too. I travel,” Joni said. “I think it’s hard for us to bond during the week. Thank goodness for modern-day technology because we do a lot of texting.”

“(Cameron and I) are doing the long-distance thing now,” Anh said. “Tuesday through Thursday he’s at practice. On Fridays, we don’t talk at all because that’s his football day. I let him focus. Normally, around 5 p.m. he will text me and let me know he’s going into the game, and he’ll say he won’t text me until later. Sometimes, if it’s a really good game, I’ll get texts in between. Other times, I have to look at Joni’s Facebook.”

“I do try to keep several people updated through Facebook,” Joni said.

For Joni and Hannah, football was a new experience for them. Joni said her father was a basketball and baseball fan, so she didn’t grow up with the sport. She learned after dating Brett that football was more than a game played on the weekends. Hannah is an accomplished dancer, so her exposure to the game didn’t come until she started dating Austin.

“My only football memories include (the Colbys),” she said. 

Joni added, “One of the things I really appreciated when I started going to games with Sandy was the penalty flag. Oftentimes you are watching the play or the player, and you don’t always see the flag thrown. Early on, I would stand up and cheer for the touchdown that would get called back. Sandy would say, ‘That was a hold.’ I would ask how many yards the penalties were. I learned from her a lot, and I still ask questions.”

“It’s a learning experience,” Sandy said.

Anh said the whole family is invested in the game and that it is clear they are all in.

“You can see all of them on the sidelines when it was Cameron and Austin playing. When I started dating Cameron, you could see they were all involved and wanted to be part of it. It’s special, and it makes you want to be part of it,” she said.

Throughout the years, the number of lives impacted by this family is immeasurable, and each life touched hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“I know Ron sees it. Brett is seeing it, and I think Austin can see the type of influence they have on these kids,” Sandy said.

Hannah added, “Austin doesn’t just care about winning. He cares about the kids. People will ask what my husband does, and I’m proud to say he’s a football coach.”

The State tournament run for the Kokomo Wildkats was something none of the women expected early on, but reaching the State Finals is something they consider the icing on the cake. As they sit around the table, they discuss various games of the tournament, recalling all the details of the big game at Zionsville.

“Zionsville was the turning point for me,” Joni said. “All week long, I’m thinking this was going to be a great game. We came out and made so many flubs. They came out in the second half and dominated, and I knew we had something special.”

“The only other game I think I could compare it to was when Austin was quarterback. The Marion game (2010) when they came back, blocking that kick,” added Sandy. “I’m very proud of all of them. We have had so many great seasons. Football is our life. It’s important to all of us. It’s a football life, but it’s a wonderful life.”