Gillis' better half always comes through

Douglas Fritz • Jul 17, 2018 at 7:55 PM

It’s that time of year. Preseason preparation has begun, and the long days that turn into nights will be the rule rather than the exception.

Yes, the life of a coach’s wife, is about to shift into hyperdrive.

A snapshot of Ellen

As the calendar was saying its goodbyes to September, Ellen Gillis faced a task no man would ever want to tackle.

In 2014, barely two months after giving birth to her second child, Ellen loaded bushels of apples into the car — along with the newborn baby (Charleston) and two-year-old daughter (Emaline) — and began making deliveries. The apples were a fundraising project, and the money was needed to help Chad for his first season as head baseball coach at Unicoi County.

“Ellen had taken the fall semester off to spend time with Charleston and Emaline,” said Chad, who has been married to Ellen for seven years. “The apples were delivered the last week of September. There were a lot of people in surrounding counties who purchased these apples from us.”

Chad was teaching and could not make the deliveries. Willing to help, Ellen made it a daily routine until all the apples had been sold.

“There has never been a situation where she has not come through when asked to do something for the baseball program or myself,” said Chad. “I am very fortunate to have such a supportive wife.”

Ellen said it was something she felt she needed to do.

“I would do anything to help him and the team out,” she said. “I guess you could call it a labor of love, but I feel like it’s something that goes without question. I just loaded up and went.”

Appreciation hits home

Chad was going through his usual routine this summer, including a time of reflection.

“In the summer, when everything slows down for me, I use that time to reflect about the season,” he said. “I do a lot of work at the field by myself, and I have a lot of time to think. I started thinking how hard it would be without her. This year it hit me how much she gives up during baseball season. It’s hard to imagine the job I would have on my hands without her. It really hit me after four years what she has done.”


When Gillis decided to apply for the head coaching position in 2014, he consulted Ellen first.

“It was a commitment we both made,” said Ellen. “I said if it’s something you want, it’s something I want. The spring is challenging, but it’s rewarding. The kids love it. Even this summer, they are asking, ‘When is daddy’s game?’ ”

When the season rolls around, Ellen said she is already mentally prepared.

“It’s year round basically,” she said. “I’m more laid back. Yes, there are things that stress me out, but I feel like I can handle stuff really well. I will get it done if it takes until midnight or two o’clock in the morning.”

And the games count. Ellen and the kids missed only three of the Blue Devils’ 35 games this past season.

Mom, wife and teacher

The family has expanded to three kids now with the addition of Jace.

“(Ellen) takes care of all three kids daily, and she is a teacher at Unicoi Middle School,” said Chad. “Yet she still finds time to text me and say, ‘Do you need anything? Can I help you in any way?’ ”

Included in Ellen’s baseball duties are taking care of senior night activities.

“Basically her and a couple of parents go to extremes to make sure the seniors feel honored,” said Chad.

Game nights

Chad said Ellen is not only a coach’s wife, she is also a Blue Devils’ fan.

“She always tries to be involved,” said Chad. “She comes to every game and brings the kids to every game. My kids are baseball obsessed now. They love being with the boys, and the boys are good to them. They’ve made a lot of friends.”

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