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Column: USC-CAE cross-country Coach Jelerine Douglas will turn over home duties as she serves her country

Manuel and Jereline Douglas pose for a photo with their children recently.

Manuel and Jereline Douglas pose for a photo with their children recently.

(Douglas family)

The Douglas family is about to encounter one of its toughest challenges ever. Manuel Douglas, the football coach at Harbor City Narbonne, and his wife, Jelerine, the cross-country coach at USC-CAE, will be separated for 400 consecutive days starting next month when Jelerine is deployed as part of her duty serving in the U.S. Army Reserves.

They have three children ages 4, 8 and 10. Come football season, Manuel is going to assume many roles simultaneously — Mr. Mom, father, head coach, cook, house cleaner, homework teacher.

“Coach [Tim] Kaub teases me about being an Army wife,” he said. “It’s usually the other way around. It is what it is. I knew that when I married her. It’s her duty. I’m proud of what she does as a teacher and armed forces member.”

Jelerine, 43, joined the Army Reserves soon after her first year of college. She’s a senior medic with a rank of sergeant first class who goes around training others. She was close to retirement but is accepting the call to duty that will take her out of the country but not to a combat zone.

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“I had actually begged and pleaded not to take me,” she said. “The unit was pretty desperate and needed someone with my rank and experience.”

Jelerine has already found a replacement to guide USC-CAE during the cross-country season (the school won City Division III boys and girls crowns this past season). But it’s up to her husband to fill in at home, aided by her mother and mother-in-law offering support. She’s been trying to train Manuel, who knows about Xs and O’s and spread offenses but better be ready for vacuuming and taking the kids to the dentist.

“The fact he sees me on a daily basis, it probably won’t hit him until three months down the line,” she said. “To be honest, I’m a little concerned. When I’m gone for two or three weeks, I come home and sometimes I don’t recognize my house.”

Yes, Jelerine likes the house clean and neat, as the Army has taught her. So it’s interesting what happens when a football coach is married to an Army sergeant.

“He says he’s the general,” Jelerine said. “He pulls rank on me. I just have to say, ‘Yes boss.’”

There have been times both have had to remind themselves to leave work away from the house.

Jelerine has come back from an assignment barking around the house as though she were directing an Army unit. Manuel has returned home from a football practice hyped and still in coach mode.

“Hey, don’t forget you’re not the head coach at home,” he gets reminded.

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Together, though, they are one impressive duo. During football season, Jelerine is in the bleachers with the kids rooting for Narbonne, the school that won a state title last season and has won consecutive City Section Division I football titles.

“My wife is a huge supporter,” Manuel said.

Even Jelerine admits her husband is getting better around the house.

“The last two or three times I’ve been gone, he’s been real good,” she said. “He takes half the day and will clean and actually vacuum, wash everything, even the dog. He’s making every effort to help out.”

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See, even football generals must learn how to vacuum around the house.

Follow Eric Sondheimer on Twitter: @LATSondheimer


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