The first time I met Jill Farmer was in 1993, when she came to St. Louis to work for KTVI Channel 2. As a matter of fact, she was brought in as the station’s consumer reporter to replace my wife, Mandy Murphey, who moved to the anchor desk. As Farmer and her family grew, it seemed that she had it all together: After all, she had been an outstanding athlete, graduated summa cum laude from Drake University, and was a top-notch reporter. Her husband was named a partner at Thompson Coburn, and her daughters were just as engaging and charming as their mom.
For her part, Farmer became one of the most trusted consumer advocates in St. Louis, and even after she left FOX 2, she was still a familiar face on commercials endorsing the home improvement companies that she trusted most.
But somewhere along the way, Farmer started to feel like she was no longer at the top of her game, overwhelmed by the responsibilities she kept piling on to herself. She says she just couldn’t say no when asked to volunteer, and became so busy with so many events that she couldn’t focus enough on her own family.
That’s when Farmer fell back on her sports roots and remembered the value of good coaching. She enlisted the help of a ‘life coach,’ and then she became one herself. “Life coaching is like sports coaching in that you are taking an individual and helping them to be the best they can be, and helping them achieve whatever they can achieve,” she says. As we talked, I couldn’t help but think of the John Fogerty song, Centerfield, with the words, “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today.” That’s not too far from the way Farmer works.
As we sat in her Creve Coeur home, she told me it’s ultimately up to the player to perform on the field. “When you’re coaching, you’re there to support but you’re not the one out there doing it. Until the players decide that they want to do as you say, you can talk ‘til you’re blue in the face,” she says. “To me, the good coaches are the ones who inspire and observe and help players figure out how they can be the best they can be.” And while Farmer is spending more and more time helping others, she’s learned how to keep her own life more balanced. She’s the president of the Ladue Middle School Parents Association and on the board of the Ladue Education Foundation. At the same time, she has become a sought-after public speaker. But her passion is working with people one-on-one. However, she stresses she is not a clinical therapist. “A therapist deals with someone who has emotional wounds or injury, just like you would go to a physical therapist to recover from a physical injury. A life coach is more like a personal trainer where you take someone who is basically healthy and help them get to their best.”
As a consumer reporter, Farmer used to hold people’s feet to the fire to get them to do the right thing; now she’s helping people take advantage of the best in themselves, even if she occasionally strikes out in her own life. That, she says, is all a part of maintaining balance, “I don’t need to be perfect or have it all figured out. I need to be on the journey, too, and when things don’t go right I can learn from it and incorporate it and pull that into my practice, as well—and that’s freeing.” So put me in coach, I’m ready to play today.