Air Force Spouse
“I like to help others shine, and I like to spread joy.” -Louella Maxwell
Cohort 11 alum Louella Maxwell is a mom of two, Air Force Spouse, and former collegiate volleyball coach who doesn’t let a few bumps in the road keep her from chasing her goals. She was born in Kingsport, TN and raised in Los Angeles, CA. Louella began her collegiate education at the US Air Force Academy, but a strong desire to play Division I volleyball eventually led her to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where she earned a B.A. in History. She has also earned an NCAA postgraduate scholarship and an M.A. in education from the University of California, Berkeley.
Sports have been an important part of Louella’s life for a long time. Her love of volleyball and mentoring student athletes led her to enter the coaching profession as an Assistant Coach at the University of Notre Dame. As an Air Force military spouse, Louella continued coaching in the collegiate ranks at Washington University in St. Louis, U.S. Air Force Academy, Georgetown, and American University. The opportunity to learn and grow brought Louella to Dog Tag. After her youngest daughter was diagnosed with autism, she realized a shift in family priorities was needed and put her career on the back seat to focus on getting the best possible care for her daughter. However, putting a pause on her coaching career didn’t mean Louella was done with the world of sports. While enrolled in the Dog Tag Fellowship, Louella focused her capstone project on developing “Sensory Sports”–– a learning platform that teaches children on the Autism spectrum how to play sports and grow from the learning opportunities that sports programs provide. Unfortunately, she had to stall launching Sensory Sports after COVID-19 shut down most in-person youth sports programs. With outdoor sports programs opening up as we reach the end of this pandemic, Louella is hoping to bring her idea to life once again. Currently, she is facilitating distance learning for her children while working to get Sensory Sports up and running.
Louella’s time in the Dog Tag Fellowship has helped her weather the ups and downs of life post-COVID and deal with the turmoil that has become part of the fabric of all our lives. She credits her biggest takeaway from the fellowship as “how to deal with uncertainty.” Louella says: “Before I did the fellowship, I had a lot of “pity party” moments––thinking military spouse life sucks because you have to redefine yourself every time you move, instead of seeing it as an opportunity. The Dog Tag Fellowship opened up my eyes to see possibility in all these different experiences we were getting to experience, and gave me a newfound appreciation for being a military spouse.”
Louella describes her life as a military spouse pre-fellowship as “being in our own little bubble and just trying to make it.” She would often go into what she calls “survival mode” when her husband deployed, having to do everything on her own and making sure her young kids were still able to have a relationship with their father when he was “a world away.” The Dog Tag Fellowship helped her to see that she wasn’t alone, and she could lean on her community of fellow military spouses for support. Louella and her family PCS’d to Travis Air Force Base in Summer 2020, right after she graduated from the fellowship––a cross-country move from Virginia to California in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was their first time moving across the country for her husband’s job, and Louella was surprised when her expectations that the move was going to be really hard for their family didn’t come to fruition. Louella credits the fellowship with how well they’ve been able to transition despite this huge change––she’s been able to connect with her husband’s command and leadership team at Travis, bond with all the other spouses on their block, and build a strong support network in her new community thanks to the skills and understanding she gained during her five months at Dog Tag.
“Before, I didn’t appreciate being a military spouse; now, I have an appreciation because I know it builds resilience. It took the fellowship for me to realize and find new appreciation for the military spouse lifestyle.”
This “new appreciation” started with Dog Tag leadership telling Louella that being a military spouse didn’t mean her life always had to be about her husband and his job, and that she had to take time for herself. Louella had always taken that mentality as being selfish, and didn’t want to put herself “in the spotlight”––but she quickly came to understand that until she began to prioritize herself and her needs, she wouldn’t find happiness. Throughout the fellowship, she learned more about self care and how to implement mindfulness strategies into her life for her own benefit. Today, Louella is intentional about practicing gratitude every morning. She says, “Overall, my emotional and mental health is so much better after the fellowship.”
To date, Louella has been at home providing support for her daughters’ virtual learning and to her husband in his activities on base. She has been getting to know the community and different partners on base––including doing charity work (she helped raise money for Fisher House), and checking in on the other families and squadrons to make sure everyone is supported during these rough times. Additionally, Louella and her husband have gone into business with another family, starting a real estate holding company. She’s been expanding on her marketing and administration knowledge gained from the fellowship and is learning more about property management to better help out with her fledgling family business.
But don’t let Louella fool you––she isn’t done with the world of sports just yet. Recently she’s connected with the special education teachers on base and found a private school interested in bringing Louella’s expertise to their PE/Wellness/Nutrition curriculum. She is hoping to use these opportunities as a pathway to make connections and get Sensory Sports up and running.View Bio