As Jim Harbaugh leads his San Francisco 49ers into this weekend’s NFC championship game against Seattle, I looked back at an ESPN article printed in November detailing Harbaugh’s incredibly busy coach schedule to see what clues might be there in revealing his success. As I read through his daily routines, including sleeping at the office a couple nights a week, I came away more concerned about his health and well-being than impressed by his coaching philosophy and work ethic. For young coaches looking to find mentors, I would be weary of Jim Harbaugh’s routines.
When the will to win becomes an obsession
It goes without saying that being motivated, committed, and disciplined can take a person to many great places in life, as these qualities are routinely found at the heart of successful people. The problem, however, is when these qualities become extreme — as in the case of Jim Harbaugh. While many of us like to think we are super-human and able to do incredible things that others can’t, the reality is that there is a serious price to pay in life every time we over-extend and go “wire-to-wire” in our days while dealing with pressure, cumulative stress, and burnout.
It’s interesting, while some coaches and fans might admire Harbaugh and boast about his incredible schedule as though it’s something to be proud of, I see it completely different and worry that he has placed competition and winning over other things that should be even more important — like his health and family. Is sport success more important than going home to sleep with your wife? And is working so hard just to get in one more meeting at 10PM more important than relaxing your mind and body and living a longer and healthier life because of a more balanced daily routine?
Work smarter, not harder
I have said for years that “working smarter, not harder” really is possible and allows people to enjoy a fulfilling, successful life. I don’t think for a second that overly-ambitious coaches who work 20 hour days are better, or have a greater chance for success, when compared to wiser coaches who only work a fraction of that time. Still, there are legions of coaches across the country today who think that they must work like Harbaugh if they want to be successful. This is concerning, as all this lifestyle really does is expose a person for more stress, higher susceptibility for drinking and drug problems, potential marital and family issues, spontaneous reckless behaviors, and sometimes premature death.
So I ask is it worth it to work such incredibly long days just so you can win another football game? Coach burnout is a very serious issue, and when coaches become obsessed with their coaching schedules they leave themselves open to many serious problems. The hope here is that Jim Harbaugh slows down before this lifestyle catches up with him and causes him bigger problems in life than simply planning to win a football game.
For more help with coach burnout click here.