While it’s too early to say for sure to what extent – if any – the stress of coaching contributed to Texans head coach Gary Kubiak’s recent on field stroke, it does prompt us to examine the overall effect of stress and burnout on coaches today. For years we have heard about how elite-level professional and college coaches sometimes put in upwards of 15+ hours a day into their coaching, and in recent years we have even seen interscholastic and youth-level coaches mimic these kinds of work days. To the degree in which this type of demanding schedule impacts overall health and wellness can be debated, but most would agree that keeping an intense schedule like this will almost inevitably lead to some kind of future physical pain and/or mental stress and burnout.
Do coaches need to put in these crazy hours?
For whatever the reason, it seems as though an increasing number of coaches today put in more hours than ever before, possibly leading to a “copycat syndrome” in coaching today. What this means is that coaches see other coaches putting in the hours, and as a result feel the expectations placed on them to keep up. Before you know it, what used to be a part-time endeavor for a high school or youth-level coach begins to take over as a full-time job. Herein lies the problem for many coaches who begin to feel the effects of stress and coach burnout, which often begins with just the sheer amount of hours put into the job, not to mention the expectations of others in the organization, school, or community who demand a winner.
Quality over quantity
Personally, I have always been an advocate for quality over quantity, meaning coaches who become proficient at things like multi-tasking and delegating allow for fewer contact hours on the job – and more “downtime” as a result. In fact, downtime should be a requirement for coaches in my opinion, as this allows coaches to recharge their batteries and not only ward off burnout, but also become a better and more enthusiastic coach on the field.
It is for these reasons that it behooves coaches to take a wide-lens view of their role as coach, and ask whether it makes long-term sense to continue to put in the amount of time and energy that they do (if in fact they are being swallowed by the job). Is it worth it with respect to long-term consequences that can come in the way of future physical ailments and breakdowns? Mental stress and duress? And possibly even broken families due to the time commitment put into coaching? Is having a winner on the field worth any of that?
Coping with stress is key
It’s more important than ever before for coaches of all ages and skill levels to become aware of the impact of coach burnout, as well as the things they can do to protect against burnout. From the prevention side it’s important to think about the number of hours put into the job, as well as learning how to multi-task and delegate when needed. On the response side coaches need to learn as much as they can about healthy coping to stress, including both cognitive and behavioral techniques. When coaches understand good and bad stress, acute and chronic stressors, and the impact of perception, confidence, and control as they relate to successful coping, only the can they begin to successfully ward off the potential negative damage that can occur from intense coaching.
For more information on help for coaches who struggle with stress and coach burnout click here.