Even though it’s usually pro and college coaches we hear about putting in 18 hour days coaching, many youth and interscholastic coaches are also guilty of allowing their job as coach to consume their lives. Of course, it doesn’t take a sport psychologist to tell you that regardless of what level you coach, it’s never a good idea to work this hard — especially when it takes away from other important life endeavors, like family (or your job, assuming coaching isn’t your full-time work). Coach burnout, therefore, is something every coach should be concerned with as it can quickly impact a coach both mentally and physically.
Aside from the time it takes coaches to run practices, increasingly more coaches are spending time watching video, scouting, and staying connected to technology – including text messages, email, and various other electronic communication. As a result, there has been an increase in coach burnout, and not just at the elite-levels of coaching but also at the youth and interscholastic levels as well.
When coaches become burned out, they not only coach less effectively, but the mental exhaustion and fatigue usually impacts all other areas of their lives, too. I have treated a number of coaches who have allowed coaching stress to hurt their career, family life, physical health, and emotional wellness. In some cases, I have witnessed coaches turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with the coach stress they experience, while others have gone to other risky behaviors like gambling.
If you are a coach and sometimes find yourself tired and burned out from coaching, the following tips might help you break out of your slump and get back on your game:
- Define your coach status. Check to see if the time and effort you put into coaching is commensurate to your level of coaching. In other words, if you are a pro or college coach (and coaching is your full-time job), then it is understandable that you put in full-time hours. On the other hand, if you are a school or youth-level coach and still putting in 40 hours a week coaching, you might want to step back and re-evaluate where your time is being devoted.
- Keep your priorities in check. Even though sports can be a lot of fun, it’s important that you keep your priorities in check — which likely includes the time you devote to family, work, physical health, and other hobbies and endeavors you enjoy. Living your life for coaching won’t make you a better coach, but it will likely make you a very tired coach.
- Lead by delegating when necessary. Take advantage of assistant coaches and booster clubs! Many coaches get caught up trying to do everything (and are sometimes called “control freaks”), when they could be more productive by having their assistants help with some of the team duties. Booster clubs are also very helpful, especially when it comes to fund raising and helping out on game days.
- Be careful with technology. One of the easiest and fastest way to get burned out coaching is by being tethered to your electronic devices. When coaches stay connected 24/7, it makes it almost impossible to devote the time and energy needed for other daily responsibilities and activities.
- Take breaks. While it may not be easy to create down-time during the season, there are usually opportunities if you look for them. In fact, sport psychology research has clearly shown that “more isn’t always better” when it comes to athletic training, and that periodized training is really the best way to get the most out of the team.
For more information on coach burnout check out Staying in the Game: Combating Coach Burnout (Championship Productions).