What Most Coaches Won't Share About Loneliness

I started working with Tammy the season after she was fired from her job as a head coach.

Circumstances were complex. Her athletic director was dealing with pressure to reduce spending, legal battles within the department, NCAA compliance issues...things were a mess. The entangled web of problems led to her team being cut. She was out of a job.

She wasn't sure what she would do at first.

Leave coaching? She wondered 'who would ever hire me again...after having the stigma of being fired?'

It wasn't her fault. It wasn't performance based.

And still...she worried, 'how can I possibly explain my unique circumstances every time I call about a position or even put in an application?'

Tammy felt incredibly alone.

Coaches aren't bulletproof.

You need meaningful connections and support you can count on - just like any other human!

COACHING IS ISOLATING

Research done on elite sport coaches has shown how a wide range of stressors lead to isolation

1) Institutional demands. 

Coaches are under pressure from their school. Athletic directors have hired coaches TO WIN. 

2) Athlete (and parent) expectations. 

Coaches are under more scrutiny than ever before...with some athletes texting their parents several times a day - examining every meeting, discussion, and decision you make. That's stressful!

3) Self-imposed pressure. 

If you're like most coaches I work with, you put more pressure on yourself than anyone else. You're always supposed to have the right answers, make the right decisions, and have the confidence to back it up. 

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How to Handle 'Back to School' Overwhelm

I work with plenty of coaches who - if they're being completely honest - struggle with feeling overwhelmed...especially at the beginning of the season.

No matter how well you've planned (or if you haven't planned at all)...and no matter how rested you feel (or if you don't feel rested at all)...the strong feelings of overwhelm can hold you back, keep you stuck, and impact the longevity of your coaching career.

Unexpected Challenges

Let's face it...the number of unexpected things you never imagined you'd have to deal with are there all of a sudden staring you square in the face. Then, you're expected to handle these situations having had no prior experience. Ready? Set? Go!

The feeling - and sometimes the brevity - is truly something you can't explain to the people in your life who aren't coaches. Your athletes certainly don't get the breadth of what you do.

The thing that can hold coaches back the most are the judgements that accompany the feelings. And the feelings of loneliness and isolation that stem from the added pressure you put on yourself...to have it all done and done perfectly.

Can you relate?

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The Importance of Silence for Coaches

I remember the minute I was hired as the Head Women’s Swim Coach at Washington State University.

My boss at the time said, “Congratulations Coach! You’re not gonna sleep for a month!

He was right.

My brain was on. It wouldn’t turn off.

I had so much on my to-do list, I had trouble figuring out where to start.

I struggled to set any priorities because in my mind…everything had to be done and it had to be done right now!

I worried that I would forget something important that would slip through the cracks. Now as a head coach, it was MY responsibility if something didn’t get done.

My thoughts would literally wake me up at night.

My heart would race when I realized I hadn’t gotten back to someone I was supposed to…a recruit, someone in the department, my mom…

I remember thinking…this is not sustainable. Something has to give!

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Four Keys To Hiring A Great Team

One of the hardest parts of being a leader is the hiring process.  Coaches are not trained to hire, fire, and manage others.

Your hiring process is something you can proactively work on and fine tune throughout the season - not just when a job is open. This approach will save you a ton of time and stress in the moment.

Here are 3 mistakes I see coaches make during the hiring process:

1. Not getting clear on what you need

Too many coaches hire the first person who comes along rather than take the time to get clear on what you need.

You change and grow over time. The person who was on your staff at the beginning of your career may not be who you need now.

Coaches love to hire other coaches who are just like them. Yet, you may need someone who will offer a different perspective and unique skillset.

Take some time to get clear on what qualities you most need right now - in this season of your coaching career.

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Get Grounded When You're Out Of Your Comfort Zone

There were several activities that took me out of my comfort zone in my role as a head coach: networking, recruiting, and speaking. You may find it hard to believe that a head coach of a Pac-12 program could be such an introvert. The two don't seem to fit together. Yet...there I was.

To say I had a bad-attitude at times was an understatement.

I made up stories about what people thought of me. I would compare myself to other coaches. I had a stream of negative thoughts swirling around in my head.

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Productivity Hacks for Coaches

I had a coaching call last week with a new head coach. She had just taken over program, had a long list of to-do’s, and was feeling really inadequate.

“Uggghhh…I don’t have enough time to fit everything in!”

I asked her about her priorities and she said, “What do you mean priorities? Everything is a priority right now. I’ve got so many things that have to get done. Everything’s important! Maybe people were right. Maybe I’m NOT ready to be a head coach yet.”

Most coaches get really down on themselves when they have a lot on their plate and are spinning their wheels. Self judgement makes things harder.

If you’ve ever felt this way, it’s not that you’re not good at what you do, ready to be a head coach, or a responsible assistant coach….

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