4 ways coaches step out of the arena and what to try instead

written by Erica Quam

There are times when life gets hard, stressful, and challenging. Just when you think the worst is over...in comes another curve ball.

When we're at this kind of crossroads, we have a decision to make. Step up and deal with things in the best way possible or step out of the arena.

Let's face it. We all step out of the arena from time to time. What's important is knowing that you've made that decision. Having the awareness is the most important piece. Be conscious instead of unconscious.

HOW do we step out?


We create open loops when we put things off instead of getting things done. These open loops take up a lot of energy. Unmade decisions are examples of open loops and another way we procrastinate. 

Observe yourself. Begin to notice when you procrastinate. What decisions do you put off? What are your patterns?

An example is going to the grocery store when you're tired and wandering around - because you couldn't decide what to eat. A trip that should've taken 5 minutes just turned into 45 minutes of aimless wandering. Then, you get pissed at how much time you just wasted! This takes up so much energy. If you can at least be aware of this behavior, maybe you'll make a decision more quickly.

Decide how to close open loops.

Either take the first action step towards getting something done or schedule a time when you'll do it. It's not about getting everything done at once or always making decisions on the spot - you can only do so much. Prioritize what you need to do next or when you'll spend your energy to make a decision.


Blaming other people is another way we step out of the arena. To avoid taking responsibility or owning our part we deflect it onto another person. It's our ego's way of trying to elevate ourself by bringing someone else down. 

Just like athletes blame coaches, coaches also blame athletes. "If it weren't for Sam, this team would be amazing."

That's never the answer. How many times do you actually feel better once you've torn someone else down? And is that the solution?

Instead of blaming, focus on finding solutions.

What's the next step you can take towards the best possible outcome? That should be the focus. The more you blame, judge, or criticize others the further away from the arena you travel. Set an intention for the best possible outcome and then move one step in that direction.


We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions
— Brené Brown

To avoid pain of the realities of life, we numb ourselves to "take the edge off".

We have a glass of wine, we binge on food, facebook, or netflix. Working out can also be a way of numbing. 

The problem with numbing is that you also numb yourself from the happiness and joys in life. You don't just take away from the hard times...you take away from the best times as well.

When emotions come up, get curious about them. Breathe. 

What's this emotion trying to tell you? What can you learn?

Leaning into this curiosity allows us to get to the root of what we're dealing with and build awareness....rather than stuffing things down and changing the channel.


Perfectionism is something that we all may claim. It actually sounds kind of good - like, yep, I'm a perfectionist. I like to do things really well. It's not about that though.

There's an element of avoiding pain in perfectionism. 

When perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun and fear is the annoying back seat driver.
— Brené Brown

Perfectionism isn't about high standards - it's trying to get things perfect to avoid criticism, blame, or ridicule.

There's a big difference between healthy striving and perfectionism. You can strive to do things well to be the best you can be. Perfectionism is all about what other will people think.

Instead of asking what other people will think, ask what do I think? How do I feel? 

There's power in realizing what you're actually giving up because of perfectionism. Would you have more time if you allowed some things to be good enough so you could move on to something else? What do you avoid because you think you won't be good at it?

Moving past perfectionism can be hard. Find someone going through a similar journey who will give you a high five you if you run a little late to a meeting or your office gets a little messy. Take an art class, learn to plan an instrument, or try something else new. It can be scary....and incredibly liberating!

To wrap up:

We have our goto mechanisms for self-protection and self-preservation. As coaches, it's important to develop our own self-awareness.

Next, it's valuable to remember who is watching us. Do our words match up with our actions? Are we consistent? Are we congruent? Are we modeling behavior we want our athletes to be following?

When we can acknowledge these things in ourselves first and build our own awareness, we will be that much better in helping our athletes.

Which of these 4 things rings true to you? Share an awareness you had while reading this in the comments below.

If you liked this post and want to read more articles for athletic coaches then click here and get free access to the Who Coaches You? weekly eZine.

Erica Quam is the Founder of the Coaching Experience, where she teaches athletic coaches how to think more strategically about coaching, how to balance the demands of their career, and how to create a life that they enjoy.