The Coaches Conundrum

written by Erica Quam

Q: I'm a coach, a wife, and a mom with two kids. I'm tired, stressed, and overwhelmed. I'm starting to let things fall through the crack in all different areas. I see other coaches doing everything well. Why can't I balance it all?

This is - in my opinion - the coaches conundrum: the pressure coaches face to get it all done while maintaining balance and success both on and off the field.

Coach burnout is a serious concern and isn't going away anytime soon - as the demands of college athletics and expectations on coaches continue to increase. Fortunately, there are things coaches can do to both prevent burnout, and respond successfully when experiencing the symptoms of burnout.

Balancing the demands of being a coach is a real challenge. Finding 'the perfect' work-life balance is elusive - because that balance point is always changing. It depends on the time of the year, what part of the season you are in, where you are in recruiting and lots of different variables.

Maybe you can't do it all, all the time. What you can do is decide what's most importantstick to your priorities and set good boundaries.

One thing I've seen from so many coaches - both male and female - is an addition to busyness. It's gotten crazy! Coaches too often use busy as an excuse. Here are a few myths to dispel:

  • Being busy means you are important. 
  • Not taking a vacation or time away is a sign of strength.
  • Being available 24-7 means you care about what you do.
  • Getting back to emails and texts within 5 minutes shows you are dedicated.

Do any of these limiting beliefs ring true for you? If so, you aren't alone.

With technology...things have only gotten worse for coaches. Smart phones allow coaches to have unlimited data at their fingertips. Texting makes quick communication more accessible. Social media allows an instantaneous sense of "connectedness". You have to create new healthy habits to address these limiting beliefs or you will burn out even more quickly!


1. COMPARING - You play the comparison game

Comparing your insides (how you feel) with someone else's outsides (what you see) always leads to frustration and confusion. You have no idea what the behind the scenes looks like for the other person. 

What to try instead - Acknowledge it...yep, I'm doing it again...and then let it go. Tell yourself, "I'm doing the best that I can with all that I have...and that's enough. I am enough."

2. DOING - You try to do it all

There are so many things to do in many things you want and don't want to miss out on. However, you can't do them all. You have to choose. 

Here's a great analogy from psychologist Cheryl Fraser: 

Think of it this way. Yes, you are juggling quite a few balls. There is the marriage and family ball, the health and wellness ball, the career ball, the social life ball, the financial ball, and so on. But most of the balls are rubber. If you drop them, they will bounce and can eventually be retrieved and put back in play. Only two of the balls are made of glass; the family ball and the health ball. If you drop those, they can break. No amount of career success is worth damaging your health and family over.

What to try instead - Practice saying no. “No” is a complete sentence. Don't say maybe to something you don't want to do. Let go of the guilt that comes with saying no. Indecision, obligation, and guilt are all energy drainers. Decide what you will commit to and say no to the rest. Learn to say no. Period.

Do less and be more. What are some things you (yourself, your family, your kids) can cut out? What are your top priorities for the next 4 weeks? It doesn't mean that your priorities won't shift the next month. Where do they need to be right now?

Coaches have schedules that ebb and flow based on the demands of the competitive season. You don't have to keep the same schedule all season long. Just because the job requires more hours during parts of the season doesn't mean you need to stay glued to your desk when you actually have the time and space to get away.

3. PERFECTING - You are trying to be perfect.

Instead of trying to be perfect at everything be really great at a few things. Be good enough at a lot of other things. Then allow part of your to-do list to become a never-mind list.

Striving to be good is different than perfection. Perfectionism is more about permission, attention, & acknowledgement from other people. Striving to be good at what you do is all about you.

Researchers at the University of Toronto found that when work demands spill into family or personal time it has harmful psychological health effects. When women have to respond to work-related phone calls or e-mails outside of normal work hours they feel higher levels of guilt and distress than men do.

What to try instead - Believe it or not, a simple practice of mindfulness can help. No matter how chaotic your day seems, when you stop for a few minutes to focus on your breath you can develop the ability to find peace in a busy world. It's not magic...and it is an effective way to train the mind to be in the moment (not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future). 

A few minutes of mindfulness can also help you prioritize: decide what's most important. Work towards balance by saying yes to things that are a yes and no to things that are a no. Become better at everything you do by taking care of for yourself first.

Which one of these do you struggle with the most? What's one thing you can change today? Share in the comments below.