What makes coaches want to quit?

written by Erica Quam

It happens every year. Sometimes more than once.

A coach calls me up after their season. They want to come to a coaching summit, but they're not even sure if they want to coach next season. They are thinking of quitting.

They ask me if they should still come to the summit. They're worried about "being a distraction" or "being a total downer" to everyone in the group.

When I ask them what's up, it usually goes something like this:

"It was a really long, hard season. I feel disconnected. There's no one I can talk to about the challenges that come up. I don't even know where to start."


"I work on a staff with all male coaches...and they just don't get it. They don't get ME! I try to bring things up that I think are important and they blow it off. I end up getting so frustrated. I think I'm just done with coaching."


"I just worked so hard this year and didn't get the results I was hoping for...again. The athletes on my team complain about everything. I just can't win with them! I'm not sure it's worth all this effort."

I'd imagine that every single coach has questioned their decision to be a coach - at least once (maybe many times) every single year. 

One question I want coaches to consider is this:

Have any of the challenges you've dealt with questioned your identity, your competence, or your worthiness?

  1. Am I a good person?

  2. Am I competent?

  3. Am I worthy?

Why these three questions ARE important:

If a challenge comes up that calls any one of these three things into question...buckle up and hold on tight...because it's likely to get emotional.

You may not even realize it.

Subconsciously...when your identity, competence, or worthiness is called into question it can feel like a big freakin' deal. It can send you into fight or flight.

'Complexify' your identity.

You need to 'complexify' your identity. This is a skill that can be learned and developed. What does this mean and how exactly do you complexify your identity?

Have more people in your life who know the real and authentic you. People who know your true intentions, desires, and motivation for doing what you do as a coach. Then, reach out to your support systems consistently....especially when times are challenging. 

1. Am I a good person?

Who in your life can you go to who will answer this question for you?

A parent, a friend, your former piano teacher, people from church, your kids...

No matter what any of your athletes say, no matter what one administrator says (when they’re probably having a bad day…who knows what else they’re dealing with…), even if a parent gets upset, etc.

Find someone you trust you can go to who knows the real you...and will answer this honestly for you. 

2. Am I competent?

Take a look at all the areas where you can say, yes! I AM competent.

I’m a good cook, I’m good at crossword puzzles, I’m a decent athlete, I’m good at eating pizza!

It can be too easy when you’re in the 'I want to quit' spiral to look at all the other things you’re not great at...to make things even worse.

I'm no good at dealing with conflict. I can't figure out my taxes. I stink at pottery. I'm not very good at keeping my house clean.

Focusing on things you're not good at isn't helpful…so how can you get out of that pattern? 

Remind yourself of the things you're great at!  Make a list ahead of time that you can go back and refer to if that's helpful. That may sound overly simple...and all it takes is doing something that will break the pattern you're in and get you refocused, grounded, and re-centered.

3. Am I worthy?

A Zen-like answer to this question is quite simple: "All beings in the universe are worthy of love."

Yet do you ever set up any criteria you have to meet before you can answer 'yes' to this question?

  • I’ll be worthy...once I lose 15 pounds,
  • I’ll be worthy...once I finally am consistent and workout 7 days a week
  • I’ll be worthy...once I have a winning record
  • I’ll be worthy...once all the school records are broken

Coaches - you are a tough group. You have high standards - for your athletes and for yourself. If you’re being really honest, you probably put a LOT of criteria up for yourself that you have to meet before you allow yourself to feel worthy.

What ARE your beliefs and where do they originate? [Note: Most beliefs and stories come from growing up.] Take a look at your beliefs that are no longer serving you well. See if you can create new beliefs.


A. Self Awareness

Over time you will learn to develop self awareness.  You have to begin with self awareness! When you can begin to recognize that one or more of these three things have been called into question, then your emotions make more sense. 

B. Acceptance

Stuffing your emotions down, shaming yourself, contracting, and hiding takes a lot of energy. Instead, when these feelings come up, begin to accept that your feelings are real and valid. Instead of hiding out, try reaching out instead.

C. Call Your Power Back

Have an advanced plan that can help you react more constructively and begin to call your power back.

Calling your power back requires three things: 1) time to reflect & process, 2) consistent support, and 3) regular accountability

When you’re dealing with all you’re dealing with as a coach - especially during the middle of your season - you can become overtired, overstressed, and get overly emotional.


Here's the deal...

As a coach, you're going to be judged. You're going to be criticized. You're going to have people who don't agree with every decision you make or action you take. This will happen no matter what you do to try and avoid judgement, criticism, and disagreement.

You can only change yourself and how you react when this comes up.  You can have more awareness, more acceptance, and begin to take more control over how you handle yourself. You can allow your energy and passion to drain...or you can get the support you need to help remind yourself of all the amazing things you do every single day as a coach.

One last word on support

Oh...and back to the beginning of this story. I always encourage coaches to come to the summit. No matter how low they are feeling...and even if they think they want to quit.

This is exactly what the summit is for! Coaches learn that every coach goes through their own share of struggles and challenges every single year - no matter how it appears on the outside.

The amount of stuff coaches handle all season long is unbelievable. When you're with other coaches in a safe space where you can share your ups and downs, highs and lows you will find you are not alone. Build yourself a support network you can tap into - during the highs as well as the lows - all season long.

I'm curious...did this resonate with you at all? Yes or no? Have there been times during your career you can think back to and apply this information? Share your thoughts or ah-ha's in the comments below.