Do your excuses interfere with your vacation?

written by Erica Quam

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I encourage the coaches I work with to schedule their vacations and downtime FIRST...then schedule the rest of the season around that.

Here are some typical responses. (I'm wondering if you can relate?)

THE NON-COMMITTAL COACH

  • "Are you joking?"
  • "I can't commit to that. There are way too many things that might come up."
  • "You're kidding, right?!"

THE 'IF THEN' COACH

  • "If we do well enough this season, then I'll see if I can take some time off."
  • "If we sign three recruits this fall, I'll schedule something in the spring."
  • "If I can keep my assistant coach here for another season, I'll make sure to get that in."

THE PROCRASTINATOR

  • "I can't do it right now. I don't have any bandwidth to think about that right now."
  • "I promise I'll schedule my vacation 'later'."
  • "I'll find time for some rest...as long as nothing else important comes up."

IT'S PART OF OUR CULTURE

If you have a hard time taking vacation, you're not alone. The majority of Americans don't use their hard-earned vacation time. In 2015, 55 percent of Americans combined to leave 658 million vacation days unused. (GfK KnowledgePanel®)

Have you ever heard the term work martyr? [Project: Time Off] It's an actual term that defines the belief that it is difficult to take a vacation because:

  • No one else can do the work while I'm away
  • I want to show complete dedication to my job
  • I don't want others to think I'm replaceable
  • I feel guilty for using my time off

It's time to change the culture. Stop making excuses and start scheduling time away.

THE TRIFECTA OF TAKING TIME OFF: Fear, Guilt, Anxiety

1. FEAR

I've talked to a number of head coaches who don't take time away because they're AFRAID of what it would look like to someone else. They're SCARED to step away because someone always needs attention, there's always something they can be working on, and there's always something they "should be doing" as a head coach.

Many assistant coaches I’ve worked with are TERRIFIED of asking their head coach for time off. Especially if the head coach is a workaholic who never leaves the office. They eat, sleep, and breathe coaching. How can they go in and ask for time off…when as an assistant - they’re the one’s who should be “putting in their time”? 

The opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression. [Play] can bring back excitement and newness to our job, help us deal with difficulties, provides a sense of expansiveness, and promotes mastery of our craft. True play that comes our own inner needs and desires is the only path to finding lasting joy and satisfaction in our work. In the long run, work does not work without play.
— Dr. Stuart Brown - the National Institute of Play

→ REFRAME

What if F.E.A.R. was just an acronym for False Evidence that Appears Real. Reframe your fears and begin to unravel them. You can reduce the power of your fear. 

Coaches who have a fear of taking time away are often the coaches who need it the most. Maybe this fear stems from concern about appearances...about what other people will think...a belief that taking time away means you're not committed enough. 

You alone determine how committed you are - not anyone else. Taking time away honors the work that you do. Time away allows you to fill yourself back up. There's no way you can keep doing what you're doing at the level you're doing it without stepping back and taking time away - to play and to rest. 

As an assistant coach, it's important to ask for what you need. That can be scary. If your head coach doesn't value your time, effort, and energy enough to encourage you to take some downtime then re-evaluate your situation: 1) Am in the right place? 2) Am I working for the right person? If you aren't getting what you need where you are then maybe you're the one who needs to make a change. 

Whether you're a head coach or an assistant coach - before you walk away, give your boss the benefit of the doubt. Sit down and have a talk. Tell them what you're thinking and feeling. Let them know what you need. No matter how the conversation goes, the reality is most bosses want their employees to be happy and productive. They just aren't always the one to initiate that conversation!

2. GUILT

Our culture emphasizes the belief that 'more is better'. Millions of marketing dollars flow into the 'more is better' mentality. For coaches, the application of 'more is better' can get out of hand in more ways than one. If working 4 hours in the office is good, working 8 hours must be better. If working 5 days a week is good, working 7 days a week must be better.

So....many coaches experience guilt when they take even a small amount of time off. 

Whether it’s leaving practice 15 minutes early to go to their kid’s t-ball game or taking an occasional weekend off to get away with their partner. Instead of being present and enjoying their time away, they feel guilt for being gone. They wish somehow there was a way to be in two places at once. 

Coaches have told me they feel so guilty during their time away it’s almost not even worth it for them to leave!

→ REFRAME

Guilt leads to feeling responsible for other people’s feelings. It feeds the urge to say yes, even when you really want to say no. Guilt tricks you into thinking it's okay to ignore what you need so you can be responsible for someone else. After a while, that weighs you down.

Turn your guilt into gratitude. When you're at a game...be at that game. Be grateful for the ability to be coaching that game. When you've taken a weekend with your partner, be fully present. Be grateful for having the time away and be there fully.

Begin to put down and let go of that guilt.

3. ANXIETY

I’ve worked with plenty of coaches who admit to feeling anxious when they are away from work - like they're going to miss something back at the office. They take a weekend away and all they can do is think about what they could or should be doing instead.

→ REFRAME

Take yourself a little less seriously! Recognize that you aren't in control. You cannot control everything. Loosen your grip!

The world will not end because you have taken time away. The people who you've put in charge are capable of handling things until you get back. If something blows up when you're away, that's usually out of your control.

BUT I DON'T DESERVE A VACATION

When you believe you don’t DESERVE something…there’s an underlying reason. When emotions like anxiety, guilt, and fear are in play there’s usually something else that’s the real undercurrent. 

If we're getting so worked up about taking a vacation then this must be deeply rooted - ingrained in us - from our culture: parents, teachers, mentors, and/or colleagues. Where did this originate? You usually don't have to look too far to make a connection for yourself.

ARE YOU UNCOMFORTABLE BEING COMFORTABLE?

Our lives are so busy these days, more people report they are simply uncomfortable being comfortable. Even if they had some time and space to kick back and relax, they’d much rather fill it with activity. Instead of sitting back on the beach and relaxing, there’s 'one more thing' to straighten out, straighten up, or get done. And the moment they sit down, they remember something else they need to do!

Let go of the need to control it, schedule it, plan it, worry about it, or obsess over it. Whatever “it” is - practice more being and less doing.

When you can allow yourself more time to BE and schedule less things to DO, you will discover a whole new sense of awareness. You’ll actually get more clear, be less distracted, and feel less scattered. When you give yourself permission to take more time and space - even a little bit - you’ll realize the significance and hopefully begin to take small steps to change this culture.

WHAT SMALL STEPS COULD YOU TAKE?

  • For starters, take at least an hour for yourself every single day - go workout, go get a massage, go read a book, go for a walk, or just sit. (Make this non-negotiable!)
  • Take one afternoon off every other week and find a way to let your assistant coaches do the same. 
  • Give your team one weekend off every other month during the season and every month during the “off season”.
  • Plan a week-long vacation twice a year and a weekend vacation every three months.
  • What else?

THE BENEFITS FAR OUTWEIGH THE COST

So, if you've felt the tug of these emotions: guilt, fear, or anxiety around taking time away - you are not alone! Rather than accepting and perpetuating these beliefs as “the way it is”...something needs to change. Just like any other profession out there, coaches NEED to take time off!

When you are always working IN your team, you don’t have the ability to see what needs to change ON your team. 

When you take a vacation you’ll gain a valuable perspective that you just can’t see when you’re in it. You have to step back to be able to see the things you need to change to really move your program forward.

Now, it's your turn. Share one thing you'll do to create more time and space for yourself or any other ah-ha's you have in the comments below.

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