Five Effective Habits for Life's Most Uncomfortable Patterns: Fear, Worry, & Anxiety

“I can’t do this!”

“This is too much pressure.”

“The harder I try, the worse things get.”

“This always happens.”

Does this sound familiar?

Have you thought any of these same thoughts? Or heard similar comments from your athletes?

Old School Way

The ‘old school’ way of dealing with this is to tell someone to change their thoughts.

“Just have a positive attitude!”

The problem with this is it’s more of a bully approach…trying to make something that’s there go away.

For most people - if you’re in the midst of actual fear or anxiety…it does not work.

Shoving it down and not acknowledging negativity can make it worse.


It’s not as simple as ‘changing your thoughts’ or just trying to ‘think better thoughts’.

Thoughts are hard to stop.

  • Thoughts come.

  • Thoughts keep coming.

  • Thoughts argue with thoughts.

So, this goes deeper than thoughts.

Your body

Notice what happens in your body when you think the thought or notice the pattern.

The stories you recite in your head…how do they make you feel?

Maybe you feel it in your belly…or your chest…or there’s a heaviness in your shoulders and neck.

What you’re noticing is energy.

Fix it!

Lots of times, we want to justify it, coddle it, fix it, or make it go away.

You aren’t broken or defective.

You’re observing a pattern.

You can’t ‘think’ your way out of fear or anxiety.

You have to work with the energy.

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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!


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 have it all done and done perfectly.

Can you relate?

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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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Dealing With Feedback, Criticism, and Complaints

At the end of the season, you’re going to get feedback from your athletes, staff, and administration.

A lot of coaches - consciously or unconsciously - have a lot of stress during this time.

Couple that with the fact you’ve had a long season…and probably not much of a break.

How do you respond to criticism - from your athletes, parents, administrators, or other coaches?

Sorry to be the downer...and I'm letting you know there will always be people who judge and criticize you for actions you take and decisions you make. 

You can't escape cricitism!

It doesn't matter how hard you work, how perfect you are, or what level of success you reach...there will always be someone there to judge you.

How do you respond?

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