Welcome to Hell.
You don’t want to be here. You don’t deserve to be here.
Yet, here you stand — hip deep in Coach-Hell.
Welcome to the club.
Every so often I visit Coach-Hell. Sometimes it’s my fault, sometimes not. Regardless of how I get there, the trips are always the same: hot, painful, and scary.
In 1984, my left eyelid stopped working as a result of coaching stress.
Another visit, around 1997, was brought on by an idiot with a rifle who decided to shoot up our practice.
Oh, and in 2011 my ticket to Coach-Hell was paid for by a parent who knew no boundaries. And those are just a few of my many visits.
People say coaches have it made. They don’t have a clue. Coaching is a tough gig — and its one huge contradiction:
Our job is to help people get better, yet we pay a price to do so.
A coach imagines and orchestrates an intricate performance, while her life falls apart.
Coach is asked to build and develop a winning program, while his resources are shrinking.
Way too many coaches visit Hell. Possibly you? Definitely me.
What’s Coach-Hell look like? Hm. Well, none of its versions are pretty, but they are different from each other. Specifically, here are the more popular (and populated) Coach-Hells:
A. BURNOUT HELL
Coaching is stressful. I don’t care if you coach 3-year old mudpie making — there is stress there. Working with people and stress go hand-in-hand. Unrelenting stress, when you can’t (or won’t) get away from it, causes some heavy duty problems — one of those being burnout.
I’m an expert on coaching burnout. Wish I wasn’t. From every angle (having it, studying it, writing about it) burnout and I know each other all too well. It is a special type of Hell that can and will bring a coach to a dead stop — just like a car hitting a brick wall.
B. TYPECAST HELL
Something to consider: 95% of full-time coaches have no exit-plan. The other 5% think they’ll exit coaching by becoming an athletic director, or by dropping dead on the court. How do I know these numbers? I’m guestimating, but I’d wager those numbers are close to reality.
If you do something long enough, you get typecasted. Stuck.
Happens to actors, such as Judah Friedlander (of 30 Rock fame). He said, “Show business always tries to stereotype you, so that is something you have to fight against no matter who you are.”
The longer you coach, the stronger the gravity of coaching — the harder to break free — and to do something else. Like you just stepped in the world’s strongest epoxy.
C. BOSS HELL
Bosses are human beings first, then bosses second. Meaning the chances are:
that your boss will be either:
The other 10%? I’d guess 5% for exceptional and the other 5% for bosses who should be in prison. So, chances are 2:3 your boss will be marginal or worse.
Bosses are the number one reason people leave their job. That’s true (according to the Gallup Poll). Give you something to think about, especially if you be the boss!
D. WON/LOSS HELL
Losing can be tough.
Do everything right and the athletes pour their heart into it, then losing can be a heart-breaking Hell. (If you let it be.)
I get it —coaches are hired to win. From that angle, though, of the 337 D1 basketball teams, 336 are losers. Really?
Interesting, winning can also be Hell. I tell people this and they look at me like I’ve been footballing without a helmet. Just ask cardiologist Bob Martin. Winning can add stress, and your body cannot differentiate between stress from losing or stress from winning.
Either end of the spectrum, losing or winning, can be a Hell.
E. TIME-SUCK HELL
There was this show about parrots last month — how they are the most demanding pets an owner can have. Basically, the audience was told, if you can’t dedicate every moment of your entire life to the parrot, don’t have one.
Sound like coaching?
You could add another fifty hours to each day and there still wouldn’t be enough time to get all your coaching done. And that’s a Hell, for coaches and athletes.
Andre Agassi, one of the best tennis players in the World, hated tennis. He said, “it’s something you’ve done since you were six years old, and there’s a sense that if you stop giving 100% you are doomed to failure, and that is unacceptable. No wonder so many players hate their sport – the surprise is that so few admit it.”
Agassi was in Hell, just like many coaches.
F. SLEEP HELL
What the heck is it with coaches boasting about how little sleep they get. “I was up until 3 am watching team video.” “I haven’t slept in 3 days, but we’re gonna win this one!”
We all know its dangerous, right. I almost lost my brother to sleep deprived driving. Dangerous.
And here’s the stupid part. Did you know 17 hours awake is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of .05, and 21 hours awake is the same as .08. In my state, a driver can be charged with DWI between .04-.08!
What quality of coaching is happening when you’ve been up for 20 hours? I don’t even need to ask, we both know —coaching while sleep deprived is bad coaching.
G. RELATIONSHIP HELL
We work with people. We are human-service professionals.
Relationships are at the epicenter of what we do. And when they go bad, and they will, it can be pure Hell.
A top reasons athletes quit? Relationships. Top reasons coaches quit? Relationships.
It boils down to this: r-e-l-a-t-i-o-n-s-h-i-p-s. (But you know that already, right?)
H. RESOURCE HELL
“I need an assistant coach.”
“I need a new gym floor.”
“I need helmets.”
“I need to travel to California.”
“I need a raise.”
There’s only so many pieces of the pie, and odds are pretty good the pie where you coach is shrinking, or getting sliced into more pieces each day.
The coach who can do a lot with a little, might still go to Resource-Hell, but should be able to find her way home.
* * * * *
Actions You Can (and should) Take
Here’s the trick about visiting a Coach-Hell, you want a round trip.
Marginal coaches end up in Hell and then get stuck there. Good coaches figure out how to get back. It’s not easy, but certainly possible. A few tips to assist in securing a round-trip:
- Eat healthy, meditate, exercise
- Build a social support network
- Plan your next act
- Communicate clearly with those around you
- Articulate the priorities of your program
- Allocate your time
- Sleep, damn it, sleep
Also, give these three actions a whirl:
- Try this simple worksheet, to see if you are in a Coach-Hell now.
- Keep a lookout for your coach-friends and peers.
- Have those buddies keep an eye on you.
Sooner or later, someone’s taking a visit to Coach-Hell. Its a lousy place. A little help just might be the return ticket home.