A teacher is sitting behind his desk in what could be any classroom in the country — a newspaper propped up in front of him. He sleeps soundly behind the paper, his class is in absolute chaos. Spit balls are flying, kids are smoking, some are kissing, and no one, absolutely no one, is doing what is expected of them to be done in the classroom.
That was it — pretty simple. No car chase, no guns, no explosions.
And that scene haunted me.
I couldn’t figure out why — then it came to me, it was the terrible waste. The teacher, soundly snoozing, wasting an opportunity to teach. The kids, raising heck in the background, wasting an opportunity to learn.
Why The Waste?
The teacher was bored … so bored he believed he could give the kids an assignment then nod off. The kids so bored they felt no obligation to do the assignment.
Yup, just a movie, yet we are surrounded by similar scenes every day. The bored cashier checking her text-messages while screwing up your order. The bored train driver missing critical signals. The bored doctor giving you substandard treatment.
Waste, waste, waste.
Let’s not forget the bored coach.
Huh? Of course boredom occurs in coaching. Boredom is a universal problem.
You Should Be Worried
You should, coach, for two big reasons, be concerned about boredom.
First, your athletes are bored. Probably not all the time, but odds are they are bored more than you’d think (and certainly more than you like). Comes with the territory today, but that’s a topic for a future post.
Here’s the second reason to care — it threatens your legacy!
There are two flavors of boredom.
Simple Boredom (SB) is that temporary discomfort you feel when a situation doesn’t hold your interest. (Reading that 7-year old scrapping-booking magazine in the doctor’s waiting room, for instance.) Like seasickness, SB disappears quickly when the cause is gone. Not really a threat to you, or your legacy.
The threat to you and your legacy comes from Chronic Boredom (CB). Its been called: “a grave sickness of the spirit, potentially destructive of the individual and possibly even of society as a whole.” Like many chronic diseases it can be devastating and hard to treat.
CB is much different than that other malady you hear many coaches whisper about — burnout. CB happens when the challenges a coach faces are significantly less than the resources the coach has to bear on those challenges.
Over time this leads to an erosion of the spirit and the coach begins to seriously doubt himself and what he is doing. When this happens the soul of the coach begins to wither away.
And the coach with CB can be filled with rejection, despair, and restlessness. Not to mention anger, rage, and jealousy. Jeez, there’s even studies that suggest CB can lead to early death.
All that can certainly muck up your legacy!
You’re Crazy. Coaching Is Too Exciting To Be Bored
Yup, sure is. So exciting new coaches don’t get zapped with CB. They face so many challenges that seldom are the skills greater than the demand. But the more seasoned the coach — the more the coach is at risk. That’s where CB can hit, hard. The old hands — coaches who have been at it for a while, need to worry. As the years go by their skills develop and evolve, yet many of the challenges they face stay the same. More skill than challenge leads to boredom.
What’s The Next Action?
A coach with CB may try to find a way of escaping it. Some coaches escape in positive ways like getting an advanced degree, or becoming involved in a part of the sport that is new to them, such as officiating. Yet, many coaches with CB, way too many, turn to non-positive ways to escape the boredom such alcohol or drug abuse, gambling, or other risky behavior. In this respect coaches are no different than the rest of our culture, with one-in-four office workers chronically bored.
So how do you avoid chronic burnout? I’ll admit it, I’ve struggled with boredom in my coaching. So I’m going to suggest two ways to tell if you might be suffering from CB, and then one to fix it.
Gauge your excitement: How pumped are you for practice? Does the thought of coaching bring on yawns? Do you have no energy before things get rolling (and you’re healthy and getting sleep?). Nod off at practice? Boredom alert!
Talk with your peers: Social connections are critical to a coach thriving. When you talk to your buds is it all about how bored you are? Ask them if you seem bored. Listen to the feedback. Really, listen.
Keep things fresh: If you think boredom is an issue, here are a few way that I’ve battled it:
- Move. I just spent 3 weeks moving my office to an open office next door. 22 years in one office was getting boring. New office, more excitement.
- Coach a different team or part of a team. Or try coaching a different sport.
- Be an entrepreneur as a coach. Create new options for yourself. Give yourself a new title, and chores to go with it.
- Set new goals that are outside of the won/loss record, that are measurable, and are fun. That’s one reason I decided to do this blog.
- Simple tweaks can help. For one month I used my opposite hand to write. Kept things new, and messy.
Like the rest of society, coaches get bored. In spending time with coaches, I see it, hear about it, and experience it myself. We all pay a price when CB happens, especially the athletes. I’m working hard to keep things fresh for me after 33 years of coaching.
What do YOU think about this? Feel free to comment. Share what you’re thinking, it won’t bore us. Promise.