It happens to the best of us — we flameout.
When you least expect it, or can least afford it, it happens. A flameout can stop you in your tracks, sidetrack your career, and suck every ounce-of-joy out of your coaching.
There are numerous reasons a flameout can happen to you, and although coaches may not be able to control or stop why it happens (for instance, intense pressure to win) you can reduce the chances of a flameout hitting you.
A FLAMEOUT BY ANY OTHER NAME IS STILL A FLAMEOUT
I call it coach-flameout, but it is known more officially as burnout. The name flameout seems to me to better capture the reality of what happens, where the fire in a coach’s belly dwindles and goes out.
Coach-flameout is not new, in fact it’s been around as long as coaches have been doing their thing. However it’s getting more scrutiny today as people-who-work-with-people try to find ways to improve both their performance and the enjoyment they find in the work place.
I spent several years doing academic research on coach-flameout, and I learned that up to 30% (or more) of coaches could be flaming out at any given time. That’s a lot of coaches suffering, and a lot of athletes feeling the impact.
What type of suffering? Usually the effects of coach-flameout fall into three distinct categories:
- Emotional exhaustion: the excitement is gone from your coaching
- Personal detachment: you stop caring, especially about the athletes
- Feelings of poor professional accomplishment: according to you, you’re doing a lousy job
These are heavy symptoms, and in addition to these the impact can be much more serious for some coaches, including deterioration of your physical health.
Are you blowing off the idea of coach-flameout being in your future. Don’t!
“Won’t happen to me, I’m too tough for that,” “I’m a part-timer, only big-time coaches flameout.”
Let me say this, it can happen to any coach. It can happen to you.
It certainly has happened to me.
I got crushed by coach-flameout many years ago. It was horrible, and I left coaching and ran as far away from coaching as I could. Shoot, I didn’t run, my flame was so extinguished the best I could do was crawl.
KEEP THE FLAME BURNING
At the time, my own flameout was devastating, yet it also was a gift. I was clueless that flameout is a reaction to stress. I also discovered four simple steps I can take to help avoid flaming out again, and I’ve been doing them ever since.
Move. I focus on 30 minutes of movement everyday. One day might be racquetball, the next a walk with a podcast. Or baseball with the kids. Or yoga class. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing as long as I’m moving. Meditate. There are many ways to meditate, and I do a few different flavors. I’ve found that meditation is a major secret weapon when it comes to me keeping from flaming out again. “Whimper, we just lost a race we should have won.” Ten minutes of meditation helps me keep that in perspective, and my flame burning. Me. Doing something simple for me each day keeps the fire stoked. I might draw, or write, or get destroyed by the kids at some goofy video game. But because the activity is for me, I get a break from coaching and that’s critical, especially during the competitive season. Sleep. Proper sleep is wickedly important to everyday functioning of the human body. Why do some coaches ignore that fact? I did for years and paid the price. Now I force myself to stop the late-night-coaching-craziness and go to sleep. If I don’t get seven hours I’m next to worthless.
Are you taking steps to keep your fire stoked? I’m happy to share these thoughts with you, especially if they inspire you to take action on your own behalf. I worry about you. I hope to never see another coach flameout again, especially you. Let’s make that happen. Deal?