The culture of college athletics is challenging.
There’s a belief – with some coaches – that the time and effort you put in directly correlates to how successful you are.
A 9 to 5 job? How about 6 to 9?…plus weekends and holidays! That’s the schedule adedicated coach keeps! That’s just what you have to do to be the best! Right!?
These long crazy hours are an ego thing…it’s like subconscious bragging rights.
There’s also an unwritten expectation that when you go into coaching – especially at a certain level – you put your career first: before your family, before your friends, and definitely before yourself.
There are practices to do and days to fill – goshdarnit!
Coaches accept they will miss out on a lot of the other things. Because that’s what it takes.It’s all about sacrifice! Coaches must demonstrate how dedicated they are to earn the respect of their athletes and show younger coaches what it takes.
Because of this perpetuated culture, 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 the family. Instead of being present and enjoying it, they feel guilt for being gone – wishing somehow there was a way to be in two places at once. Coaches have told me it’s almost not even worth it to leave!
Many assistant coaches I’ve worked with are TERRIFIED of asking their head coach for an afternoon off…because their head coach 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”?
I’ve worked with plenty of coaches who admit to feeling anxious when they are away from work – like they are going to miss something or knowledge that there’s something they SHOULD be doing back at the office.
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 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.
DO YOU DESERVE IT?
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 it’s this hard to change, it must be deeply rooted – ingrained in us – from our culture: parents, teachers, mentors, and/or colleagues. And with technology, it’s actually getting worse! We’re available 24-7 and can never actually unplug.
UNCOMFORTABLE BEING COMFORTABLE
The reality is, some people are 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 day – go workout, go get a massage, go read a book, go for a walk, or just sit. Make it non-negotiable.
- Take one practice 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 could you do?
Think about it this way…your athletes are only doing your sport at this level for a maximum of 4 years. You are in this for a career! You have to take time to get re-inspired or you’ll be just as cynical as that old coach you once had (remember? he’s the one who you really thought should just go ahead and retire!)
If you can model this new culture shift to your athletes, then they can apply it to their own lives. You may find more athletes who want to go into coaching! (And we could really use a few more good coaches out there – who won’t burn out in their first five years!)
DO YOU NEED PERMISSION?
I work with coaches to give themselves permission to take create more time and space away. I work with coaches to help them get clear on what they want from their time away from work and how to be more intentional with that time. I work with coaches to ask for time off and support them through those conversations. I work with coaches to help them set better boundaries for themselves and eliminate the guilt and anxiety once and for all. sound like that could help you? Give me a call!
What the coaches I’ve worked with have found – is by taking more time off – they are more effective, more productive, and in the end much more happy and enthusiastic about their job as a coach.
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 here.
Erica Quam swam for the Indiana University Hoosiers and coached collegiate swimming for 15 years – most recently as the Head Coach at Washington State University. In 2012 she shifted her focus to coaching coaches.
If you liked this post and want to dig in deeper, get access to my free training and coaching journal templates The Work Within the Workout for a journaling system you can use right away.