by Mandy Green, Busy Coach
I know that this article is a little longer than my usual ones, but this is an important topic. As the fall competitive seasons are in tournament time and the winter sports have started, I want to talk to you about burnout and how to avoid it.
I bring this up now because a lot of you have been telling me how many hours you are working without much time spent with your family or focused on recovery.
Two important definitions of burnout that I found are:
“A state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by long term involvement in emotionally demanding situations.” – Ayala Pines and Elliot Aronson.
“A state of fatigue or frustration brought about by devotion to a cause, way of life, or relationship that failed to produce the expected reward.” – Herbert J. Freudenberger.
Many thousands of coaches nationwide this year will struggle with keeping a balanced lifestyle that includes success both on and off the field. Unfortunately, no coach is immune from coaching burnout, regardless of what level they coach.
Clearly, the consequences of burnout can be severe. Your productivity can drop dramatically; and this not only impacts your career, but it negatively impacts your team and staff as well.
In order to prevent coaching burnout from happening, coaches can benefit dramatically by following the tips provided below:
- All coaches can benefit by making down time a priority, and not an afterthought. When coaches make it a point to regularly leave the office, shut off the cell phone, and steer clear of discussions around their sport, in essence it “recharges the battery” and helps ward off coaching burnout.
- Work With Purpose. Do you feel that your career has a deeper purpose, other than just earning a paycheck? Most of the time, reconnecting daily to your purpose for coaching can go a long way towards helping you stay energized and keeping stress at bay. Look at the deeper impact of what you do every day; how does your work make life better for other people?
- Perform a Job Analysis. When you experience work overload day in and day out, you can start to feel as if you’re on a treadmill and that you’ll never catch up. This is demoralizing, stressful, and often leads to burnout. Perform a job analysis so you can clarify what’s expected of you, and what isn’t. This exercise will help you identify what’s truly important in your role, so that you can cut out or delegate tasks that aren’t as essential. If you would like help doing this, just let me know.
- Cut down and start saying “no.” Every “yes” you say adds another thing on your plate and takes more energy away from you, and your creativity: If you take on too many commitments, start saying ‘no’. If you have too many ideas, execute a few and put the rest in a folder labeled ‘backburner’. If you suffer from information overload, start blocking off downtime or focused worktime in your schedule. Answer email at set times. Switch your phone off, or even leave it behind. The world won’t end. I promise.
- Understand self-care is not selfish. You are responsible for maintaining and refilling your emotional bucket. If you don’t do this, you will soon run dry and have nothing left to give. Some people struggle with self-care because they associate it with being lazy, self-indulgent or selfish. It is very important you don’t think this way. Keeping your own bucket full is not self-indulgent, it is wise. You perform better with a full bucket. You are more creative, effective, giving and powerful when you are filled up emotionally. Self-care is a sign of self-respect. It is healthy. If people in your life don’t get this, that is not your problem. If they resent you for taking time for yourself, they probably need better self-care too, but feel too guilty to take it.
- I suggest that you start every day with a morning routine that sets you up for a successful day. First of all, avoid the technology – that’s right, no phones, computers, or TV’s for the first 20 minutes of the day. Use this quiet time to check in with your thoughts and feelings. Some people use this time for prayer, some meditate, and others just sit quietly. Keep a journal and record what comes up during that time. We all need a quiet time where we make our thoughts and feelings our first priority. Filling our days and nights with constant noise take a toll on us mentally, physically, and emotionally, so take those 20 minutes and give your brain some peace and quiet. Make sure that you are balancing your eating, working out, and sleeping well – set up a plan that fits your schedule and helps you optimize the benefits of each. It is imperative that you make down time a priority; it’s not an add-on and it’s not an option if you want to avoid burn out.
- Build a support network. Connect yourself with friends, both in and out of your sport, who will help you stay healthy and balanced. When you feel stressed or isolated, take a few minutes and call or text someone. Set up a weekly breakfast or lunch meeting with a friend or group of friends. Get involved in a coaching organization and attend clinics and conferences when your season is over. Staying connected with others in your sport will help you keep your coaching fresh while being with people who are dealing with the same issues, frustrations, and challenges.
- Laugh! Watch a video on YouTube that used to make you laugh out loud. Meet up with that friend from college who cracks you up. Pull out that old movie on DVD that you’ve watched 20 times and can’t keep from laughing at. Whatever it take, give yourself some comic relief.
- My last tip iso some healthy delegating. Sometimes we burn out because we think we’re the only ones who can do things the right way. You, your assistant coaches, and your players will all benefit from a variety of perspectives and approaches. Share the phone calling or emailing duties; collaborate on creating practices; let your assistant coach arrange the travel details – you get the idea. By delegating some of your coaching tasks and duties you are helping yourself balance your professional and personal life. Think back to the goals that you’ve set for yourself – if you haven’t set any goals, then this is the perfect time. Sit down with your coaching staff and players and set the team goals and help them set their personal goals. From there everyone can more clearly see their roles within the team system. It will help you keep things in perspective and more freely share the responsibilities of the program.
Coaches who feel the stress of the job also need to develop healthy and effective means for coping with stressors. When thinking about ways to cope, it is important that the activity is effective (in that it allows your mind to get away from things for a short while), as well as healthy (obviously using alcohol or drugs would not qualify).
In really tough times, coaches should consider professional assistance – especially if the job is contributing to health problems or negative issues at home. Professional counselors can help in a number of ways, including by teaching life skills that can assist with all the non “X’s and O’s” that come with the job.
Coach burnout is a very serious concern, and one that is not going away anytime soon. It is very likely that we will only see more coaches step down in the future, as the demands of coaching and expectations for positive role modeling continue to increase – especially in high profile positions. Fortunately, there are many things coaches can do to both prevent burnout from occurring, as well as respond successfully when experiencing the symptoms of burnout.
If you are struggling with burnout or want help in preventing it in the first place, set up a call with Mandy Green by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She can help you organize your day to be more productive and work on habits that will help you avoid burnout as a college coach.