Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com
I love gadgets, especially apps for my iPhone.
I’ve been fiddling with one for several weeks, it’s called SleepCenter.
I turn on the app and slide the phone under my mattress. Using the magic that lives in the center of my phone, SleepCenter measures my motion during the night.
From that, it can tell how well I sleep.
I’m a coach, so it probably won’t surprise you to hear that some nights I sleep terribly. Spinning around like a top.
I once saw Coach Lou Holtz talk about coaching Notre Dame football. He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, during the season he sleeps like a baby. He wakes up every two hours, crying.
I get it. I do it.
And according to SleepCenter some night s are worse than others.
Why? What’s keeping me up at night?
Somewhere, in the midst of the night, the monsters under my bed come out to play and the voices in my head start doing the “What If?” game. They gang up on me, and I start to worry.
The tossing-and-turning begins, the worrying starts, and there goes the sleep chart.
Yes, I know there’s a upside to worry. The theory is that worrying helps prepare for potential problems. But the downside, when I worry at 3am, means that sleep-interruptus happens, and tomorrow is going to be “one of those tired days.”
Some coaches I know sleep great. I envy them. But that’s not me.
During the past two weeks, I did a little tracking & recording and found on the nights I slept terribly, there were the five monsters that woke me.
1) A horrific accident
Talk about sad … last week there was a tragic accident in Texas. Several college athletes were killed as they were returning from a contest. The NTSB has said it will take a year to determine the cause. I can’t fathom what hell the families, team, community, and friends are going through.
Last week we had to make bus arrangements, and I kept remembering this tragedy every time we worked on the trip.
2) Hosting overnight recruit visits
During the year, we host upwards of thirty high-school athletes for overnight visits. It’s a great way for the recruits to get a deep understand of our school, the team, and how the coaches and team relate. It’s also a major worry, being responsible for these youngsters during their visits. We take precautions and have all sorts of policies and procedures.
Last week we had five overnights, and whenever the phone rang those evenings, I jumped.
3) The wicked-important deadline
Deadlines worry me, even the name “DEAD-line” is kinda scary. With several big events coming up, I have many deadlines that have to be met. If I miss one, we could be excluded from a race, an athlete could be ineligible, a contract voided. You get the picture.
This week I had 8 big deadlines to meet.
Relationships are at the center of coaching. When a relationship sours, conflict builds, and things go down-the drain. Conflict within the team. Conflict with an athlete. Conflict with a peer, opposing coach, administrator, signif-other. Phew … I hate conflict. It makes coaching harder.
Last week I had several difficult conversations, where I had to wear my conflict-resolution hat.
5) Looking dumb
I can’t put my fingers on it, but years ago I remember a study where the authors reported a major fear of men was that of “looking dumb in front of the other gender.” Where in front of an audience of females, a mistake is made. Not just any mistake, but one a reasonable-prudent person, who was paying attention, wouldn’t make.
Just into our second week of practice, and I coach young women, I’ve had more than my fair share of opportunities to look dumb. And I took advantage of several of them. (Like calling people by their wrong name.)
* * * * *
Those five things kept me up, put me into sleep-debt.
But that’s just part of the story, not the best part. Not the part that can help you.
What I did in response is the best/helpful part.
I’ve been here before … have entertained the monsters and voices more than once. In fact, we are old friends. It’s tough to vacate the monsters, quiet the voices. But over the years, I learned several things, simple things, I can do to lessen their impact. These four specifically:
- Nap: a 20-minute nap can be heaven-sent
- Meditate: 7 minutes of meditation
- Exercise: a minimum of 20-minutes each day
- Connect: I strive for 2 conversations each day with people in my support circles.
Now, looking at those four items, I see how you could immediately dismiss them:
- “Who the heck has 20-minutes for a nap?”
- “Meditation is too weird for me.”
- “I’ll exercise tomorrow.”
- “People don’t wanna hear me belly-ache.”
Yet to do so is to discount proven sleep improvers/stress reducers. So, how about:
Take a 5-minute nap.
Focus on 3-breathes
Walk for 4 minutes, 5 times each day
Keep a journal
There are many ways to skin this cat. And maybe you have your own steps you take. Maybe you do nothing. Maybe you’ve never thought about it.
Or, maybe you don’t have any coaching-monsters under your bed, late night coaching-voices in your head. (You have my envy, if that is you.)
I’ll just speak for me, then.
The monsters/voices are part of my coaching world, and to stay sharp, to be the best coach/person I can, I need to take those steps.
And over the next many months, as our seasons get into full swing, I’ll need to lean on those steps even more. There’ll be many more monsters and voices to deal with.
Here’s hoping your monsters sleep through the night!