Have you ever heard the term coach burnout?
And thought to myself, if it is as the term describes, it would never happen to me. I love coaching and putting in the time and effort to be the best I can be.
Well, you are wrong and it can happen to you, just as it can happen to any one of us.
This is not something that happens overnight, it can happen over time. Coach burnout is non-discriminatory and can manifest itself over weeks, months or even years.
Is it possible to avoid burning out as a coach and if so how?
Well, first of all, it’s important to understand that this is not one size fits all. The root cause of burnout will affect everybody differently. But some of these warning signs might give you an indication you are heading in that direction.
Lack of Passion – People who coach, do so because they enjoy seeing improvement in people. Whether that’s watching them grow as players into the best version of themselves or generally growing as a person. Coaches care and enjoy helping people.
With coaching, there will be some very tough days and demanding times that can put you under a lot of stress. But, when you are full of passion for the things you do, you find a way to persevere and drive through.
However, if you have no passion for coaching and cannot see yourself gaining it back, then it is time to stop. You have to be the driving force that pushes the players to be the best that they can be.
Loss of Enthusiasm – The coach sets the tone for every training session and for every game, and if the players buy into it they will have a very effective team.
A coach must communicate effectively, provide positive encouragement, initiate high energy within the team through enthusiasm and lead by example.
If you feel you do not have the motivation or the extra gear to kick-start your team to the levels required, you are starting to experience burnout.
It is in these moments when you have to figure out the problem and ask the question. Has this been a regular occurrence or is it just a one-off, a bad day at the office?
Fatigue – Feeling constantly tired, can come from lack of sleep but, it can also come from mental and physical stress.
Make no mistake, coaching is a demanding job and probably more so if you are a volunteer coach. You work unsociable hours, with very little support, on top of that you have your own work and family life to contend with.
When you are constantly fatigued, you become irritable and snap at the simplest of things. You could potentially start to feel hopeless and sink into depression.
I have been guilty in my career of always pushing to do more to try and get ‘ahead’ and have experienced a level of burnout myself.
However, I believe I have now found a way to create an equal work-life balance in my life and become more productive by taking care of myself and my family alongside still trying to be the best I can be.
Top Tip #1
Don’t be a yes man or woman
One of the most important lessons I learned a while back was when to say “NO”. When you are in the helping business such as coaching you often find that somebody always needs something.
As the focal point of your team, players, parents, other coaches, admin staff etc. will always need something and are very quick to contact you or ask you without hesitation.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes things need to be done or answered straight away and your response is essential and other times they can just wait.
It’s important to remember, we only have one life and a limited amount of time daily, so spend it wisely. Your family and friends deserve your undivided attention when you are with them, so make sure to be present at all times.
No matter how passionate you are about what you do, your role as a coach is only one part of who you are. There’s a whole life to live outside of that bubble.
So, only say yes to things you know you have time for, turn your phone off, only check your email and messages at certain times of the day and spend your time wisely.
Top Tip #2
As coaches, we understand the importance of making sure our players recover in time for the next intense session. It is built into our training programmes because overtraining and lack of recovery time will lead to exhaustion and poor performance. (read my article on football fitness and the facts you need to know).
The same principle applies to coaching, work and life, yet somehow, it is often ignored. A friend of mine who has managed in-league football, once said to me “it is a 24-hour-a-day job”.
“I’ve been on holiday with the family and I’m walking around the pool on my phone talking to players and the chairman discussing contracts etc.”.
My response was, “I think you’re stupid”. My point was: go back to top tip #1. Sometimes you have to say “NO”, turn your phone off and be present in the moment with the people who are the most important. Family and friends.
Think of yourself as a well-oiled and serviced machine. You must take care of yourself first if you are to operate at the highest level possible.
Make sure you look after your health, eat good nutritional foods, get at least 6-8 hours of sleep and spend more time with your family.
Top Tip #3
Have a Growth Mindset
Coaches that stop learning or growing are more than likely the people who burn out the most. If you don’t continue to learn and improve you become stale and stuck, because nothing is challenging you.
Having a growth mindset is crucial for coaches, pushing themselves to be better and constantly learning so that they can become students of the game.
I am not just talking about formal qualifications here (read my article on what you need to become a football coach). There are lots of CPD (continued professional development) opportunities out there, free or paid for.
Where could you be in your life if you give it your all and continue to push and grow when you’re coaching?
Top coaches do not become the best coaches overnight and they certainly do not stay on top for years if they are not willing to grow and change as the game grows and changes.
I am a big believer in not having any regrets in my life. I choose to push myself to learn, grow and pursue greatness daily. However, if I don’t achieve something it won’t be because I didn’t try and give it my all.
I will not look back on my life in 5 or 10 years’ time and say I wish I had given something a go.
Although coach burnout is a real thing and can happen to anyone at any time, it is not inevitable and there are ways to minimise the possibility of it from happening to you.
Whether you are full-time or part-time ensure there is a happy balance between your work, your coaching and your life.
You can be the most passionate coach on the planet but that passion could turn coaching into what feels like a prison sentence if you’re not careful with your decisions.
Burnout is not a job requirement, in fact, it just makes you an ineffective coach.
So, if you want to help your players become the best that they can be, help yourself first.
If you enjoyed this article and have any questions or comments or just wish to share your thoughts.
Please leave them in the comments box and I will respond once I get the chance.