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Stressors in Coaching

This is an excerpt from Winning Ways of Women Coaches by Cecile B. Reynaud.

By Roselee Jencke

One of the first things you must accept when you become a coach is that it is anything but a nine-to-five job. Yes, you have schedules for practices and games, but other than that, time and the tasks you need to perform at any moment are often determined by factors beyond your control.

Just try and set rigid rules for when players and the coaching staff must do this and that and see how effective it is over the course of a season. What if your best athlete is a minute late for the team bus? Do you leave her at the curb? Kick her off the team? Or what if your top assistant coach has car problems and makes it to practice five minutes late? Do I demote or fire her? Tardiness is one of my pet peeves, but I’ve learned how to deal with it, and in the rare instances it happens, I try not to get bent out of shape about it. And just as importantly, I do not inflate it to the point where the penalty exceeds the crime.

Another challenge in coaching that I find stressful is when staff members are not able to manage their moods. I have an expectation that my athletes, when they come together as a team, are in control of their emotions and prepared to give their best. Sometimes staff, because of what is happening in their world, don’t always present themselves as being in the best mental and emotional state to work. When that happens, then you are not only dealing with what you are working on with your players, you are also having to monitor and sometimes step in for an assistant who is “having a bad day.” That shouldn’t be the case, as it is both a diversion of your attention and a drain on your own energy to have to do so.

Another stressor for any coach is when friction develops on a team, either between individuals or groups of players or between coaches and players or even between coaches and coaches. If we aren’t united, coming together in a unit that puts aside differences and feelings to cooperate and complement one another to be the most effective collective we can be, then we are in trouble, and the entire season will be a struggle of discord and disappointment. I believe we are all in this together. Certainly, there will be times of disagreement and comments that are stated or interpreted in a negative context, but at the end of each practice, game, and day, we need to be together and loyal to one another and the program.

A final stress point I’ll mention is the almost inevitable second-guessing that goes on among players, staff, yourself, fans, and the media. Organized sports competitions are almost always public events in which evaluation, by oneself and others, is constantly occurring. I would advise not paying attention to outside criticism from someone who hasn’t been a coach. After a game, you are always thinking about what you could have done differently or how you could have been of more help to the team. When you take time to reflect back, you might think about something you may have missed, and that is important to consider moving forward. You need to evaluate your coaching decisions after the game and give those your undivided attention. Identify what you did well and what and how you can do better the next time. Also, evaluate the key performance indicators (KPIs) and whether you met the goals associated with each of them. But don’t dwell on the outcome or performance for more than 24 hours. You and your players need to move on because there is another contest coming up.

More Excerpts From Winning Ways of Women Coaches