Preventing burnout for coaches is not just a recommendation: it’s a critical consideration, especially during the off-season. As you approach this period of reflection, take a comprehensive inventory of yourself and your feelings towards the football program you’re involved in or leading. Engaging with those around you about the program’s status and overall well-being is crucial. This is why I make it a point to have one-on-one meetings with my coaches during the off-season. These sessions provide insights into program management, coaching style, and leadership effectiveness.
Emotional, physical, and mental well-being should be part of this self-assessment. For many coaches, the season may have been grueling, filled with challenges related to strategy, wins, and losses. The off-season provides an opportune time to address these aspects.
Coaches often experience burnout due to various reasons, and one prevalent factor is the fear of failure. The immense pressure to succeed and win can be overwhelming, and if success is elusive, it can lead to burnout.
Coaches must recognize that there are elements beyond their control, and an excessive fear of failure can be detrimental to their well-being.
High expectations from various stakeholders—community, administrators, parents, players, other coaches, and alumni—can also contribute to burnout. It’s essential to differentiate between reasonable expectations within your control and external pressures that may lead to anxiety. Focusing on the expectations you and your staff set for the program is paramount.
The stress inherent in football, coupled with the time and effort it demands, can take a toll on coaches. Managing stress and anxiety is crucial, as coaches who cannot do so may find themselves burning out prematurely. Anxiety, if not addressed, can become a controlling force. Some coaches resort to medication to manage anxiety during the season, but it’s vital to find healthier ways to cope.
To combat anxiety, concentrate on the positive aspects of your program and the elements you can control. Accepting that certain factors are beyond your influence is a crucial step in alleviating anxiety.
Furthermore, the lack of social support is a significant contributor to burnout among coaches. As a head football coach, the role often isolates you. Unlike other coaching staff positions, there’s only one head coach. Establishing a support network outside your immediate team is vital. Having a few friends or family members you can turn to for social support can make a substantial difference. It could be a spouse, a parent, or an adult child who understands the challenges you face. Maintain regular communication through meetings, texts, emails, or other means to share your thoughts and prevent burnout.
Being a head football coach is an honor, but it comes with its challenges. Recognizing the potential for burnout and actively addressing it through self-reflection, stress management, and social support is essential for a sustainable coaching career. By taking these proactive steps, coaches can navigate the pressures of the profession and continue making a positive impact on their teams and players.
4 ideas this offseason to help you prevent burnout:
- When you can get away after school, do it! No more practices right now. Go home as soon as you can. It’s amazing how just an extra hour at home can help recharge your batteries.
- Get back to date nights with your loved one. I used to commit to every other Saturday night. My wife and I had 3 kids under 5 at one time. It’s so easy to be consumed by them, and your job. Protect 1, 2, 3, 4 nights a month with everything you have to spend with your loved one.
- Go away! Get out of town. Doesn’t have to be extravagant – go camping, just go drive to a nice area where you can take a walk, or a bike ride. Commit to doing something like this out of town at least once a month.
- Find a hobby besides football during the offseason. Golf, fish, reading, writing (that was it for me, I love to write!), working on a car project, find SOMETHING to do besides football.
Chris Fore has his Masters degree in Athletic Administration, is a Certified Athletic Administrator and currently works as a Principal in Southern California (yes, he went to the “dark side” after 17 years of coaching!) He served as the President of the California Coaches Association for 3 years. Fore is the CEO of Eight Laces Consulting which specializes in helping coaches nationwide in their job search process. Fore has been named to the Hudl Top 100 Coaches, and the Top 5 Best High School Football Coaches to follow on Twitter by MaxPreps. Follow him!
PS – Fore’s latest book, The Head Coach Blueprint, has been an Amazon “Hot New Release” several weeks in a row! This is the last book you’ll ever need about becoming a Head Coach!
50 chapters, 533 pages, nearly 500 Head Coaches interviewed for this project!