Youth sports burnout has become a national problem in recent years, as increasingly more kids struggle with the intense time demands expected from youth and interscholastic sports. Similar to what kids are experiencing, a significant (and growing) number of youth and interscholastic coaches are also dealing with sport burnout. It seems that both athletes and coaches are at similar risk for a number of negative consequences related to the stress, fatigue, and unhealthy coping behaviors stemming from pushing too hard in sports.
It has been known for years that many professional and college coaches put in incredibly long work days, sometimes amounting to 14+ hours per day. Over the years this work mentality has become accepted as the norm, as those that go into coaching at the elite levels are essentially expected to put significant time into their profession. While this lifestyle is not necessarily healthy, nor does it guarantee more victories on the field, it has become widely accepted as the daily grind when it comes to expectations of elite-level coaching.
The problem today, however, is that increasingly more youth and interscholastic coaches are working the same amount of hours in their respective jobs, leading to a greater number of amateur coaches left to deal with the same burnout symptoms as college and professional coaches face. The reason for more coach burnout at the youth level is probably multi-faceted, with many inter-related factors contributing to the current paradigm. For some youth coaches the long hours are due to their own level of motivation and drive, while others struggle with community/school expectations, while still others are caught up in the challenges of electronic communication, successful multi-tasking, and the unwillingness to delegate some duties to other coaches on staff.
Of course, there are many different reasons and theories as to why the “workaholic” coach mind set has trickled down to the casual, volunteer coach. From a macro-perspective, it could be that our general expectations of amateur coaches is much greater today, therefore pressuring coaches to put in the amount of time they feel is expected by others watching their program. Regardless of the reasons why youth coaches are becoming burned out at a faster rate than ever before, it is time to address this growing concern before it becomes too late.
Since neither youth sport burnout nor coach burnout is an official mental disorder, it may be difficult to determine when in fact a coach is burned out (or a prime target for future coach burnout). The following questions are designed for coaches to use as a gauge for their own level of coaching burnout:
Coach burnout symptoms
- Is coaching still fun? When it becomes more obligatory in nature and no longer as motivating to do, it may be time to take a break
- Is the pressure to succeed becoming too much, and the expectations unrealistic? If so, it may be time to re-examine if the current team/league/school is the best fit.
- Are you generally tired, angry, frustrated, or short with people? These signs of agitation may be stemming from the grind of coaching.
- Have you developed an alcohol or drug habit in order to cope with the pressure of coaching? Has your body weight shifted significantly – up or down? Again, these are signs that should not be taken lightly.
- Do you struggle with multi-tasking and delegating duties to other supporting staff? Often people who consider themselves perfectionists have trouble allowing others to help them – is this the case with you?
- Are other important aspects of your life suffering because of the amount of time you put into coaching? Are your spouse, family, and career taking a backseat to your duties as a coach?
- Do you have outlets to help blow off steam? Exercise can be a great stress relief, as many other hobbies and interests can be as well.
- Do you have a general feeling that you are simply going too hard? If so, trust your gut – you probably are!
Being a coach can be a terrific life experience, but it definitely needs to be kept in check if you want to live a long and healthy life. Coaches who push too hard – at any level – are at a far greater risk for many problems including physiological issues, mental duress, increased risk for drug and alcohol dependence, family and career problems, plus much more. If you think this is currently happening in your life, it may be time to seek professional assistance before the problem becomes any worse.
Check out AHPS for more coach education, and follow me on Twitter!