This article was provided by Coaches Network
By Mike Davenport
If you’re like most coaches, the end of each season is followed by a performance review. Your supervisor will typically look at the win-loss record, complaints or problems that arose, your ability to stay within budget, and if you reached preseason goals—all important stuff.
But often those postseason evaluations don’t get at the heart of the matter: Are you thriving as a coach or merely surviving? Are you connecting with your athletes and making them better? Or are your daily frustrations keeping you up at night?
These are the types of questions we need to ask ourselves every once in a while as coaches. After coaching and working with coaches for more than 35 years, I cannot express how strongly I believe in the importance of periodically taking a time-out to do a self-review. Our competitive drive can sometimes get in the way of being honest with ourselves.
I have created a list of nine questions for you to answer that will give you a deeper insight into the job you are doing as a coach. The first five questions are presented below. The remaining four questions will be presented in next week’s edition of the “New World of Coaching.” Considering these questions will allow you to take a step back from the day-to-day grind, so you can take a step forward in your career.
Do I talk with my boss?
Regardless of the level you coach at, there is a person who is your supervisor, usually an athletic director. What is your relationship with this person like? Is it based on trust or obligation? Are the conversations you have with your boss supportive and positive, or negative and critical? Or do you ignore each other most of the time?
You may not have thought about it before, but your relationship with your supervisor is a critical factor in keeping your job and improving as a coach. For example, let’s say you have an argument with an athlete’s parent. You are sure the parent is in the wrong and you are in the right. If you’ve developed a good relationship with your athletic director, he or she will likely have your back and help you through it. But without that support, you may have a crisis that pushes your coaching career several steps back—regardless of how well you handle the situation.
Maybe you feel like you don’t want or need help from your supervisor. Know this: a big part of athletic directors’ jobs is to manage coaches, and they often have insights into ways any coach can improve. Your boss might have a big-picture perspective you can’t see or understand unless you talk to each other.
The relationship with your boss doesn’t need to be based in friendship, but you do want him or her to like you. It’s human nature to help someone you like, and it’s common for a supervisor to go the extra mile for an employee when there’s a positive relationship. A healthy partnership of mutual respect can lead to job advancement, and provides you with an important advocate in your corner.
How do I view my athletes?
Positive rapport with athletes means you can lead them to greatness, while discord may be a significant source of stress. If there are conflicts between you and your team, it may be due to the way you view your athletes.
For example, are there times when you don’t care all that much about them? Do you have moments when you feel the athletes are solely to blame for the team losing? Perhaps you only see them as a means to advance your career.
If you find yourself viewing the athletes as objects, it’s likely that you are withdrawing from the critical athlete-coach relationship. That could have significant negative impact on your job performance. It is often a sign of stress, overwork, and possibly burnout.
If you find yourself in this boat—not interested in answering your athletes’ questions and not caring enough to ask them about their lives away from the sport—one solution is to take some time away. As the saying goes, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Absence can also help you rediscover what kind of coach you really want to be.
Am I getting into the “flow” at practice?
How often do you become fully immersed in practice? I mean totally engaged—so deeply that you need to be reminded when practice is over. I’m not talking about contests. It is easy to get absorbed in the excitement of a competition. Coaches spend most of their time in practices, and they can morph into a monotonous grind.
In Flow in Sport, Susan Jackson and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi write about a phenomenon called “flow.” They characterize it as, “a state of consciousness where one becomes totally absorbed in what one is doing, to the exclusion of all other thoughts and emotions.” Flow is a harmonious experience, an immersion, leaving the coach feeling that something special has happened.
A sign that you’re in a flow state is forgetting the time. Practice starts, and two hours go by without you once looking at your watch or thinking, “How much longer?”
Flow is important because it indicates you have achieved a balance between the challenges you face and the skills you have to handle those challenges. When there is a positive challenge-skills balance, deep immersion can happen. When the balance is negative, flow will be elusive.
Am I taking care of myself?
It is not uncommon for coaches, who focus so much on the conditioning of their athletes, to neglect their own physical condition. Being on the road and constantly feeling the pressure to succeed can derail even the most well-intentioned health goals.
But you must make yourself a priority. Here are two big reasons why: your team is watching, and your health is at stake. The bonus is that taking care of yourself reduces stress, which can help you perform your job better.
This means making time to exercise and eat right, as well as handle any mental health issues you may have. For example, if you easily become angry with your athletes and don’t always use your passion in a positive way, it’s critical to work on anger management with a counselor.
Do I have support, socially?
When you map out your day, do you schedule time for socializing? We are so busy and caught up in the next practice and contest, we often believe we can’t afford to shoot the breeze with friends or peers. But, in reality, we all need to socialize.
Research suggests a strong connection between lack of social support and burnout for coaches. One study found that the stronger the level of social support a coach has, the better he or she will be able to reduce stress.
Social support is essential at particularly tough times. Having positive people rally around you during a down season or after a big loss can resupply a coach’s mental reserves. And that is crucial to staying upbeat for the athletes.
Note: This story is adapted from an article that was published in Coaching Management magazine. Click here to read the story.
Mike Davenport, EhD, is Director of Rowing, Head Coach of Women’s Rowing, and Assistant to the Athletic Director for Professional Development and Compliance at Washington College. Coaching for more than 35 years, he has worked on the staff of several national and Olympic rowing teams and writes about professional sustainability for coaches at www.coachingsportstoday.com.