Here’s a quick disclaimer: This is MY own personal list of what I hate about being a coach. You may identify with some, or all, or none…and that’s perfectly fine. Be cautious if you feel the need to judge me after you read my list. Remember, I’ve taken the time to identify, distill, and articulate my list. I’m familiar with what makes me tick, and, because of that, I can make more informed, rational decisions as a leader. If you think I’m unwise in posting what challenges me, then I would encourage you to turn the spotlight on yourself and make your own list. Find out what pushes you, holds you back, or binds you completely.
You may be wondering why I would even make a list of this sort? Well, honestly, it started on a day when I actually hated my job…and since I’ve been in the habit of observing my life and career from the third person for the past couple of years, I began to ask myself “Why do I feel this way?” One idea led to another and I eventually ended up with the six reasons you’ll see below. To be abundantly clear though, I feel it necessary to let you know that I DO NOT HATE COACHING.
With that said, enjoy my list:
The Coach Has No Friends
Coaching the children of family friends is all too often isolating and weird. It’s nearly impossible to maintain a healthy friendship, even with close friends. There are a few exceptions to this. One such exception is when you coach a coach’s kid. They get it. They’re acutely aware of your challenges and tend to give you the benefit of the doubt. Another exception is when your friend’s child is an extraordinary talent. Typically, when playing time and accolades are abundant, the conflicts are minimized. Finally, when your friends are incredibly understanding, empathetic, and gracious people, whatever problems you may have will be handled appropriately and without incident. Not to say that feelings don’t get hurt and relationships aren’t strained from time to time. I’m simply saying that these few exceptions usually don’t lead to unhinged tirades and public displays of ignorance.
Trading Myself for “Coach”
I feel it necessary to trade my true personality, the authentic me, for the persona of the coach whenever I’m at work, around work, or see anyone associated with work. I do this because being myself could possibly be confusing and ultimately distracting for my players, parents, and coworkers. This is a common frustration for anyone who aspires to sit in the leadership seat. I have found that the “you” that sits on the couch on Saturday morning is substantially different from the person who sits on the bench on Friday nights. The longer this persona exists, the more people will see you as the “boss,” “the coach,” or “the ___.” Some people don’t have an issue with this split in personality. I, however, have developed a hunger to be myself…all the time, with everyone, everywhere. Executing this has become one of my personal development challenges. If I ever master this aspect of my life, I’ll let you know.
Devaluing My Players’ Families
When you work with kids, you inevitably work with their families as well, at least in some sense. Over the years I’ve come to realize that I sometimes devalue the families of my athletes. From the perspective of the coach, I would view situations like family vacations or weddings as a distraction or burden on the program. As I have grown as a father and a husband, I now greatly appreciate the fact that modern families are lacking quality time together. I understand that if a family needs to go on a trip over Christmas break, they need to go because, ultimately, the family is far more important than holiday practices. Regardless of this knowledge, I still fight the urge to question the meaningful relationships of my players outside our program in light of the needs of the team.
Seeing My Players as a Number
When you coach you tend to quantify people with respect to the value they bring to the team. You can hear examples of this when coaches talk about their players. They use adjectives such as shooter, rebounder, defender, a spark, or “the one.” Seeing an athlete as a thing, as a + or – on a stat sheet, as a burden, a distraction, or a problem is absolutely common in our profession. For most of my career I’ve seen my athletes through the filter of what they provide to the team, rather than a human being with value, worth, and a complex life. It makes coaching far easier to ignore the fact that your players might have problems or challenges outside of sports. Once you see your players as complex individuals, it makes your choices as a coach that much harder. You are suddenly able to see how your decisions will play out in the course of their larger story.
Trading Family Time
Life is about choices. I’ve said that countless times to my players and students. Over the past few years, I’ve been weighing out more intentionally the time that I could be investing into my family or my own development in lieu of activities that require thinking, developing, and worrying about other people’s children. I’ve found that as my children get older, the scale is beginning to tip in a previously unimaginable direction. Maybe old age has made me selfish, maybe my priorities are shifting, or maybe I’m just tired of worrying about other peoples children more than my own.
What Defines My Worth?
I saved this for last because it’s the most disturbing for me. Coaching basketball for me is a continual balancing act of knowing in my head that my success or failure on the court does not define who I am as a person, leader, or coach…but also knowing that deep inside, in the dark corners of my heart, it does. I’ve wrestled with this ever since I started coaching. Over the years, I have become increasingly aware of how my own personal demons can shape the decisions I make as a coach. However, even though I know what they are and where they come from…they still exist. It seems as though I can’t extinguish them. After a poorly played game, or embarrassing loss, I feel worthless. Conversely, after a well-played game or significant win, I feel secure. With that said, I want to remind you that my self-worth is, in part, dependent upon the performance of fourteen to eighteen year olds. This is not healthy, but coaches everywhere have built their persona on the same rickety foundation.
Stay tuned for this list’s much more positive twin, “The Top 6 Reasons Why I Love Coaching.”