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  • Writer's pictureJack Mullaney

Coaching Effectively

The other night, I had a good conversation with a former college coach about the nonstop, 24/7 expectations of our profession. He brought up the fitting point that a coach is one of the few occupations where your position is added to your name (i.e. "Coach X").

As any coach knows, it's hard to separate from the work.

This is not something unique to the college level, or the sport of track & field. In 2019, the LA Times published a great piece about the personal toll of coaching in the NBA. Take Washington Wizards Head Coach Scott Brooks' quote as a summary: "By the end of the season, if you were 6 feet tall when it started, now you're 5-foot-2."

I feel like there's two major factors at play here. The first is that, while we prioritize nutrition, mental health, strength & conditioning, and medical treatment for our athletes, serving coaches in these areas is usually an afterthought, even when those services are readily provided by dedicated staff members.

It's not to say we need to be pampered. But if the role of a coach is to help their athletes be successful, assist with problems as they arise, and be a leader of a team or program, shouldn't we be making sure their health and well-being is optimized as well?

The other major factor is the glorification of "the grind." Take recruiting as an example. AD's and Head Coaches will talk about hiring someone who will work the phones at all hours, be the first one in a living room, or fly out on a moment's notice to see a prospect perform.

It's been said about weekly mileage, and I think it applies to something like recruiting, too. In fact, I'm coming to understand that it applies to all aspects of "the grind" that is college coaching.

More isn't better. Better is better.

To me, the best coach is the most effective coach. It's the coach who recognizes that time and energy are limited resources. And, instead of stealing time and energy from other valuable aspects of life like family and personal wellness, the effective coach constantly seeks to find the best use of the time and energy they've allowed for coaching.

Obviously, this is easier said than done. But I think it starts with optimizing systems, creating constraints, and setting boundaries. Diving into that process is too large a topic for this blog, but is something to be discussed down the road.

But before we put a bow on this post, I want to plug a new book that just came out on this subject. My copy is in the mail, but I'll be reading and reviewing it when it arrives. It's called The Tough Stuff: Seven Hard Truths About Being A Head Coach. The author, Cody Royle, is someone I've followed for a while and whose podcast I've referenced on this blog previously.

As I think about the conversation that sparked this post, I think it's appropriate to share one of the seven "hard truths" listed in the book, which reads as follows:

"You're not a coach. You're a person who coaches."

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