Coaching can be a lonely and solitary task at times, growing your support network could be one of the most important foundations you lay down in your work.
Coaching is generally done at what the rest of the working world determine as ‘unsocial hours’. It’s evenings during the week when your typical 9-5 workers are at home, nice and warm, watching TV and making dinner. All the while you are outside (probably in the cold and under half a light) trying to create the next Leo Messi or Marta. If you’re single this means you come home to an empty place or flatmates who have already sorted themselves out for the night, eat later than your friends and by the time you’ve had a shower and food it’s time for bed. If you have a partner or are married it means coming home with responsibilities to fulfil, family time, maybe help with dinner, putting kids to bed, helping with homework etc etc. You are required to switch off instantly and resume where life stopped a few hours before.
It can be lonely if you don’t have a good support network underneath you, to create a foundation for your coaching life. At times it can feel like you are the only person who truly understands your situation, you can’t get the session, the team or that game out of your mind and it can be all consuming and sometimes hard work just to stay motivated. The good news is every coach has been there, done that and got the t-shirt. It’s normal to ride a wave of emotions when you are a football coach because the reality is it’s a tough job that is often done for the love rather than the money.
So how can you make your coaching lifestyle a bit easier, find a better balance and enjoy yourself more? Everyone is different and deals with pressures and stresses differently of course so in essence you have to find your own way and happy medium but there are a few things you can do that might help along the way. These relate to your support network.
Lets focus on the home life first..
Get your wife, husband, partner, girlfriend or boyfriend on side and a key member of your support network. Like coaching, communication is key to this process. Have you ever sat down with them and explained what your motivations are, what time commitment you think it will involve and where the boundaries start and finish. I’ve found through my own experience that if there are grey areas it becomes harder to manage than if it’s more black and white. It’s a good exercise to have an open discussion with your partner about it. They need to understand when you will be out, back home, still working, switched off because there is nothing more annoying than someone who is there but not really there if you know where I’m coming from. So make a commitment to each other and find a happy medium where both parties understand each other. I’d also make time to discuss the team with your partner even if they don’t really like football. Explain what you are trying to achieve on and off the pitch, introduce them to the team and their parents and include them in your coaching, that way they are going to be always on your side and part of your support network.
If you have older children who aren’t in the teams you coach then do the same process with them, even look at ways you can combine time with the kids and family time. I’ve seen some great examples of coaches who take their children with them to training, the kids run around and collect balls, put out cones and just help out.
If you are single and live alone then you won’t have too many concerns regarding the above but if you have flatmates then again undertake the process with them. I knew a coach who was a single guy and lived with two female flatmates, he coached for about a year and his flatmates didn’t have any idea about what he did until they saw him working one evening. After a bit if chat later at home, one of the female flatmates mentioned she had a sports science degree and would be keen to help him with the physical training he did with the team. All of a sudden this coach now has a free sports scientist at every training, she has added loads to his environment, the players love her and in addition he has someone who eats at the same time as him at home on coaching nights now!
You might be amazed at who is willing to help and become part of your support network, do some talking and sharing and see what comes of it.
Lets have a look at the coaching life now…
If you are a junior or youth coach then you have parents in your environment, some parents are great and very supportive, some are a nightmare who you try to avoid. In my experience there is way more positive parents than negative but whether you like it or not they are part of your team and it’s your job to make them part of your support network not outside of it.
First of all arrange a meeting, this can be social or more formal depending on what you want but use this meeting to invite all the player’s parents to attend a meeting where you outline your coaching. Tell them how you coach, what your philosophy is and how you handle players, explain key things like what commitment you expect and what your boundaries are with regards to discipline. Explain to them your aims and objectives for the season ahead, what style you want to play and how you will train them. Then discuss what barriers might come along and prepare them for the good and the bad times. Just by having this meeting you are doing more than your average coach to get parents onside. I’ve used this type of meeting in the past to even discuss parents behaviour on the sideline and ask them to set standards for themselves as team and how they want the team to be viewed by the other clubs. It’s a great way of being open and clear with all things concerning the team, it breaks the ice and opens doors to future more open conversations which help you keep everyone onside throughout the season.
Another tip for handling parents is arrange activity for them to socialise as a group themselves during trainings. Most parents will either drop the kids off in the car park and pick them up later or drop them off and wait in the car. I’ve seen some brilliant examples this year from youth coaches who have arranged a running group for the parents, they all drop the kids off then head out for a gentle run while the kids train, it keeps the parents fit and healthy whilst building on a team culture. I’ve seen another example where a coach has got a small group of 4-5 parents to collect balls, put up nets on goal, collect in cones then do some stats during the SSG at the end of training. All these things keep parents onside, involved and happy. This means they are part of your support network and when the going gets tough they stay on your side and back you up.
By now you get my drift and understand the point of this blog post, it’s about bringing more people into your circle of trust, engaging others to not only help you but support you and to grow your support network. Coaching doesn’t have to be a lonely, isolated experience. You will have a lot more fun if you find a better coach/life balance at home and if you have everyone working in the same direction within the team.
I urge you to try and grow your support network, by open and honest in your communication and be willing to except help no matter how big or small. If you have any good tips or examples to share then post a comment. Coaching is hard enough as it is, don’t make it any harder!