Category Archives: Burnout

Rediscovering The Value Of Sleep

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The coaching world is notorious for bad habits.  In season, we don’t eat healthy enough, exercise properly enough, or get nearly enough sleep.  Unfortunately, some coaches wear all of these things as a badge of honor, being sure to let everyone know that they were in the office until midnight and back in at six in the morning.  In a short TEDtalk (a little over four minutes) called How To Succeed? Get More Sleep, Arianna Huffington talked about three reasons why sleep is important for us.

3 reasons why getting enough sleep will make us better professionals

  1. Helps us see the big picture.  Whether you’ve got a couple of players battling it out for a position, or an opponent who presents a significant challenge, or just an athlete with poor technique…sometimes sleeping on it really does work.  As much as we hate to admit it, sometimes we’re too close to the problem and need to take a step back.  I like to chat with my assistant coaches and then all of us come up with an idea that we think will work to solve the problem.  We all bring it back to the group and come up with the best option.
  2. Releases the great ideas within us.  I’m a dreamer.  Not in the I-never-actually-get-anything-done way, but the I-wanna-change-the-world way.  All of our teams and seasons start with a dream.  We call them goals so that they sound a little more tangible than dreams.  I’ve woken up with great ideas about offensive and defensive systems, how to handle team “problems”, and even off the wall motivation techniques.
  3. Shows us that what’s good for us can be good for our greater community.  This is my plea:  coaches really do need to sleep.  We’ve got to be at our best so that we can be the best for our athletes, for our families, for our departments, and of course, for ourselves.  We’re not being selfish, we’re not being bad coaches, and we can still be successful if we get good sleep.

Changing the culture of athletics will require a paradigm shift, for sure.  But sleep deprivation isn’t the way to show we’re dedicated, creative, living healthily.  Neither should it be some sort of badge of honor we wear to show what hard workers we are.  Our team’s success and satisfaction with our program should be how we show our level of hard work…not when we clock in and out.

Want to hear more about sleep deprivation?  Check out my post, What’s The 1 Thing You Need To Be Exceptional?

5 Signs You’re Burned Out…And How To Turn It Around

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Are you getting ‘er done…or just burned out?  Do you know when you’ve hit the wall and just can’t go hard anymore?  I was over at Bnet.com (a business website) and read a great article called “Is Your Company Turning You Into A Corporate Zombie?” and thought it made a lot of great points about what folks look like when they’re burned out and decided to bring it over here and put my coach spin on things.  How do you know when you’re burned out?  Well read on to find out!

**Keep your eyes peeled!  If you’re doing these things, you may be on the verge of burnout.**

1.       Your creativity level has dropped. Back in the day, you could spot a problem on your team and figure out a drill to fix it…or you’d schedule a team meeting…or you’d do whatever it took to address the issue.  Now, you’re flummoxed.  You’re all out of ideas to keep your team motivated.

2.       You spend less time in reflection. So I wrote this whole post about how leadership and solitude are linked (read it here) which makes it pretty obvious that I believe in giving yourself time to reflect.  When you’re burned out, you’re like the hamster on a wheel…just go-go-going!

3.       You laugh less. Your team goofball used to be able to make you smile no matter how intense you were in practice…not anymore.  Nothing’s funny because you’re tired, hopped up on caffeine, not eating right, and haven’t seen your family in weeks.

4.       You look beat down (like everyone else in your office). You come dragging in to the office at 7 am and you go dragging out at 9 pm.  You get home, go to bed, get up the next morning and do the same thing all over again. Why?  Because everyone else in the office does that when they’re in season.  You’re exhausted but you won’t rest or sleep or otherwise enjoy yourself because you’re “getting after it.”

5.       The sparkle in your eye dims. Talking about your team, planning practices, chatting with the coaching staff after practice…all of those things used to fire you up.  Now you sigh when someone asks about the team, dread planning practice, and hustle out of the gym as fast as you can when practice is over to avoid shop talk.

**Burnout killahs…do these 3 things to keep the bounce in your step!**

1.       Go home. Whether it’s to spend time with your family, or to make a proper meal, or just to relax and read a book…we all need to get away for a few hours.  Many, many things are out of our control as coaches.  Our players may get injured or another team may get the world’s best recruit, but our time?  It’s ours.  Let’s manage it so we can stay sane.

2. Set time limits on email/phone calls. Some of us think we can game the system.  We say, “oh, I go home at 6 every night.”  But what you don’t say is that you’re on the computer with the phone attached to your ear the whole time.  At some point, you’ve got to make an agreement with yourself when you’re going to turn everything off…and not just when it’s time to go to sleep!

3.       Workout/pray/meditate. Whatever you need to do to get your mind right…do it!  The idea of all of these burnout killahs is to get in control of your time, because it seems like burnout happens when you feel like there are so many things that you’ve “got” to do and you just “can’t” take time for yourself.  (I put those in quotation marks because they’re not empowering and most times just not true.)

Author’s note:  just because you’re doing the top five things doesn’t mean you’re burned out…you may thrive in that environment for short spurts.  But take an honest look at how you’re going about your business and figure out how long you can operate like that without losing your love of the game.

How To Last In Coaching

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Since I work at a small, Division III school, I wear lots of hats.  One of them is Social Media Director for my team.  Our latest series I’m doing with the team is one where they give me their favorite motivational quote.  Everything they’ve given me has been varying levels of good.  The most recent quotation I received made me think of our wonderful coaching profession:

“It never gets easier, you just get better.”

If that doesn’t perfectly sum up what we do, I don’t know what does!  So many start off in this career and think, “I love my sport, I was good at it when I was a player, I want to coach.”  I generally challenge new coaches with this mindset, because quite honestly, that’s not a good enough reason.  Those are the coaches who fizzle out, get overwhelmed, and burned out.

There are a lot of things we do that don’t really have to do with why we enjoy our sport…but they are a part of coaching.  So think about it.  Why do you coach?  Check out this post that talks about why knowing your “why” is so important.  This knowledge is part of what makes things get easier as we move along in our coaching journey.

Take heart.  If you’re new and feeling like you’re the worst coach ever, that’s probably not true.  Keep learning, keep asking questions, keep getting better.  For those of us who are oldies but goodies, the advice is the same.  Getting better doesn’t just happen, we’ve got to be intentional about it.

How Coaches Can Fight Burnout

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Are you getting ‘er done…or just burned out?  Do you know when you’ve hit the wall and just can’t go hard anymore?  I was over at Bnet.com (a business website) and read a great article called “Is Your Company Turning You Into A Corporate Zombie?” and thought it made a lot of great points about what folks look like when they’re burned out and decided to bring it over here and put my coach spin on things.  How do you know when you’re burned out?  Well read on to find out!

**Keep your eyes peeled!  If you’re doing these things, you may be on the verge of burnout.**

1.       Your creativity level has dropped. Back in the day, you could spot a problem on your team and figure out a drill to fix it…or you’d schedule a team meeting…or you’d do whatever it took to address the issue.  Now, you’re flummoxed.  You’re all out of ideas to keep your team motivated.

2.       You spend less time in reflection. So I wrote this whole post about how leadership and solitude are linked (read it here) which makes it pretty obvious that I believe in giving yourself time to reflect.  When you’re burned out, you’re like the hamster on a wheel…just go-go-going!

3.       You laugh less. Your team goofball used to be able to make you smile no matter how intense you were in practice…not anymore.  Nothing’s funny because you’re tired, hopped up on caffeine, not eating right, and haven’t seen your family in weeks.

4.       You look beat down (like everyone else in your office). You come dragging in to the office at 7 am and you go dragging out at 9 pm.  You get home, go to bed, get up the next morning and do the same thing all over again. Why?  Because everyone else in the office does that when they’re in season.  You’re exhausted but you won’t rest or sleep or otherwise enjoy yourself because you’re “getting after it.”

5.       The sparkle in your eye dims. Talking about your team, planning practices, chatting with the coaching staff after practice…all of those things used to fire you up.  Now you sigh when someone asks about the team, dread planning practice, and hustle out of the gym as fast as you can when practice is over to avoid shop talk.

**Burnout killahs…do these 3 things to keep the bounce in your step!**

1.       Go home. Whether it’s to spend time with your family, or to make a proper meal, or just to relax and read a book…we all need to get away for a few hours.  Many, many things are out of our control as coaches.  Our players may get injured or another team may get the world’s best recruit, but our time?  It’s ours.  Let’s manage it so we can stay sane.

2. Set time limits on email/phone calls. Some of us think we can game the system.  We say, “oh, I go home at 6 every night.”  But what you don’t say is that you’re on the computer with the phone attached to your ear the whole time.  At some point, you’ve got to make an agreement with yourself when you’re going to turn everything off…and not just when it’s time to go to sleep!

3.       Workout/pray/meditate. Whatever you need to do to get your mind right…do it!  The idea of all of these burnout killahs is to get in control of your time, because it seems like burnout happens when you feel like there are so many things that you’ve “got” to do and you just “can’t” take time for yourself.  (I put those in quotation marks because they’re not empowering and most times just not true.)

Author’s note:  just because you’re doing the top five things doesn’t mean you’re burned out…you may thrive in that environment for short spurts.  But take an honest look at how you’re going about your business and figure out how long you can operate like that without losing your love of the game.

On The Inefficiency Of Multitasking

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This post from the Harvard Business Review’s blog is spot on, you should read it.  In The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time, the author talks about multitasking and why it really doesn’t work.

Consequences of multitasking
I’m a to-do list kind of lady, it helps me stay focused.  There are times when I can’t help but to get side-tracked from checking things off of my list.  Players may drop in the office, or my boss may pop in to chat about something, or an email may chime in demanding immediate attention.  But most times, I can script my day and I try to get as much done (I thing at a time) as I can.  Without my to-do list, I think I’d fall prey to multitasking.  Here are some downsides:

  • We become partially engaged in multiple things, but rarely fully engaged in one.
  • We increase our time to finish each task by 25%.
  • In a word: burnout.


I wrote about it in You Think You Can But You Can’t: On The Evils Of Multitasking if you’d like to see more info.

Changing group expectations
Part of society’s multitasking problem is it has become built in to our culture.  I get work emails and texts at nine, ten, or eleven o’clock at night.  Of course, I choose to look at my phone to check them…but why are they even being sent?  In my post, Step Away From The Computer: Why Unplugging Will Keep You Sane, I talk about creating time for ourselves by creating electronics-free time.  Here are three ways that we can help our teams understand the beauty of doing one thing at a time:

  • Maintain practice discipline.  We’ve got to show our players that they can be focused for an extended period of time…and not resort to their crutch phones to entertain them.
  • Stop expecting immediate responses.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets annoyed if I send an email or text and don’t hear back right away.  As if everyone in the world is sitting around staring at their computer or phone waiting to hear from me.  Not only is this attitude selfish, it’s a little arrogant as well.
  • Encourage rest.  Talking to our players about the benefit of resting, of really doing nothing should be something we deem important.  Physical, as well as mental, rest is essential for balance.


Changing personal expectations
How can we adjust our personal expectations so that we can find balance in our lives?  I wrote a post called, Take These 3 Steps To Become A More Effective Leader, based on a great article from The American Scholar called, Solitude and Leadership.  You should check it out, because it talks about how to counter this attitude that we always have to be “on”.  Here are three things we can do to change our personal mindsets about multitasking:

  • Do the most important stuff in the morning.  It’s funny, everyone here at work says the same thing:  I get more work done in the morning before everyone else gets into the office.  What if we planned our days in that manner?  We could close our office doors for an hour or so and be super productive.
  • Schedule strategic/creative time.  This way we’re not always reacting to situations, but being proactive.  I’m a big fan of assessing my seasons…I can’t do that if I’m always running around like my pants are on fire.
  • Take real vacations.  Going to Spain, but constantly checking your work email and texts doesn’t count.  A real vacation could be taking a week off to tend to your garden and not worrying about work stuff.


Full disclosure, I couldn’t even get through writing this post without checking my phone. As organized as I am, I can still be distracted by the various beeps and chimes of my phone.  How much quicker would we finish our to-do lists if we didn’t let outside things grab our attention?  I don’t know about you, but I’d like to find out.

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What’s The 1 Thing You Need To Be Exceptional?

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Sleep.

Research shows that most people, 95% to be exact, need seven to eight hours of sleep.  So why are we staying up too late and getting up too early and depriving ourselves of our much needed sleep?  Because we’re getting after it?  I’ve written here and here about being burned out…but that happens after a whole lot of sleep deprivation and can be prevented.  In an article on the Harvard Business Review’s blog, Sleep Is More Important Than Food, we can read about the effects of being stingy with our sleep patterns.  Lack of sleep lowers our ability to function so much so that Amnesty International has deemed sleep deprivation as torture.  Lack of sleep is so entrenched in the coaching culture (I have a coffee press in my office…primed and ready to go!) that we accept it as normal.  But is it?  Let’s look at what burning the candle at both ends can do to us.

Here are 3 areas of our lives that lack of sleep affects

  • Physical health. According to the article, Sleep Deficit: The Performance Killer, lack of sleep hurts us physically…everything from high blood pressure to obesity.  Everything I’ve read says we’re driven to require sleep by some mechanism inside of us, much like hunger pangs drive us to eat.
  • Team health. No one on your team will tell you this (because they’re afraid of you, Grumpypants), but you’ve been a bit irritable lately.  Lack of sleep affects our personalities and sense of humor…that player who always makes you laugh just won’t cut it when you’re tired from not getting enough sleep.
  • Work health. Here’s a quotation from the article:  We continue to live by a remarkably durable myth: sleeping one hour less will give us one more hour of productivity. In reality, the research suggests that even small amounts of sleep deprivation take a significant toll on our health, our mood, our cognitive capacity and our productivity. So we’re not being more productive on less sleep, we’re actually taking longer to do tasks (and making more errors) than we would while properly rested!  Think of it this way, we spend all day thinking and creating and generally exhausting our brains…and sleep is the time to revamp so that we can do it all again.


So go to bed, you’re not any less tough by giving in to the Sandman.  Your team, your coworkers, and your body will thank you!

3 Reasons Why The Creative Leader Seeks Solitude

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Our lives are so fast these days and we’re always plugged in…phones, laptops, or even just plain old television.  Do you ever wonder what would happen if we took some time out to clear our thoughts without being worried that we’ve missed a super important email?  I do and that’s why I wrote this post about the steps required to be an effective leader.  The foundation of that post was a great article called Solitude and Leadership and it’s also the basis of this post from Daniel Coyle, the author of The Talent Code called Have You Had Your Vitamin S Today? Societally, we think that being alone is bad (being a “loner” isn’t a good thing, right?), so we try our hardest to always be surrounded with people.

Coyle talks about solitude as being a daily requirement, rather than some rarity that we look forward to…like a vacation.  As a matter of fact, he talks about the three things that should be hallmarks of solitude: it’s got to be reliable, it’s got to last, and it’s got to be repeatable.  Since you’re probably reading this on your laptop or phone, you may think this message is a bit ironic.  But I know that I’ve gotten great revelations just by taking time to chill…whether it’s by running, or driving in a silent car, or just going for a good, long walk.  If you’re interested in more ideas on how to find solitude, check out this article: The Lost Art of Solitude.  Here are a few reasons why I believe that solitude brings out the creative juices in us all.

3 reasons why solitude will make you a more effective leader and coach

  • Time for thought and to reflect. I’m a go-with-my-gut kinda lady…and it’s hard to hear what my gut is saying if I’m always ripping and running.  Sometimes I’ve got to get away from all of the noise, be by myself, and think about what’s going on.  Whether it’s a player issue, a big time recruit I’d love to land, or on-court tactical issues…I generally get my best ideas in solitude.
  • Find our own voice. I know that you’re fired up about being a great leader and you probably read all sorts of great stuff about how to become a better coach.  At some point though, you’ve got to sift through all of the things you’ve heard, read, and seen and decide what you believe.  I’m an avid reader…love, love, love to read!  Years ago, I decided that “my thing” would be advocating for female athletes and coaches…now everything I read is through that lens.
  • Space to create. All of that reflecting and thinking would be nothing if we didn’t use it to come up with creative answers to our problems.  I think that too often we get it wrong with creativity.  We think it’s the artist or the painter or the sculptor who is “creative”.  But what about the coach who’s on a losing streak, but figures out how to start winning?  I think that is very creative.  Let’s broaden our definition of who gets to be creative and start applying that mindset to our teams!


I wonder if we could all carve out at least thirty minutes a day to be all alone with our thoughts…something tells me that we can.

5 Signs You’re Burned Out…And How To Turn It Around

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Are you getting ‘er done…or just burned out?  Do you know when you’ve hit the wall and just can’t go hard anymore?  I was over at Bnet.com (a business website) and read a great article called “Is Your Company Turning You Into A Corporate Zombie?” and thought it made a lot of great points about what folks look like when they’re burned out and decided to bring it over here and put my coach spin on things.  How do you know when you’re burned out?  Well read on to find out!

**Keep your eyes peeled!  If you’re doing these things, you may be on the verge of burnout.**

1.       Your creativity level has dropped. Back in the day, you could spot a problem on your team and figure out a drill to fix it…or you’d schedule a team meeting…or you’d do whatever it took to address the issue.  Now, you’re flummoxed.  You’re all out of ideas to keep your team motivated.

2.       You spend less time in reflection. So I wrote this whole post about how leadership and solitude are linked (read it here) which makes it pretty obvious that I believe in giving yourself time to reflect.  When you’re burned out, you’re like the hamster on a wheel…just go-go-going!

3.       You laugh less. Your team goofball used to be able to make you smile no matter how intense you were in practice…not anymore.  Nothing’s funny because you’re tired, hopped up on caffeine, not eating right, and haven’t seen your family in weeks.

4.       You look beat down (like everyone else in your office). You come dragging in to the office at 7 am and you go dragging out at 9 pm.  You get home, go to bed, get up the next morning and do the same thing all over again. Why?  Because everyone else in the office does that when they’re in season.  You’re exhausted but you won’t rest or sleep or otherwise enjoy yourself because you’re “getting after it.”

5.       The sparkle in your eye dims. Talking about your team, planning practices, chatting with the coaching staff after practice…all of those things used to fire you up.  Now you sigh when someone asks about the team, dread planning practice, and hustle out of the gym as fast as you can when practice is over to avoid shop talk.

**Burnout killahs…do these 3 things to keep the bounce in your step!**

1.       Go home. Whether it’s to spend time with your family, or to make a proper meal, or just to relax and read a book…we all need to get away for a few hours.  Many, many things are out of our control as coaches.  Our players may get injured or another team may get the world’s best recruit, but our time?  It’s ours.  Let’s manage it so we can stay sane.

2. Set time limits on email/phone calls. Some of us think we can game the system.  We say, “oh, I go home at 6 every night.”  But what you don’t say is that you’re on the computer with the phone attached to your ear the whole time.  At some point, you’ve got to make an agreement with yourself when you’re going to turn everything off…and not just when it’s time to go to sleep!

3.       Workout/pray/meditate. Whatever you need to do to get your mind right…do it!  The idea of all of these burnout killahs is to get in control of your time, because it seems like burnout happens when you feel like there are so many things that you’ve “got” to do and you just “can’t” take time for yourself.  (I put those in quotation marks because they’re not empowering and most times just not true.)

Author’s note:  just because you’re doing the top five things doesn’t mean you’re burned out…you may thrive in that environment for short spurts.  But take an honest look at how you’re going about your business and figure out how long you can operate like that without losing your love of the game.

How to take care of yourself and give the best to your team

Every coach says the same things to their team:  make sure you’re eating right, be sure to get enough sleep at night, don’t procrastinate on doing your work, etc.  But us coaches are the worst in terms of following our own advice!  We stay at work making calls or watching video a little bit later than we’d planned and end up going to the vending machine and having Doritos for dinner.  We focus so much on our seasons that the project that our athletic director asked us to do a couple of weeks ago still hasn’t been touched.  And on and on it goes…you know the drill.

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If we want to stay in this thing for the long haul, we’ve got to take care of ourselves.  Here are 5 things that I think are essential to avoiding coach burnout.

  1. Workout: figure out a way to get some cardio and strength training in during your season.  It’ll keep you focused and energized.
  2. Personal time: for me, that usually is my workout time.  During the season, we’re so available to our athletes and fans and parents that it can be mentally draining.  Take time to recharge your batteries…whether it’s meditation or prayer or a morning walk.  Make time for yourself.
  3. Have work buddies: we spend the majority of our time at work, so you need someone in the office that you can talk with when you’ve hit the wall, are frustrated, or just have a funny story to tell.  For as much time as we spend at the office (whether it’s your actual office or your gym or court or field), we need to be able to have quality down time at work.
  4. Involve your fam:  my husband comes to all of our home games and we’ll have the team over for dinner sometimes.  It’s good for the team to see that their coach has some sort of balance in their lives and it’s good for your fam to see you in your element.
  5. Enjoy it: I love everything about being in season.  The hard work, being in the gym, the ups, the downs, being tired from the non-stop pace, sweating through my t-shirt in our hot and sticky gym…all of it.  Because I get to do the thing that I love to do.  I love coaching and I love volleyball and this school is willing to pay me to do it.  I think that makes me pretty lucky.

Is there anything that you would add to the list?  What things keep you sane during the season?