Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Coaches are always worried that someone is outworking them

When Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser died of a heart attack in July 2007 at the relatively young age of 56, it brought to light the intense stress and poor eating and exercise habits of many coaches.

As this article from the Orlando paper points out, while "Prosser’s heart attack at age 56 can’t be directly linked to the stress of a college basketball coach... the simple mention of his name more than a year later causes coaches to analyze the demands on their profession - and how they take care of themselves to meet those demands."

The number of national recruits to evaluate at various high schools and tournaments coupled with the grind of the season makes basketball coaching uniquely draining compared to other sports.

According to the article, "Western Michigan Coach Steve Hawkins (pictured above), who has had two seizures in the last two years because of a four-hour nightly sleep pattern. Now he forces himself to get 7-8 hours, turning off the game film by 11:30 p.m."

"I don’t know if we’re killing ourselves, but we’re probably taking years off our lives," Hawkins said. "If I have to trade 3 to 5 years off my life but I get to coach basketball all my life, I’d take that deal any day. You’re affecting lives and you’re coaching a game. Every coach has a doctor, but coaches aren’t good patients. Coaches aren’t coachable. They’re always worried that someone is outworking them, so they keep grinding."

One doctor warns that "coaches who bottle up internal stress and don’t take care of their bodies are at risk for high blood pressure, heart problems, depression and anxiety," but adds that "it’s a constant battle because you want to win, and you’re always under the gun by the public. If you don’t produce, people are always looking for the next-best coach. That weighs on a staff heavily."

Says New Mexico coach Steve Alford, who's slept in rental cars and admits he subsists on fast food, "I’ve thought this has been out of hand for a long time."

At least one coach is walking the talk when it comes to work-life balance. South Carolina coach Darrin Horn has a "Sundays-off philosophy with his program. No team meeting or practices on that day."

Coach Horn focuses on ways to "best utilize your time."

"There are a thousand things that you can do. Which ones are really going to bring you return?"