Our last piece focused on what exactly coach burnout is and the reason why it may happen. In brief, we found out that burnout can be associated with emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment. We highlighted the various factors known to cause burnout, some of which included: internal and external expectations, role overload and isolation among various other aspects. The full piece can be found here.
So, now that we know what burnout is and what has been shown to cause it lets delve into the consequences and tips to combat burnout within your coaching practice.
The Consequences of Burnout in Coaching
When referring to consequences here we want to look at those consequences which will directly impact the coach’s professional career along with their personal lives. There is evidence that burnout in coaching reduces work capacity, effects coach-athlete relationships and may result in coaches leaving their roles1. In practical terms this can affect the coach’s ability to earn a living, decrease job satisfaction and ultimately may leave them without a job at all. On a personal level burnout in coaches may hinder home life in terms of relationships with family and friends, allow no time for hobbies outside of sport and lead to issues with mental health. Burnout in coaching has been linked to anxiety, fear and depression2 which has a further reaching impact on one’s well being and is not something to be taken lightly.
Ultimately, and similarly to athlete burnout, it goes without saying that there are no real positives to reaching a state of burnout such as that describes above – but sometimes we slip into habits which contribute to this and without recognizing the symptoms we could be well on our way to burnout!
Tips to Combat Burnout in Coaching
With this it is beneficial to split it up into two separate areas which closely interlink: the environment in which we coach and the coach’s behaviour itself.
Changes within the environment that reduce workload on the individual, improve role clarity and improve support structures for not only the athlete but the coaching staff as well are all effective mechanisms to combat burnout.
Reducing workload aids in stopping the coach’s role becoming overloaded thus inhibiting their work-home balance and a host of other areas. Improving role clarity in the environment ensures external expectations are set and adhered to, it also aids in setting up a support network and staff where the coach does not feel isolated. Support structures such as phycological support are key for coaches, we would be the first ones to send our athletes to learn valuable psychological skills but slack it off ourselves! Cognitive behavioural therapy has been shown to be effective in combating burnout directly3 it is just a matter of having this support available and if not seeking it out.
The Coach Themselves
Taking ownership of a situation and striving to make it better for yourself is empowering. When we look objectively at our behaviours around our coaching practice, we find it easy to pick out flaws in our technical ability and communication methods. As coaches we need to apply this same level of scrutiny to our work / life balance in terms of not taking on more than we can handle, asking for help when it’s needed, broadening your support network and in general making sure there is time for yourself in your daily role.
Practical tips from this standpoint include: setting daily work hours during periods outside of competition where contact outside of this is only in case of emergency, being efficient with your time management in terms of planning and scheduling meetings etc, setting boundaries when personal time is needed and enforcing them, having another hobby totally unrelated to that in which you coach among many other practical suggestions.
In summary, don’t prescribe to the mantra of more work is better and compare yourself to those pushing the “rise and grind” ideology. For most it is just a slippery slope to burnout. Prescribe to the consistency is key approach while prioritizing different things and different times and you won’t go far wrong.
- Goodger, K. et al. (2007). Burnout in sport: A systematic review. The Sport Psychologist, 21, 127-151.
- Olusoga, P., & Kenttä, G. (2017). Desperate to quit: A narrative analysis of burnout and recovery in high-performance sports coaching. The Sport Psychologist, 31(3), 237-248.
- Gustafsson, H., DeFreese, J.D. & Madigan, D.J. (2017). Athlete burnout: Review and recommendations. Current Opinion in Psychology, 16, 109-113.