This is the busiest time of the year for me, and I would assume, for many of the fall coaches across the country. At the collegiate level, we are trying to finalize camp schedules/logistics, setting up the next recruiting class and putting the final touches on preparation for the season that lies ahead. Many of us also work second jobs, so we are trying to get all of this work done while we put in 40 hours a week in our other work capacity. If you are a mother or a father, add those responsibilities into the mix too.
I should be good at it though, right? I mean, I am entering my ninth season as a head coach and fourteenth season within the program (and the University). But it’s not really that simple. I think I have learned a few things along the way, but the stress always mounts this time of the year and I can feel a lot of tension build within myself.
For those of you who are feeling that tension mount, I thought I would offer a few pointers to help you in the next few weeks. At the end of the day, I know what you are feeling and I want to help you during the first part of the journey this season.
If you aren’t in sports, you might find this helpful during your peak time of the year. Maybe it’s right before finals (as a student), right before a holiday season (retail) or before a big event in your child’s life (parents). No matter where you are at in life, I think these might be helpful for you.
First of all, take a deep breath and exhale slowly. This was a tactic that was implemented in my life about 15 years ago. A former colleague of mine urged me to step back, take a deep breath and exhale slowly. She noted that it was the easiest way to let the stress escape from your body. It sounds too good to be true, but try it. While you are reading this, just close your eyes, take a deep breath and exhale out. I bet you feel better after a few reps. Why does it work so well? A few reasons, but to simplify it, you are giving your lungs the oxygen they need and they are getting rid of the carbon dioxide as you exhale. This ultimately makes you feel better and tends to lower your heart rate.
NOTE: If you want to take this a step further, I urge you to research deep abdominal breathing.
The second pointer I would share is to anticipate and prepare. It might be a bit too late if your stress is already mounting, but I would suggest planning ahead for the peak time and getting as much work done as you can. We all love a good vacation and a summer down period (as coaches). I wouldn’t trade my beach vacation away for anything. But when you return from your vacation, hit the ground running. You can get so much done in that quiet and peaceful time in the summer. For me, it’s as simple as creating a “to-do list” 3-4 months out from the season and getting as much done as I can in my down time.
Look at it this way – if I can schedule all of my hotels, buses/vans, departure times and recruiting visits during May or June, I will feel so much more organized and ready when we hit the busy time in August. In my other professional role, I develop an 18-24 month calendar of events each year so that I am prepared for things well in advance. My staff knows what is coming up and what they need to do to get ready. I urge you to do the same.
Lastly, I think its important to prioritize. During a recruiting trip a few years ago, I sat in a hotel room and prioritized things in my life. It was a time in my life where I was struggling to balance things in my personal life, work life and coaching career. That night really got me back on track. It’s helpful to step back and evaluate what you have going on in your life and figuring out what is most important to you. When those tough decisions come up, you already have your priorities in order and you can follow what your heart tells you is the right path.
I know this is easier said than done, but take a stab at it. And to take this section a step further, make sure your coaching staff knows your priorities too. Our coaching staff knows that family is always first – and we cover each other when we have important things to take care of at home. And to be honest, the team knows where I stand on this too, so they know that I might miss a meeting or a practice to take care of my family. They are, and always will be, my #1 priority.
To all of you balancing the stress this time of the year – I wish you good luck! I believe in you, and I am confident you will endure and be successful.
Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University. You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.