Why a "No Days Off" mentality sucks for coaches (Part 2)

So in Part 1 we examined the reasons why a “No days off” mentality is counterproductive for athletes in terms of how it adversevly affects them physiologically…
But what about Coaches? How does having a “No days off” mentality affect them.

  1. It can decimate your available players with injury

Hopefully, if you’ve read Part 1 you understand it isn’t big or clever to train every single day. As we discussed, even the pros have scheduled recovery days and an off-season and your athletes need it too. If you aren’t prepared to give them time off to rest, recuperate and recover now, then be prepared to have that time off enforced later down the line due to acute injury or chronic (overuse) injury. What this equates to is that the number of athletes available for selection has now decreased… meaning you as a coach, haven’t handled your player’s wellbeing properly, resulting in them being unable to play. If you’re really silly, you might find yourself in the position of a decimated squad – before the season has even started!!!

Wales were hit by successive injuries before the 2015 Rugby World Cup…could they have got the preparation wrong? 

So – don’t have a “no days off” mentality – train smart. Teach your players that they need to train hard and recover hard. After all – you don’t adapt when you’re training, you adapt when you’re recovering!
2. It can cost you players
I’m not reiterating my point about injury here, I’m talking about players walking away from you and your team. Why? Because a “no days off” mentality is expecting an exceptionally high level of commitment! Now before you all throw your hands up in the air and say “But that’s what it takes at the highest level!”, let me point out you’re right….at the highest level!!! These kids aren’t at the highest level yet, they haven’t accumulated the training years to build a solid foundation and capacity to work 365 days of the year!!
Are you asking too much of your athletes? It could end up costing you…

Additionally, you are expecting an insane amount of dedication to the sport. Usually this goes hand in hand with early specialisation – expecting your athlete to give any other sport outside of your own discipline. I’m not going to go into way that’s a rubbish idea because you can read about it here. But, have a think about how many athletes with great ability or potential this “no days off” mentality will lose you? If they can’t live up to your ridiculously high expectations of commitment, what is their reaction likely to be? What if they do like your sport, but they also like basketball or swimming? What if they get their social interaction outside of your sport? Having those high expectations is only going to result in a lose/lose scenario for your athlete. Either he/she walks away from you as a coach (and potentially your sport as a whole) OR they choose to lose valuable time investing in antother sport/social time with their friends.
3. It can cost your relationships or mental health
Sometimes as coaches we can think we are superhuman. We don’t like to take a break or time off. We balance fulltime jobs, a marriage and family commitments. At least, we think we are until one of these things breaks, suddenly we realise we have invested far too much time in one area, but not enough in the others. Sometimes this is irreversible. I know plenty of coaches working in a variety of sports who have lost relationships due to this “no days off” commitment. We need to recognise that this mentality WILL cost you something in the end…your relationship with your kids, your relationship with your spouse, or maybe your mental health.
Is your relationship suffering because of your coaching commitments?

One of the privileges of having a blog like this, is that coaches start to interact with you. Recently one of the readers reached out to me, with a pretty revealing confession… From the coaches I’ve worked with, I don’t think this reader is alone…
“At the age of 24 I started a journey. Money and profit just didn’t get me up in the morning, in fact I couldn’t have cared less. Then one day I found my passion, human performance and sport. Developing Talent……
I had just qualified as a personal trainer and enrolled in a bachelor’s degree with one simple long term goal, to work in sport. I had the means to work, study and get the experience I needed. 7 years on I realise how naïve I really was..So many young and talented people enrol in higher education without understanding the sacrifice you will need to make to achieve this goal.
As more people graduate from university with sports science and specialist degrees it is now more essential to have an MSc. This was something I was always prepared to work for, but didn’t realise what I would have to give up in order to achieve it.
So 7 years have gone, I have lost the girl I wanted to marry, and haven’t been able to hold down a relationship since, due to the long hours, lack of money and the uncertainty of my future. I have missed every single friends and family birthday, wedding, I haven’t had a Christmas with my entire family in the last 4 years. I have moved home more times then I can possibly remember. Most recently I fear I wont be able see my father as he draws closer to end of his innings. I have seen the dark side of depression, anxiety and loss. I have contemplated suicide 3 times in the past 2 years…. Thank you to my dearest friends for being there, you will never know how much your friendship mean..
Yet today I feel no closer to my goal then I did 7 years ago…I was recently turned down for a role where I had interned for 2 years but now I am “over qualified”. In the sports world this translates to “we don’t want to pay you what your worth” or “we don’t value you enough to allocate our budget towards you”.
The person hired was someone straight out of University with one year’s experience, but they will work for nothing. For me this sounds like exploitation of a specialist work force.
This isn’t an argument against exploitation or low rates of pay in sport, it is a privilege to have the opportunity to work with elite professional athletes. It is an open letter to people starting out on a similar journey, be prepared, this will not be easy and at times it will not be fun. You will never earn superstar wages and be prepared for the days that make you feel like you have been hit so hard that it knocks you back 10 years.
My journey to this point has been less of a test academically, it has been the biggest emotional test of my life.
BUT it has built me into a strong man, emotionally and physically. I have the emotional grit, determination and mental toughness to move forwards no matter how hard I get hit (Rocky Balboa). Without this sacrifice I wouldn’t be the strong man I am today.
My goal remains the same and I am ready…”
As coaches, we need to heed warnings like this one. This individual came through a pretty dark time. But not everyone will…A “no days off” mentality is damaging. Even if we manage to maintain all our relationships, we as coaches need time to relax and rest in order to empty ourselves again. This might look like a day off, a weekend away, or a holiday overseas. But we need it – in order to maintain the quality of our coaching, to avoid burning out and most importantly – to maintain the quality of our relationships with those we love.
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