Coaches And Stress…Why GM’s Are Now Intervening with the Health of Their Coaching Staffs

Warning! The stress of coaching  may bring about a heart attack or a stroke.  Head coaches throughout college and professional sports face this looming health problem over short or long periods of time.  While most of us barely make it through a fast food drive-thru without having 100 different stressful thoughts about 100 different stressful things,  imagine the life of a head coach.  Early mornings begin at 5:30am, late nights end at midnight or later and don’t forget the road trips.  Then there are the dreaded seasons or partial seasons where losses pile up and the bosses of the boss come to collect names.  And they aren’t bringing a kudos box for these names, they take down names of who was at fault for all the losing with a box of pink slips. Through all of this head coaches are expected to deal with this kind of hardship with great stability. While we think that coaching is just a day of calling plays, blowing whistles, and tossing a few pieces of harsh language towards players, it is much more.  Those head coaches have to account for the lives of the players and their assistants.  We’re talking about a body of maybe 150 staff and players when it comes to college football and maybe a little over 80 to 90 with the NFL.  Basketball may have a much smaller staff, but the seasons are much longer. What head coaches may be released in terms of staff stress is displaced with the potential problems that come with a longer schedule.  Now comes the general managers and owners who understand that heavy is the head that wears the crown.  And 2016-17 provided them all with plenty of warning signs that there needs to be immediate intervention in some form to not only keep coaches fresh but to also keep them alive.  

bob huggins

Players and staff on West Virginia had a nervous moment after Coach Huggins fell faint during a game this past season

As like most work places management can be messy. There is the boss, the middle management, those who think they are boss and the people who take orders from all the above bosses.  But sports provides a unique system where the head coach is a cross between middle management and the boss.  And while crap does roll downhill, the stinky aroma tends to rise right back up and somehow gather right next to the coach and his assistants.  These middle men live between the double edged sword of expectant team owners, general managers, and athletic directors while on the flip side have to deal with a fan base that will call for coaching changes with the first sign of a bad season.  Yes, the situation can be compromising but with sports there is always going to be good and bad.   As the head coach you get to make the final calls.  If those calls are wrong you end up suffering a two way wrath.  Being this uncategorized middle man/boss provides a different sort of stress level that can and many times has been too much for an individual to handle.

Gary Kubiak

Gary Kubiak suffered a stroke while coaching for the Houston Texans and was forced to take a lengthy leave of absence

The number one fact about stress is that it kills without prejudice.  What’s worse is that it’s a silent killer and it definitely doesn’t refer to a clock when it strikes its victim.  Are there warning signs when an individual is becoming ill from stress?  That may seem to be an obvious yes if you’re a fan with zero playing experience on the collegiate or pro level.  Players who have played on those levels understand that coaches develop hard-day habits.  On those difficult days coaches may do such things as flick their hair a bunch of times or something as extreme as cracking a pencil across their knee.  These habits become a part of the staff and players’ lives.  It’s not until a coach turns pale or gets uncharacteristically silent that players and other staff know there’s something wrong.  By then it’s too late and medical personnel are rushing in to check the vital signs on a coach who has been the victim of a mild heart attack or stroke.

steve kerr blog

Overcome by chronic headaches, Steve Kerr had to take a break from coaching during the 2017 championship run of the Golden State Warriors

So what are team owners, general managers, and athletic directors doing to make sure their coaching staffs stay healthy?  Many are taking a page out of  Texas A&M’s manual for taking care of staff.  The coaching jobs at Texas A&M  are those that can take their toll on staff and players because of high expectations to win.  Scheduled staff golf outings,  one day get aways, and mandatory exercise programs are definitely benefitting the staff.  Since implementing this official “staff care program” coaches on the football, basketball, and baseball teams say they feel physically and mentally better.  And when signs of being overwhelmed are seen, coaches are monitored by training staff over a period of two to three days.  And for those readers who would “jack-assedly”  venture over to say that soon coming country club environments will be the result of these staff care programs. Figure it like this:  Hundreds of thousands of dollars are invested into the health of the athlete.  It would not be a bad idea to put some financial backing into the coaching staff’s health and well being.  Love it or hate it but in the end…it is what it is.

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