Dealing With Pressure as a Coach

  • October 15th, 2019
  • Tom Bean

Coaching a sports team at any level comes with its specific pressures. Whether you're in charge of a grassroots junior team or an elite-level international squad, the role requires the juggling of relationships, finding time to plan sessions and achieving results whilst maintaining a coaching-life balance.

It's managing these stressors effectively that will provide a coach with the most rewarding experiences - it is the challenge which drew them to sports coaching in the first place.

However when pressure in one aspect increases and a juggling ball is dropped, it has the potential to drag a coach's motivation levels to rock-bottom and eventually burnout.

The good news is every coach has been in the same boat at some point and with some simple changes, the juggling act can quickly become the most fun part of the job.

Pressures Faced by Coaches

From personal relationships to technical knowledge, a coach's job is varied and stretches further than the realms of simply detecting flaws and correcting them on the training ground.

Results Pressure

The ultimate goal in sport is to win. Yes, it provides a wealth of other benefits and everyone is in it for their own reasons, but a coach is there to improve the overall performance of individuals and the team.

When results are negative, performances are poor and there seems to be little in terms of development or improvement, coaches can soon feel pressure. As immediate feedback, it is regularly what coaches and onlookers will use to judge progress, whether or not it is a completely true representation.

Personal Relationships

Managing relationships is arguably the biggest part of a coach's role. Every player wants to play and be valued, however a coach must make decisions, leave players out and highlight areas for improvement whilst striving to maintain harmony and motivation amongst the group.

A coach must be aware of the situation and individuals personalities and recognise how best to manage them. Establishing and maintaining healthy relationships with players is regularly cited as one of the major stressors in a coach's role.

Parent Relationships

Through their removed position, parents can be more opinionated and often less understanding of feedback. Whether it's disdain at selection choices or a difference in opinion on approach, managing relationships with parents can make or break a coaches experience.

Understandably, parents want their best for their child but often their overzealousness can be a major source of stress for a coach.

Time Pressures

Volunteer coaches manage jobs and other aspects of their lives whilst having to find the time to review games, plan sessions and think of new ideas to try and get the best out of their team.

The workload of running a team and planning training can quickly escalate and regularly becomes a cause of extra stress for a coach, whether they're a volunteer or it is their full-time job.

Coaching-Life Balance

As pressures amount, coaches can find themselves fully-immersed in their sport. Whether it is communicating with players or parents throughout the day, thinking of new angles to get a break through or fretting over what to include in the session for training that evening, coaches can quickly get wrapped up in the role.

Therefore, striking a coaching-life balance is vital and something that if unbalanced, can add to the stress.

Results of Increased Stress

Coaching is a rewarding experience that vitalises lives for coaches and athletes. But for it to be successful, managing physical work-loads and mental pressures effectively is vital.

If stressors are left to increase, short-term and long-term side effects can become issues.

Short-Term Effects

  1. Lack of Patience
  2. Anger
  3. Frustration

Long-Term Effects

  1. Lack of Motivation
  2. Burnout

4 Ways to Deal With Stressors

All coaches experience stress and pressure, managing them effectively and making a positive impact will provide the most rewarding parts of the role.

Therefore, knowing how to deal with pressure and stress is a vital skill to satisfaction and success.

Identify Stressors and What Causes Them

Understanding what creates pressure gives a coach cues to look out for and signposts what could potentially cause issues for them. By anticipating things that will cause stress, coaches can prepare for them and make contingencies to avoid them.

For example, if a coach knows they have a busy week and that planning a session last minute makes them stressed, they can make time to plan ahead.

By highlighting the potential hot-spot in advance, the extra time pressure can be averted.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Striking the coaching-life balance by developing a routine that manages the coaching workload with life outside of coaching is vital.

Planning ahead to review the game, design the next session and communicate with players gives each task a specific slot. By compartmentalising them, a coach can see when each job is done and can stay on schedule to avoid a stressful, last minute rush.

Planning with clarity improves a coach's confidence in their own session and ideas which will help answer questions, deal with criticism and manage situations when things don't go as hoped.

Involve the Players and Parents

Being transparent and explaining ideas helps build a rapport. With a healthy relationship, it becomes easier to vindicate decisions to parents and players.

People like to be in the know and by involving people in the plans and even sometimes the decision-making can improve their confidence in a coach.

By communicating about style and aims from the outset, the coach can help reduce their stressors as players and parents are already aware as to what the coach is trying to achieve so can recognise why and understand the coaches aims.

Be Aware of the World Out of Coaching

Coaching a sports team is relatable to numerous jobs and situations outside of sport. Communicating with and managing people is crucial in all walks of life and observing ways people do it in day-to-day life can be a great way to learn.

Whether it is new skills to deal with pressures or a way to avoid them in the first place, it's important to recognise how to learn from scenarios outside of sport.

Knowing that you're not the only one under pressure is a great way of putting things into perspective, rationalising the stressors and then creating a plan to deal with them. Keeping an eye out in the world is a great way to realise just that.

Develop a routine, plan ahead, stay transparent with the players and parents and continue to learn from the world away from sport. Once you've got control of the juggling, pressure will soon become what fuels the most rewarding parts of the job.

Take the stress out of planning, thinking of new ideas and communicating effectively with Sportplan and Teamo.