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Coaching and Burnout

When I retired from coaching at the Univerity of Nebraska I was challenged with “burnout.” But my understanding of what burnout is has changed.

I don’t think I was tired from coaching itself. I received a dose of energy from every interaction with players in practice. I loved preparing for matches and I enjoyed the competition.

The burnout came because at the end of the work day I could not keep from ruminating about my job. Reflection is good. But not finding a way to turn it off at the end of the work day is not healthy.

The only time that I wasn’t thinking about volleyball was on Sunday mornings during the summer when we weren’t traveling and I could play golf with friends. There were dozens of movies that I left in the middle of because I could not get my mind off solving a problem with the sixth rotation.

If I had developed some rituals to separate my work day that might have helped. Even changing the type of clothes I wore might have helped. But I wore shorts throughout the year, even in winter. I wore a Nebraska sweatshirt or pullover.

I remember going out to dinner once at Valentino’s and seeing coach Osborne at the table next to us. He and his wife Nancy were hosting a birthday party for their daughter. He sat there with a glazed look staring past the eight girls seated at the table, looking at a point on the wall sixty feet away. I knew exactly what he was thinking about. But because it was early in my coaching career at Nebraska, I didn’t think it would happen to me.

Did this complete focus on Nebraska volleyball make me a better coach? Yes and no. Did it make me a better husband and father? No. To do anything well you have to be in the present. If I had developed a plan for how to turn it off, I likely would have coached longer and certainly would have been more present to my family. In conclusion, my “burnout” wasn’t because of the energy I spent on my vocation during the workday. It was because of the unnecessary focus I placed on my work after I left the Coliseum.

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