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KGB Vol 22: Is coaching a health risk?

Coaching a sports team is one of the few jobs you accept knowing that you will eventually get fired. That simple truth adds a lot of stress to your life before you even get started in the position. 

Many coaches eventually get their big break in the field by working hard, being in the right place at the right time, and simply excelling at their craft. For most coaches when times get tough, the natural approach is to simply work harder. This increase in effort comes on top of an already packed schedule and a limited concern for personal health. 

Time constraints leave little time to eat right, exercise, sleep enough, or find time to enjoy family and friends. 

Another difficult truth is that coaches are often judged almost solely on wins and losses. The quality of your personnel has little impact on these opinions. Judgment of your work comes from fans, players, other coaches, and most importantly general managers/team owners/athletic directors. It could be said that the pursuit of excellence in coaching is a significant health risk.

Here’s my “coach’s playbook” to improved health and longevity as well as that much sought-after better performance:

  • Exercise:
  • 120+ min of slow steady-state cardio (walking, slow bike ride, etc.)
  • 2-3 days of resistance training
  • 60+ min of moderate- to high-intensity cardio (running, bike sprints, etc.)
  • Sleep health:
  • Reduce alcohol intake
  • Monitor caffeine intake in relation to bedtime (withdraw about 7 hours before bedtime)
  • Take naps (20 or 90 minutes, set an alarm)
  • Regular health screening:
  • Routine physical 2x/year (the 2nd visit may not be covered by traditional insurance but in my opinion is worth the cost)
  • Advanced blood work 1-2x/year

What are the main health risks that we all face? Let’s look at the stats. The leading causes of death in the United States (without COVID-related deaths) as reported by the CDC at are:

  • Heart disease: TREND = increasing year over year
  • Cancer: TREND = increasing year over year
  • Unintentional injuries (accidental overdose, car accidents, etc.) TREND = increasing year over year
  • Stroke: TREND = increasing year over year
  • Chronic lower respiratory disease: TREND = decreased year over year 

Despite all the available information and advanced medicine, we are still getting less healthy as a population. Coaches are not exempt from these trends. Unfortunately, some of these things can’t be avoided. Cancer is nondiscriminatory, stroke can be unpredictable, and unintentional injuries are just that…unintentional.  

For coaches who are often busy and stressed, there are a few of these issues that may present a greater risk. Heart health is a huge concern for the whole population, and coaches need to be aware of their fitness and lifestyle. The Mayo Clinic suggests a “healthy lifestyle” to prevent potential complications:

  • Don’t smoke, vape, or use smokeless tobacco
  • Observe healthy nutrition habits
  • Maintain healthy body composition
  • Work toward high sleep quality
  • Manage stress
  • Get regular health screenings

The top five strategies are constant topics of conversation in this blog. Yes, high performance is the goal, but health and longevity are truly the desired outcomes of implementing more healthy habits.

Quitting tobacco is no walk in the park and could take several attempts as well as significant social support. Don’t wait; start working on tobacco cessation NOW. 

Healthy nutrition is somewhat unique to the individual but, in general, a protein-rich diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables is ideal. Minimizing processed foods while leaning on whole grains and healthy fats helps a lot. 

Limiting alcohol intake (see last month’s blog) is another healthy habit to practice. Sleep quality is impacted by several things like alcohol intake, caffeine use, and reduced sleep times. These are the leading culprits of poor sleep. 

Poor nutrition, disrupted sleep, and lack of exercise are physical stressors that lead to an increase in emotional stress. Talk therapy is very valuable and is strongly recommended, but the internal system must be regulated for emotional based therapy to work its best.

You focus on healthy lifestyles for your players to promote high performance; be sure to take the advice you give. Practice healthy habits. Coaches can benefit from coaching, too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I understand that leadership is lonely at times and there are not too many people in your life that you want to let into your circle of trust, but it’s a critical factor in your well-being. 

Hire a coach, create a plan, and focus on consistency. If you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or Coach Manastersky.

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