Entries in Well Being (2)


Australian Coaches and Burnout: Causes, Symptoms and Prevention

By: Justin McNamara, Australian Institute of Sport and Lauren MacNamara, University of Canberra
PDF Link: COaching Australia

Coaching is potentially a very rewarding pursuit due to the joy of working with aspiring athletes, the challenge of building a successful program, the satisfaction derived from teaching sport skills, and the opportunity to facilitate an athlete’s psychosocial development. At the same time, coaching can be a very time-consuming, demanding and frustrating experience. Not surprisingly, some coaches thrive in the coaching profession and are passionate about their involvement. Others have a less positive view of their coaching experiences, which in some cases culminates in burnout and/or the individual leaving the coaching ranks.

Each year a substantial number of individuals stop coaching. Although coaches discontinue for a variety of reasons, recent years have been marked by increased public interest in burnout.
Burnout is a psychological syndrome characterised by emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and reduced personal accomplishment.

What causes coach burnout?
Several factors that have been linked to burnout in coaches are:
• pressure from administrators
• role conflict or ambiguity
• too much time spent travelling
• low control over job
• low social support
• democratic leadership style
• recurrent conflict with athletes
• pressure from parents of athletes.

What are the symptoms of burnout?
Recognising the signs of burnout is critical for coaches. These signs are:
• coaching seems to have lost its fun and dynamic edge
• preparation and planning become more arduous as the seasons wear on
• your athletes have become accustomed to receiving criticism rather than praise from you
• you turn to excuse-making, instead of searching for answers when faced with an issue.

Strategies to prevent burnout
It is critical to note that burnout is not a result of flawed character, behaviour or drive. It is the result of job stress and the nature of the coaching environment. There are several keys for preventing burnout:
• Take care of your own health by eating properly, getting sufficient sleep and getting involved in exercise.
• Spend less time on paperwork and administration, and more time involved in the enjoyable aspects of coaching.
• Break up your routine by introducing new training drills and activities.
• Find time to have fun during work hours.
• Seek out a mentor to gain support and advice during difficult times.
• If possible, restrict the amount of travel you do with teams and athletes.
• It is okay to say no, especially relating to committees and non-critical projects.
• Do not take ‘coaching’ home with you.

Burnout is a serious concern for coaches at all levels. Recognising the causes and symptoms, and knowing a few things about how to prevent burnout, can help coaches maintain a positive attitude and continue to love the work that they do.


Maximise You – 10 Tips for Coach Well Being

Ann Quinn (Quintessential Edge, London, UK)
ITF Coaching and Sport Science Review 2010; 50 (18): 3 - 4


This article summarises some tips to help you maximise the most important person of all – you, so that you can enjoy the journey to your success both on and off the court.

Key words: Coach well being, health, self improvement.

Corresponding author: ann@annquinn.com.


Research into coaching has increased considerably over the last two decades but an area that is still in its infancy has been that of the well being of professional coaches. Much is expected of you as a coach. On any given day, you may play the role of a coach, educator, physiologist, business executive, psychologist, administrator, and so the list goes on. You are always busy planning and giving lessons, organising teams and competitions, running the pro shop, or watching matches, and that is just at work. On top of that is often family, community and a host of other commitments and often the last on the list is You! Does that sound familiar? Well you are not alone.


We evaluate our players, their strengths and weaknesses and prepare regular report updates but what are you doing for you? Do you really know how healthy you are? How long is it since you have had a blood test, checked your cholesterol and blood pressure, or had a full medical check up? Have you been to the dentist or had your eyes checked recently? Just because you are fit and active and on the court, does not mean you are invincible and nothing will happen to you. Tennis coaches on average suffer from levels of burnout similar to those of other helping professionals. (Eklund, Kelly & Ritter-Taylor, 1999). The pressure and stre levels juggling your own business and other obligations can be enormous. You are no help to anyone if you are sick, stressed and exhausted. The most valuable asset you have is your health.


Create the vision of exactly where you want to go so you can get excited to move towards that direction. Make those goals inspiring and compelling. See it day in and day out. What you would like to achieve for your players, for your business? Set your goals and create that vision plan for that exciting future because that is where you are going to spend the rest of your life. Working towards such important life goals is associated with increased well being. (Klinger, 1977; Sheldon, Kasser, Smith & Share, 2002) Make it happen!


We all tell our players to warm up and prepare for their matches and training but do you prepare to coach or do you just walk on the court and start coaching? The time taken to warm up is much better than spent off the court injured. Likewise, do you put on sunscreen and a hat if you working in a hot climate? Not too many coaches could say they do this properly. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, or more often if it is wiped, washed or sweated off. Skin cancer is the most easily preventable form of cancer and yet in Australia, more people die from skin cancer each year than are killed in road accidents. Remember, prevention is better than cure. Prepare to win for you.


We all want to be the best we can be? What can you do to be innovative? With the plethora of information available through the Internet and the capacity for coaches (and athletes and parents of players) to get any information they need anywhere, anytime, how can you be innovative? Be creative. Think outside the box. Olusoga et al (2009) highlighted the importance of psychological skills training for coaches to help them cope with the diverse demands of world class coaching. Also look to what other sports are doing. Create an effective learning environment for you and your players, read, talk to other coaches, find a different way. Get excited. Engage with your players and inspire them to be all they can. It is the little differences that make the big difference.


A commitment to continuous improvement and accelerated learning is essential for coaches at all levels. There are so many ways to do this, from attending conferences, reading, watching videos, on the internet, talking to other coaches, and letting your life experiences become your own coaching lab. Stimulate you. The best way to learn is by doing. Be one step ahead all the time. Have fun and get creative. Sometimes it is our mistakes that teaches us the greatest learning.

Don’t focus on win-loss records. Coaches have been found to be more likely to burmout if they focus on wins and losses. Focus on your own coaching performance such as teaching more effectively, strategizing, optimizing training, developing mental toughness and emotional control, and creating a motivational environment for players Duda et al (1999). Look at things differently. Find a mentor to support you..


Do you practise what you preach? Coaches are always telling their players to drink up and eat to win. Do you lead by example? Do you have energy snacks and a drink close by all the time? The same principles apply to you, as to your players. Be a role model for your students. Inadequate fluid intake and/or excessive sweat losses mean that you work harder, your intensity is lower, you fatigue faster and you react slower. You cannot win. Energise you!


A sign that you are overworking is irritability, hypertension, impatience and a loss of your drive and determination. Working too hard is not good for your health or your lessons. Be sure you plan to recover too. Learning how to shut down, turn off and re-energise is as important to success and well being as firing up, and ready to win a big match. It is as much a physical as it is emotional rejuvenation. Getting a great night’s sleep goes a long way to help you recuperate and recharge. Some passive recovery activities include massage, hot baths, ice baths, meditation, naps, deep breathing, reading, watching television, or some quiet down time. Active recovery activities involves movement of the body, such as walking or jogging, yoga, stretching, pilates and recreational sports. Taking regular breaks between your lessons also helps to sustain full engagement as does a short break away. Now there are no excuses!


A great way to achieve well being is simply just taking time to be grateful. How lucky are we that you get to play tennis for a job, travel the world, and can have life long impacts on so many around players. Notice, appreciate, feel, experience and anticipate all the good that currently exists in your life. Go and write them down now. Embrace the massive blessings around you every day. Live with an attitude of gratitude.


Contrast the difference between practicing on the Centre Court at a Grand Slam versus a court with pot holes, broken fence lines and dull lighting. Your environment really does make a difference to your well being and to all those around you. What could you do to improve your environment? This might include not only where you teach, but also your office, your home, your car, your clothes, and everything all around you. In well designed environments, you are more creative and productive (Leonard, 2000). You have more energy, and can accomplish things so much easier. Having the right equipment puts you in a position to do your best and makes you feel great too. Create an atmosphere where your players’ talents can flourish.


It is especially important to plan time out to have fun. When you are consumed by your work, you suddenly lose contact with everything else that is meaningful in your life. Block out time for fun. Rekindle your intrinsic fire. Make your rejuvenation just as important as work. Your health depends on it. Some ideas include making time for dinner, getting together with friends, or getting a massage. Keep your blackberry or your iphone turned off! Get present to the experience in the moment. Fun should be a central theme for your players and for you! Life is a journey, not a destination.

As lucky as we all are to be involved in such a great sport day in and day out, remember it is only one part of your life and one facet of who you are as a person. Establish your priorities, set your goals and never stop learning. Constantly energise and recharge you to keep the balance. Live with an attitude of gratitude and enjoy the journey winning the game of your life.


Duda, J.L., Balaguer, I., Moreno, Y., & Crespo, M. (2001). The relationship of the motivational climate and goal orientations to burnout among junior elite tennis players. Paper presented to AAASP. Orlando.

Eklund, R. C., Kelley, B.C., Ritter-Taylor, M. (1999). Stress and burnout among collegiate tennis coaches. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 21(2).

Green, L.S., Oades, L.G., & Grant, A.M. (2006). Cognitive-behavioral, solution-focused life coaching: Enhancing goal striving, well-being, and hope. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1(3): 142-149.

Kallus, K.L. & Kellmann, M. (2000) Burnout in Athletes and Coaches. In: Hanin, Y.L. (2000) Emotions in Sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Kelley, B. (1994). A model of stress and burnout in collegiate coaches: Effects of gender and time of season. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 65, 48-58.

Kelley, B., Eklund, B., & Ritter-Taylor, M. (1999). Stress and burnout among collegiate tennis coaches. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 21(2), 113-130.

Klinger, E. (1977). Meaning and void: Inner experience and the incentives in lives. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Leohr, J. & Schwartz, T. (2003) The Power of Full Engagement. NSW, Australia. Allen & Unwin.

Leonard, T.J. (2000). The Portable Coach, New York: Scribner

Olusoga, P., Butt, J., Hays, K., & Maynard, i.(2009). Stress in Elite Sports Coaching: Identifying Stressors. Journal of Applied Sports Psychology, 21, (4), 442-459.

Quinn, A.M. (2010) Become the CEO of your Life. Melbourne Australia, Quinnessential Coaching.

Sheldon, K. M., Kasser, T., Smith, K., & Share, T. (2002). Personal goals and psychological growth: Testing an intervention to enhance goal attainment and personality integration. Journal of Personality, 70, 5–31.
Weinberg, R.S., & Gould, D. (1999). Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics