Football Coaches Must Take their Health Seriously

July 15, 2017

Football coaches teach a very physical game that preaches toughness and often ignoring small hurts.  98% of all football coaches played the game, and learned those lessons long ago. But coaching the game can be hazardous to the health and welfare of the coach.  Each coach should take a moment before the season starts and evaluate their own personal health. The older you are, the more you should be aware of your health and possible danger signals for men as they move through middle age. Teenagers are often fearless, thinking that they are above injury and sickness.  Football coaches tend to think the same way.

So what causes football coaches to have health concerns?  Many of them are the same as the general public but may be enhanced because of the demands of the job.  Here are five of the top health problems experienced by football coaches.

  1. STRESS– Stress is part of the job regardless of the level of play.  Parents, fans, administrators and media put pressure on coaches to win.  But none of that compares to the pressure that many coaches put on themselves to do everything possible to give their team a chance for success on Friday nights. Stress causes physical and emotional issues, and is a true cause of heart issues among coaches. Accelerated heart rates, arrhythmia issues, increased blood pressures are just some of the issues that can lead to possible cardiac events.  Add on normal cardiac problems that many men experience as they age such as arterial heart disease, and the coach can be a ticking time bomb. Many coaches are not aware of the health problems that can be caused by stress.  In the 1960s, football coaches did very little in the summer, taking off some precious time away from the game.  In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, coaches ran mostly weight workouts during June and July and were able to relax and vacation. Those days have disappeared. Former NFL coach Dick Vermeil said it best. “A head coach is like an engine. You can blow up a Porsche if you drive it too hard and a football coach is no different. You have to find a way to turn it off.”  The demand on a football coach’s time year round can be suffocating.
  2. POOR EATING HABITS– Always on the go, pressured to get things done, coaches often grab a burger, a sugary drink and go.  There is always a game around meal time.  Many skip breakfast in a hurry to get to school early.  Poor eating habits over a number of years can lead to weight issues, diabetes and heart problems.  Stress and poor eating habits often cause football coaches stomach issues, which you usually try to fix with pepto bismol, Rolaids and other over the counter remedies, rather than seeking the advice of a physician.
  3. LACK OF EXERCISE– Coaches direct a lot of other people in exercise and workouts, but often do very little of it themselves.  You go to school early and stay up late.  Classes to teach and plan for, practices, game plans and video to watch.  If you get a few minutes, you usually need to go home and spend some time with your wife or family, or cut the grass that you haven’t been able to get to this week. It is not unusual for coaches to work 80 hours in week during the season. Where do you find time to exercise?
  4. LACK OF SLEEP–  Can’t sleep before games because you are worried.  Can’t sleep after the game because you are replaying the game in your head- missed assignments, injuries, dropped passes, bad calls. You stay up late to work on scripts or game plans or practice video after the kids go to bed. You spend Saturday night staying up to 2 AM watching video and trying to organize your game plan for the next week. When you finally go to bed, you can’t sleep because you are still watching the video and organizing your game plan in your head.  Sleep deprivation over a long term can have severe health consequences, including the same heart issues listed earlier, as well as cognitive problems as you advance into middle age status.  It will also make you less alert mentally and cut some valuable needed energy as the day progresses.
  5. TOO MUCH TIME IN THE SUN– Football coaches spend much of their life outside at physical education classes and practice, much of it without any protection from the sun’s harmful rays.

Here are some remedies that will help you to keep your health, coach longer, and hopefully get to spend some time with your grandchildren one day.

  1. GET A YEARLY PHYSICAL- Go to your family physician once a year and get a complete physical done.  Best to do this at a time when your schedule is not quite so packed. You should really start this by age 30.  Your physician can schedule tests and advise you on things to do to keep you operating for years to come.  The great Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi died of colon cancer at 57, refusing to stop and have a colonoscopy.  If you develop any kind of possible cardiac problem including high cholesterol, go see a cardiologist once a year.
  2. GO TO THE DERMATOLOGIST – Make a yearly appointment with a dermatologist and let this physician check you over completely. They will burn off some precancerous spots and hopefully eliminate melanoma as a problem as the years go by.  Use sunscreen and a hat that helps to keep your face and ears out of as much of the sun rays as possible at all times.
  3. CHANGE YOUR DIET– Use a physician or nutritionist to help you with this.  Get off of fatty foods and sugar. Drink more water and eat more fruit and vegetables.  Eat a nutritional breakfast each day. Chances are, you will lose weight and add energy.  Proper nutrition takes planning, and you will need to set aside a little time to make a grocery list, or pack your lunch each day. Get some nutritional snacks and keep from going long periods of time without eating anything.  Changing your diet is really about changing your habits.  Make it a priority.
  4. EXERCISE (Even during the season)– You don’t have to go to the gym or hire a personal trainer. You don’t have to spend money on a fancy machine or run a mile.  You don’t have to even change into workout clothes. But you do need to get a plan. Simply walking 40 minutes a day is enough to make a difference in your health.  Plan when you will walk each day.  It could be before school, during a planning period or after practice. You can walk at night after the kids go to sleep.  If something interrupts your walk and you can’t go, don’t beat yourself up.  Just make sure to walk 5-6 days per week.
  5. COMMIT TO MORE SLEEP– This is kind of a life style change.  Avoid caffeine, especially at night. Stay away from late night snacks. Stay off the computer as much as possible in the evenings and don’t watch video and then try and go to bed.  Your mind will still be racing. Set a definite time to go to sleep each night and stick to it. Read something relaxing that is non football. Find out what works for you. It may take a while to change this habit, but it could add time to your life.
  6. FIND YOURSELF A GET AWAY– Coaches need to find something that they enjoy that will allow them a few moments of relaxation.  It can be a hobby like fishing or hunting, a cabin in the woods or at the lake or riding the boat or waverunner.  It might be running, playing golf or racquet ball.  It could be traveling with your wife. It needs to be outside and active if possible.  Coaches must have a time to relax away from the chaos of their jobs.  Think about this and make a commitment to it.  Plan your time away and protect it from the demands of your job.  During the season, take some time off on the weekend and make yourself forget about your football job for a little while (if possible).
  7. WORK AT HAVING A POSITIVE ATTITUDE TOWARD YOUR LIFE– One of the best things you can do is find something uplifting to read and spend a few minutes each night reading it (especially right before going to sleep). Improve your spiritual life.  Enjoy the little things with your family by setting aside some family time each week and making it and protecting that time.  (Say to the principal, “yes we can talk about that, but I can’t do it then. I am going and do this with my family at that time.)” Ask your wife out on a date during football season. After she gets up off the floor, let her pick the place to eat.  Care more about your coaches.  Make a pledge to be more positive in all areas of your life, including with your team and players.  Commit to less worry.  Cut practice off early one day and give your coaches and players ten minutes to exit the building. Spend some time with an adult who doesn’t coach with you and see if you can talk about something other than football. Chances are that this lifestyle will make you a more productive coach, husband and father. It is important to remember that coaching football is your job, it is not who you are.

If you recognize yourself in any of this issues, make some changes.  If you are able to correct some things in your life, you just might get to retire and enjoy some years of good health in your post football days.