What is an Identity?
Individual identity is what defines you as a person. People think of when they hear your name and what they see you do out in public. For many, they only have one identity associated with themselves, and it defines their entire existence. This can be the case for many that are associated with sports. Sports are a great medium for people to express themselves, but there are very few for which it will define their entire lives.
For many, there need to be many identities so they can pivot if one is erased. This is true for coaches as well as players. It is easy for coaches to get absorbed into their team and the game and forget about the rest of the world as coaching full-time can eat up so much time. But what if this were to come to an end abruptly? Where would this coach that is deeply immersed in the game and has shut everything else out turn to? Having an identity outside of sports is important. It can aid in the coach's mental well-being and those surrounded by the coach.
Why is Having More Than One Identity Important?
When talking about multiple identities outside of sports, it's important to understand what that really means. It does not mean that you would be an entirely different person when you switch from one part of your life to another. It simply means that there is more than one purpose to daily life, which is coaching. For part-time coaches of youth sports, this is not necessarily an issue. Many have full-time jobs that makeup one part of their identity, and coaching their child in a sport after school and on the weekends can act like another. This is directed at the high-level high school coaches and higher levels who are coaching full-time as a job. These coaches are often so immersed in their job that they have trouble keeping other aspects of their lives afloat.
Coaching can be a difficult and extremely stressful job. There is constant pressure to win games and be successful for most programs, and if you do not, you are out. It can also be tough to find another job after you have been fired. This leads to coaches becoming obsessed with winning to keep their jobs, which leads to less time being devoted to the other aspects of their lives. Taking a step back and setting aside time to nurture these other aspects of life can positively impact the relationships around the coach and their mental health.
Why Social Relationships Are Important
Social relationships are important for humans to have regardless of race or gender. We are social beings and need interaction with others to thrive. Coaches often have social networks within their programs and over time will develop a network spreading much farther than that. However, coaching full-time is not a 9-5 job. It requires days, evenings, and weekends. It is effortless to shut out others that are not directly associated with sport and their current program. This can create a strain on relationships that were made outside of sport.
Having friends that are not involved in sports can be beneficial in several ways. One is that spending time with them can give the coach's brain a much-needed break from coaching and allow them to talk about topics other than sports. It can also give them different perspectives on how other people do things in different industries that they can apply to their coaching, such as managing people, which is an important factor in almost every industry.
Having Multiple Hobbies
Having interests outside of sports can have similar benefits as creating social relationships outside of sports and often go hand-in-hand. The biggest similarity is that they can break from the coaching grind and let the coach relax a little. Many younger coaches can struggle with this as they think that they have to grind to achieve their coaching goals and make it to the top. It is not that they are wrong, if this is their goal, it will take much time, effort, and sacrifice. But what you notice as coaches get older, they start to realize that although coaching is important in young athletes' development, it is not everything. Spending a little time doing something that is of interest and non-coaching related can refresh the mind and improve their drive.
Hobbies can come in the form of basically anything. It could be a creative pastime such as painting or photography or an active one such as hiking or surfing. The important thing is to take a little time away from coaching to clear the mind and have fun.
Family And Support Systems
The families of full-time coaches can often have the worst end of the deal. They are the ones who are often neglected with the crazy schedule that comes with coaching. And if they are a professional coach, it can often mean moving frequently, sometimes cross country. Constant moving and lack of time spent with a spouse or parent that is coaching can be stressful and sometimes strain familial relationships. Nobody wants to be the person on their deathbed, reminiscing and saying that they wish they had not worked so much and spent so little time with their loved ones. Those years do not come back, it only happens once.
Take a step away from coaching and spend time with those that matter the most. Family members are our number one support system, and if they are not on our side, then no one is. It is easy to get caught up in coaching careers and the lives of players. Those are important too, but it is hard for players to take advice from a coach that does not have things in order in his or her own life.
Identities are what define us as individuals and make up our reputations. Having more than one does not mean that you act like a different person for different identities. It simply means that there is more than one purpose in your life. Many in the coaching world struggle with this as coaching is one of the most stressful and biggest time commitment careers to choose from but can be one of the most rewarding. Having an identity outside of coaching can help with burnout and the coach's mental health, possibly leading to improvements as a coach.
These identities can come in several forms, and just a few were mentioned in this article. Forming social relationships outside of the sport and program the coach is associated with can help coach a break from the grind and give a different perspective on their work. Having hobbies can have a similar impact in taking a step back from coaching and allowing the mind the rest and having a little fun at the same time. And of course, the family cannot be neglected. It is a coach's biggest support system and needs to be in place to be an example to athletes in their system. In the long run, having an identity outside of coaching can improve mental health and allow them to take a different path if coaching is suddenly taken away from them.