Discover more from 3 Points by Brian Sullivan
Psychological Rest for Coaches
For performance and well-being
If you have been here for a bit, you know that I firmly believe coaches are performers. Unfortunately, it seems like the landscape of coaching is moving further and further away from facilitating high performance for coaches. Recent NCAA well-being studies and articles like this, highlight coaches struggling to keep up with NIL and the transfer portal on top of what already was a demanding job.
“When the mental health of coaches thrives, so does the mental health of their student-athletes, staff, and athletic departments as a whole.” - Tess M. Kilwein PhD, ABPP
I don’t believe the burden falls completely on the coaches, like any performer, when the challenge is great, support needs to meet that. So, what can coaches do to move in a direction toward health and high performance?
In this month’s 3 Point’s I’ll discuss psychological rest, why it matters, and some practical tips for attaining it.
1. Why is rest important?
Coaches are expected to perform at high levels within demanding and pressurized environments. To do this effectively and sustainably, coach performance is likely dependent on their psychological readiness. Without rest, research points to coaches experiencing burnout, fatigue, and hindered well-being.
So what is psychological rest for NCAA coaches? Sport Psychology researcher, Dr. David Eccles, sought to answer this exact question.
His team of researchers found two primary types of rest. The first is predictable: sleep. I won’t labor on about the importance of sleep - you can read more here.
2. Wakeful Resting Experiences
In addition to sleep, Eccles found that wakeful resting experiences provided coaches with the psychological rest they needed.
Wakeful resting is comprised of 3 primary experiences:
A break from thinking about work:
What can capture your focus outside of work? A hobby, TV show, and spending time with friends and family could be ways to "switch off". Try to avoid work-related cues like (being at the office, texting staff, etc.)
A break from effortful thinking:
Taking a break from coaching to do your taxes is unlikely to lead to psychological rest. Time alone and listening to music are examples of low-cognitive demand activities.
Engaging in life outside of coaching:
Coaches are "on" a lot and often feel they miss out on life. Finding ways to reduce missing out and feeling like yourself outside of coaching can be beneficial.
3. Tips for Attaining Psychological Rest
Importantly, Eccles et al. point out that there are barriers to coaches getting the rest they need to be at their best:
Has few natural boundaries
Values constant productivity and improvement
So what are some strategies for attaining psychological rest?
Deliberately plan for time to rest
Aim to reduce workload outside of work hours
Make the most out of your time in the office
Recruit self-reliant athletes
Be proactive in setting communication standards
Develop a philosophy of self-care
Lean on coaching community and resources