Viewpoints: Coaches and stress

When Florida coach Urban Meyer resigned, then changed his mind to take a leave of absence, coaches all over the country knew exactly what was going on. Working harder than the next guy doesn’t often lead to great health and family situations. So how tough is this college coaching situation? And what’s the best way to approach it?

Bill Curry, Georgia State football coach

“We love to talk about how noble we are for working 100 hours a week. It’s the culture of our business, and we’re all driven competitors. I was born that way. My dad was that way, and I was taught that at all times, do my best, never give up and work harder than the next guy, no matter what. That gets into your hard-drive.

“Then you get into football, already obsessed from the inside and now you’re adding external pressures of people watching you, the media watching, ESPN watching. But working harder than the next guy, no matter what, does enormous collateral damage.

“While I was at ESPN, I had very prominent coaches pull me into their office before games and say, ‘I’ve got a son that I love, but I don’t know him. Do you have a suggestions?’ I’d say, ‘Yeah, but you’re not going to take my advice. Go home after practice. Make sure you see your family at one end of the day. Come to work early, get home early, or go in late and stay late. I promised my staff at GSU I would do that.

“I destroyed my health in 21 years of coaching and got to the level of fatigue where I couldn’t operate as a good decision-maker, with migraines and exhaustion overtaking me. If I could do it over again, I’d do it differently. I have children who have gotten sick of me apologizing over the last 15 years for not being there. I thought that was what I was supposed to do.”

Vince Dooley, former Georgia coach

“I think coach Mark Richt addresses that balance better than most I’ve seen. It’s an entirely difficult dilemma to balance your driven life as a coach who wants to be the best, and at same time, balance it with family.

“The best way I know to do it is to marry someone like the person I married, who has the committed and dedicated position of wanting to be a wife and mother and a part-time father. I had the same problem with not spending as much time with my children. I largely neglected them. If I had to do it all over again, well, we all say we’d do it differently, but you never know.

“As far as taking care of myself, I’ve always worked out. But that doesn’t guarantee your health will be great. I had a heart problem, and will never forget it. We were playing Vandy and they had jumped out on us by three touchdowns. The place was going crazy and suddenly, I’m having severe chest pains. In that critical moment, I was thinking that this would be a heck of a way for my career to come to an end. Fortunately, we caught Vandy and my pain went away … for a couple of days. I ended up having angioplasty.

“Coaching is all about surviving a series of crises, either on the field or off. I thought at the time it would be great to take a sabbatical and get away for a year. In those days, we couldn’t afford to, while these days they can. I envy Coach Meyer in that respect to take it. It’d be great for every coach to do that, and get re-energized.”