NBC Sports Washington brought together local coaches Ron Rivera (Washington football), Todd Reirden (Capitals), Scott Brooks (Wizards) and Mike Thibault (Mystics) to discuss the intricacies of their craft in a free-wheeling discussion hosted by Julie Donaldson. We present six days highlighting different themes of their conversation - experiences, stories and lessons shared from careers in coaching. To watch the full roundtable, click here.
Just about everyone in their life has had the feeling there are not enough hours in the day. Probably most of the people reading this feel that way now. If you don’t, you’re among the lucky few.
Between balancing work with family and your own physical and mental health, it can be a grind. Often, we let some things slip through the cracks. There are plenty of workaholics out there who wish they could spend more time with their kids - or others who just can’t find time in their day for a good workout.
Professional coaches are no different.
To talk about those challenges in a high-stakes industry, several local coaches spoke with Julie Donaldson in NBC Sports Washington’s Coaches’ Roundtable.
Donaldson was joined by Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks, Washington Mystics head coach Mike Thibault, Washington Capitals head coach Todd Reirden and Washington football head coach Ron Rivera to discuss multiple topics, including that elusive work/life balance is an unforgiving profession.
COACHES' ROUNDTABLE: WATCH THE FULL DISCUSSION WITH COACH BROOKS, REIRDEN, RIVERA AND THIBAULT
To say coaching is a stressful job is an understatement. As the saying goes, you are hired to be fired. Coaches spend countless hours in their high-pressure jobs trying to justify their contracts. Meanwhile, every other coach in every league is doing the same thing and the only way to prove your worth is to beat that other guy.
Coaches don’t get to just put a bad day on the job behind them. Those bad days are public and quickly turn into news stories, judged by critics and become discussion topics for the fans.
But professional coaches are also subject to the same challenges of normal life. They still must maintain their health and make time for family.
“We have to have good balance,” Brooks said. “You’ve got to have good relationships, you’ve got to have good nutrition, you’ve got to have good sleep, you’ve got to be physically ready to play every practice and every day.”
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Considering the hours the coaches work and the frequent travel, it is easy to neglect personal health. That’s something Thibault hopes to get right during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I'm finally getting back to the getting fit part. I kind of let that slip for a while so I decided that when all this pandemic started that I was going to make some use of this and come out of it better on the other end,” Thibault said
Most of the country feels the same way. And he seems to be sticking to it through these difficult months.
“That’s been interesting for me, learning to eat better again and work out more,” Thibault said.
One more thing coaches can’t neglect, however, is their mental health.
Part of coaching is mental. It’s about developing game plans and trying to outwit the opposing coach. You can’t do that if you are not taking care of your mental health.
“My main focus is really on trying to make sure I stay sharp,” Reirden said. “The game moves so quickly and coaching and making sure you're taking care of your matchups and doing everything you need to do, you have to be sharp. If you want to be sharp mentally to be able to coach a game or run a practice how you want to, you must be able to shut your brain down from hockey for a while. My vehicle for doing that is spending time at home.”
It’s only when we really take care of ourselves that we begin to realize how much of our success can be tied directly to it. And sometimes taking care of ourselves means taking care of our families and making sure we don’t miss out on that time that we can never have back.
“I go in earlier seems like every day to be able to get home earlier that day so I can have some time with my 17-18-year-old son and spend some time making sure that I'm there for dinner or whatever we are at home. And you know I'm in a transition period for him and obviously as he's getting older and getting ready to go into his senior year and going off to college that this will be some of my last chances to spend with him.”
“I've tried to purposely set aside time for myself and my family,” Thibault said. “Even if you have to schedule a little bit ‘I'm going to do this workout at a certain time of day,’ and make it as an appointment like you would anything else. And say, ‘This is my hour for doing this or this is my time for doing that.’ I think part of it in today's society is being able to turn off your phone and not be looking at it every five minutes and seeing where you are with things.”
That, of course, is tough for all of us. But when you must travel and work the hours coaches do, it means time away from your family. That means when you do get to be at home and with them, you have to mentally be there for them and not just physically present.
Rivera touched on the importance of being mentally strong and not just a good coach, but to make sure you take advantage of that time you have with your family.
“I have a friend who’s a sports psychologist, Dr. Kevin Elko, and I've worked with him since I was with Philadelphia when I was in my first full-time position with Andy Reid back in 1999,” Rivera said. “And one of the things Dr. Elko always used to stress, and I really love, and I tell my players this all the time, be where your feet are. Be where your feet are. If you're here at practice, be at practice. If you're in the game, be in the game. If you're at home, be at home with your family.”
Many people struggle to come to grips with the realization that taking care of yourself is an important part of doing your job well. It’s a lesson professional coaches remind themselves of frequently.
“This job is a grind,” Brooks said. “It takes a lot. It takes a lot of time and it keeps you away from things, but if you don't take care of yourself, you're not gonna be your best person.”
To watch the full Coaches' Roundtable with Coach Brooks, Coach Reirden, Coach Rivera and Coach Thibault, click here.
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