How To Deal With Coaching Burnout

In respect to sports, burnout is most associated with athletes. But coaches can burnout too!

While some coaches coach full-time, for most of us, coaching is a side-gig born out of our passion for our sport and the desire to help others. As such, coaching tasks such as updating schedules and athlete emails/phone calls often occur after a long day at your full-time job and taking care of your family… and countless other tasks and responsibilities – including your own training.

While scheduling and time management is critical for coaches who perform this balancing act, the reality is that no matter how well one schedules their day, coaching tasks are often hard to fit in without feeling overwhelmed.

Below are some ways to deal with burnout (as well as prevent it!):

DON’T OVERBOOK

Yes, it’s exciting to start and grow a coaching business, but you have to manage your own expectations. As an analogy, if a client told you they only have 3 hours a week to train, you (hopefully) wouldn’t advise them to tackle an Ironman. Likewise, if you only have 2 hours per week to dedicate to coaching, you should put a cap on how many clients you take on. This should be based on how much time per client you estimate you’ll need to not just meet, but exceed their expectations and therefore fully deliver for the client!

Focus on quality – not quantity!

SCHEDULE – SCHEDULE – SCHEDULE

It’s imperative to block out time to work on your coaching business. Remember, your coaching business is not just about sending emails and hopping on phone calls. Your business likely also involves marketing, admin, website updates, blogging, etc..

Write down a list of everything that your business requires in regard to your time and make a schedule for this. For example, while sending schedules might be a weekly occurrence, updating your website might only be done every 6 months.

MANAGE THE EXPECTATIONS OF YOUR CLIENTS

When starting with a new client, or if modifying your communication schedule, you must inform your clients of exactly when and how they will be receiving communication from you. Ideally this information will be in your contract that you have your client read and sign.

This way, both you and your athletes will be on the same page in respect to communication.

MAKE TIME FOR YOU!

With so many things vying for your time, it’s very easy to forget about you! Don’t forget to look out for number one and schedule time for yourself. Whether it’s a five minute meditation, or time spent watching Netflix, making time for yourself is NOT wasted time – it’s a necessity!

BE SELECTIVE

Regardless if you’re starting your coaching practice, or growing your existing one, I implore you to be selective about who you take on as clients. Especially when starting out, it’s very tempting to take on every client that comes your way. Been there, done that!

Here’s the thing… just like relationships in general, not all will be the right fit. When I say, “Be Selective,” I’m not just referring to the type of athlete or experience level (ex: ultrarunner, beginner, etc…). I’m talking about everything! This includes personality, boundaries (not calling you at 2am with a question about periodization) and overall respect.

As such, I highly recommend you have some sort of trial period to ensure that it’s the right fit for both you and the athlete, as well as a stipulation in your contract that both you and your client can end the coaching relationship at any time.

Because believe me, there is nothing worse than have one or more clients that you don’t enjoy working with. When I was coaching and training full-time, I called these clients ‘Life Force Suckers’ – or LFS for short! These LFS’s will do exactly that… drain the life out of you and will likely fast track you to burnout level in no time!

REMEMBER WHY YOU GOT INTO COACHING

It’s easy to view coaching as purely a ‘job,’ but as discussed above, remember why you got into it in the first place. It likely wasn’t to eclipse Jeff Bezos as the richest person on earth (… or is it Bill Gates now?). It’s likely because you love your sport and want to help others to feel the same way and to meet their sport-specific goals.

So when you’re exhausted from a long day at work and still have to mow the yard, fit in your own training and get dinner prepared… remember why you got into coaching in the first place!

YOU NEED A CANCELLATION POLICY

If you work with clients in-person, you need a cancellation policy… period. In respect to burnout, worrying about lost income and rescheduling sessions is a never ending process without a solid cancellation policy. While the specifics of the policy are up to you, the policy must be fair to both you and the client.

That said, I would encourage you to not allow for rescheduling of sessions and to make the policy reciprocal – meaning, if you charge for cancellations within 12 hours of an appointment, you must give a complimentary session or credit your client if you cancel within the same time frame. 

AUTOMATE AND OUTSOURCE

The more things related to your coaching business that you can automate and, or outsource the better – so long as quality is not compromised.

GO TO YOUR ATHLETE(S) RACE!

If possible, go to a race that one of your clients is participating in. While not always possible due to distance or time demands, I’ve found that when you get to meet your clients face-to-face and in particular, at one of their races, the energy helps to reinvigorate you and remind you why you got into coaching and why you still love it!


Rick Prince is the founder of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA), a science/evidence-based endurance sports coaching education company that certifies running and triathlon coaches.

To get a $50 discount on the Running Coach Certification, click here!

Rick Prince

Rick Prince

Founder/Director of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA).

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