Lean Into the Struggle

At my husband’s last doctor appointment, he expressed concerns to his doctor about the amount of stress he had been facing. The doctor responded, “Stress? You’re a baseball coach. What’s stressful about that?”

It’s true that he spends every day at the one place he has loved for his entire life: the baseball field. Baseball is fun. He absolutely loves his job, and we frequently reflect on how blessed we are to be able to live this life.

But it is still stressful.

It’s stressful because of the long, difficult hours. Coaching is mentally strenuous. At practice, my husband watches his pitchers and hitters for small nuances to help them tweak their form and rhythm to improve. During games, he studies the other team’s mannerisms to determine what pitch to call next and where to position his defense. In the office, he pours over statistics. At home, he has long conversations with recruits and tries to convince them to join his program, often competing with schools with better records of success and more scholarship money. While lying in bed, he reflects on what he could have done better today and what he intends to do better tomorrow. There is no break.

It’s stressful because those hours are not rewarded with adequate compensation. We try not to worry much about the money. We do what we can to live within our means, but saving is a challenge, and extenuating circumstances arise, bringing extra financial stress with them. My husband was once asked to document his hours spent working and what he accomplished during that time. His boss thought this would provide the proper documentation to justify a pay increase. We were hoping for the equivalent of five dollars per hour. (As you can see, we are seeking a very glamorous lifestyle.) At the end of that month, my husband submitted the requested form. The athletic director took one look at it and shredded it. He said it would be too much to ask for five dollars an hour for all of those hours.

It’s stressful because the responsibilities are great. The coach is expected to plan and prepare for practices and games. He is expected to submit recruiting reports to administrators. Periodically, he is asked to submit other reports as well and must do so in a timely manner. He is expected to ensure all student-athletes are academically successful in all of their classes and fully eligible to play. He must design uniforms and apparel, shop for the best prices, and place orders so everything arrives in time. He must fully take care of his field… or not touch his field no matter what shape it’s in because that is a union job. He is expected to be active in the community and attend as many of the college events as possible. He is expected to be a role model who impacts the lives of the young men on his team. He is expected to keep players, parents, administrators, and alumni happy. He balances these demands with flair.

Despite all of this, it’s stressful because the job is results-driven. Winning matters. When a coach does not win, his job is on the line. When his recruiting class is not better than his current team, his job is on the line. Even if he does everything else right, there is no job security unless he is doing everything right and winning. And, ultimately, no coach can truly do everything right.

So, yes, it is stressful.

But at the end of every day, the stress does not win. We tolerate the stress and learn to lean into the struggle because we love this lifestyle enough to make it work.

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