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Willing to pay the high costs of becoming a coach?

To the vast mainstream public, the lifestyle of a coach is only a dream. Many aspiring coaches see the glamorous lives that current coaches lead on SportsCenter and believe that it is the life for them.

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Many decide to embark on an enchanting journey toward Gatorade showers and sizable paychecks. Unfortunately, the health risks caused from stress, 18-hour workdays, loss of family time, and little pay for coaches do not receive playtime on ESPN.

The truth is that many who desire to coach are unknowingly walking into a profession that may put them at risk. The cost of this lifestyle can unexpectedly jeopardize their health, family, and finances.

The cost of the intense pressure to do whatever is necessary to win can create damaging physical health concerns. More and more coaches are experiencing health related concerns. USA TODAY reported on Mike Martz, former head coach of the St. Louis Rams, who had to sit out most of the season due to health problems. In the article, Dan Reeves, himself a former head coach with health issues, describes that he knows what it feels like to be in Martz's situation. "You spend so much time and energy on the job; you want to see it through. But this thing is really serious."

Reeves missed two games during the Atlanta Falcons' Super Bowl run in 1998 after having quadruple bypass surgery. Sadly, the story of coaches falling ill during the season seems to be a recurring one.

The New Tribune in Tacoma, WA, reported on the story of Ray Rhodes, the Seattle Seahawks assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, who was forced to have his responsibilities severely limited for a majority of the season after suffering a stroke. Rhodes is yet another example of a coach working around the clock. When his defense does not meet expectations, as was the case last season, Rhodes works a little harder and worries a little more.

Many assistants are required to put in just as much time, sometimes more, as their leaders. Steve Sidwell, the defensive coordinator before Ray Rhodes, retired after the Seahawks fired him in 2002.

He had this to say about the profession's influence on an individual's health:

"If you said you are going to have a job where you go to work July 10 and work 90 hours a week without a day off until the middle of January, and then you get maybe 10 days off and we're going to work most of the off season, and every Sunday, you are going to go out and millions of people are going to be able to watch how well you coach your team, is that going to affect your health? Of course it is. You don't have to be a genius to know if you work that way for 25 years, it is going to affect your health." The cost for Sidwell after more than two decades in the league was a stroke.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tells the story of Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Tom Rossley, who was rushed to the hospital after experiencing chest pains in a game in 2005 (Nickel). Before the game, Rossley experienced chest pains and after talking with the trainers was taken by ambulance to the hospital. By the second quarter, Rossley had raced back to the game and began his play-calling duties.

Mike Sherman, head coach of the Green Bay Packers, had this to say of the event: "He was being kind of stubborn about it ... but he wanted to stay at the game and be a part of it so much."

This is just one demonstration of the determination and sacrifice that coaches feel is necessary, even when faced with the cost of serious health concerns.

Coaches are not the only profession in the world that requires long hours. Many other professions have employees that work just as many hours, if not more.

Larry Kennan, a former NFL assistant coach with the Seattle Seahawks, currently the director of the NFL Coaches Association, says, "There are a lot of jobs that are stressful, but the difference for NFL coaches is that they will work 90 to 100 hours a week for 26 straight weeks, without a day off. You can't do that for 15 straight years and not let it cost you your health."

The cost of hours spent away from home is also excessive. Many coaches have had family members become ill. Only then do some realize the cost of all the lost time spent away from home.

Mike Holmgren, the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, experienced the cost of having to watch his wife battling cancer:

Holmgren said, "With me, my life kind of changed a little bit when Kathy got cancer. And I kind of said, OK, let's reevaluate here just a little bit."

The Holmgren story demonstrates that coaches themselves need to understand the costs of their time spent away from their loved ones.

When Larry Keenan admits, "I'm sure of this. At the end of my life, I'm not going to wish that I had worked four more hours a day. By then I'd know what killed me and that changes should have been made."

Many believe that coaching provides a strong financial benefit. Considering the amount of hours that coaches work for their pay, the idea of abundant pay can be misleading. When broken down hourly, the pay can amount to only nickels and pennies an hour for even those earning salaries in the six-figure area. The hourly wage is not what you might expect. The reality is that most high school coaches are paid a stipend (in the Baltimore, MD area) ranging from $3,329 in Harford County to $4,704 in Howard County.

Virtually all of the Baltimore area's coaches are teachers first. Therefore, while a minute percentage of coaches earn millions, a prevailing number is earning a little more then minimum wage. This lack of money can take a toll on a family.

In a study conducted by Charles Fisher, on the divorce rates among Divisions I, II, and III head basketball coaches, Fisher found that the average rate among coaches was 29%. In his report, he reported that the coaches' lifestyle cost an average of almost 69 hours a week spent away from home, while another 77 days were lost per year.

Fisher also asked if coaches believed that the pressure they face contributes to marital difficulties or divorce. An overwhelming 80 % of those surveyed responded yes.

You can see from these numbers that coaching has many more hidden costs.

Given all the risks associated in coaching, we still have hundreds and hundreds of young men and women trying to move into the coaching world. Year after year, there are more applicants for coaching positions then there are jobs. Do these applicants fully understand the situation they are entering?

It is not likely that every one of these hopeful coaches can realize everything that goes into the profession. Without a fair discussion of the job requirements, how is a person to come up with an educated answer on whether the job is right for them? Only when careful consideration of all the coaching duties are examined, can there be a well-informed decision made.

By Daniel M. Burgess & Dr. Gerald Masterson, Physical Education Dept. Missouri State University
COPYRIGHT 2006 Scholastic, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:COACHING
Author:Masterson, Gerald
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Dec 1, 2006
Words:1226
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