Stress management is key skill for coaches

Published 11:58 am Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is coaching hazardous to one’s health?

Urban Meyer’s sudden resignation last week was a shock to the college football world. Denials immediately went out that his leaving was health-related, a logical proposition considering that he suffered “esophogeal spasms” after Florida’s loss to Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship Game.

An Associated Press story later rebutted this as an unnamed source indicated that health issues did play a role in Meyer’s resignation, but the question still remains.

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Warren Central coach Josh Morgan knows all too well that one’s health can be affected by stress. Two of the coaches under whom he worked while a graduate assistant at Memphis, head coach Tommy West and secondary coach Tim Keane, both had heart attacks in 2006.

It was one of those startling reminders that the pressure-cooker life of a football coach can be detrimental to one’s health.

Morgan, who was an All-SEC safety at Mississippi State in 2001, knows all about the pressures of big-time college football and he learned early on to find a way to compartmentalize.

“The biggest thing I’ve always done is that I’ve decided to never take my work home with me,” Morgan said. “That way, my time at home is my time and my family’s time. That’s the biggest thing I made myself do and I actually learned that early on, playing.”

The pressures facing Urban Meyer, Mississippi State’s coach Dan Mullen, whose name was mentioned in nearly every coaching vacancy, and all other FBS coaches is immense.

With money flowing freely thanks to TV deals, the need to win games and increase a program’s stature nationally puts a great deal on a head coach. Besides, a head coach at a BCS conference school is the CEO of a vast operation requiring 18-wheeler loads, large staffs and multimillion-dollar budgets to operate.

Add to that the 24/7 nature of recruiting and the constant damage control required by players making it onto the police reports and you have a recipe for a triple-decker stress sandwich.

Winning 10 games and a New Years Day bowl berth might win a coach praise one season, but if next year is a losing one, fans will be asking, like Janet Jackson, what have you done for me lately.

High school coaches face different pressures, but pressure nonetheless. There’s the constant chore of making sure that players keep up their grades and their noses out of trouble. There’s dealing with an ever-impatient fanbase wondering why the glory days still haven’t returned.

But in the end, coaches have to do just one thing: realize that there is only so much you can do.

“You have to have yourself some me time,” Morgan said. “When I leave the fieldhouse, it’s over with, leave it there. Enjoy your family and that’s been my safe haven.”

It’s a lesson that would be best served for us all.

Steve Wilson is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. You can follow him on Twitter at vpsportseditor. He can be reached at 601-636-4545, ext. 142 or at