Coaching is a Drug: How to Use it Well

Coaching is a drug. When you're a coach, you experience moments of pure euphoria. These are moments when someone you have been working with does something they have never done before.

This goes to the heart of coaching: helping other people to improve. But like many other drugs, coaching has potential for abuse, addiction, and tolerance. Coaches sometimes hurt other people to get the "high" of a good performance. They sometimes pursue their work to the detriment of the rest of their lives.

Tolerance is more commonplace. I once witnessed a coach who had two of his swimmers finish 1st and 2nd at the ACC Championships. He watched the race with arms folded, and a stone face. To be fair- it is possible to look that way and still experience euphoria, but when I offered him my congratulations he countered with "there are some things I'd like them to do better".

I decided I wanted to be a coach when I was 14 years old. I had a great coach who completely changed the trajectory of my life. That's always been my story. But their's a lot more to it than that.

Along the way I had a lot of bad coaches. I had a coach that thought that preying on your weaknesses was the best motivation. I had a coach who ruminated that if only he could threaten us with violence, we would perform better. I had a coach who failed to show up to an overnight travel competition. To top it off, he forgot to enter me too.

These coaches motivated me to become a coach. Rather than dishearten me, they motivated me too. I believe that more people deserve good coaching because I knew what a difference having a good or bad coach could make in someone's life.

It was when I started my professional career that I saw the abuse and addiction. That's when I realized that some coaches couldn't help themselves, they needed that performance high and they would do whatever it took, even if it meant hurting an athlete in their charge, to get it. 

Worse yet, I saw so many coaches that were addicted. One definition of addiction to a substance is "continued use in the face of bad consequences". I see so many coaches who are in poor physical health because they are so addicted to coaching that they hardly bother to take care of themselves.

Compounding this are many coaches whose addiction is so tight that it costs them relationships and families. These coaches motivate me too, because I feel for them.

The drug of coaching should be taken in moderation. It should be used judiciously, and not at the cost of hurting other people or your own personal health. Should you have great success, you must work actively to combat tolerance, to be able to recognize good results as they come in and allow yourself to feel happy about them for at least a few moments. Then, and only then, should you set your sights higher.