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I was inspired to write this article because of my own experiences, watching Super Rugby and the stress that coaches are under and chatting to my fellow coaches – good coaches that have been fired after the 2015 World Cup.


Recently I saw how two young coaches went through perturbation and were highly strung and stressed, all because of the pressures of the game.

It does not matter at what level you coach, there will always be pressure, on and off the field.

This pressure will come from unions, clubs, schools, supporters, society, parents and the presure you put on yourself.

The only difference lies in the level of coaching; the higher the level, the more the pressure, the more you are scrutinised and the more you are public property.THE LONELY LIFE OF A RUGBY COACH

There are two well known sporting sayings regarding coaches:

Ken Loeffler said: "There are only two kinds of coaches – those who have been fired, and those who will be fired."


While Lou Holtz said: "Coaching is nothing more than eliminating mistakes before you get fired."

There is a perception that being a coach is all about fun and flying high, bells and whistles, trophies, appearing on TV and in magazines.

This perception has people believing that with being a coach come girls, big houses, lots of fame and money.

The list goes on and on.


That is so far from the truth.

Maybe it looks like that on the surface, but it can sometimes be a very lonely life and all the material possessions and ego mean absolutely nothing.

One day you are a hero and the next day you are zero.

It does not matter what you have done, what you have achieved, how many trophies you have in the showcase or who you are – you are always as good as your last game and that goes for coaches and players.

I actually want to break it down to the head coach, because as they say, the buck stops there.

The coach feels the heat directly, but sometimes gets the glory.

When you decide to follow the pathway of a coach and pursue that career, be sure that you know and understand the pros and cons of the position.

I must reiterate that it is an amazing and fulfilling job, but has its normal challenges.

However, if you love the game, those things and negatives are minor.

If you are there for other reasons – such as ego, money, etc. – you are bound to bomb or burn out at some time.

Often questions are asked: "How does it feel to be a well known coach? Do you make lots of money? How does it feel to be famous? Do you enjoy seeing your pictures in the papers and magazines? How does it feel to lift a trophy? Do you enjoy travelling and seeing the world?"

Then there is the flipside: "How does it feel to be fired? How do you cope with all the negative remarks and publicity? How does it feel to be so hated or loved by the supporters and media?"

It is a tough job.

However, the answer is simple – JUST LOVE THE GAME!

Personally, I think being a coach is so much more.THE LONELY LIFE OF A RUGBY COACH

It is a huge responsibility, not just winning on he field.

It's about preparing people for life, giving them tools and mechanisms, life skills, teaching and preparing them for the challenge after rugby – and what better platform is there than the sports field.

Coaching is not a five-day-a-week job, it's seven days a week.

If you are not on the field training, preparing for a game/season/competition, you are in the team/technical room or even at home analysing, evaluating, gathering information, thinking, planning and preparing.

So that is the tough, behind the scenes part that not a lot of people are aware of.

In reality, a job description for a head coach could include the following aspects:

* Leader

* Organiser

* Manager

* Friend

* Counsellor

* Teacher

* Motivator

* Innovator

* Hero

* "Fall guy" – in front of the firing squad

* Decision maker

* Role model

* Planner

* Taxi driver

Well that sounds simple and easy to fulfill, but it is a tall order. 

I guess many coaches can relate to some of these points and have already been part of such a process

So what can a coach do to survive and overcome these pressures?

The secret lies in BALANCE. You create your own environment, surroundings and happiness and remember, you can only control the controllables.

A few tips:

* Stay fit & healthy

* Be honest with integrity

* Stand for what you believe in

* Surround you by positive people

* Appoint the best assistant coaches and managementTHE LONELY LIFE OF A RUGBY COACH

* Listen & be hungry to Learn

* Maintain a sense of humour and laugh more

* Keep a good balance between work, fun and rest

* Get a mentor (soundboard)

* Invite conflict and turn it to positives

* Make time for your family/friends away from rugby

* Get hobbies that you enjoy

* Utilize your sports psychologist

How can you become a better coach?

Every coach has a specific personality and style.

There are many different approaches to coaching, but I have a very simple motto; coach from the heart and, above anything else, care for your players and the people in the sporting environment where you function.

Earn respect with your behaviour, not with the position you are in.

A few guidelines:

1. Know your players and the support team (detail/background)

2. Detailed Strategic and tactical Planning (contingency)

3. Develop and use your coaching skills

4. Develop the art of good leadership

5. Know and understand your role and responsibility

6. Improve communication skills

7. Be yourself and believe in yourself (also be brutally honest with yourself)

In conclusion I would like to inspire all coaches to live their dreams, change lives, and to win and lose. 

As funny as it sounds, you actually learn more from losing and it can have a positive outcome.

In addition, coaches must acknowledge that "coach" is a title you have to earn and take with all the positives and negatives that come with the package!


By Eugene Eloff



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