November 15, 2023 • Athletic AdministrationCoaching

Establishing better work-life balance

One of the vexing problems for many athletic administrators is finding a work-life balance between the demands of their position with that of spending quality time with their family. Unfortunately, I was never able to achieve a good work-life balance, and often neglected my wife and children.

Kiddingly, my wife would occasionally mention that she should take a photo of me to show the kids. “Hey, this guy is your dad.” And there was an element of truth to this idea, since I was seldom at home. Like many athletic administrators and coaches, I often had responsibilities at school. I routinely missed birthday parties, family dinners, and the athletic games and activities of our children.

work-life balanceDue to my game and practice responsibilities as a coach, and then game management and hosting various meetings as an athletic administrator, my schedule was unrelenting and exceptionally demanding. This meant that my wife, Diane, took the cars to the shop to be repaired, called the plumber for work that needed to be done, attended all of our kids’ back to school and meet the teacher evenings. In addition, she took the kids to the doctors, went grocery shopping, cooked meals, did the laundry, and kept the house going. Meanwhile, I would arrive home to find a microwave dish for dinner, a place to sleep and shower, and then the whole routine would start over again the next morning.

The following are some good practical suggestions to help create a work-life balance. Even though you should find several of these ideas and tidbits to find a better work-life balance, I do feel a little hypocritical offering them since I was so totally unsuccessful.

Plan and set aside dedicated family time. Whether this comes over the weekend, during vacation breaks, or even for a few minutes daily, take the actual step of planning and putting it on your schedule or calendar. Once this is listed, you are more likely to stick with it and not allow school responsibilities to take center stage other than in an extreme emergency.

Create a ‘no interruption’ Sunday. This is perhaps the only day of the week in which you don’t have school responsibilities. This day, therefore, has to be totally dedicated to your family. How do you accomplish this objective? Easy, don’t answer your cell phone or return email messages on Sunday. In advance of taking this approach, post and communicate to everyone—your principal, coaches, parents, and anyone else involved—that you won’t be responding. Strongly suggest that individuals can and should leave a message on your school answering machine or voice mail, and the same for email. Clearly state that you will return the message as soon as you can when you arrive in your office on Monday.

Find coverage for game management responsibilities to attend your children’s games and performances, and this may mean having to be creative. If you don’t have an assistant, get approval from your principal or superintendent to put money aside in an account to occasionally pay an out-of-season coach or department chair to perform this duty. Of course, go through your school’s acceptable procedures and pay this individual with a check to ensure transparency and documentation.

Work with your spouse to find alternative dates to schedule birthday parties and other similar events when they may fall on the date of a major school contest or function. Sometimes moving a celebration, party, or family event one day forward or backward can eliminate the conflict, and you will be able to accomplish both without causing a problem or neglecting either entity.

work-life balanceAlways thank your spouse for being understanding and supportive. This was another huge shortcoming on my part. Uttering the words “Thank you” and “I appreciate everything that you do to keep this family going” are important, essential steps. It might also help if you get this person a surprise gift occasionally. Praise, thanks, and teambuilding efforts that you use with your coaching staff, will and should also be successful at home.

Take along and include your children, if possible, in your school responsibilities. Obviously, you need to consider their age, the nature of the contest, and what you have to do, but if they can tag along, and especially if they can perform a small helpful task, it can be a fun activity and valuable time spent with you. If you have game management responsibilities, for example, their dinner could be a hotdog and a beverage. While this isn’t a balanced, healthy option, on special occasions it will be fine.

Leave a brief note at the breakfast table or with your child’s bookbag, if you leave in the morning before they are up and about. It can be a simple message such as “Have a great day” and “I’ll see you at soccer this afternoon. Love you!” While this can’t replace your physical presence, the personal touch lets him or her know that you care and are thinking about them.

Try to leave your work, headaches, and worries at school. Make every effort to pay attention to your children, and maybe even help your wife, for example, with the dishes. Focus on your family when you finally get home. Remember that these are good suggestions, even though this is another one that I definitely didn’t master.

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Always, always acknowledge your spouse’s support at awards programs, pre-season parent meetings, and any other school function that you can. Mention the obvious that you could not do everything that is required or expected in your position without her or his enormous help! You might consider having your spouse stand for a round of applause, depending upon how your partner will receive this gesture.

Continue to submit proposals to add an assistant, the ability to use flex time, and other creative solutions to reduce your daily and weekly work hours. To accomplish this objective, document how much time you devote to your various tasks and responsibilities, such as game management duties at your various venues, conducting meetings, and attending league or state association functions. Use this data for your presentations in your meetings with your principal and superintendent.

While this list of suggestions should be helpful for some, or perhaps many athletic administrators, the best piece of advice that I can offer is to do as I say, and not as I did. After all, I was a total failure and a disaster at creating a work-life balance between my professional responsibilities and establishing quality time with my family. Hopefully, you can do much better at finding a work-life balance and ultimately succeed.