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Coaching Economics 101 — Keep Coaching

 In 2016, Nathan Fleck (left) ran 1:47 for 800m to win the Portland Twilight, beating Olympians and US Champions in the process. Sharing that moment with him is one of my fondest coaching memories.

In 2016, Nathan Fleck (left) ran 1:47 for 800m to win the Portland Twilight, beating Olympians and US Champions in the process. Sharing that moment with him is one of my fondest coaching memories.

In the world of sport, nothing is certain. 

This was a hard lesson for me to learn as a young coach, but I have come to fully embrace it and champion the freedom this reality brings. 

Coaching, like teaching, was once a stable profession in North America. Coaches would hold tenure at universities and high schools for decades. One of my mentors, Rob Conner, has been coaching at his university for over half his life. I had hoped to be so fortunate, but then the world changed. The stability that coaches like R.C. enjoys is sadly an artifact of the past. As this golden generation of coaches nears retirement, their inheritors step into a much different landscape of the sport. Nowadays for young coaches, job security is a myth. 

It is far too common to see a promising young coach out of a job by the end of track season. Not because they did anything wrong or their athletes didn't enjoy success, rather because their leadership changed. And it was a circumstance they had no control or influence over.

The accelerating turnover in athletic departments and corporate administration is unfortunately too frequent. Any leadership transitions brings change, and usually new faces. I get it. People want to hire and be surrounded by people they already know and trust. I do too. So I don't hold a grudge.

It took me a while to make peace with the way the world is in the coaching profession — I have, but I still don't like it. I believe if you are good at your job and give everything you have to succeed, you deserve to keep it. But such is a fairy tale. 

However, don't despair! I have discovered a tonic for the rocky path of a coaches life. 

And it is this: Keep Coaching.

If you were a head coach, but now must be a volunteer — Keep Coaching. 
If you were making six figures a year, and now must settle for a few thousand dollars a season — Keep Coaching. 
If you were coaching Division 1 and now can only get a gig at a middle school — Keep Coaching. 

Keep Coaching. Keep Coaching. Keep Coaching.  No matter what. 

Titles and pay grades will come and go, but nothing is stopping you from showing up and doing your work. It matters. It is important. And is the only way to get better and stay in the game. 

I've seen my fair share of ups and downs in my career. I've been hired, fired, I've quit, and been let go. Had contracts renewed, not renewed, and renewed for far less than the previous year. But despite it all, I kept coaching. And as long as oxygen is in my lungs, I will keep coaching. 

And I hope you will too. 

The athletes, the sport, and you will be better for it.

 

Thanks for reading. I'm glad you're here. // jm 

Jonathan Marcus