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The influence of happiness on coaching

This post definitely falls into the category of coaching introspection.

I had a number of interesting exchanges last week with folks all over the world in the wake of my stint coaching in Sweden coming to an end. Most were of the type you’d expect in that kind of situation. A few, though, actually addressed more specifically my state of mind. They really got me thinking.

More relaxed now

The first of those exchanges happened on Thursday while talking with a volleyball friend. He made the comment that I seemed more relaxed than he could ever remember me being. We’ve known each other for a couple of years and have had the chance to hang out in a number of different circumstances. We’ve also talked online numerous times, so this covers a reasonably large sample.

Now, I wouldn’t have said I felt more relaxed at the time, and I was surprised he made that comment. In thinking about it, though, it occurred to me that maybe this was reflective of somewhat less uncertainty in my life. Obviously, I’m now between jobs. For much of the last couple of years, though, I’ve been in a regular state of wondering where the future was going to take me while also wonder when I’d get my PhD work done. The latter is now finished, which is a big load off my mind to be sure. My employment future is hardly fixed, but maybe eliminating one source of stress is enough for me to seem noticeably more relaxed.

Enjoying myself

Looking at things from a slightly different angle, a non-volleyball friend last week asked me whether I enjoyed coaching in Sweden. That was a tough question. I didn’t have a good response. On the one hand, I couldn’t say “No”. On the other hand, I couldn’t immediately say “Yes” either. There were plenty of frustrations during my stay in Svedala, but plenty of good experiences as well.

Even thinking more about the question, I don’t have a clear-cut response. The only thing I think I can reasonably do is make a comparison. Did I enjoy coaching in Sweden more or less than coaching in England? In response to that question I believe the answer is clear. Definitely less. And that is without considering how my time in Sweden ended. There were plenty of frustrations coaching BUCS volleyball in the UK, but all things considered I enjoyed coaching the Exeter teams. It was really rewarding. Sweden less so, though I don’t regret my Swedish experience by any means. Part of the difference was that at Exeter I was involved in meaningful program development. No such opportunity with Svedala.

Happiness

Related to the enjoyment thing, my mother offered up her own perspective. She told me her impression from my updates was that I wasn’t as happy in Sweden as I was in England. This has less to do with volleyball than with life in general, but naturally the two are connected.

In thinking about that observation, I had to generally agree. Life in Sweden was quite isolated. I was living away from town, and for the first 3 months or so in a place that wasn’t very comfortable and lacked internet. I didn’t have housemates to interact with on a day-to-day basis, or professors and peers during the day when I was on campus in Exeter. Plus, as much as most folks speak English, the natural first choice is Swedish. It’s very easy to feel isolated when you don’t understand the conversations going on around you.

It’s also possible the climate impacted my over happiness level. Granted, England isn’t exactly full of sunshine and warm weather all the time. In many ways the Swedish weather was very similar. The days are clearly shorter in the Winter, though. I’ve had some seasonal depression issues in the past, which was a concern in taking the Svedala job. I never felt like I was experiencing anything acute from that perspective, but it may have had a low level persistent influence.

Did it influence my coaching?

I have to figure on some level being less happy and enjoying things less must have had some influence on my coaching. Maybe I was less motivated to perform certain types of duties or act in certain ways. Maybe my energy level while coaching was lower than it would have been in another situation.

This would have been an ideal situation to have someone on-hand who could have watched me and compared my coaching psyche this season vs. prior ones. Unfortunately, I was working with all new people, so that option wasn’t available.

John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women's team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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