Fired Coaches and Fans Deal With Psychological and Emotional Adjustments

PC: Redskins Blog

PC: Redskins Blog

Black Monday is upon us, already many coaches have been let go, and there is little doubt that there are more firings to come.  The reactions from fans, players, and those within their respective organizations is overwhelming, but I can assure you that the coaches who were let go are experiencing a wide range of emotions.

Some are not as upset as you might think and some are quite upset, but at the end of the day no one wants to be fired. It comes with a whole set of emotional and psychological adjustments that can be hard to overcome. 

Given the jobs and salaries of most fans, I can understand that there might not be a lot of sympathy for those that were terminated. It is safe to say that fans are usually happy to see a coach fired who has failed to improve their team while earning a hefty pay check to boot.

While the life of a football coach may seem glamorous or desirable to some, it is by its very nature a transitory one.  Coaches make many stops and have many positions within organizations prior to getting hired at the NFL level.

Even the most connected of coaches often start out getting water for the players and making copies. Bill Belichick’s story is well chronicled and a  compelling one. It is good reading for those who might want to get an idea of how many get started in sports and coaching.

Moreover, there are many emotional stressors and practical hurdles along the way. Families experience frequent disruptions and the constant change of residences, schools and a whole lot more, which can put a strain on the most harmonious of relationships.

Coaching is a transitory profession at any level. There are few coaches who stay at their positions for long periods of times. Coaches like Tom Coughlin, and Bill Belichick have had extended stays within their organizations, as did Andy Reid prior to leaving Philadelphia.

But they are the exception as the average employment length for NFL coaches depending upon which season you are measuring is around four years plus.

Coaches are people too, they have families to support, bills to pay and feelings. Yet we tend to objectify them and judge them.

Status and one’s situation is relative and often some of us are unable to understand and grasp that. Thus, we tend to measure our own position against others and pronounce judgment upon them. Viewed in this manner there would be nothing to get upset about because it is all relative.

Given this reasoning most anything can be quantified and judged. So for example, the loss of a child could be quantified, qualified and judged. Many claim that parents who have had their child for ten years do not have a right to grieve as much as those who lost their child at three years of age and so on.

Yet we can all agree that the loss of a child under any circumstance is a horrific experience.

The loss of a job is one of the most stressful things that can happen to someone. Besides the obvious loss of income which can have severe effects on both the person who has lost their job, and their dependents, people who get fired often suffer from depression and feelings of anger, despair, hopelessness and lack of self-worth. They frequently question their competency and their ability to provide for their loved ones.

It has been my experience that the ways that people are let go from their jobs often helps them in dealing with their termination. For example, people who are given time to prepare for the loss of their position by being offered severance pay and buyouts, tend to handle the situation better than people who are let go suddenly.

The ability to recover is generally individual specific and those that are able to marshal their resources and aggressively seek work tend to find employment sooner and fare better overall.

Some view the loss of their job it as an opportunity to try other things and see it as a positive, as both emotional resiliency and persistence are highly correlated to positive outcomes.

In work and as in life it is often not what you know, but often who you know. Studies, statistics, and common sense show that people who have connections or know someone at a place of employment where there are openings have a decided edge over those who do not.

And many more qualified candidates lose out on jobs to those that are connected. I find them to be angry and resentful and for good reason, but that is how it works.

By the time that most coaches have made it to the NFL they have made so many relationships, and have built up so many contacts that few will have trouble getting another position. However, it just might not be the one they want.

It should be kept in mind they worked to form those relationships and they work in an industry that frequently takes care of its own. That is why all too often we see so many familiar names land up on other team’s coaching staffs who have previously been head coaches.

Since the economic downturn employers have asked more of employees, and employees have taken to switching jobs more frequently as loyalty between the two seems to be quite low. The turnover rate for low and mid-level jobs in careers in sports follows a similar trend to the general population. And few have glamorous jobs.

As for the coaches and managers in the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL, they too will continue to change positions at a high rate and experience the same emotions we all have when we are let go because they despite what some may think are just like the rest of us.