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Coaches try to deal with the stress

By Anthony Rhoads

A coach's life isn't easy.

A lot of times it's thankless, the hours are crazy, the pay is not great and you have to deal with a multitude of issues away from the field of play.

It all adds up to a stress-filled lifestyle where sometimes mental and physical health is sacrificed for success.

It's a profession that has been littered with people who have had to deal with serious health problems such as heart disease and high blood pressure. In fact, three prominent football coaches in the area (North Clayton's Don Shockley, Forest Park's Bob Smith and Jackie Green) all had heart problems in the 2002 season.

Smith's health problems eventually played a role in his decision to resign from his position.

Former Lovejoy head football coach and athletic director C.W. Campbell knows about the stress of coaching. Campbell was head coach of the Wildcats from 1990-2000 and retired as one of the winningest football coaches in Clayton County history.

When Campbell decided to call it quits after the 2000 season, he left with an overall record of 60-54 and guided the Wildcats to three playoff appearances and one undefeated regular season (1999).

Being a successful head coach and athletic director didn't detract from the stress and it probably added stress to his life.

"It's hard to enjoy victory on the bus ride home because you're thinking about next week," Campbell said. "You can't savor things during the season."

Coaching can be an all-encompassing affair that leaves little time for hobbies and family.

"I don't know if there's a happy medium there," Campbell said. "Coaching is a lot of hours; you've got to have a family that's going to be supportive. You've got to have some kind of an outlet but you've got to get the job done. Eventually, it's time to do something else; you get so tired and worn down."

Former Henry County basketball coach and current athletic director Chuck Miller coached for nearly 40 years and spent more than his share of time away from family.

"I was fortunate because my daughter and son played for me," he said. "You spend so much time with other people's kids, you neglect your own family. I didn't know how tolerant my wife was until I quit coaching. If she hadn't been as good a coach's wife, it would have been more difficult for me."

With all the stress and time commitments, what makes it worth it? The relationships with the other coaches and the molding young men and women into productive citizens.

"What makes it really worth it is to see a player be successful in life," Campbell said. "I think there is a direct correlation between athletics and life."

Even though Campbell didn't have time for many hobbies or leisure activities, one thing he did find time for was running. That was one thing he focused on as a way to deal with stress.

"Staying healthy is vital," he said.

Staying active is a way that Stockbridge's Bill Pate deals with stress.

He is active during practices and works out in his free time.

"I guess I'm kind of an aggressive coach," he said. "I do a lot of running around during practice. As far as exercise for myself, I run and do weightlifting and that's kind of a stress relieving activity for me."

According to Eagle's Landing Christian Academy head football coach Tim Luke, having a personal exercise program is almost mandatory for a coach.

In addition to working out on his own, Luke also plays church-league basketball.

"Letting yourself go physically is a very easy thing to do," Luke said. "You have to make a commitment and set aside time every day to take care of it. Exercise is a big pressure relief valve for me."

Another way for Luke to take his mind away from coaching is his family and his love of writing.

"I like playing with my kids and I have a lot of fun with them," he said.

Luke, a former sports writer, also writes for In Touch, the magazine for In Touch Ministries.

"I'm still involved in writing. I still write part time for In Touch; I used to be the editor of that magazine," Luke said. "I enjoy doing that."

For Miller, his outlet has been the outdoors and spending time with family.

"You have to have something you enjoy doing," he said. "Mine was fishing and being with my wife and being with my family. When I was younger, I jogged and as athletic director I dealt with a lot of my own stress by helping other coaches be successful."

Coaching one sport is stressful enough but many coaches in the Southern Crescent are involved in two or more sports.

Pate is the head coach of both the girls' basketball team and the baseball team. When the basketball season is winding down and the baseball season is getting ready to start can be a hectic time for Pate.

"It's usually pretty hectic and I try to be with both teams as much as possible," Pate said. "I've had some really good assistants; I've been real fortunate. (Assistant baseball coach) Andy Cooper has done a good job. I feel comfortable turning the team over to him."

As Pate has gotten more experienced, he said a key to not getting stressed out is to not worry about things you can't control.

"In just about everything you decide to do as a career, there's going to be some things that are stressful," he said. "You can't worry about everything; some things you can control and some things you can't control. A lot of times I see younger coaches worry about a lot of things, like the weather, but that's something you can't do anything about."

Miller not only coached two sports, but coached boys and girls