NBA Coaches Learning to Focus on Their Health
Everyone talks about the wear-and-tear and mental strain that player’s endure throughout the long, excruciating NBA season, but rarely do we hear about coaches. Though not physically on the court, coaches go through many of the same routines as players, and often times are the ones that face more pressure to perform and meet expectations. So caught up in their work and on their team, coaches often forget about their own personal health.
Recently, the league has gotten more involved. Now, the NBA Coaches Association (NBCA) provides guidance to its members on everything from diet and exercise to sleep and mental health. On the NBCA website there are a number of unique resources including: recipes and tips from nutritionists, tips for flying frequently, and general wellness tips.
Coaches themselves have also started to take preventive measures to deal with the grind and stress. Steve Kerr is a coach who has endured some of the most high-profile absences. During the past two seasons, he has missed a total of 54 games due to some complications following a pair of back surgeries.
Recently, he has began practicing regular yoga and can often be seen on the elliptical machine after practice or stretching with the assistance of an athletic trainer. Kerr has also gotten his whole staff on a conditioning and health-wellness program. “I think it’s really smart, something that every staff should try to do is just make sure you’ve got people looking after you and looking after each other,” Kerr said.
Magic coach Steve Clifford is another coach that has dealt with health issues, resulting in him missing 5 weeks last season. After a series of medical tests ruled out a brain tumor or a stroke, doctors determined that a persistent lack of sleep had caused Clifford’s debilitating headaches. A neurologist informed Clifford he needed to change the way he lived. He needed to devote more time to sleeping.
“Going through it was professionally the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to go through,” Clifford says now. “It impacted our team in a bad way. I feel terrible about it. But personally, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.” For years and years, he got by on no more than five hours of sleep a night – a product of his work ethic and the demands of the profession. Since receiving help during his leave of absence last year, Clifford sleeps longer, his headaches have disappeared and he feels healthier now than he has in years.
“Well, we’re trying. We all are trying, we all are conscious of it,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “ I don’t think we’re very good at it, honestly. I know I’ve tried. It’s just very hard. The game consumes us. It consumes me at least, and it should, if you love it. And it’s just hard to turn off. But we have to change.”
Rivers comments perfectly encapsulate the standard mentality of an NBA coach; focused on their players, the game, on winning, and not on themselves. It is encouraging to see a change to this pattern and the hope is that more coaches find time to step back, get help when necessary, and pay more attention to their own wellbeing.