Palm Beach Post – Greg Stoda – Dec. 28, 2009 – sports psychology commentary – The best question asked of Urban Meyer during Sunday’s news conference in New Orleans was this one: Is he in the situation he’s in because of who he is or because of what he does?
“Yes,” Meyer said in smiling reply.
And that’s it, exactly.
It’s what makes it almost impossible to believe that Meyer, who in less than 24 hours switched from retirement to a leave of absence as Florida football coach, will be able to change his style and work habits regardless of how much time he takes off.
He’s wired in the manner he’s wired, and it’s what makes his job even more consuming than it is on its own. The coaching DNA coursing through Meyer’s veins is a significant element â€” perhaps the primary one, he’ll tell you â€” in what has made him so successful.
He need not apologize for any of that, and doesn’t.
But neither is he necessarily deserving of our sympathies.
It has taken a health scare to get Meyer to say it’s time to “re-prioritize” his life in terms of faith, family and football. But a series of quotes attributed to Meyer’s wife, Shelley, after the news conference makes it clear she has her own doubts about her husband’s ability to change.
“He has to learn to relax,” she said. “I think he’ll make a really good attempt at that, (but) I don’t know if he can do it. I can tell you I can’t imagine him not coaching again, because that’s all I’ve ever known.
“I can’t have him looking or feeling the way he has been, but I don’t see him becoming a man of leisure. It’s going to be interesting.”
She will have a close-up view of Meyer undertaking the reinvention he promises. He has driven himself at 100 mph all these years, but will slam on the brakes and then re-accelerate in search of the proper speed at which to live and work. The Gators’ date Friday night against Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl looks less like a football game and more like a coaching petri dish.
Steve Spurrier, a Gators icon as a player and a coach who is now in charge at South Carolina, once left the job Meyer now holds. Spurrier tired of unreasonable expectations.
“I don’t think he’ll need the whole year off,” Spurrier said in comments e-mailed through a South Carolina spokesperson. “I think in three or four months, he may be ready to get back. Maybe he can delegate a little more.
“Some coaches, if they don’t stay (in the office) until midnight or come in at 6 in the morning, they don’t feel like they’re working hard. … He needs to have some outside interests. He’s got a place on a lake not too far from Gainesville, but I would imagine when he’s (there), he’s probably checking with his coaches. He stays on top of everything from what I understand.”
Spurrier said he thought Meyer â€” who reportedly lost 20 pounds in recent weeks â€” looked “exhausted” during the televised news conference.
Now, there are a lot of professions more stressful than being Florida’s head football coach at a salary of $4 million per year. Almost any Web-search list on the subject will include physicians and surgeons, airline pilots and air-traffic controllers, fire fighters and police officers, social workers and customer-service reps, and teachers and retailers and stockbrokers.
But it’s what Palm Beach sports psychologist Dr. John F. Murray called the “fishbowl” existence of a high-profile football coach that creates a witch’s brew of stress and pressure.
Relieving that isn’t easy.
“It really does come down to the noggin and how you think,” Murray said. “It’s what makes a situation manageable or not. Nobody can create effective change in life unless there’s a true recognition that there’s a need to change.”
Informed of Meyer’s health issues â€” chest pain, migraines, high blood pressure â€” Murray said stress frequently triggers such symptoms.
“If you’re doing that kind of job and don’t have some kind of relaxation technique, it’s a sure path to self-destruction.” he said. “Anyone under stress is at risk of making a mistake when it comes to important decisions. You make good choices when your mind is clear, and you tend to be erratic when emotions are running high.”
Which might explain Meyer’s sudden swing from retirement to a leave of absence.
I hope this article was enjoyable, on the topic of sports psychology.