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  • Jack Fleming

How to Balance Your Coaching, Health & Spending Time With Those Who Matter

Work life balance is a fucking lie. Have you ever heard “where focus goes, energy flows”? That was Tony Robbins, however you can’t multi-task your focus. Multi-tasking is doing multiple things poorly. If you’re always busy, you’re not being productive enough.

“It is not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do , it is that we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have.” Gary Keller, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

Tyronn Lue, Steve Kerr, Thad Matta, Urban Meyer, Steve Clifford & the late and great Rick Majerus are just a short list of coaches who have faced health issues recently. Divorce rates among college coaches are 26% higher than the national average, I bet you know somebody whose relationship is struggling at the expense of their job. That doesn’t have to be the way. What good is living the basketball life if you’re kicking those around you to the curb?

To provide some brief background, while my main passion is coaching and the game of basketball — another big part of my life has been health and fitness. I have a degree in Exercise Science, and take great pride in caring for my body and health. When not coaching I work in Strength & Conditioning for basketball athletes, and consider some of my knowledge worthwhile sharing to assist other coaches in living their healthiest life.

It’s OK to Be Selfish With Your Time

We hate disagreeing, we feel uncomfortable saying no and we feel guilty when we feel that we don’t help another person. However if we put all our time into others, we will never be able to serve others to our best ability.

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.” — Steve Jobs

Here’s the truth: If you aren’t consciously taking time each week or day to take care of your own needs, your “selflessness” will be to the detriment of of your coaching, health or relationships. Or all three. You need to think of yourself as a fight jet, preparing for battle. You wouldn’t run it on poor fuel or no fuel if you wanted to be a high performance operator.

Create a Self Care Practice

Everybody is unique and different, but there are areas of your life that need to be at an optimal level so you can be a high performance operator. You must schedule in these self care practices just like work, in order for them to become a priority. Head Coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder Billy Donovan is a famous workout warrior in the gym, this is his way of taking care of his body and mind.

“I feel better when I do it,” he says. “I think I’m a better coach, better person and better all the way around. … As demanding as the job is, traveling and coaching and recruiting and all this stuff, I don’t know if you can do it well if you don’t really take care of yourself.” — Billy Donovan

Physical Body

There are so many options here, but here are a few that might suit your lifestyle. Remember, the best plan is the one you can standardise — not optimise. We must be able to do something every day before we can think about how well we do it. We must get up at 6am and get our ass walking before we can think about the perfect running shoes, protein shake and FitBit. Here are some options:

  1. The 10 Minute Walk: easy, simple to execute. If you can get 3x10 minute walks in per day it will free your mind, wake you up in the morning, help digestion, provide sunlight while help your circadian rhythm and stimulate creative practices. My best ideas for the next practice or player meeting always come when I am walking out of my normal environment.

  2. Working Out — classes, resistance training, swimming, cardio in a gym are a great way to get your body moving. Find what works for you. The environment of a class, gym partner or even the gym itself can stimulate accountability and put you to work without you even noticing.

  3. Yoga/Stretching — great for those who spend long days at a desk or in rigid positions.

  4. Sport — brilliant way to stay in shape without thinking about it, also creates social interactions and a time to focus on other things.


When we have so many things going on, it can create internal stress that has an effect on our health. We often will get sick during busy periods at work or stressful points of the season, due to our immunes system inability to handle stress. Chronic stress can lead to disease, obesity and shortened life expectancy. We must learn to control the thoughts in our head, and not be slaves to the outer world. Here are some options:

  1. Brain Dump: I got this idea from Craig Ballantyne and it is a GAME CHANGER. At the end of your day, in your journal or phone write down all the thoughts you have in your head for tomorrow. Get it all out, no matter how small or big. This allows your brain to shut off from the end of the day, so you can focus on resting and resetting for the next day. This will roughly map out your day and create order in a chaotic world.

  2. Meditate: it’s not for everybody, but in Tim Ferris’ book Tribe Of Mentors he interviewed 140 of the worlds high performers across all different fields — more than 90% were advocates of a meditation practice. Headspace is an app I like to use, 5 minutes at the start of end of the day is all I need to relax and reset.

  3. Journal: similar to the brain dump, our ability to articulate our ideas on paper can help declutter. Spend 10 minutes in the morning writing down all your ideas and thoughts.

  4. Read: audible is a great way if you are travelling, physical books or on your iPhone.

My Morning Routine

My morning self care practice. Your self care practice doesn’t have to be LONG it just has to be consistent and unwavering. Something you can do at the peak of your stress, travelling or on your worst day. It might just be wake up, go for a walk then read 10 pages of a book. Here is mine.

  1. Wake up & meditate 5 minutes.

  2. Gratitude: write down 3 things or people I am grateful for.

  3. Coffee & MCT Oil.

  4. Workout.

  5. Shower including 30 seconds cold.

If You Don’t Master These Habits It Will Kill Your Coaching


Create a ritual. There must be some critical elements.

  1. Eliminate Light & Technology

  2. Empty Thoughts

  3. Relax

An example would be: 30 minutes before bed, turn off all electronics and turn off most of the lights. Have a decaffeinated tea. Brain dump all your ideas, thoughts and plan out the next day. Have a hot shower. Read a little, but not something that will stimulate too many ideas. Sleep.

Regardless of the time you get back from practice or the game, or if you are travelling, if you stick to a routine you can adapt in any scenario.


I have a degree in Exercise Science & Sports Coaching, so have tried every nutritional scheme under the sun. Fasting, ketogenic dieting, high carb diet, paleo diet to name a few. It is no question that the best diet is the ONE THAT WORKS FOR YOU. However, through my experience and understanding the business of a coaching life I can help with some some strategic ideas.

  1. The Basics: you cannot skip over the foundations of nutrition. From the words of the great Charles Poliquin, “If it doesn’t swim, run, or fly, or isn’t green and grow in the ground, don’t eat it.” I attempt to stick to this rule 80% of the time, to eat foods with one ingredient. Basic, but essential.

  2. Intermittent Fasting: this is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. Somebody might wake up in the morning and all their meals within an 8 hour period (between 12pm and 8pm for example) has been used and abused in several different ways, but here are the facts. Coaches tend to be on the run, and very busy — therefore eating within a restricted time period is simple and easy to execute. It also gives you GREATER energy and focus, due to less energy spent on digestion throughout the day. This does not mean during your eating window you can eat like a pig, but can eat larger meals. Disclaimer: this is not for everybody, especially those trying to gain weight/build muscle.

  • Method 1: 18/6 = Eat 2 large meals at 12pm and 6pm, containing fats, protein & carbohydrates.

  • Method 2: 16/8 = Eat 3 meals at 11am, 3pm, and 7pm containing fats, protein & carbohydrates.

3. Listen To Your Body: if milk makes your stomach feel sick, stop drinking it. If gluten makes you feel bloated, don’t have it all the time. We must create awareness within our own body, and not be slave to what everybody else eats. Try to eat until you’re 80% full, and then stop. Chew your food slowly and completely, eat plenty of protein this two things will help increase satiety and make you feel full.

4. Fat is great for your brain & cognitive function: grass-fed butter, eggs, avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, almonds, walnuts, fish, red meat will light your brain UP and give you sustained energy. That is why ketogenic (high fat, low carb) dieting can be so successful. If you are doing deep work I recommend coffee with coconut or MCT oil.

Disclaimer: do not eat high fat meals all day, your calories will blow through the roof. Be smart.

The MOST Important Thing

“At the end of the day no one remembers what you did, they remember how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou

Have you ever seen the great coach who has won thousands of games and achieved all you could want — but they have no close relationships with anyone. They have a wife but their relationship has no soul, they never talk about them. They don’t know their kids. What did they gain? Accomplishments sure, a mission, but what does that do for you when you’ve distanced the people who care about you most?

“I wish I had done a little better job of working more efficiently — not getting less done, but doing it more efficiently … Balance, whether it be with my family or with myself. I think coaches burn out, too. It’s about finding a way to enjoy other things. — Tom Izzo

I don’t believe in work-life balance, I think it is bullshit. Anybody who has achieved something great in their life was incredibly UNBALANCED. What we must seek is work-life mastery. Master the time that you have with those around you, and the time will slow down and be 10X more valuable.

The problem is not that we don’t have dinner with our family, it’s that we are trying to watch the NBA and text your players at the same time as asking your wife how her day was. You are ‘there’ but you’re not really ‘there’. But if you master and maximise the time spent you can have the best of both worlds.

Power of Scheduling

Like self care practice, like sleep, like basketball practice planning & games — you must schedule in the things that matter. Here are the things you could schedule in your week to have time with the people who matter.

  1. Date Night — protect it like the plague. No extra individuals, no team meetings, no phone calls — if Saturday morning you and your partner go out for breakfast nothing gets in the way.

  2. Device Free Time — Sunday nights are a great one, no phones or computers. Spend time with those who matter and allow yourself to be in the moment, the time will be greater than ever.

  3. Involve Your Family in Your Basketball— bring your partner to events, games, introduce them to your team or your colleagues. It doesn’t have to be all the time, but you want to live a life of INTEGRATION, not separation. Visualise crossing the finish line with those who matter by your side. It all comes back to looking through a lens of “How can I serve you?” and “How can we run our race together?”

Here is my girlfriend Alyssa, somebody I am thankful for and want to run my race with for a very long time.

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he is always doing both.”

Control what you can.

Cope with what you can’t.

Concentrate on what counts.

Make the right decision, right now, for your right life. Always. — Craig Ballantyne

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