That’s out of the way. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge sports fan and I WENT to the University of Florida, so news of Coach Meyer’s early and unexpected retirement really pissed me off. But I get it.
I get why he retired at age 45, top of his game. I used to coach a Division I sport (not football). I did it for a couple of years and I “retired” and made a huge career switch mid-stream because it was killing me. Coaching at that level is totally insane. You don’t really understand how difficult that line of work is until you’re actually in it.
Here’s what it was like for me…and keep in mind this is only a fraction of the intensity, pressure, and time spent that a figure like Meyer puts in. I woke up at 5:00 every day, including Saturdays, after going to bed between midnight and 1:00 am. You do this six days per week and sleep half of the day on Sunday. On Sunday evening you start prepping for your week, so essentially you get only a few hours “off” on the weekend. But let’s be serious here…the weekend doesn’t exist. This is the most basic schedule and I kept it from early August through early June. That schedule isn’t all of it, though, because you’re on the phone every night calling recruits and selling yourself and your program to 17-year-olds. I would make calls starting at 6:00 pm and not stop until midnight, because you can call the West Coast kids then. And sometimes I would take a nap until 2:00 am, wake up and call kids in New Zealand and Australia. I’ve done that plenty of times. Then you wake up at 5:00 am to go to practice or go watch the kids lift weights or just start working in the office. And you work until it gets dark out, then do another practice, then go home and start making those calls again. Without any exaggeration, it’s like having two full-time jobs, a sales job and a coaching job.
When you’re not in the office making calls or coaching, you’re on the road going to high school practices and competitions and selling. You’re always selling. If you can’t handle sales or rejection, you can’t handle being an NCAA coach. What I disliked most about coaching was that I had to prostrate myself to clueless teenagers, many of whom were idiots. But we had to recruit them because they were big and strong. It really bothered me.
My health started failing me the very first year I did this. I was in my mid-20’s and fit as a fiddle. The forced sleep deprivation had the effect of turning me into an insomniac, so not only was I completely exhausted all the time but in a cruel twist I couldn’t sleep ever. I would nod off at my desk, but the second I put head to pillow, my mind revved up and I laid there wide awake. I popped Tylenol PM’s and Melotonin to get myself unconscious. I also drank and would occasionally get blackout drunk just to pass out and sleep. I could not take sleep aids because I couldn’t ever get 10-12 hours of straight sleep. Not even close.
My second year I had a sinus infection that lasted 12 weeks. My energy level was cut in half and my sex drive disappeared completely. Not that I was getting laid much because there’s no time to meet chicks. Or, I would pick up chicks in bars and have one-night stands. Forget relationships, those were impossible to have.
My third year I had another sinus infection that was off-and-on from January until June. During that stretch I could probably count the number of good sleeps I had on two hands. Maybe one. Diet was awful. I exercised semi-regularly, but for me I was in the worst shape of my life. I started having vision problems, weird heart palpitations, extraordinary back pain, and terrible memory issues. I distinctly remember talking with another assistant coach, the subject of birthdays came up, and I couldn’t recall how old I was. I guessed a number. I looked it up on my driver’s licence and was surprised that I was off by a year in the wrong direction. I was totally fucked.
After that I weighed what I was doing versus what I was getting out of it. The money sucked, there was zero chance of sustaining a family, getting laid was a major chore, health sucked, sucking up to teenagers was awful, I was basically killing myself every month. I made the decision to get out. I had been coaching for 10 years, I was passionate about my sport, and I had mastered what I was doing at a high level. It was the hardest decision of my life.
Did I mention that having a relationship was a joke? When was there time to meet and date someone? Keep in mind, I’m a pickup artist, so attracting chicks is way easier for me than for my gameless colleagues. I had plenty of single coaching friends who reported that they hadn’t been laid in two years. I think some of them are still not getting laid. Yuck.
Now I have a regular 9-5 that I’m less passionate about, but I make a ton more money, have a fraction of the stress and significantly more time for myself. It was absolutely the right decision and I would not go back to my previous life. Being the head coach of football at the University of Florida takes many times more of a toll on your mind and body than what I was doing. I was merely an assistant coach for a non-revenue generating sport at a non-top 25 program. I understand why Coach Meyer retired when he did, because he probably would have had a heart attack by 50. Coaching football, despite the fame and fortune, isn’t worth killing yourself.