I have a tremendous affinity for youth and junior volleyball club directors. I will interchange the term “leader” for “club director” often for, to me, I believe you are one and the same. I also work with CEO’s who, with a simple shift of verbiage, this article could be written for.

You are leaders. And leading is harder than it has ever been. Everyone has an arrow ready to launch, and they are almost always aimed at those who have to navigate the terrain of challenging decision making, the secret sauce of all great club directors.

While leaders inevitably take some hits, I would invite you to consider the 3 reasons I believe those wounds fester into burnout and ultimately retreat.

I will also give what I believe is an actionable mindset shift to keep influential club directors in the game because, to be honest, you matter a great deal.

1. Reframe Our Locus of Control

Julian B. Rotter developed this term in 1954 and defined it as “the extent to which a person believes that they, and not external forces beyond their influence, have control over the outcome of events in their lives.”

Parents, anonymous surveys, the board of directors, money, sponsorship, injuries, coach behavior, social media…

This is the reality of what you do and the vocation you have chosen. While there are specific actions I believe can counter all of this chaos, I will keep the overarching shift simple.

Productive Action:

Embrace the impermanence that is life (and leading a club) and become the calm in that storm for others to witness. Buddhists welcome difficulty as an incredible gift by which to grow and level up. We likely can not alter the inexperienced and self absorbed noise of those surrounding us, but we can reimagine where we choose to put our energy.

Work on letting go of the clenched control we are wired to be, breathe, and become a servant leader.

2. Reflect on Our Caves

We have triggers that come up every day that at one time perhaps served us well but now need to be shed. When we react, heart rate goes up, someone or something pokes us, this is our ego’s past revealing a cave. Pema Chodron, renowned author and female Buddhist, calls this shenpa, “getting hooked and attached to our past”.

You are leaders, and great leaders are willing to not only challenge others to get uncomfortable, they must do so themselves. So what do you have to learn to climb your next mountain? If you aren’t courageous enough to do it, your coaches and players won’t have a compass to follow. If nothing else, be curious.

Productive Action:

Read Pema Chodron’s book, “When Things Fall Apart”. Buy a journal and write. Dive into your caves.

3. Isolation and Loneliness

The club directors, CEO’s and leaders I work with all have one common attribute. As they have moved up the ladder, they have less people they can have deeper, authentic and trusting conversations with. Whether it is a CEO of a $300 million company or a club director overseeing 10-50 teams—who do they talk to about employee/coach struggles, insecurities or missing their son’s hockey game, let alone the intense stresses of meeting the shareholders, parents or their own deeply held expectations? The answer, in any meaningful and consistent level, is often nobody. In my research and humble opinion, this sense of isolation, that inner voice saying nobody will understand or that’s too proud to admit we are struggling— this is the silent catalyst that pushes frustration into dangerous burnout.

Productive Action:

Find a community outside of your family and staff that you can truly lean into, trust and rely on. CEO’s need other CEO’s. Club Directors need other Club Directors. Leaders need other leaders.

Challenges naturally come to those who serve others. That said, being intentional about where we put our energy, being curious about our potential blind spots and anchoring into a trusting community can give us the breathing room needed to prevent our flame from burning out.

Being a leader is challenging and incredibly rewarding. Walking it with others you trust is the good stuff.

This next Epic Journey opportunity is focused on men, but there will be others coming in 2024. Either way, the invitation is to find a community that works for you and hold on to it.

About the Author

Geoff Carlston is a father of three adventurous boys, a husband, a DI volleyball coach and founder of Epic Journey Leadership. He is a former Peace Corps Volunteer, has traveled to 45 countries, worked closely with Fortune 500 CEO’s, gang leaders, professional athletes, Buddhist priests, collegiate coaches and people of all walks of life navigating change. He is imperfect, growing and, for those willing to do the courageous inner work, a coach who will walk with you from where you are to the place you want to be.

Contact Geoff at 614-352-9138 carpecarlston@gmail.com