I quit my job this week.
What most likely comes as a surprise to many, will only make sense to those who know me and are in tune with some of the things I know to be true. This decision, however heartbreaking and hard it was, can only be explained as one of faith, hope, and peace.
I’ve rarely talked about my faith online, as I know that talk of the eternal or divine can turn away others and prevent some from seeking the information you provide because of the walls that faith can put up. Or perhaps, it is because my own faith was weakened. Nevertheless, faith is what got me into coaching, and also what is temporarily pulling me out.
It hasn’t been an easy decision. It took the shedding of tears, and an actual encounter with a bear in the wild, to come to grips with the fact that God needed to teach me something.
I have coached in some capacity for the last seven years. I started as a volunteer wrestling coach at 18 years old, then coaching at some CrossFit gyms in college, the weightlifting club team at Appalachian State, Personal Training at Gold’s Gym, and my most recent position at Parisi Speed School at Xcel Sportsplex. Coaching is what I love to do. It’s my passion; my calling.
Over the past six months I have pushed full steam ahead on a Master’s degree, being a volunteer wrestling coach, pursuing endeavors on the platform at USA Weightlifting Nationals, and working 50-60 hours per week. Coaching and training become the foremost thought in my mind, consuming the headspace between my ears at every waking moment of the day, and sometimes in my dreams.
But as seasons changed, I found myself doing less coaching and more business. In particular I found myself working towards unclear goals or trying to right decisions that had been made on my part or that of my colleagues. These things wore on me, driving me emotionally down and struggling with things mentally that I hadn’t faced in years. These things were then followed up by rejections for several jobs at high schools to serve as a PE teacher or Strength Coach, including the high school I graduated from and had been volunteering as a wrestling coach at for the past two years.
As the culmination of these things piled up, I started to spend weekends away from home. First by traveling to the National Weightlifting Championships, then the next weekend for Summer Strong at Sorinex Exercise Equipment, and then finally to Deerfoot Blue Ridge, a new location of the camp the Christian boys camp I had gone to growing up and worked at during college. It was here that I found myself diving deep into thought, as one can only do in the woods with limited to no distractions and a singular task. It was through these weekends of work, primarily in solitude, that I came to the following realizations:
1. I Made Coaching My God, But It Was Never Going to Save Me
In the Sermon on the Mount, there is passage of verses that tackles the thought of storing up treasures on earth, and not being able to serve two masters (Matthew 6:19-24). In making coaching my sole focus, I fell victim to desiring the recognition of other coaches and of society as being a thought leader. Someone asked me months ago what my goal in life was, to which I replied “I want 10,000 people at my funeral.” First, that’s a ridiculously earthly goal, and second it’s a stupid desire because I won’t be there to see it anyway. A coworker asked me that same question last week, to which I had to reply with the lyrics from a song by the Christian artist Beautiful Eulogy: “To stand before my King and be speechless.”
In looking at the saving of my soul, God may have given me coaching for a sense of direction in life, but ultimately I am still going to die at some point and coaching will not save me from that.
2. I Was Working for Coaching, But Coaching Wasn’t Working for Me
At some point, I realized that coaching was my job and my passion, but in my current state it was not going to get me out of my parent’s basement. I cut my paycheck in half to work where I did, but in that time frame since it has not built back up to that point. Ultimately, somewhere along the line I began living to coach, and not coaching for a living. This is not sustainable to make coaching a career.
3. I See Hundreds of People on a Daily Basis, But Have Very Few Deep and Meaningful Relationships
I am an introvert. I have known this for years. I loath small talk and want to have meaningful relationships with people. In the words of Andy Mineo “lately all my new friends are just coworkers, so where do I go when my soul hurts?” I love my coworkers immensely, and one of them has become one of the best friends I could ask for, but my work and social life began to revolve around the work. Having very little ability to have meaningful relationships with other adults my age is crucial, especially to maintain a sense of level headedness as a youth coach.
Now back to the bear encounter.
In the past six months, I’d had a few conversations with administrators from Deerfoot Lodge (mentioned above), and turned away from the possibility of working as a chef there this summer several times. But after several weekends in a row volunteering my time to help open the camp for the summer, I found that there was a leaning and need for time away from the world.
When people started asking why I don’t smile anymore, I realized I needed change.
So I decided to think about the ever present offer to escape into the woods.
As someone of faith, I pray about big decisions like this. I felt God calling me away. But there was no peace, because I knew the implications of stepping away from coaching for a bit. I feared (and still do fear) being accused of burnout, or uncommitted to the craft. This lead me to a deserted mountainside clearing, praying for peace. And when I finished my prayer, everything fell silent, and turned around to find myself locking eyes with a bear.
I have encountered bears in the wild before, and ones bigger than the bear I found myself making eye contact with, but I had never been within the 10 yards that I was that day. But the difference in the encounters is that before I had terrified, but in this instance, I immediately felt at ease. I was calm. And the bear dropped its head as if to nod at me and walked off into the woods.
It was then I realized that I needed to leave coaching for a short bit. When confronted with a scenario in which I normally would have felt terrified, I was calm. I was terrified of the opinions of other coaches, to leave the kids I coach, and say goodbye to people I have the fortune of working with. But my path is going to be different. I was never the typical coach, and I don’t ever plan on being one, so while I may step away from coaching for now I know it won’t be the end of this story.
I’m going into the woods now, because that’s where God is leading me. And I’m going to follow that path wherever it goes.