Balance on the Football Field

A few weeks ago the New York Times ran a profile on the new football coach at Ohio State, Urban Meyer. For those not familiar with American college football, the Ohio State program is among the elite college football programs and would rival many professional teams in terms of money spent and earned. Coaching a program like Ohio State is highly paid (Meyer will make an estimated $4 million this year) but also very high pressure and demanding. It is a job that promises to dominate one’s life. Meyer, however, is determined to find balance even with the demands of his new role.

Before coming to Ohio State, Meyer coached at the University of Florida where he says he had absolutely no balance between his work and his life. Meyer says that he rarely saw his wife and children and even developed severe health problems as a result of his stress level and total immersion in his work. Meyer would become so distraught after a loss that his family worried for his safety. As a result, Meyer decided to take a season away from coaching and focus on his health and his family.

Now that he is returning to the field, his family still has some concerns about his ability to balance his life with his job. In addition to a more general promise from Meyer that he will not allow himself to fall into the same negative headspace he occupied while coaching at Florida, his family wrote up a specific list of requirements for Meyer to follow. These include turning off his cell phone while he sleeps, eating three meals every day, and speaking to his children daily.

In last week’s article on goal setting, we mentioned the importance of having goals that are specific and quantifiable. This advice is important, not just for goals set at the office but also for creating an appropriate work-life balance. It is easy, particularly in a high profile job, to let the lines between work and life blur to such an extreme extent that the loss of a football game becomes emotionally comparable to the death of a loved one. Even people in multimillion dollar jobs need to draw this line.

What are some concrete things you can do to make sure you maintain balance between your job and the rest of your life?


  1. Dear Dr. Leiter

    Maintain balance in my country (México) is getting harder each day, because family is one of our core values. Unfortunately, our precarious economy is forcing us to change. But it a basic rule I have is that we need to remember that I work for being with my family (I said I work for money to pay time to be in family) not for having things. Eric Fromm state once that a way to maintain the workforce is giving them something to buy with their money, in order to keep them needing more. My goal is to “buy time”. Also, it is important for us, yo understand that reposition time is a part of hygiene at work and not only to be “doing nothing”. I would also recommend to be aware of how the new technologies allow work to enter directly to your home, increasing work – family mismatches. In order to take control of it, we need to develop a new and comprehensive civility code.

  2. Heriberto
    You make excellent points about the challenges in maintaining a balance. Economic pressures require a continual reflection on core values and tough decisions about time, that really is the ultimate nonrenewable resource.
    I agree that knowing how to use technologies to your advantage rather than being used by them is an essential life skill these days.

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