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35th NACDA Convention
Orlando, Florida
June 11-14, 2000

NAIA Breakout Session
Health, Fitness and Stress Management for the Athletics Administrator
Monday, June 12, 10:00 - 11:00 a.m.


Greg Feris

It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you this morning Dr. William "Bill" Bowden as our presenter today. He brings a wealth of information on issues related to stress in the work place with emphasis in the area of how athletics administrators manage stress-related issues. Dr. Bowden holds degrees from Southern College, Southern Nazarene University, the University of Tulsa and the University of Edinboro. He currently is president of Eagle Management Company, a consulting firm that specializes in working with business and educational institutions in developing leadership enhancement, continuous quality improvement programs and internal assessment programs. He's a former public school teacher, college professor and college administrator.

One of his latest claims to fame is that he has just completed a book related to stress and athletics directors, which he co-authored with his wife, Debbie Yow, who he works with as an advisor. Debbie, as many of you know, is our incoming NACDA president for next year as well as the director of athletics at the University of Maryland. Also, a co-author of that text is Dr. James Humphrey, who authored the text, Stress and Coaching.

It's been a great pleasure getting to know Bill these last few months in preparation for this session. I believe you will find him personable, articulate and a first-class guy. On top of all of his other enduring qualities, he grew up on the plains of West Texas, which everyone knows isn't heaven, but you can see it from there. Please give a warm NACDA and NAIA welcome to Dr. Bill Bowden.

Bill Bowden

Good morning everybody. I am so pleased and I have to say to you, honored to be here this morning. I've looked forward to this and, if this humidity doesn't get to me, I'll be okay. I was raised on the plains of west Texas. We now live in Maryland and I've never gotten used to the humidity level at anywhere but west Texas. I know that the songwriter wrote the song, "happiness if Lubbock, Texas in your rear view mirror," but I have another version. When I go visit, I sing "happiness if Lubbock through my windshield." This humidity is something, isn't it?

Let's see if everybody has a copy of our little booklet. Greg, did you get the five dollars from everyone? We'll split the loot. As you can see from the material you've been given, we will work with this outline. I was raised a Baptist, so I understand the importance of being out on time on Sunday morning. Most other times, it's time for lunch. If the preacher wasn't through right at 12:00, he lost about the back third of the congregation. Remember that?

Speaking of Lubbock, we had a draught when I was about 12 years old. It was so dry. Say how dry was it? It was so dry that the Baptists in Lubbock started sprinkling. Now, that's dry. The Methodists were just wiping their face with a damp cloth. That's dry.

Let's do something fun. Let's do our drawing. I have a $25 copy of a book. This book came out last week, Stress and College Athletics, Causes, Consequences and Coping, a book that Debbie and I co-authored along with Dr. James Humphrey from the University of Maryland. As Greg said, Debbie, my wife, is the director of athletics at the University of Maryland. I'm the AD's wife. There are two women that do that at that level of Division I-A in major conferences in this country. One of them is Barbara Hedges from the University of Washington. The other lady is Debbie Yow Bowden, my wife. I get to go to all of the conference meetings. I'm with the ladies in the sewing circle. We talk about kids. We talk about other wonderful things. I'm blessed that a couple of them are highly achieving ladies. I do a little better. I'm the wife and it's a very unusual role and it does create, sometimes, a little stress, more on my part than Debbie's. Although she gets concerned about me sometimes, I tell her not to get concerned, just keep bringing that check home. That seems to help.

Stress in college athletics, focusing today on stress among athletics directors and their staff. If you look at your outline, we'll walk through that today. While you find that outline, we're going to have some fun. We're going to have a drawing for a $25 retail copy of this book. It's worth at least $8. The hardback is $60, but the soft back is $25. That's the one I'm going to give away. I'm going to call up someone. The lucky winning number is 45. He is a lawyer. Can I do a lawyer joke. What do you call 5,000 lawyers chained at the bottom of the ocean? A good start.

Today, we're going to talk about the extent, the nature and the consequences, the prevention and coping of stress in the collegiate setting. One scholar said this, "the great disease in our society and our age is stress." I thought that was significant.

Let's think for a moment about the tenure or length of service among athletics directors. Is it the stress of athletics that causes such short tenures among athletics directors or is the short tenure that is widely known that creates the stress? The chicken and the egg. Let's look at an interesting study that was done not long ago. In the United States in the late 1900s, we looked at five positions that ranged in tenure from six to 12 years. Our study resulted in these characteristics. Number one, police chief. Eighty-one percent of the surveyed police chiefs found in a range of six to 10 years in communities of 200,000 or more. Second, is the superintendent of schools where 78 percent served eight to 12 years in any given location. Third, was the pastor of a church where 73 percent served in the range of eight to 12 years. Remarkable. Number four, was college president where 74 percent served in a range of seven to 12 years in an institution of 15,000. Fifth, were athletics directors. Sixty-eight percent served six to 11 years in Division I-A, Division I and Division II institutions.

When Debbie came to the University of Maryland in 1994, the previous five ADs had served a total of 14 years. What is the average tenure? It is 2.8 years. One of those was an interim for one year who had the opportunity for the job and didn't get the full-time job, but we counted him. That's the rate of turnover at our institution over the previous five ADs. What's the reason for that? Lots of reasons, which we'll address a little later.

I want to do now general perceptions of stress among ADs, coaches and athletics directors. What do we mean by general perception of stress? In our survey, part one, we had athletics directors, coaches and student-athletes simply define stress. We had about four blank lines and asked them, from their experience and their perspective to define stress for us.

This is what we discovered. Perceptions of stress among coaches. The word that was used more frequently than any other by coaches was pressure. Pressure appeared in almost one-half of the responses from coaches with regard to kinds of stress they experience. The word tension was number two. This appeared in 18 percent of the descriptions of stress. Third, was anxiety, closely following with 17 percent as a key descriptor of stress. Next was conflict and frustration, which appeared in eight percent of their responses. A chapter in the book contains numerous sample quotes under each of these key words. There are some very interesting statements by coaches in this book about how they view stress in their life.

Next, was strain and worry. We grouped those into one area. About 26 percent of the time, the coaches used words other than these key descriptors to describe their stresses.

Perceptions of athletics directors. Interestingly enough, the word that appeared most often among athletics directors to describe their stresses was pressure. The key word pressure appeared in 40 percent of responses of athletics directors. For example, in their own words, the pressure they feel from demanding coaches and unhappy student-athletes; that's number one. Pressure that builds up whenever you cannot effectively control situations. Emotional pressure. Mental pressure caused by external forces. A physical response to perceived external pressure. Pressure from alumni, fans and the media. A feeling that you must deal with pressure constantly. The last one was unrelenting pressure that is harmful to you. There is a long list of statements we lifted off those surveys that indicate the use of the word pressure by athletics directors when trying to describe or define what stress is.

Tension was second. This key word was used by 17 percent of the athletics directors, again, with a long list of sample statements. Thirdly, was emotion. This appeared in 15 percent of the responses. The concept of the intense emotion involved in the work and the business of and the life of the director of athletics. As you well know, not everybody here is an athletic director, but these principles could be applied, in most cases, to their senior staff. The pressures the ADs feel in some measure, to some degree, as also certainly felt and transferred to their staff.

Next in the descriptor words by ADs in defining stress is anxiety, which was also used by coaches. Anxiety appeared in about 11 percent of the ADs definition. I wish I had time to read to you some of the sample quotes by ADs about anxiety. Some of them are very telling.

Next, the combination of conflict, frustration and worry appeared in about 14 percent of the references or definitions of stress.

Perceptions of student-athletes. The first descriptor among student-athletes was the word pressure. It was used 25.5 percent by student-athletes. That's how they define the stress. Anxiety again appeared 13 percent among student-athletes. A word that did not appear among coaches or athletics directors, but was very prevalent among student-athletes when defining their stress was the word overwhelmed. Isn't that interesting? The feeling of being overwhelmed by all of it. This key word was used 16 percent of time by student-athletes in the survey.

Some examples. When you're completely overwhelmed and all you can do is get upset. An overwhelming feeling you get over situations you cannot control. When you're overwhelmed by tasks and aggravation sets in. Feeling overwhelmed by what is going on in your life. All student-athletes felt this.

Under the concept of worry, conflict and tension, about seven percent of the student-athletes used these terminologies.

Among coaches, athletics directors, student-athletes, those are some of the key descriptors in their attempts to define and self-understand the pressure or the stress they feel they're under. Survey responses to causes of stress were caused by, academic problems, athletics demands, time issues, relationships with others and finances. The article continues then by treating each of those five in some detail. Academic problems among the male athletes was 95 percent, females 86 percent. Number two, athletics demands felt by male athletes was 58 percent, female 60 percent. Time demands, time management, lack of time was felt by males 40 percent and females 50 percent. Relationships with others, males was 12 percent, females eight percent. Those relationships are with teachers, coaches, fellow student-athletes and others. Fifth and finally, finances were with seven percent male and seven percent female, just about dead even.

I was surprised about finances being one of the major stresses among student-athletes. I would have thought that it would have been about 30 to 40 percent. Unless our survey is flawed, that is correct.

The next article on student-athletes is alcohol use and again, we're moving quickly. Please take a moment to read that paragraph in the book about this. I thought is was very interesting. I wish we had time to go into these items in depth, but we do not this morning.

If you go now to the other handout in reference to Chapter Four, we're going to take a cursory look at stress among coaches. I think that is important because most of you have been coaches and, in many cases, still are. Why would ADs be interested in stress among coaches? Because what effects coaches, effects the AD, doesn't it? You cannot escape that fact. From the second page, we'll go right to causes of stress as was discovered in the survey. We obtained from coaches themselves those factors that induce the most stress, it's consequences and how they cope with it. We'll start with the factors that were stress causing.

On the survey, we discovered seven areas that caused the most stress for coaches. The first was players; second, was performance; third, outside influences in the profession, boosters, press; fourth, time and time-management issues; fifth, associates; sixth, public relations; and seventh, finances. We'll walk through these seven very quickly.

Number one was players. There were five issues under players. The first issue was player behavior and attitude. For those of you who have coached, I'm sure you've never heard this before. I'm sure you're very familiar with concept. In their own words, some samples were apathy and indifference of players, social problems, such as the requirement for drug testing. Another coach mentioned insubordination of players. Another one mentioned dissection among players. Another one said selfishness of players. Another said any kind of team conflict is a stress problem in the player area. Lack of maturity in players is a problem. Finally, players who do not consider the best interest of the team is a concern. There were some interesting responses.

The second dimension under the players stress for coaches is recruiting. This wouldn't surprise any of you here. Thirdly, academic performance of players, of course, the type that puts them at risk for graduation and the type that puts them at risk for further competition, eligibility competition. Fourth is player performance, getting them to do what they are able to do and perhaps not do. Fifth, is injuries. This was identified by coaches as a major stressor under the player dimension. Those are the five.

The second area for coaches was performance that is expected of them. In this classification, a notable 78 percent of the coaches reported stress in the area of the expectations that are on them by a variety of other people. I have a list of their own samples in the survey. Number three was outside influences. A remarkable 50 percent of the coaches identified that as an area of significant stress with the sample statement again listed underneath. The fourth is time management. Forty-one percent of the coaches listed stressors in this classification. Fifth, is their associates. It was surprising to find that 32 percent of the coaches reported this classification as the cause of stress and in this case, a major cause of stress. That was a little higher than I expected. Sixth, was public relations. Twenty-one percent of the coaches reported some aspect of public relations as being stressful. Seventh and finally, I found this to be humorous being married to an athletics director, the majority of the coaches believe that the financing of athletics is mainly the responsibility of others. Have you heard that before as an AD? Only 12 percent of them reported this frustration as a source of stress.

At the University of Maryland, the budge is $31 million per year. I can tell you that of our 25 sports, not many of our coaches, as long as their budgets are in place for the year, feel much financial pressure. In a certain way, they shouldn't because their job is to coach. I found this to be interesting and confirms what you would probably expect.

At the bottom, there is an interesting comparison of male and female coaches under these seven categories, which I think you'll find interesting, but we don't have time to touch them today.

Consequences of stress among coaches are two types. In fact, they felt some impact on their physical health and secondly, they felt an impact on mental or emotional health. Forty-seven percent of the coaches perceived an impact on their physical health with slightly more than half of them perceived an impact on their mental and emotional health. If you see some coaches on the sideline, you're certain that they have been impacted a little on mental and emotional. Our basketball coach is about as intense as anybody can be. He sweats more than I do.

Only about 10 percent of the coaches said that stress does not bother them. One of them was released about 10 weeks after the survey. He wasn't stressed, but he was fired. He probably was under pressures or expectations that he either didn't realize or didn't internalize. One or both.

The coping issues come under two categories, coping behaviors and coping techniques. We have some interesting stuff under those, but we don't have time to deal with it much.

Under coping techniques, it was interesting that of three techniques for relaxing, 17 percent used the muscle relaxation technique, three percent used medication and less than one percent use biofeedback. Eighty-six percent of the coaches engaged in physical exercise as a means of reducing stress. Almost 50 percent responded to exercises such as reading, card games, music, etc. Slightly, more than half said they turned to divine guidance. Ten percent of the coaches used alcohol with some regularity in order to cope with stress in their work.

What is clear is that coaches from our survey, and from common sense, function under considerable stress. Among a significant percentage of college coaches, this stress is pervasive. I included a very interesting area that the NCAA and the NAIA called accountability for student-athlete welfare. We addressed the issue in general and then we give two examples. You can read that in the book. That is a great new emphasis. Is it new? No, it isn't new at all. Is it a newly emphasized thing? Yes, it is and the NCAA has a great deal of interest in that at this point and so does the NAIA.

We move then to stress among athletics directors, which is where we will focus for the balance of our time. We've addressed it in other ways already, but this survey covered schools in enrollment from several hundred to several thousand students. The colleges of stress on page 63 were in four dimensions for athletics directors and clearly so. It is fairly predictable and you will think so too as an AD.

The first area is finances by some distance. The second area is personnel issues. The third area is outside influences on your athletics department. The fourth area is public relations, which is similar but not quite the same. Where as only 12 percent of coaches sited finances as a pressure, three-fourths, seventy five percent, of the athletics directors found their financial problems to be quite stressful.

In the survey, more than two-thirds of the athletics directors considered personnel issues to be significantly stressful. The third area seemed to be outside influences. Thirty-one percent of the athletics directors indicated that outside influences are a cause of stress for them. Fourth, and finally, is public relations. Ten percent of the athletics directors felt stress from issues related to public relations. The larger the institution you're associated with, the more numbers two and three under that list of quotes becomes a reality. It's incredible how the media comes at you in waves. If you ever have a problem or an issue of any kind in your department, they are camped outside your door, as some of you know. I thought it was interesting to see how many of these dealt with media issues related to public relations.

The next session is the consequences of stress for ADs. There are two classifications for these. They perceived they felt an impact on their physical health and their emotional and mental health, same as the coaches. There were 42 percent whose physical health was impacted by stress and 48 percent perceived that there were effects on their mental and emotional health. I find that interesting.

Sixteen percent did not believe that stress was a problem. That's a little higher than I thought it would have been.

How do ADs cope with stress? From the national survey, they cope as follows. We've already mentioned certain principles of living, which was described in another chapter. We listed the percentage of athletics directors who indicated they practiced these principles. Three percent of them practice good personal health habits. That's a little lower than I thought would be cited.

Learn to value and recognize your own accomplishments as a way of coping with stress in your position. Twenty-one percent indicated they used that as a coping mechanism. I liked that. Learn to take one thing at a time was indicated by 60 percent. There's a lot of common sense in that one. Sixty-two percent learned to take things less seriously. Twenty-six percent cited doing things for others. Fifty-five percent talked things over with others. Do you see yourself in any of those? I'm sure you do and probably in more than one of them.

With regard to coping techniques, 64 percent engaged in physical exercise, 33 percent in recreational activities and 12 percent used muscle relaxation in various forms. Thirteen percent used meditation, 33 percent turned to divine guidance. Seven percent use alcoholic beverages.

Would you indulge me in a favor? Take just a moment and think about your experience as the director of athletics or a staff member and list your three, four or five major areas of stress in your professional experience. Would anyone care to volunteer one stress and maybe describe it a little bit?

One of you mentioned time management. I have a little company called Strategic Management Associates. I'm the associate. It's a one-man company and I've been doing that for 12 years. I would hate to be an AD and be the compliance person too.

(Comments from the floor were inaudible.)

We have not had time to take a good look at any of this. We've not done any of it any justice. You have in your hands the full information on a lot of stuff that I think will be helpful to you as you take time to read it. For those of you who also teach, some of this will be helpful to you as well.

What do Debbie and I do for stress management? We group it in three areas. Careful planning is very high with us. We are very high on strategic planning at the University of Maryland. That's part of our bible. I've included in your handout materials something I was going to go through very briefly. Our strategic model, which I provided you is in chapter two of another book we've written, Strategic Planning for Collegiate Athletics. I've provided you, in your packet, chapter two, which is the overview of the model that formed this. With a little imagination, you won't need to buy the book. If you have any background at all, you can take this chapter as the model and you can do a strategic plan in your department. Included in the back are worksheets with things you need to do to set up your strategic plan in your department. That's one major coping mechanism we use. You have to plan for stressful events, anticipate, be prepared.

The second is lifelong learning. A lot of things can be said for that. Next is cultivate our inner resources. We give attention to reminding ourselves of why did we get into this business to start with. We always ask ourselves that question. Think about those kinds of questions. Re-establish our personal values, cultivate our spiritual life. Those are things we choose to do. Cultivate our inner resources, but start by asking ourselves why we got into this business in the first place.

Managing stress is a pervasive, physically, emotionally impacting phenomenon in college athletics, especially among ADs and their staffs as we found in our survey. These are some of the issues and methods that some others used to manage stress. As you think about this and as you read further, I think you'll find yourself positioned to understand this issue better and find yourself positioned to manage stress better in your professional experience. Thank you.