4 Benefits of Coaching Into Old Age - by Sarah Daren

From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

Sarah Daren is a featured writer on the Today Show website and has been a consultant for organizations across a number of industries including athletics, health and wellness, technology and education. When she's not caring for her children or watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga and reading a good book on the beach.

Sarah Daren
Sarah Daren

If you're a coach, then you probably love being a part of the excitement, camaraderie, and growth of a team. Although most coaches keep coaching long after players retire, many choose to call it quits at a fairly young age. NFL head coaches are a good example of this - the youngest head coach is 31, while the two oldest are just 65 years old.

65 is a benchmark age for retirement in the United States, but not all coaches feel the need to put up their feet that early. Whether you coach your grandkid's team for fun, or you're a professional coach, here are 4 benefits to coaching into old age.

1. Keep your mind sharp

Being a coach is a mental exercise. You have to problem solve on the fly, helping your team to smooth out their inconsistencies and work together. This can be a very creative process, since no two players or teams are alike. Coaches are so key to the success of their teams because they can customize their approach to different players. Top coaches can steer their teams to victory year after year, despite a revolving door of players.

As we age, we tend to experience problems like memory loss and lack of mental sharpness. While some of this is often inevitable, continuing to coach into your later years can reduce the impact of aging on your mental sharpness. The constant problem-solving and leadership you must display helps keep your brain active. The social and physical aspects of coaching can provide an additional boost to your brainpower.

2. Exercise!

Exercise is key for people of all ages, but it is especially important for older people. As the body begins to age and slow down, staying fit can be challenging, particularly if you're retired. Loss of muscle mass, strength, and bone density can be a recipe for injury, falls, and difficulty performing normal activities. Just 3 hours a week of physical activity can help offset these normal effects of aging, and can increase lifespan by approximately 5 years!

Though coaches aren't as active as players, there is still a certain amount of moderate physical activity involved. You need to see what your players are doing, and you probably spend a lot of time running up and down a field. Without those practice sessions, you might find yourself spending more time in front of the TV. Coaching into old age gets you up, exercising, and feeling good-even if in the moment, you'd rather stay home.

Coaches Gels and Sipple
Dr. Jim Gels and former CMU coach Bob Sipple

3. Stay involved with younger generations

As a coach, you get to pass on the wisdom you've gained over the years. You'll also gain the benefits younger generations have to offer. You may learn new things, stay up to date with what's important to young people, and stay involved with members of the community of all ages. Staying involved with younger generations will not only help you feel younger, you'll continue to learn life lessons and gain new perspectives each new generation brings with them.

4. Boost your emotional health

Many seniors struggle with emotional health after they have retired. Lacking challenge, older people often feel that they have no meaningful contributions to make, which can lead to problems like isolation and depression. More than 26% of adults in the United States suffer from depression, and seniors who don't keep busy can quickly find themselves showing the early signs.

Continuing to coach is a great way to boost your physical health, emotional health, and to help fight off depression. Helping others prevents isolation and can make you feel more engaged and social. Retirees have fewer opportunities to socialize than people in the workforce, which is why activities such as coaching are so valuable. They can give coaches purpose, while benefitting younger generations.

Should You Keep Coaching?

With all the great benefits of coaching into old age, there's no reason you should have to stop if don't want to. Unless you have a condition that makes coaching dangerous to your health, coaching as you age can give you something to invest your time and energy into. Remember, you can always cut back if it gets to be too much. It's all up to you!

Comment from Coach Gels...

I love this article by Sarah as I can really relate to it, being an old coach myself, albeit now retired. Coaching is a great way to help keep your mind sharp and stay interested in life and young people. You do get exercise patrolling the sidelines, demonstrating and teaching the game. And I love the idea of exercise... like walking to the Dairy Queen. You can avoid head coach stresses by being an assistant and a mentor to younger coaches and players.

Here are some of my favorite "old age" quotes:
  • "One of the many things no one tells you about getting old is that it is such a nice change from being young."
  • "Being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable."
  • "You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or leaks."
  • On turning 70..."I still chase women, but only downhill." - Bob Hope
  • "I intend to live forever - so far, so good."

Articles by Sarah Daren