Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Striking a Balance - A Contrast in Coaches: Skip Prosser and Urban Meyer

My favorite sport is college basketball, and I love watching the teams in the ACC play. So it was a real blow to me in July 2007 when Skip Prosser, the head basketball coach at Wake Forest, died suddenly from a heart attack at age 56.

I was deeply touched by this column, "A Loss for All of College Basketball," by Yahoo! Sports writer Dan Wetzel, who knew the coach and described what an incredible teacher and leader he was, both on and off the court. Skip Prosser touched many lives throughout his career by being an insatiable learner himself and an amazing role model to those he coached.

This past weekend I followed with interest the sequence of events around the resignation and then leave-of-absence of Urban Meyer, head football coach at the University of Florida. Once again, Dan Wetzel provided keen insights and analysis in this column, "Meyer's Next Move Could Define Him," where he described the total obsession Meyer has for coaching and the Florida program.

These words jumped out at me from the recent column and brought back memories of the earlier one:
"More than once Meyer has brought up the 2007 death from a heart attack of Wake Forest basketball coach Skip Prosser. Meyer would be best served focusing on how Prosser lived, not died. Prosser was a coach who carved out significant time for family and outside interests such as reading, history and travel. He was the antithesis of the over-consumed coach. Meyer is the poster child for it."
The lives of these two men - and the contrast in the way they managed their personal lives - reminded me that time with family is precious and can never be recovered. Whether you're an entrepreneur like me or work for a large organization, the demands of your profession can make it difficult to schedule adequate time with those you love most. Then you need to be fully present when you are with them - not distracted by your thoughts, emails, or phone calls, which can dramatically reduce the quality of your time together.

All of us have a finite number of hours and days to spend with those we care about most. We have no guarantees about the future. What do you do to to maintain balance between your work and family life?


  1. In Urban Meyer's case, his workaholic patterns are deeply ingrained. You don't just walk away from work-life habits such as that. It's like quitting smoking...real hard. So he said, "I'm quitting," but then he didn't quite. It's hard to make a life change like that.

  2. One of the things that makes getting any kind of balance really hard is that the people who love us forgive us. They "understand" why we want to take the laptop to the beach or need to come to vacation a couple of days late. They "understand" why we work those long hours and they let us get by with it because work is important to us and they love us. Unless something dramatic happens, that can go on until they just let us go on living the way we want while they live they way they want, without us. The relationship doesn't end with a bang or even a whimper, it just fades away in silence.

  3. Denny, you are so right that new patterns will be difficult to create with the old ones so ingrained. Only a life-threatening health issue or serious damage to family relationships can motivate some people, and even then it can be extremely hard.

    Wally, you make an excellent point about the role of loved ones in supporting unhealthy work habits. And it's sad that so many relationships are damaged or destroyed by omission.

    Thank you both for your contributions to this important issue.


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