For those who do not know, Steve Spurrier is one very good football coach. He is recently retired and holds the second most wins in the history of the Southeastern Conference where he spent a large portion of his career. The Southeastern conference is a notoriously difficult place to establish a successful career. In today’s college coaching atmosphere there seems to be room to dine at the table of success only for coaches who are willing to sacrifice all of their time and interests. Seemingly every coaching staff works upwards of 80 hours a week during the season. In the stiflingly hot competitive environment of collegiate football there is no room for error on a week to week basis. Losses are simply not wins, and if a coach collects too many too quickly the career is over and done on a grandiose scale.
Medical students put in an astounding amount of hours studying. It is sometimes touted as a badge of honor. We often think that we are in the most time consuming and life encompassing industry there is. I once entertained the idea of coaching football as a career. Once I saw the innerworkings and time required by the profession, I waved curtly as I scurried out the backdoor and chose medicine. There is more than enough convincing evidence to place a parallel between the demands and personal sacrifices of the coaching profession and the medical profession. Steve Spurrier operated in this crushing environment where hours worked were touted like a badge of honor. If a coach does not push past 80 hours during the season and miss every meal with his family he is undevoted, a weakling, a loser. Except, Steve Spurrier never worked that many hours. Spurrier was notorious within the coaching realm for finishing work at 6PM and always making it home to have dinner with his wife and kids; outcast behavior in the coaching profession. When other coaches were knee deep in review sessions at 8 o’ clock at night during the season, Spurrier could be found somewhere knocking dirt off his golf shoes after a quick nine. Other coaches viewed hours worked as a gateway to success. Spurrier watched one after another burn up in the heat and fade away. He marched to his own beat and developed a reputation as the most exciting interview in college football due to his colorful personality. To give some clarity, during a bye week before his 1996 Florida Gators played their biggest opponent #2 ranked Tennessee, he legendarily decided to abscond to the beach with his coaching staff for sun and surf. That choice may not seem of equal duty shirking compared to studying from a medical student’s perspective. But can you imagine casually hopping a plane for a few days at the beach a week before a board exam? I cannot.
But I am trying to. Slowly. My goal during these four years is to implement Spurrier’s mentality of coaching in my approach to medicine. These depictions of him as a coach are not meant to belittle his work ethic. He worked hard as a coach. Harder than most. But he, unlike many of his colleagues, was able to live in that rarified air where he balanced the work, play, and interests to be effective for an extended period of time and experience plenty of success. Not just average success, legendary success. The mentality of efficiency and maintaining the self is so applicable to medicine. More importantly, if it can be done in college football then it can be done in any situation. Law, administration, education, politics, you name it. Even in our self-anointed most taxing profession. It is difficult for me to maintain this philosophy when obligations stack up or there are needs in the family. Sometimes I wonder how he managed to do it so effectively. This is not a perfect fit yet, but I am going to push and mold and chisel until it works. And for those curious to what his 1996 Gators did after he and his staff took an unheard-of beach trip? They beat #2 Tennessee on their way to a national championship title.