Through my experience as a Graduate Assistant at The University of Southern Mississippi and as a high school and Division III coach, I have been fortunate to learn from some tremendous coaches. Here are 10 things that I would like to share with young coaches as they continue to chase their dreams in this ultra competitive business.
1. Build and Maintain Quality Relationships – Keep in touch with coaches you have worked with often. Texting, calling, emailing and Facebook make it easier to stay connected. Remember birthdays and important family events. Send congratulations after big wins or just a random text to check and see how things are going. Make the effort to maintain the relationship once they have moved on to a new job. Don’t burn your bridges. You never know when you might need to cross one.
2. Go Learn More Ball – Go visit other staffs and talk with their coaches. Go to NFL Mini Camps if the team in your area allows coaches to visit. Work camps during the summer. Soak in as much as you can about your position and work to become the best teacher you can. Visiting other coaches allows you to learn new things and you might also pick up on a few things not to do with your team. Also, go and talk with coaches on the opposite side of the ball from you. They can give you great insight into what they are reading vs. certain defenses, which helps you with adjustments and disguises.
3. Stay Broke As Long As You Can – I was at the AFCA Clinic in 2006 and went to the GA Forum featuring James Franklin as one of the coaches on the panel that year. His advice to everyone in the room was to stay broke as long as possible, chase your dreams, and get as much on your resume as can. Once money becomes a factor in your decision making then taking certain jobs and making certain sacrifices becomes difficult. Right now, as a young coach, you are not accustomed to living on a high salary so take full advantage of that by adding to your resume. Coach Franklin also had the same message to a group of college graduates at a Spring 2014 Commencement Ceremony. As hard as it is to do in the moment, it will only benefit you long term.
4. Be Humble with Job Assignments – You never know which coach on staff is watching your reaction and attitude to certain requested job assignments. Sometimes it is not easy to be the guy doing the dirty work but your attitude while doing it could be the difference in you getting a job or not. I have been asked to take vehicles to car washes, go to Walgreens to get toilet paper, help coaches move furniture, make individual “to go” plates from our cafeteria with specific orders on each plate during 2 a days, pick up families from the airport, babysit certain players and make sure they go to class, and many more things. I tried to do each of them with a humble servant type spirit, while having a PHD which was tough at times. One day, a coach will remember the way you went about your business, your attention to detail in little things, and your attitude during it all. It could lead to your first big job.
5. Know What, Why, and Where – Know what you are doing, Why you are doing it, and Where you fit in at each job you go to and within each level of responsibility you are given as you grow in this business.
6. Be Great at Something – We all have gifts. Find yours within the program and be the best at doing it every day. It might be opponent breakdowns, learning new technology to promote the team, recruiting, strength & conditioning, or fundraising. Each aspect of a program is important. If a head coach does not notice your absence, then he probably does not need you. If a head coach can trust you to take over a certain area of the program, more than likely, you will have a permanent job or at least get a great recommendation.
7. Be a River not a Reservoir – I heard Condoleezza Rice say that at a leadership conference in 2013. She is exactly right. We all have had experiences that can help make the people around you better. Pour into your students, players, and coaching staff.
8. Know your Influencers – Sometimes our LEADERS are not are best players. Sometimes they are not even the best people on the team. Leaders can lead in good ways and they can also lead in bad ways. It is your job as a coach to find out who the influencers are because they are your leaders. If you want the team to follow you then you better get the influencer to follow first.
9. Make TO DO LIST – There is entirely too much going on everyday to stay organized in your head. Write stuff down. You have personal and professional duties with your family and with your job. Do not let people down because you are not organized and can’t balance responsibilities.
10. Read – Right now, I have two three ring binders filled with notes, stories, team building ideas, and life lessons that I use daily when trying to make our team better. All of them came from reading. Find books on good leaders, coaches in all sports, AFCA annual clinic manual, spiritual builders, those that help with managing money, and of course American Football Monthly. Soak in the lessons, share the advice you receive, and enjoy the experience each book or article provides you.
Coaching is a Job of Significance. Lou Holtz (2006) once said “Coaching gives one a chance to be successful as well as significant. The difference between the two is when you die, your success comes to an end. When you are significant, you continue to help others be successful long after you are gone. KEEP TEACHING, KEEP COACHING, KEEP INFLUENCING, AND KEEP BEING SIGNIFICANT.