If you are an assistant coach and desire to be a head coach, when do you seek that first job? What kind of things do you need to be doing to help you land that initial head position? It is important for younger coaches to understand how important it is to create a resume with solid work while building a reputation of character among the education community. Here are some ideas that might help prepare a coach to land that first head ball coach job out there. Even more importantly, these ideas might help him keep that job.
- Work Under Head Coaches With Integrity. It is the best way to learn the game. Seek out a quality head coach and ask for a job. Listen to him and watch him deal with the good things and the bad moments. Watch him deal with unruly players and parents. Watch him at booster club meetings, staff meetings and team meetings. Watch him interact with teachers and administrators. Watch him lead and start to develop your leadership skills. Watch him at practice, watch him motivate, watch him organize. Watch him at school, watch him with his family, watch him work with the other coaches. Watch him interact with the players. Watch him make the tough decisions and do the right thing for the team. Just watch him every day.
- Build Your Football Knowledge. Coach as many different positions as possible. Work on offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Coach backs and linemen (they are different). Coach the punt team and the PAT team. If the only thing you ever coach is the position you played yourself, you will have to depend very heavily on your staff at that first job to have knowledge in those other areas. Study the game. Today there s a wealth of knowledge out there on the internet. Go to clinics and read books. Pay attention to those strategy sessions on Sunday afternoon. Ask questions of the older coaches about everything. As the head coach, it is hard to have a discussion with your offensive line coach if you don’t know anything about offensive line play.
- Coach Other Sports. Most head football coaches were the head coach of another sport or even multiple sports in their younger days. All sports are different, but it’s a great way to learn to organize, practice and deal with players and their parents. It is also an excellent opportunity to learn from your own mistakes.
- Build Relationships. This will be vital to you as you become the HBC. Get to know the older generation and learn from them. Get to know the guys on the staff where you work and coaches on other staffs. You will need to hire assistant coaches when you have your own team and it is comforting when you can hire people you know and trust. Develop good relationships with administrators. They do the hiring, and they will not always be at the same school. One day that assistant principal that you helped by covering that class or running that problem athlete for him will be a superintendent looking for a new head coach. Building friends in education is always a good thing.
- Learn the Rules. It is important to know the rules of football and of the AHSAA. Get a football rule book and study it. You will be surprised what you learn. Read the AHSAA handbook. If you don’t understand a rule, ask an older coach what it means. Keep up with the rule changes each year. When you become HBC, you are the one everyone turns to about the rules. One of the best things you can do is to learn and respect all of the rules. Not knowing the rules says something about your lack of concern for important details.
- Be Willing to Work at the Dirty Jobs. Paint the field, work on the helmets, clean out the equipment room, pick up paper, clean the restroom, sweep out the weight room, carry the dummies out, cut the grass, call the maintenance guy to fix the water fountain, vacuum the locker room, mop the floor, make Johnny clean out his locker, etc. It is Coaching 101. Do all of the little dirty jobs that no one wants to do. Most importantly, do them without being told. If you have been assigned these duties, do them like they are the most important job on the team. Someone will remember it later on. A great coach once said that you can’t do the big jobs well if you never cared about the little ones.
- Keep Up with Technology. Your technology skills may help you land a good assistant coaching job which might help lead you to that first head job. Computer and video skills are vital to coaching today and you will need someone on your staff as HBC to take charge of that. The more you know the better off you will be. Technology can help you organize and motivate your team. For the first time in football history, administrators are caring more and more about the technology skills of their head football coach.
- Learn to be a Teacher. Coaches are truly just classroom teachers who teach a subject that the community enjoys watching. Learn how to teach all of your players, learn to teach your other sport, learn to teach your school subject. Learn how to teach. There is a huge difference in having knowledge and being able to teach it so everyone can learn.
- Study the Great Coaches. This is one that eludes a lot of the younger generation. Why was Bear Bryant so successful? What distinguished Bill Walsh and Vince Lombardi from the other coaches of their generations? Why has Bill Belichick and Nick Saban seemed to have it figured out? Didn’t they coach together in their earlier years? Read about and study the great coaches of the past and present and their beliefs. How did they deal with players, how did they organize and motivate? It might be the key to your success as HBC.
- Write Down Your Philosophy of Football in 200 Words or Less. Do this before you apply for a head football coaching position. What will you emphasize when you get your team? Your philosophy must cover everything that could occur in your program so it is great to have rules and beliefs to guide you. Those rules and beliefs are really your philosophy and what you must live by.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but just a guide. These suggestions will do more than just build your resume. They will help prepare you for being the leader of a football program that will look for your guidance on a daily basis. Most importantly, young coaches should be patient and look to develop a reputation of character, positive attitude and work ethic as they prepare for their future. One of the worse things you can do is to take a head coaching job without preparing yourself in as many areas as possible. Somewhere there is a group of young men out there hoping that you are the one that can inspire their team to greatness.