Considerations in Taking a New Head Coaching Job

March 12, 2020

Changing jobs goes along with the profession of high school football coaching. In most cases in order to move up you have to move out some. Unless you worked as an assistant there as your first job and was later elevated to head coach, you have probably moved multiple times. Taking that new job as a head coach, whether it is your first head coaching job or not, is a hard decision. It gets even harder when you have a wife and family to consider.

Do as much investigating of the job as possible before you get to an interview process. Here are some things you might want to think about before taking that new head job.

  1. Program History– most schools will never go very far from their success history, whether good or bad. If they have not been to the playoffs in 10 years, there are probably some deep rooted issues there. Do they seem to swap coaches every 2 or 3 years? Why did the last guy leave? Have they been generally considered to be a basketball or baseball school? Go to ahsfhs.com and check out the school history and if you have questions, ask someone.
  2. Administration- Unless you are going to have better players than everyone else every week, this is a big one. Ignore the lip service and find out from insiders about the administration. Are they going to help you get teaching positions to hire coaches? What will you be responsible for in your daily job? In the interview, ask some tough questions about things you need to know and if you are getting the run around, that is probably a bad sign. Another thing to consider- how long can these administrators be expected to stay in those positions? There have been a lot of coaches who lost a good principal or superintendent and had them replaced with someone who has different priorities. If you have ever have a bad principal, you know how important this is.
  3. Coaching Staff- How much help will you have? Will you be able to bring coaches in to work with you? What are the skills and abilities of those who are there? Here is a big one- is there somebody on the staff who wanted the job and you were hired instead? What are his feelings? Has he poisoned others on the staff about the new hire? The bigger the school the more coaches you need. If you can’t bring anyone with you, that can be a red flag that you might end up on an island by yourself. Do they have athletic trainers provided? Another consideration about staff- what is the pay? If they do not pay coaches well, there will generally be a lot of turnover and you may have difficulty convincing coaches to join your staff or to keep them. You may be a great coach, but you can’t do it by yourself. You will need quality help.
  4. JV Program– Who runs your JV program is a big deal. What kind of coach are they? Who are the assistants? Quality junior varsity football help is hard to find. Not everyone can work with JV teams well. The big question is can they get the kids out to play. It is hard to build from the bottom up if there is little or no bottom.
  5. Problems– Before taking any job, know what the biggest issues seem to be that keep them from winning. Are they fixable and will the administration help you right them? Some schools just don’t have many athletes. What is their workout procedure? What is the work ethic like? Does the school lack discipline? Coaching help? Facilities? What is the overall community support? You might also want to know the financial status of football. The program may need some things but have no money for equipment, uniforms, etc. Knowing some of the problems is good, but if there is no true commitment to help fix them from administration they will probably continue.
  6. Family- Is this a good community with good quality elementary and middle schools? Hopefully it is a place your family will enjoy living. Is your wife a teacher and are they guaranteeing her a job? There have been a lot of coaches who have taken a job with the understanding that their wife would be hired only to be told later there is no position for her. If your wife isn’t happy, no one will be happy.
  7. Pay- It is always a consideration. Many coaches take another job for a pay raise, especially if they are within 10 years of retirement. There are a lot of good coaches who eventually leave their school because it doesn’t pay well. Your wife’s pay and employment is also a consideration. Be careful about taking a job strictly for the pay raise unless you plan on retiring soon.
  8. Teaching Responsibilities– What are your daily teaching duties? In bigger schools the head coach may only deal with football players in workout classes or may not have any teaching responsibilities at all. Others may teach P.E. all day long. How much free time you have during the day is important. Otherwise, you have little time to work and plan during the school day during the season. This means you have to do more at home which means less family time and less sleep. It is a big issue you must consider. The less time you have during the school day, the more stress you will be working under.
  9. How Important is Football to the School and Community? Is this considered a basketball or baseball school? Does the community come to the game and support? Is there a supportive booster club in place to help you get the things you need? If the administration considers football no different than girls volleyball, then you must consider if they care if football succeeds or not.
  10. Can You Win at This School? Maybe the most important consideration. If it is a great place to live and you are going to make more money it looks good initially. But if you can’t win there, it will be a 3-5 year deal and you will be moving on. If you are a competitive person, it is going to be hard to be happy winning 2 or 3 games a year. Your wife has to listen to the complaints, as well as your children.

A final thought for coaches considering a move. If this job move turns out well, what will be the benefits of the move 5 years from now for your family and your career? More importantly, if it does not turn out well, what will be the next career move for you 5 years from now and how will it affect your family?