This article is republished with permission of Coach Chris Fore.
Note: Chris wrote this post about high school jobs; but certainly there are aspects that apply to every job.
10 things to consider before taking a new job
1. The Administration
Does the administration support athletics? Is it support in word or support in deed or support in both? I’ve worked at three schools since 2001. Five at one, five at another, and started at my third school back in June of 2012. Before 2001, I worked as a substitute for a few different districts as well, but don’t really count those.
I’ve seen some really great administrators who supported athletics, and some who didn’t. I’ve seen administrators who SAID they supported athletics, and some who said they did but really didn’t when push came to shove. I’ve seen one principal who was at just as many athletic events as me, the athletic director. He (Dr. Terry Gaunt of Capistrano Valley Christian Schools in San Juan Capistrano) is the best principal I’ve worked for. He supported athletics in more ways than his coaches would ever know. One reason, he was the former Head Baseball Coach, former Athletic Director, and he played collegiate baseball. He grew up around athletics. It makes a big difference when your key administrators have been athletic directors and or coaches.
One way to find out if the administration really supports athletics is by asking around. Try your hardest to contact some coaches at the school, totally off the record. It’s usually not what is said, it is what is NOT said that will key you in to the admin. Get to campus early on the day of your interview and ask around. Ask some kids, it’s amazing what they will say to a guy in a suit that they don’t know!
2. The History
What has happened with the football program in the past? I like to look at four time
periods, and literally go through their records and total them up. What was their record last year? How about the last three years? The last five years? The last ten years? Total up their win-loss record of those four different periods. See what the win percentage is. Look hard at why they have the win percentage they do. Have they been able to win any league championships over the last ten years? If not, what can you see in their league that might tell you why. For instance, when I was at Capistrano Valley Christian, I was competing for three years against THE best small school in the state of California, St. Margarets Episcopal. They won 42 games in a row, a State Championship, and three section championships. How awesome they were in my league huh?! AND, less than 2 miles from my campus. Here I was in their league, and they had the best three year run in their school’s history.
How many different coaches have there been the last three, five, ten years? That should tell you a little about the win/loss record being where it is. It will also tell you a little about the stability of the program. Obviously, if they’ve been through five coaches in ten years, we have an issue. You need to determine what the issues might be. These two historical perspectives are KEY as you investigate the job: win/loss record and coaching history.
3. The Enrollment
From 2001 to 2005, Linfield Christian went from 195 students to 450! I left in 2006. At Capistrano Valley Christian, enrollment went from 240 in 2006 to 172 in 2010. Needless to say, football improved quite a bit while at Linfield, and got worse while I was at Capo. I competed against Capo and we had common opponents in the 2001-04 seasons. I was always impressed by them, and thought it would be a great school to work for. BUT, I had NO clue what was going on behind the scenes with the enrollment. A brand new school opened a few miles away that was just absolutely draining their 8th grade kids. A large number of 8th graders were going to the newer, bigger, better school. It had a very negative impact on the overall enrollment. Not only did we go from 240 to 172 while I was there, we went from having ten international students to forty!
If you are going to a public school you might not have to worry about enrollment. This is something that is so state specific, and area specific in your state. I have no idea how enrollment issues effect a public school in Kentucky!! But at a private school in Southern California, it’s tough to put together a competitive football program with an enrollment that is going down the toilet!
4. The Money
Two areas here that are important: the money in your pocket and the money in your program! How much are you going to be paid for your “day” job and your football job? Sometimes coaches do not want to ask these questions, or really investigate this part of your job, for whatever reason. But it is important for your family. You single guys have a little more freedom here. Us married guys don’t! Will the money you will make be enough to meet the demands of your family? I just had to turn down a job interview at a really decent program out here in a few divisions above where I’ve spent most of my career, because financially it just wouldn’t work for us. Ask questions about camps in the summer too. Coaches can make up some money by running summer camps. You won’t retire off the money, but it can help supplement the minimal amount of money that coaching makes. Instead of a nickel and hour, maybe you can make a dime!! Ask about playoff money too. Most schools don’t compensate their coaches for making it to the playoffs, and working hard for an extra one, two, four weeks. Why is this? The system most schools use mean that the more successful your program is, the less money you make. Isn’t this weird? I’m glad that school I just started at here in June, we were able to get the school board to approve playoff money. That’s how it should be everywhere. Coaches, try to negotiate for this. Our school is paying assistant football coaches $150 per week, the Head Coach $200 per week during the playoffs.
How much money will you have for your program? We are all facing budget cuts these days, which means money is even more important to discuss! A few ways schools do it: each sport gets a certain amount of money allotted to coaches they spend as they need, school has an overall athletic budget, school gives football a certain amount and rest is covered by boosters, etc. It is very important to have an understanding of how the money works. Do you have to fundraise for transportation, or is that covered? Do you have to pay to use the field during the summer or no? What about an overnight camp you might want to have? How is this funded? Can you do your own fundraising to buy the “over and above things?” Get as much information as possible about the financial details of the football program at this new school. My budget was once nailed for the reconditioning of helmets twice in one year! I had to pay for the last guy who failed to send in the helmets right after the season, so I had to pay the bill in August; and then I had to pay when I got the helmets my team used eight months later. I also had to raise money for a storage container at one school. $2500 we had never talked about before I took the job. Would it have been a deal breaker? No, but it would have told me a LOT about the way money was handled.
5. The Facilities
At Linfield Christian in Temecula, we put in a 1.2 million dollar beautiful Field Turf field in my first year as their Head Coach. Three years later when I went to Capo, we practiced on one of the worst grass fields I’ve ever seen! And we had to drive about a half of mile to get there as it was on another schools campus. Again, something I didn’t investigate enough. I knew they played their games off campus, but didn’t know about the practice situation. That was a big headache I had to deal with. Not ideal at all to get in your car every day and transport EVERTHING you need for a football practice. That’s when I had to go and raise money for a storage shed for us to have at that facility. There was no vision to have something like that there because “it was never done before.” You see, they used to practice right on campus, on a nice field, and I knew about that. But then the board decided to remove about half of the field because they put a driveway through that part of campus. Talk about a game changer!
Find out about the game facility, the practice facility, the weight room, the locker room, everything you can think of facility wise. Is there field hockey that you share the field with during the Fall? Junior high football games to deal with? Frosh, JV and Varsity have how many fields to use? Where do you practice when the frosh team has a 3 pm game? There are a lot of issues! If you don’t HAVE to have the job, facilities might be something that turns you away. Facilities can be one of those BIG headaches if not done the right way.
6. The Philosophy
What is the overarching philosophy of the school board and administration about athletics? Is athletics something they do, or someone they are? HUGE difference! This philosophy of where athletics fits on a high school campus starts at the top, with the board of the school and works its way down. You can have administrators who don’t buy in to the vision of the school board, but ultimately, the board will win that. You can have an immediate supervisor in an athletic director who has athletics as a priority on campus, but if the “real decision makers” on campus don’t agree with his vision, it will not matter.
Does their philosophy play out with decisions on a daily basis? For instance, do they really want to build a football program and do what it takes to make that happen? Does the school have a philosophy to get as many coaches on campus as possible, or do they rely on walk ons? If their philosophy is to get coaches on campus jobs, is it happening? Is the proof in the pudding? These philosophical issues are major in your football program. What is the philosophy of multi-sport athletes and how does that play out on campus? Again, this comes down to philosophy. Make sure their philosophy matches yours. Here’s a good one which was a deal breaker for me at one school I interviewed at. I left saying, “If they offer the job, I won’t accept it.” Told my wife that same thing that night. The school’s philosophy was that no extra-curricular activities could take up more than 2 hours per day. No sports teams, no drama rehearsals, no debate clubs, nothing! Totally impractical! I can agree with no more than 2 hours on the field. But this included weight room, field time, film time, meeting time, etc. No more than 2 hours together on any given day. The only exception was travel time and games. Obviously, travel time and games will take more than two hours. I gave them an example of a Monday: 60 minutes in the weight room, 60 minutes in the film room, 20 minute team meeting, 90 minutes on the field. This is a total of almost four hours on Monday, our biggest day of the week. They laughed at it. I knew our philosophies didn’t match. They were 0-10 this year (2012) . . . .
7. The Area
Is this an area you want to raise your family? Do you see yourself living in this area for three years, five years, ten years, or twenty years? What are you willing to sacrifice to live in the area this school is in? My wife and I have been trying to get a job out in Texas since about 2006. We would love to raise our family there, for a variety of reasons. But it’s difficult for a California boy to beat a good old Texas boy for a job! I mean, that’s what makes Texas high school football the best in the nation right? I was close in 2006, was a finalist on a job. Beat out 105 guys, lost to one. They flew my wife and I out there first class, only time I’d ever been in first class ever! Booster Club took us out one night. When the principal dropped me off at the airport, his last words were “Now Chris, if you don’t win after a few years, we will be replacing you!” I loved it!
Back to the subject at hand – the job might be a good job, but will the area be a good fit for your family, and just as important, is the area a good crop for football players? Is football important in the area? Does your school have a football reputation in the area or is there another school in the area the “football school?”
8. The Opportunity
Sometimes, you want to just take any head coaching opportunity to get yourself in to that “head coaching world.” What you really need to consider when thinking about that next job is “is this a good opportunity for my career?” Sometimes you do have to be selfish, which kind of goes against what coaches teach and preach most of the time. But the bottom line is that you have to do what is best for your career sometimes. Will this opportunity get you closer to your end goal? That is the question you need to use to filter your decision. I often regret leaving Linfield Christian in 2006. The main reason I did it was because I was very weary of the classroom, and I wanted to become an Athletic Director. The AD there at Linfield was married to the Superintendent, so I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Football wise, I was in a really great spot with a program we had really been able to do good things with. I went to a school that ended up dropping to 8 man football after being there five years, mainly because of the enrollment, and things behind the scenes I didn’t know about. In many ways, quite honestly, that killed my coaching career for a little while. When I started looking elsewhere, all of a sudden, I was an 8 man coach. I had only done it one year, with ten years of 11 man coaching, but you are only as good as your last job.
So, you really need to judge whether or not this move is a good opportunity not just for the short term, but the long term as well. Y-O-U are the only one who knows that.
9. The Tools
What do you have at your fingertips to build the program of your dreams? Does the school have what it takes for you to do what you want to do? If they don’t, do they have the financial commitment to buy those things? Again, I refer to Linfield Christian where I first became a Head Coach. I would buy twenty four footballs per year there. I LOVE having a lot of footballs around. And I like them to be nice. We would usually break out two new balls per week, and turn two old ones in to kicking balls, or give them to JV. When I went to CVCS, they said “We ordered you five footballs for next year, one more than we ordered last year.” I literally laughed out loud, I thought it was a joke. But what I realized is the last coach only asked for that many balls. When I asked for more, they bought them. When I asked the parents for money for a new digital video editing system, one parent stepped up and wrote a check. Those are tools. I also consider the student-athletes on your campus as tools for your program. Are the tools there? I once hired a coach who came in and I would refer to “the kids here.” He stopped me one day and said “Coach, kids are kids, it doesn’t matter where you are.” A few years later, he agreed with me, “the kids here are different” he agreed. Does this job have kids that make football players? Let’s face it, sometimes schools don’t have the Jimmys OR the Joes! Make sure you know what kind of tools you will have.
10. The Family
(My wife just saw my list and said “I’m glad that I’m number 10!! As I told her, these are in no specific order!)
Is this a good move for your family? You know what they say “Happy wife, happy life!” Will your wife be okay with this move, if you are married? What are the positive and negative things for your family with this move? For instance, at this school I just started at in June as the Athletic Director and Varsity Football Special Teams Coach, I’m now literally two minutes away from school. And my son who started kindergarten this year, his school is between our house and my high school. Talk about a LOT of convenience. Before this job, as a married couple, I had never lived closer than a thirty minute drive to work. We’ve been married almost nine years! So, this move has been really great for our family. The other thing is I’m making the same here in Victorville salary wise for my Athletic Director job as I did in South Orange County. (If you know California, you know how huge this is!) Again, a game changer for my family.
Men, we don’t always think of our families in our moves and career decisions, but you need to think of them in long and short term ways. How many moves can your kids handle in and out of schools? How many social groups can your wife change in and out of before she is over moving to support your career goals? These are very, very important things to consider!