Skip to main content

Fathers in Football: How four successful coaches manage football and home life

Earlier this month, I sneaked into a Tuesday morning breakout session at the AFCA Convention entitled "Fathers in Football." I expected to be one of the only guys in there. I was wrong. The place was packed. Turns out, a lot of coaches need coaching points on how to be coaches at home.

On the panel were Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, Baylor associate head coach Brian Norwood, East Central (Okla.) defensive coordinator Randy Pippin and Thomasville (Ga.) High School head coach Leroy Ryals, Jr. Buffalo co-defensive coordinator Maurice Linguist served as the moderator. Between the four of them, these coaches have handled their fair share of jobs over more than a century of coaching, and managed to raise more than a dozen combined children. 

By my amateur estimating skills, between 750 and 1,000 coaches showed up to hear what they have to say.

On introducing the possibility of a new job to your children
Norwood: I try to include my family in all my decisions. I don't start off in doing that, but if it's something I have a peace about, I'll bring them into it. I try not to alarm them unless it's something I'm interested in.

Pippin: I'm an island of testosterone in a sea of estrogen (Pippin has four daughters). You've got to be careful. They're emotional. I try to portray loyalty, so I don't present something to them unless it's a serious possibility.

Stoops: Unfortunately, my kids hear about them through the media before they come true. My wife and I are always in discussions. That's the person I trust and have confidence in the most.

Pippin: You have to recruit them just like you would a blue-chipper because they're the most important people in your life. When you bring them to town for the first time, drive them by the mall and the lake, not by the railroad tracks. 

On bringing work home
Stoops: It's almost like it's a whole different guy when I'm at home that has to go through the day, the media, talk to the team. I can't say there aren't times when I'm more quiet than usual. My daughter usually picks up on that. When I'm at home, I'm just a guy. I take my kids to school every morning. You transition when you walk in the office.

Ryals: We never discuss football at the dinner table. My wife gets pissed at me and my mother-in-law is worse than her. They want to talk ball. When I'm at home, I want to be with my girls. I'm just Dad. 

On blending your career with your wife's aspirations
Stoops: My wife is very driven and independent. As a coach's wife, those are important because we're not around a lot. I dated her a long time. I told her, "For half the year, you don't see me a lot." She got it.

On bringing your family around the football program
Pippin: I try to have them at practice but when we're game-planning, I get them out of there.

Stoops: I want my players to know (my family). I want my kids who maybe don't come from the best families to see how they're supposed to be as fathers.

On handling down time away from the job
Stoops: It's very strange to not have anything to do. Then my wife gets mad. I have to have an assignment.

Norwood: She becomes the leader even more when I have free time. Our kids are mostly grown, so we'll go shopping or go see a movie. 

On setting a family calendar
Ryals: I try to get a calendar for the whole year for the football program, and the first person to get it is my wife. I put on there days I take off, days I'll go on vacation. I encourage my assistants to do the same. We do a cruise as a staff, that way I'm not the bad guy with my other coaches' wives.

Pippin: If you want to be a successful family, set family goals. If you're not intentional, that's the thing that will get left behind. Editor's note: Pippin then explained how one of his daughters wanted to go ice skating with him last year, but he put it off. She ended up breaking her arm. A year later, the arm has healed and he bought her a season pass at the ice rink.

On his team's in-season work hours
Norwood: We meet, beginning at 6:30 or 7. We'll then break to workout at 11, meet again, and then go to practice. We're usually done by 9 or 9:30. We're working when we're working, but we do take breaks.

Stoops: During the season, I take my kids to school and have for 15 years. I got that from Steve Spurrier. We have a staff meeting at 8:45. I encourage my guys to get a workout in at noon. To me, it's important to work out every day. Then we're back for meetings, and after practice we'll have dinner brought in to watch practice tape. Hopefully we can leave the office by 7:30. 

On a typical post-game Sunday schedule
Stoops: I've always been an after church guy. I go right in, discuss everything, break for church and then come back that afternoon.

Norwood: We come in in the afternoon. I get up early, I still have too much adrenaline running through me from the night before to sleep much, watch the film, then go to church. Watching the film takes some time, a lot more than it used to. In our conference we run a lot of plays, so it takes a while.