Just like any line of work, the coaching world is full of veterans who have been around the game for a while that are eager to share their lessons learned with guys just starting off who are the future of the profession.
Here are 10 lessons that some veteran coaches shared about coaching football that they wished to share with young coaches in the profession.
1 - It's not about you. It should never be about you. It's all about the kids.
Many young coaches get into coaching for a variety of selfish reasons. They want to be labeled an "innovator", or they want to have the field they played on named after them someday, or any other variety of similar reasons.
2 - There is a such thing as being "blindly loyal"
The other day I had the opportunity to talk at length with a veteran coach who spent a number of years at a few very prominent football programs under some of the most legendary head coaches the game has ever seen, and during that conversation he mentioned something to me that I really hadn't thought about before and that was "there is a fine line between being loyal, and being 'blindly loyal.'" He explained that after working for one legendary coach for a decade, that coach decided to step away from football, and his identity was so wrapped up in to being one of "his guys" that he found it more difficult than it should have been to find another coaching job when it was time to move on. That's more common than most people realize. In this profession it's important to be loyal, but at a certain point, you've also got to do what is best for you and your family and that may mean taking another job in the name of personal or professional growth, and no coach who truly cares about you and your family will ever fault you for that. It can be a VERY fine line to walk.
3 - There will ALWAYS be more to learn, and you'll never have all the answers
Chances are there's a veteran guy on staff, or in the area, that has forgotten more football than you know. Football is a game that is always evolving, and at the same time there are a lot of ideas being recycled and repurposed. You'll never know it all, but the best coaches are guys that are always hungry to learn more. Never get complacent.
4 - Sometimes you'll have to swallow your pride
Doing the little things without being asked goes a long way - whether that means ODK'ing the week's game late so coordinators can get to work on it, grabbing the balls on the way out to practice, picking up garbage on the way out of the team meeting room, or helping to spot the ball during practice - the guys that act like no job is beneath them develop a sincere appreciation for how things get done as they climb the ladder.
5 - The "yes-man" has VERY limited value to a staff
For those unaware, a "yes-man" is defined as "a person who, regardless of actual attitude, always expresses agreement with his or her supervisor or superior." As a young coach, it can be easy to fall into the people-pleaser trap. However, it would be very smart of you to take mental note of how the older coaches on staff present ideas that are different from what is being asked by the head coach or coordinator. There is a right and wrong way to present different ideas and opinions to your superiors, and the quicker young coaches learn that, the better off they're going to be.
6 - If you have a dream to be a head coach or coordinator one day, dedicate yourself to getting your hands on every piece of information out there to prepare for those opportunities
There is an overwhelming sentiment out there among coaches that there is no real way to prepare for the position of head coach, or to get a feel for calling plays in a game, unless you're actually in that situation. However, while there is no manual out there on how a head coach deals with discipline or tragedy, there is a wealth of information out there in the form of books from head coaches and former head coaches, and podcasts and TED Talks that feature experts in fields of sports psychology and sociology that can educate you and help you see things in a different light. Take advantage of those resources just as much as you invest in the stuff behind the schemes and you'll be a major asset to any program.
7 - You can never have enough friends and contacts in this great profession
Coaching is a unique profession - perhaps more than any other line of work - in that who you know can go a long way, and that goes well beyond moving on for other opportunities in the profession. Having a number of guys to call and bounce ideas off of before, during, and after the season is a huge advantage for both your growth as a coach, as well as for future opportunities down the road. Also included in this is a reminder to never pass up an opportunity to network, you never know what friendship may pay off down the road. Cultivate, maintain, and continue to develop those relationships with the occasional call, email, or text.
8 - It's not about the scheme that you run, it's about how you teach it, and if you can get players to buy into it
As a young coach I was always fascinated at how one coaches use the same schemes with vastly varying degrees of both success and failure. A spread, or Wing-T, or odd front coach in one town can win a state title and break all kinds of records, while another one across town employs the same schemes but struggles to win a single game. But veteran coaches in the profession understand that it's not about what scheme you run, but rather how you're teaching it to your team and if they've bought into the vision you and your staff have, and can execute it with maximum effort. That's the difference.
9 - Don't coach for the money
Those that get into coaching for the right reasons, don't do it for money. Sure, there are guys at the pinnacle of the profession in the NFL and FBS level that are making a hell of a living coaching this great game, but they're the minority. The vast majority of coaches across the country can't make a living on their coaching stipend. There are so many great coaches out there doing it because they realize the value in it for young people, and are gladly doing it for free (or close to free), and what they get out of the experience means so much more than some numbers on a piece of paper that you can take to the bank. If you're coaching solely for the paycheck, you're in it for the wrong reasons, and you probably need to refer back to #1.
10 - You're only as good as the people you surround yourself with
This one is mainly for the head coaches (and aspiring head coaches) who are in charge of filling out their staff. Your assistant coaches are a direct reflection of you and the program you've been tabbed to create. Hire a bunch of selfless guys who put their personal goals behind the team, and your team will reflect that year after year, and the same can be said for hiring the opposite guys. Your program will be a combination of you and the guys that you hire.