You only have to coach a few places to realize that there are some school infrastructures that are in complete alignment, and at some schools each individual has their own agenda and many times those could not be more different, which often creates a difficult environment to build a winning program.
I can remember when I first starting interviewing for head coaching jobs, I was naive enough to think that me bringing a scheme or specific approach was going to be enough to turn things around. Looking back, it was a blessing I didn't get those jobs because entering a head coaching job with that mindset would have been a recipe for disaster.
Beyond the head coach and his staff, there is so much more that goes into a team's success.
Heading into my fourth season as a head coach at my second different school, I have been fortunate to have had some experiences that not only have altered my thought process on what it takes to build a consistently successful high school football program, but also how important it is to be in alignment with certain folks at the school.
This is not only true for coaches who hold teaching positions in the building, but also for those like myself who are head coaches, but employed elsewhere for their day job.
With a few years of experience as a head coach, and a handful as an assistant and coordinator, I have learned that there are four roles in the district that really stick out to me that you should be in alignment with. When I say "alignment" I mean you share a common vision and goals and you like being around the person. Don't underestimate the power of working with people that you like being around. Your mood will be better when you feel like you're working with people instead of butting heads daily with folks for things you feel like you need to succeed.
For aspiring head coaches, here are the roles you should be asking about when interviewing for a head coaching position, and for guys already wearing the head coaching hat, being in alignment with these positions can make your job so much easier and enjoyable moving forward.
No one can do it alone. Here's where it helps tremendously to have some alignment, and if you have found it, be thankful because there are a lot of coaches out there with daily headaches because they don't have top-to-bottom alignment.
It should come as no surprise that the first role mentioned here is the one responsible for the overall management of the schools, the enforcement of school board policies, and for the evaluation of the principals in the district.
Having someone in this position that you share a vision and an understanding that you share a common goal of helping the school reach its full potential in everything you do will make your job as the head coach a whole lot easier.
In many ways, while most superintendents answer to the school board, this largely considered the top of the food chain. This is where change starts, and ultimately stops.
2. High School / Building Principal
Bottom line: you want to be somewhere you get along with the principal in your building. When jobs come open, are they willing to consider someone who can also coach (both football as well as other sports)?
One way to tell you and your building principal are on the same page is when he anticipates an opening, and touches base with you to see if you have a coach in mind who could interview for the job. That is a great feeling.
Every year we all hear stories about coaches that left their head coaching job because they had so much trouble getting "their guys" in the building to fill open positions that they were qualified for.
At the very least, you should be able to work with your administration about getting some of your choices the opportunity to interview. Beyond that, it's on them to bring it home, as it's the responsibility of the interview committee to hire the best available candidate. If they're not willing to do that, your job just got a whole lot tougher.
3. High School Athletic Director
This one should be the most obvious.
Like in pretty much any other job, the person you directly report to should be someone whose vision you shared. Ultimately, chances are good you were chosen for the head coaching role because you share a vision with the AD, but turnover happens, and circumstances change where you may not be always be working for the person who selected you for the job.
Being in alignment is one thing, but even more importantly than that when we're talking about your AD is: Are you able to have candid, honest, adult conversations with each other without walking away with hurt feelings? A good AD is going to want to know what they can (or do better) to make your job easier, and you should be doing the same in return.
4. District teachers, staff and faculty
One of the things I have always done in my first 14 days at a head coaching job, is to send a quick email to the staff to introduce myself, let them know where I'm working in the building, and encourage them to reach out if they have any issues with football players in their classes. The simple message opens the line of communication and relays the message that we're on the same side and that I'm willing to take on disciplinary issues head-on.
One other thing on this: Don't underestimate the role that the school secretaries, janitorial staff, your grounds / maintenance crews, lunch ladies, and other support staff play in a school. Many times, they have valuable information about a kid or their family situation, and a lot of times they're the offensive lineman of your school in the way that they have their head down doing the work that is rarely seem, and even more rarely appreciated.
Getting them on board and treating them right will only help you.
Also worth mentioning: Booster president, school board president
Is there one you feel like I left off the list? DM me at @CoachSamz