One of the most popular questions that we as a staff at FootballScoop field annually from high school coaches around the country is from guys with dreams of one day coaching at the college level.
Even though today's landscape of college football is littered with former high school head coaches now at the pinnacle of major college football (Gus Malzahn at Auburn, Art Briles at Baylor and Chad Morris at SMU just to name a few), breaking into college football can be a daunting task for even the most accomplished coaches out there. And there are thousands of coaches just starting their coaching journeys who are willing to do just about anything to simply get their foot in the door at the college level, but they run into a wall at seemingly every turn.
The good news is that there are a handful of things that you can be doing right now to put yourself in the best possible position to land a college coaching job.
So, with that in mind, we decided to share a few tips for guys who have dreams of coaching at the college level. Many of these apply to small college coaches hoping to work their way up the ladder as well.
1) Be willing to swallow some pride and work your tail off for little-to-no pay: This can be just as true for the recent college graduate looking to break into college football as it is for many established high school coaches. Don't get caught up in the job title, work your butt off and try to do a variety of things to showcase how you can be valuable to the program.
Treat no job as if it is too big or too small.
2) Don't be afraid to take an off-the-field job first: Head coaches only have a designated number of full-time coaches so don't be afraid to take a job off the field first. Many times when that on-the-field job pops open, the first place head coaches look to fill the spot is internally because those guys know the program and expectations, know the kids, and have worked diligently to earn their seat at the table.
3) Treat your current position like your dream job: Guys are so often looking for their next job that they fail to fully commit to wringing every bit of potential out at their current job. No coach wants to be known as the guy always looking for something better, and if you're not pouring everything into your current opportunity you're cheating the kids you're working with and doing a tremendous disservice to the program and community. Very, very few coaches are going to hire a guy like that at the college level.
4) Find a way to stand out from the crowd: When it comes to open jobs, the bigger a college program is the more resumes pile up for those open jobs. That means coaches have to sort through a stack of resumes every time they have an open position. Find a way to separate yourself from the crowd.
You may have heard the story of an aspiring basketball GA getting his resume laser-etched onto a basketball and hand delivering it to the head coaches office, or the guy that had his resume printed onto a mannequin's arm so that when he delivered it to the head coach's office he could say "I'd give my right arm for this job." Or maybe the AD is a a huge slow pitch softball player who travels around the Midwest during the summer, so you put snippets of your resume on four softballs and deliver it to his office that way. Be creative and find a way to get your resume noticed and if the job is "truly open," chances are much better that you'll get a look.
5) Never miss an opportunity to network: As a coach, you're judged on production in one form or another (wins, graduation rate, season ticket sales, etc.), therefore head coaches hire who they know and trust. If you can get someone you know to vouch for you great, but nothing makes an impression quite like shaking hands, talking ball and family life, sharing schemes and ideas on cocktail napkins, all while sharing a cold beverage. That face-to-face interaction not only goes a whole lot further than a call from a friend (or friend of a friend), but it also does a better job of reinforcing that message from your reference making the call on who you are as a person, and why you'd be a fit for the opening.Take some time to genuinely get to know people - and let them get to know you - when they have no positions to offer, and they'll be much more likely to remember you when they find themselves with a job needing to be filled.
6) Be "relationship focused": Recruiting is the foundation of college football, and it is said a million times by coaches every year - "recruiting is all about relationships." Take the time to build relationships with coaches in your conference, in your area, in your state, and in your geographic region. After those relationships are built, spend even more time cultivating them. College coaches want someone that is "relationship focused" so that they can not only recruit successfully, but also so they can find ways to fit in around the office and ingrain themselves among the coaches families and the rest of the college community.
7) Always be thirsty to learn more:The best coaches are often guys that know the intricacies of offense, defense and special teams, regardless of the position that they coach.Great offensive minds know how to attack an odd front because they know where players are lined up, why, and what they're keyed in on, and therefore, know how to take advantage of those keys and alignments. The same goes for the defensive side of the ball. Try to diversify your experience on the opposite side of the ball by coaching a position on the opposite side of the ball if you can, or sitting on meetings when possible with the other staff, or doing something as simple as sitting in on clinic talks with a coach on the opposite side of the ball. As an added bonus, many times the best networking occurs at conventions after the speaking sessions end, and that's where #5 comes back into play.