This post was written by Southeastern Louisiana assistant coach Joe Scelfo. A former standout offensive lineman at North Carolina State (’16) and South Alabama (’13-’15), Scelfo joined the Southeastern Louisiana football staff in March 2019 after serving on staff at NC State. The Bogart, Georgia native coaches the team’s guards and centers.
I am going to start this off by saying how fortunate enough you are to be in the position you are in right now. You have eyes to see this, a functioning brain to understand this, hands to scroll through, and a willingness to grow as an individual. Some of you may be thinking to yourself “I’m not that lucky, I’m still at my alma mater trying to figure out how I am going to get a job.” But that is perfectly normal. Your life is going to be exactly how you want it to be, just might not be the exact timing you were thinking it would be. See, it is not always about the title, or the logo on your shirt, it is about fulfilling your purpose and having an impact wherever you go. I am going to challenge you right off the bat, if you are going into the profession for the sole purpose of “cashing out,” please just go ahead and stop reading, this is not for you. The game has changed tremendously over the last 25 years, ask any coach who has been blessed to be in it long enough. We have no idea what it was like “back in the day,” but we as young ball coaches have to appreciate and respect the game because it is in our hands moving forward. There is so much controversy in today’s game, at all levels. This profession is one of the greatest gifts that God has ever placed in our lives and it is important that we do not lose sight of that.
Coaches come from many different backgrounds, family dynamics, races, religions, and upbringing. In my opinion, the definition of a coach is someone who has the capability to motivate, teach, and inspire the people around them. It is about not being ego driven but being goal driven. There is a big difference. Start thinking outside the box a little bit. If you are constantly being ego driven and looking out for yourself, you will negatively affect the surrounding staff and ultimately affect your chances of reaching your goals in this profession. Sounds kind of familiar right? You have probably told your players the same thing. I have always been taught that coaches are a direct reflection of their players… So why would you not apply that same mindset to your coaching career and do what is best for the team. The success in your own personal growth will come. Nothing happens overnight and unfortunately the world is evolving to instant gratification and I challenge you as a young coach to not get caught up in that. You chose this profession because you either love the game and are wanting to give back, or you are an elite competitor, or you have a genuine passion for the game. Whatever your reasoning is, don’t ever forget it. Don’t forget it when you go out there and pull off the big upset, and don’t forget it when you get your ass whooped by 60, because it happens to the best of them. There are really two types of coaches in this profession. Those who have gotten fired and those that are going to get fired. Of course there is outliers to every situation so don’t sit there and say well what about coach so and so!
Respecting not only yourself, but your peers are two of the most powerful tools you will need throughout your years. Respecting yourself enough to stay true to your morals and values that you do not fall victim to trying to be someone you are not. I think that is one of the most difficult things about being the young guy or when you are first getting into the profession. Respecting the culture and respecting yourself are two different things as well. It is your duty as an assistant coach or a GA or a coordinator to help make the head coach’s job easier and more efficient. Always remember that the head coach is the head coach for a reason and it is his team, you are just a vital part of it. He hired you because he trusts you, there are no handouts. Breaking someone’s trust is the absolute worst scenario you can ever be in. But it is easy to not get in to that situation. Don’t break his trust, and be honest in any and all situations. It is human nature to make mistakes, we all have flaws. Own up to a mistake you make, learn from it, and do everything in your power to not allow it to happen again. The ultimate team culture is set by your head coach, but you get the unique opportunity as an assistant coach to set your own culture in the room. A culture that abides to any and all rules set in place by the head coach. Have his back in your meeting rooms when it is just you and your players. Yeah I am sure it would be easy to sit there and say “well that is what the head coach wants to do so we are going to do it.” But that statement right there speaks volumes to your kids that you are indirectly saying “I don’t really agree with it but that’s what the man wants, so we will have to do it.” You have to always have fellow coaches backs in front of the players because kids are smart and they pick up on the little things you might not think they do. Respect your peers enough to always have their back, no matter if you agree with it or not, because at the end of the day, we are all in this together.
Hey young guy, let your ego go and learn to learn. Be coachable, be smart, tough, and passionate in everything that you do. Like I said before, the game is changing and younger guys are getting opportunities to show what they have. No one ever said it was easy to walk into a staff and be the youngest guy in the room and have to perform at the same level as guys who have been doing this longer then we have been alive. Hell yeah that is hard, but that is when your passion saves you. Passion is what drives you when you are struggling to learn a new scheme. Passion is what will keep you in the office an extra hour or two just simply to prepare for the next meeting because you have to present on something that you have no experience in. Passion is what motivates you to learn and passion is what saves you when you are down. Everyone gets knocked down, but not everyone gets their ass back up and keeps fighting. Don’t be afraid to stick your hand out and ask for help either. A lot of the guys you are networking with would be honored to help you out, but be genuine with it. A lot of people have been through all the things you are going through and are willing to help you out, all you have to do is ask. Don’t have the “young ball coach” mindset. Think and act like a professional because you are. I remember my senior year at NC State while playing, Dave Doeren said something that will always stick to me. He told the team that your confidence comes from preparation. That holds true more so now than when I was playing. Never go into your day unprepared. Never go into a meeting unprepared. Do not ever go out on the road recruiting unprepared because you will never be confident. Be confident, be prepared.
Through all of the ups and downs, the jobs, the moves, the risks you take, it is crucial that you have a strong foundation with your faith. Whatever you believe in, you have to lean on it. In order to reach your goals, it is going to take quite a few leaps of faith, but having the security blanket of God and trusting in the Lord’s path will set you free. Do not run away from your faith because that is easy. Work on your faith daily. Be passionate about your faith just the same as your career. Your career will come and go but faith remains the same. See it is easy to lose track of your faith in this profession. Monday-Thursday you are grinding it out in the office probably with no windows. Saturday is game day and Sunday you are preparing for the next opponent. Find 10 minutes either before the day gets started, or as you are winding down to work on your faith, however that may be. “Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:4-7
I hope you find this letter touching and applicable to where you are in life. No matter what stage you are in, I hope this letter reaches you. Protect the game and stay true to who you are. Perform to your highest ability. Respect all, fear none. Be passionate. Have faith. Drop your ego. Be confident in yourself and do your job. Be the absolute best version of yourself each and every day you get the opportunity to wake up. Your talent is a gift from God, what you do with it is your gift to God. Best of luck to everyone who took the time to read this and may great success find you.