Last week we posted an interview Gene Chizik gave after he walked away from his defensive coordinator job at North Carolina in order to spend more time with his family. The former Auburn national champion coach has been fortunate enough to earn enough to where he doesn't have to work.... so he chose not to work.
“The guys that I’m closest with have called or texted me and said, ‘I can’t wait until I’m in the position to make the same decision.’… I try to tell people all the time: There’s a huge distinction between who you are and what you do,” Chizik said.
It's a nuanced discussion with a lot of variables, the largest one being that 99.99 percent of coaches don't have the same opportunity Chizik has earned. Plenty (all?) coaches would love to spend more time at home -- and yet the job is the job.
We received a Twitter message from reader Bo Culver, a high school coach at Deshler High School in Alabama. His point: working hard doesn't mean burning the midnight oil.
"I see a lot where coaches are stepping down to be better husbands and fathers. I commend them for that," Culver writes. "I would like to mention that I truly believe you can be great at work and at home. Spending every waking moment with my fam (sic) doesn't make me a great father. I also don't believe being a great coach requires me to spend every moment on football. I do focus on being all there wherever I am. Being a great coach does not mean you have to be at work until 9 p.m. every night. It doesn't mean that you have to abandon your family during the season. It just means when you are at work you should work. Cut down on shooting the bull, focus on how to take an effective 3+ hour practice to a more efficient practice that it closer to 2. Leave the field with a plan on what happens when you get in. Get in and get it done.
"Putting in more hours doesn't mean you are a 'grinder.' It just means you spend more time at work. I know there are some guys that dive head first into work, I do too but I know when to leave it. What we do does not define who we are. That does not also mean you can't be dang good at what you do and be a fantastic man at home at the same time. By the Grace of God I give it my best everyday. I hope you will too!"
Culver touches on an unfortunate cycle I've heard described from many coaches: you stay late every night so you shoot the bull during the day.... and because you shoot the bull during the day, you have to stay late every night. This is where Nick Saban's favorite phrase -- "Be where your feet are" -- applies not just on a macro-level, but on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour level as well.
The question, then, becomes, "This is all well and good, but I'm a young coach new to the staff. If the head man likes to stay late every night, what am I to do?"
I'll be honest: I don't have a great answer here. But I bet someone in our audience does. If you do, pass it along to me on Twitter @zach_barnett.
Let's close how we opened, with a bit of advice from Gene Chizik.
“When you’ve got three hours off, don’t go play golf. Go be with your kids,” he said. “I tell young coaches that all the time. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to put food on your table, to be great at your craft. But that’s not 24/7. There’s windows in there where you have opportunities — don’t go blow those opportunities. Make sure your heart’s right and you go do the things that (are) right, and that is be with your family whenever you can and be present whenever you can. Don’t go home and pick up the clicker, sit down in front of your TV and not pay attention to anybody. You’re home but you’re not home."
Here's a note I received from a former GA I'll share with the class in regards to young guys finding family time:
When it comes to family, communication is huge. My fiance (then girlfriend) would come up to the office after the games when we were putting in film just so she could spend time with me. I encourage other guys to do the same. Don't make it "the office" in a bad way. We had a conference table she sat and worked at when I was working. It's not 100% ideal for everyone but that's what makes it work. All the GA's and interns agreed we'd work with each other so girlfriends could come up to the office with us. Essentially young guys just have to embrace it and make the most of it.