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Managing Your Coaching Career

Managing Your Coaching Career

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Published by Michael Schearer

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Published by: Michael Schearer on Jan 18, 2012
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03/04/2014

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G
ood morning, coaches. I see someempty seats out there. There is noth-ing worse than an empty seat. Russ Pottswho was our Sports Promotions Director atthe University of Maryland in the mid-70’s,and subsequently the Athletic Director atSMU used to say, “There is nothing worsethan an empty seat. Empty seats don’t buypopcorn, empty seats don’t go home andtell their friends about the great game theysaw, empty seats don’t cheer, and emptyseats don’t come back.” So thank you allfor being here. It is a pleasure to be able tospeak to this group. Those of you who areolder may remember former PresidentRonald Reagan’s good friend and AttorneyGeneral, Edwin Meese, who said that anexpert is someone from more than 50 milesaway from home, carrying a brief case,who has no responsibility whatsoever forimplementing the advice he gives andshows it on slides and overheads. Today, Iam that person. Our topic today is‘Managing Your Coaching Career’.I like to call this talk, ‘Building Heroes.’Iuse that title because I think that is whatcoaches do is they are in the business ofbuilding heroes. What we are going tocover this morning is vocational philosophy,career management and planning, market-ing and positioning, resume writing, portfo-lio building, job interviewing, negotiating,and we may get into coaches contracts andfinancial planning, if we have time.Our teaching objective today is to giveyou some tools to advance yourself incoaching, and not only to advance yourself,but sometimes in this business, to simplysurvive. Survivability is pretty important, asyou all know. Some great careers are theresidue of a coach who simply survived fora while. Remember, Moses spent 40 yearsin the desert before his great career fullybloomed. I well remember when LesSteckel, my good friend and a fine fullbackfor us at Quantico in 1971, who now servesas the offensive coordinator of theTennessee Titans, was with RaymondBerry at the New England Patriots. Theyplayed the Chicago Bears under Mike Ditkain the 1985 Super Bowl and of course,Buddy Ryan ran the 46 defense. I think itwas 46-10 they were beaten. But subse-q u e n t l y, Les separated from the NewEngland Patriots and he ended up coach-ing at Brown University under JohnRosenberg. Brown was one of my almamaters. Les had some down time in hiscareer and he wanted to go coach a localhigh school team or a youth midget team.All his buddies in the NFLsaid, “Oh, don’tdo that, it will ruin your resume. You justcoached in the Super Bowl and then youput the Cranston Midgets on there. Don’tdo that.” I remembered he and I talkedabout that. From my perspective, it looksgood on a resume, but not everyone seesthese things that way. But here is Les who just coached in the Super Bowl again. Wewill talk about some of these issues. So,this is our task for the next two hours.Let me just tell you what a pleasure it isto address this esteemed body. I havebeen involved with the game of footballsince 1958. I played it 11 years, coached itfor 15, played in one bowl, and coached infour. My son played 13 years and was anacademic All-American quarterback atVillanova. In 1996, Clint finished thirdbehind Danny Wu e r ffel and PeytonManning for that honor. He coached a yearat Duke. I’ve been a sports agent, a coach-es’advocate, and I have talked on thistopic for 20 years. I have been a member ofthis Association for 28 years. I am blessedto have seen it all from about every angle.The view where I learned the most aboutcoaches and football, interestingly enough,having been a head recruiter at two univer-sities, and almost winning the nationalchampionship at Maryland, was when myown son was being recruited and coached.Then I got to watch it as a parent. I watchedmy wife as the mother of the quarterback. Icould write a book, ‘Sitting Next to theQuarterback’s Mother’. They watch himevery play, you know.They observe everynuance of how their child is treated. It is aninteresting experience, men. So, I feel thatI have a unique perspective there for sure.Like you, I have an abiding love and pas-sion for this game. So I say, congratula-tions to you on who you are, and what youdo. You can see why I say you are in thebusiness of hero building. I think that iswhat you do. You build heroes. I thinkcoaching is a noble profession. It is a call-ing like the ministry, or teaching. I think it isvery important, and you are very importantpeople, not in an egotistical sense even ifthere are certainly enough egos in thegame, but in the sense that what coachesdo is they save lives. If you translate thisand distill it down, coaches save lives. Kidswho come out of the ghetto and who don’thave a chance, who will end up in prison ordead, football gives them a mechanismfrom which to elevate themselves. This is
Thom ParkVice PresidentMorgan Stanley Dean WitterTallahassee, Fla.
 
Managing YourCoaching Career
 
how football changes their lives. Coachesare really in that kind of business. That’sthe downside of it, where kids are lost, andthat is the optimal case, where you savethem and nobody ever really knows you didit, but that’s what you have the capability ofdoing. You need to be lauded for thatbecause you get criticized for everythingelse. That is why I love this game and haveso much respect for what you do and whoyou are.In the recent epic film, ‘Saving PrivateRyan’, actor Tom Hanks portrays ArmyCaptain John Miller, sitting on a bridgeheadin northern France, a bullet through hisbreast, his lifeblood bleeding out of him,and he looks up into the eyes of PrivateRyan and he says, “Earn this.” That was apoignant scene that stirred America. Whatis it about such scenes like that which cancaptivate the hearts of patriotic Americans,particularly people like us? As footballcoaches, it obviously strikes a cord ofadmiration for traditional American values.The same values that make up what ourculture calls patriotism. You have as coach-es the opportunity to teach these sorts ofthings. I think we need to congratulate our-selves on what this profession does.Because you are teachers, you are lead-ers, you are role models, you are influ-encers of the future, you are the shapers ofyoung men, and you are critical to thefuture of our culture. The sports sociolo-gists would say that you are the highpriests of modern western industrial soci-ety. If you would go to a sports sociologistconvention, you would hear talk like that.You see, they may refer to coaches in rev-erential terms, and that is who you are. It iseasy to forget all this during the day to dayhustle and bustle of the competitiveness offootball, and some of you may get burnedout, fired, or move on. But, you are in thebusiness of building heroes. I learned thatby watching my own son. He is a hero. Hewas an icon at his high school. He is a heroto me. This is what coaches do. Note whenGrant Teaff says in the application to jointhe AFCA, where he chastises a highschool coach who came up to him at Baylorand said, “I am just a high school coach.”He said, “Don’t ever say that to me againbecause you are a coach and you make adifference.” In the Book of James in thenew Testament, where James taught as thebrother of Jesus, in James 3:1, he says,“Those of you who would be teachers areheld to higher account.” Let me say thatagain. Those of you who will be teachersare held to a higher account. He (James)coaches to the consummate teachers. Youare the best teachers there are in any edu-cational environment. You have the tough-est thing to teach and so you are very, veryimportant people. Grantland Rice said,“When the One great scorer comes to writeagainst your name, He cares not whetheryou won or lost, but how you played thegame.” So coaches, congratulations, and itis an honor to be here with you.Through the course of these two hours,I am going to give you the opportunity toask me for several articles that I have writ-ten that I think are germane to this profes-sion. I have made a habit in my profession-al lifetime to be an author on topics forwhich I have a passion, and football is one.The first one is the AFC reprint where BillWalsh is on the cover, this is the beginningof the American Football Coach Magazinewhere I wrote “The Education of ourBosses”. This is a short version of an arti-cle I wrote in 1988 when I was trying to doa coaches contract renegotiation at theDivision II level. It became very clear to mehow it was needed, as the advocate for thecoach, and I use the word advocate, notagent, since there is a clear difference.Agency is a legal term and advocate ismore of a moral term. I wrote the article oncoaches compensation because it becameclear to me that the decision-makers atWest Chester University, where DannyHale who has been the Coach of the Yearfor this organization was Head Coach, asmy good friend and client was trying to gethis deal done. The AD, Dick Yoder, was ourcoach, a football legend in Pennsylvania,and he understood football fully, but the col-lege president and his administrativedesignees did not. I said, “Dick, you knowwhat part of the problem is here that it took18 months to get it done. Part of the prob-lem here is that they don’t understand foot-ball; they do not understand what we aretrying to do here and why.” So, I wrote thearticle to explain it to them. People whohave read it tel me it is a great piece to giveto your presidents, superintendents, super-visors, athletic directors, the vice presidentfor student affairs and people that just don’tunderstand what you do. That is what I’mtrying to spell out here.The second article that I have is called,‘Contractual Arrangements and Compen-sation Packages for Career FootballCoaches’. I wrote this one about the sametime. This has to do with the notion of com-pensation. The point I want to make aboutthat article is don’t ever, ever allow any-body to tell you that coaches make toomuch money. Coaches are the mostunderpaid people that I can think of, butI’m sure there others that are more under-paid. The point is that society likes to saythat if Steve Spurrier makes $2 million ayear and Bobby Bowden on his last deal isat $1.8 million, they are overpaid. I’ve donethe studies, I’ve done the research, andI’ve written the articles and I would saythis, “If Bobby Bowden was listed in theAmerican Football Coach magazine a fewweeks ago, the last copy with Bear Bryanton the cover, as the number 12 coach ofthe 20th Century, and he might be higherthan that in my opinion, but where ever hefalls out, lets say the top 10, and he makesa $1.8 million per year, what do you thinkthe top 10 CEOs, lawyers, doctors, engi-neers, investment bankers, and financialadvisors, like myself in the world make?Particularly the top ten of the century? Th eCEO of Disney has a ten-year deal for$770 million with stock options. As asha reh olde r, I find that obscene and as a churchman, I hope the guy gives a heck ofa lot of money away to charity and todeserving people. But the point is thatcoaches are grossly underpaid for whatthey do, even the very best ones whomake the most money. The reason theyfire the head football coaches in theNational Football League is about money.The entire business strategy of creatingparity to create revenues is brilliant and isa long and complex topic for another day,but the NFLcoa ch’s careers are in the gun sights of parity. That is because the play-ers are paid so well. If you will look at theindebtedness of the organization throughthe player contracts, or call this theaccounts payable by the organizationbecause of the player contracts in place,you can’t fire them. You can trade them, ornegotiate away them away but the mone-tary obligations far and away exceed any-thing the coach costs. Granted, you’ve gotfree agency, but it is much easier to fire thecoach. And to the uninformed it seems tobe the solution. Fire the coach. So, coach-es you do not make near enough money, Idon’t care where you work, what level youare at, you are underpaid, period! Don’t letanybody ever try to blow that argumentpast you because it is a gross mistruth.Every American male is an expert at
 
three things: making love, being presidentand coaching football. We can all tellPresident Clinton how to do things and mymother, she’s 85, can tell President Nixon,President Ford, President Eisenhower; shecan go back to FDR, Warren Harding andCalvin Coolidge and all that and she will dothat when I go to lunch with her onWednesdays. You are under a microscopeand everybody knows how to do your job.Everybody knows how to call the plays.President Nixon called George Allen andcalled a play in the Super Bowl, you mayrecall in 1972. So, you are under enormousscrutiny.The point is that with this kind ofscrutiny, if you don’t plan your career, planwhere you are going and proactively man-age it, it is going to end up somewhere awhole lot different than where you think itwas going to end up. Being a Christian andhaving a theological perspective on things,I think if you want to make God laugh, set afive-year plan for yourself. You see thatbrings a smile to His lips. But nonetheless,we worldly creatures have to do this. Thatis the story on the money and we need totake control of our careers as best we can.My father was one of the original mem-bers of the “right-stuff” crowd. He was jettest pilot in 1948 when they didn’t know ifthe airplanes were going to come down orthe wings were going to fall off, and hetaught me some pretty good things in hisshort life. One of them goes likes this,“There is an ancient Chinese paradigm thatsays, in your ‘20s in any career you need torisk as much as you can, in your ‘30s youshould learn as much as you can, in your‘40s you should earn as much as you can,in your ‘50s you should lead as much asyou can, and in your ‘60s you should put itall together and enjoy life as much as youcan.” Abraham Maslow the psychologistwould call that self-actualization. He’s not afootball coach so he doesn’t know theapplication here, but you do. Now if two-thirds of the college coaches between theages of 33 and 37 according to an AFCAarticle around 1973 in our Association’sProceedings Manual, leave the business,and this is probably more the truth todaythan it ever was, how in the world in your40s are you going to earn as much as youcan if two-thirds or more of you are gone?The numbers don’t work. What you’ve gotto do in terms of proactive career manage-ment is get as much as you can while youcan because you are underpaid to beginwith. There is no question about that. Theother thing that my dad said was this, “Inour ‘20s we get our first jobs based on whatwe will do; the sweat of our brow, thestrength of our backs and the sacrificesthat we will make.” I can’t help but think ofMorgan Hout, who was a GAfor us atMaryland for five years while his wife,Brenda, supported him. He became thehead football coach at Liberty Universityunder Reverend Jerry Falwell. Guys toldhim in years three through five to give it upand go get a regular job. He very muchwanted to be a head coach and he becameone. Coach Hout is the most extremeexample of perseverance that I can thinkof, but that is what you have to do in your20s in this business and you all know that.In our 30s, we get our next set of jobsbased on what we have done and experi-enced and who and what we know andwhat we have learned. In our 40s if we arestill doing it, we need to earn as much aswe can because, as the lawyers that I knowtell me, if a trustee is going to steal moneyfrom a trust, he is probably going to do it inhis‘40s because money always gets shortthen. You’ve got growing children, collegebills, aging parents and life styles that youwould like to pursue. That is why you needto do that in your ‘40s or, as one of my pro-fessors at Florida State use to say, “after40, politics is everything.” It is true. TheChinese had this one figured out 4000years ago. When you get to the higher lev-els and the bigger jobs, it becomes verypolitical. Who you know and how you con-duct yourself matters. Agood friend ofmine, Terry Murray, is a Major General inthe United States Marine Corps. He wasnearly my tail back in 1971 and he suc-ceeded me as the offensive coordinator atQuantico in 1972. Terry made two-star gen-eral and he was on track to become theCommandant of the Marine Corps until hegot sick, but knowing Terry, he will probablysucceed anyway.The point is that Terry saton a search committee for Colonel in theUnited States Marine Corps where I servedfor nine years. I think Marine Corps officersare a special breed, but he said there were665 lieutenant colonels on the list forcolonel and the selection committee ofbrigadier generals picked 45 to promote tocolonel. He said the next 100 you couldn’ttell the difference. Flip a coin. You wonder,“I want to get a head job. Is it ever going tohappen?” Some lieutenant colonels won-der, am I ever going to be a colonel; it’speace time, there is no war going on, guysaren’t getting killed, I can’t get any medalsso there’s no fast track, so I have to do itthe hard way like you do in coaching whichis a linear career.At the apex of the careerpyramid, it gets pretty steep. There arethree types of careers: linear careers, stair-step careers and spiral careers in vocation-al counseling. Football coaching is a linearcareer.You start off like a doctor. He is anintern, then he becomes a resident, then hebecomes a physician and he starts a prac-tice and then after 40 years he’s an icon ina small town. That is a linear career in med-icine. Coaches have linear careers. Youstart out as a GA, then as an assistantcoach, then a coordinator, and then if youkeep progressing, you become a headcoach. Then you say I want to get a bigger job. You have to be careful. Remember theTower of Babel in Genesis. You have to becareful in climbing these ladders. CoachBowden said it best when he won theNational Championship in 1993, and said,“When you get to the top, you realize thatthere is nothing there.” You have to enjoywhat you are doing. What you are doingand why you are doing it has really got tobe the essence of it. If you are in the busi-ness of building heroes, then where youend up on the pyramid is not as importantas what you have done with your life. Thepoint is, when we get into those bigger jobs, like becoming a colonel in the MarineCorps, or like becoming a head footballcoach in a Division II school, politicsbecomes very important. As Jack Lengyel,the AD at Navy, told me one time in an ACCAD search in which I was a candidate said,“When you get to the end, be very, verycareful.” That’s true, because it becomesso political. In our ‘50s, we get our next setof jobs and hopefully these big jobs in ourcareer based on who we have become andwho we are, because at that point compe-tence is a given. Everybody in the ACCknows how to coach. I coached for fiveyears in the ACC and I have watchedFlorida State now for 20 seasons. Iwatched them join the ACC, so I haveobserved this whole thing evolve. In theACC, everybody can coach; everybody canscheme, motivate, lead, manage andrecruit. When we won three straight ACCtitles in ‘74, ‘75, and ‘76 at Maryland, peo-ple said we had a great staff and wethought we out coached some people. Wethought it was a great conference then inthe 1970s. Lou Holtz left N.C. State to go tothe Jets because he was frustrated and

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