With all the talk of what the economy will or won’t do in the next year, it doesn’t seem like the best of times to be working or looking for a job. This is especially true for football coaches and those who aspire to enter the profession.
This is aimed more at the younger and aspiring coaches out there, but anyone can benefit from what we’re going to talk about. It may sound like I’m being pessimistic or negative in this post, but stay with me, I promise there’s a point to all this.
Coaching is an extremely competitive field, and like every other industry out there, it’s filled with good bosses and bad bosses, good coworkers and bad coworkers, good-paying jobs and (more often) poorly-paid jobs. There’s long hours, rampant nepotism, and everyone in the stands thinks they can do your job better than you.If that’s not bad enough, for every coaching job out there, there are a hundred guys waiting to fill it. So how does a young coach with little to no experience or connections stand a chance, and not only stand a chance, but thrive and advance in a field that’s as competitive as any other?
What if I told you there are just two words you need to know to put yourself ahead of 95% of the job candidates out there? Would you believe me?
Are you ready? Have a pen and paper handy, because the two words I’m going to give you here will absolutely blow your mind.
Did you get that? I’ll wait here for a moment while you write that down.
Some of you guys might be shaking your head right now, but let me explain…
Most people are selfish. This isn’t new, despite what some people would have you believe, it’s just human nature. There are two ways to look at this, you can either complain about it, or find a way to use it to your advantage.
Let’s assume that you want to be a football coach. That’s great! There’s only one problem…
You may have played the game in high school, maybe even at the college level, but all that playing experience doesn’t mean as much as you might think. Coaching is a whole new set of skills and responsibilities, and a lot of coaches go their whole careers without ever fully grasping that simple fact.
So how do you learn how to be a coach? The same way you learned how to play football in the first place: practice. Sure, you’ve probably been around some good coaches during your playing days, but watching is no substitute for doing, and you’re about to start one of the toughest on-the-job training programs there is.
Football coaches are some of the busiest people you’ll ever meet, and as a result, even the nicest guys out there are too busy to be dragging around a total amateur. So what can you do? Find a way to add value.
I don’t care if it’s helping them set up drills, getting players fitted for equipment, or getting them coffee. When you’re first breaking into this business, you’ve gotta find a way to add value and make people’s lives around you easier, because at the beginning, they’re not going to keep you around for all your expertise.
Coaches are extremely busy trying to win football games, keep their players eligible, and more than that, educating their players on how to be men. They don’t have time during the season to sit you down and have a mini-clinic about the intricacies of the scheme, or ask you your opinions on what the coach should’ve called on 3rd and 1 last Friday night.
Get good at breaking down film. If you’re not good at recognizing coverages, formations, or anything else you may need to know, keep at it until you can do it in your sleep (because in this business, you may have to).
Add more skills, and suddenly you have more value to add to the team. Have more value to add to the team, and suddenly the head coach will be worried about keeping you around, and you’ll be a better job candidate if you’re looking to move on.
Notice that once you focus on adding value for others, you also create more value for yourself. This isn’t a zero-sum game, everyone benefits when you study and work hard to become a better coach, especially you.
That’s all well and good, you may say, but what about those of us who don’t have a job yet? Go to the AFCA Convention and you’ll get a sense of just how many guys are out there looking for jobs, any jobs. What do you do when it seems like you’re just a face in the crowd?
Are you ready for it? Find a way to add value to a potential employer.
Let me give you an example from my own experience.
A few years back, I was at the AFCA Convention sitting in the back row of a clinic talk. The coach talking was someone I had followed for several years, since he had been a successful head coach for a while. I was just glad to have the chance to listen to him speak in person, but I never thought I’d have much of a chance to make any kind of connection because of the usual swarm of humanity that surrounds a coach once he gets done talking. Those of you who have been to the convention know what I’m talking about.
During the final few slides of his presentation he listed several books that had really affected him in a positive way and he wanted to share them with those in attendance. Afterward I managed to get close enough to shake his hand and tell him I appreciated what he had to say. I also told him that I had just finished reading a new book that I thought fit in with the others he had listed.
“Great,” he said, “send me an email. I’d love to know what it is.” He handed me his business card and went on to talk to the next person in the mob surrounding him.
I made a mental note to send him an email once I got back home about the book, and a couple days later I was sitting in front of my computer ready to type up a book recommendation. Then, at the last moment, right before I hit send, I decided to do something a little different.
I thought, this guy has so many people asking him for things, a job interview, a reference, and most valuable of all, his time, I wonder how many people are offering him anything? I decided at that moment that instead of recommending a book by email, I’d go the extra mile and send him the book instead.
So I went on Amazon, bought the book, added a little note saying how much I enjoyed meeting him and how I thought he would get something out of the book. I also sent him an email just letting him know that he should expect something in the mail. I left my contact information at the bottom of the email, and sent it off.
Time went by, a couple of weeks actually, and I had completely forgotten about it. Then one afternoon when I was in the office working on something, my office phone rang. I answered, and it turned out to be that same coach. He thanked me for the book and asked me about myself. We ended up talking almost twenty minutes on the phone about football and what my career plans were. He told me to be sure to keep in touch, and I did.
What’s the moral of the story?
In a crowd of people asking for something, I found a way to add value to this guy’s life. It didn’t cost me much, about $20 for the book, but it set me apart from everyone else and got me a relationship with a very good coach.
Feel free to steal that idea, or come up with your own, but never forget the principle: To get where you want to go, just find a way to add value to the lives of those around you, and you’ll stand out from 95% of people out there.
So take those two words and repeat them like a mantra over and over until they start guiding the actions you take in your life and career. If things aren’t going your way, if you feel like you got passed over for a promotion, or if someone else got that job you wanted, ask yourself if you did everything you could to add value to the other people around you.
It may seem simplistic to look at yourself first whenever things go wrong, but there’s tremendous power in believing and knowing that you ultimately have control over what happens to you, regardless of any short-term misfortune. That is the kind of thinking that will put you ahead of almost everyone else out there.