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Preparing to Become a Head Coach

Most people that enter the field of coaching desire to be a head coach one day in the future. Preparing yourself for that eventual time in your career starts with your very first job as an assistant. Your observations of your own coaches when you were a player are a good foundation, but watching the experienced coaches around you, both good and bad, are a great way to start your head coaching beliefs. Here are ten suggestions to help you as you begin to build your resume and prepare for the day that "Head Coach" will be on your office door.

1) Coach as many other sports as you can outside of football. There is no better way to learn the coaching profession than coaching. Being the head "B" team basketball coach may not sound like much, but it gives you valuable experience in dealing with the running of a team. All sports are different and will test your ability to learn more about that sport and be creative. But at the end of the day, coaching is still coaching.

2) Coach as many positions as you possibly can in football. As a head coach, you will need to have knowledge of every position, so coach as many different positions as you can. Help with special teams as well. Work as an offensive and defensive coach. You will find it easier to talk with your offensive line coach if you worked with that group before. Quarterbacks and running backs are different people than linemen and you will need experience at dealing with them.

3) Increase your knowledge in all areas of football. Today there is more information available on coaching techniques, drills and strategy than every before on the internet. There are some great teaching sites that you can pay a small yearly fee and gain access to presentations and film. In football, knowledge is key.

4) Improve your teaching skills. The best coaches always seem to be the best teachers of fundamentals. Take pride in your classroom teaching and learn different methods to get the best out of your players on the field. Organization is key. Observing successful coaches may give you ideas that you cannot find in a book.

5) Learn ways to motivate your players The age old question in football is how to get your players to "play for you" and provide them the discipline and toughness they need to succeed. Coaches who have this skill will get the very best out of the young men they coach and will valued by their head coach and their school.

6) Network with and learn from other coaches and build on those relationships. The best way to learn is to ask questions. Use the experienced coaches on your staff as your mentors. Absorb everything they do and evaluate it both good and bad. Get to know as many coaches as you can from other schools. Talk to them about coaching. Go to clinics and spend time around them. Ask questions of clinic presenters and introduce yourself to coaches that you respect. You will be amazed at how many successful coaches will be willing to spend time with you and talk about the game.

7) Be professional in all of your dealings, especially in the halls of your school. Being professional and having respect for administrators, fellow teachers and support staff at the school will earn you a good reputation around the school system and in the community. On the field, be prepared at practice and make sure that you take care of all of your responsibilities. Be willing to help other coaches with their duties, and put the team first. Conduct yourself with some class during games when you are in front of crowds of people. Expect there to be problems and difficulties and learn to handle them with some coolness and skill. Your efforts will be recognized by those around you, some of which will be principals and superintendents in other systems in the future. Join professional organizations and know what is going on in the coaching profession.

8) Develop your people skills. Coaching is a people business. As a head coach, you will deal with school personnel, coaches on your staff, players, parents, booster clubs, media, as well as the public in general. You will have to work and communicate with opposing coaches. Not all of the dealings will be pleasant. There will always be upset administrators, mad parents, disrespectful players, difficult media and those who think they could do your job better than you. You will have to handle opposing coaches who are unprofessional. It is difficult to get to the highest levels in this profession if you cannot deal with difficult people. You must also have the ability to address groups of parents, players, and community clubs and gatherings as well. Watch coaches who are great at this skill and even observe those who are not. It is often beneficial to learn what NOT to do. But there are a lot of good coaches who cannot get that big job or lose the one they have because of a lack of people skills.

9) Find a great head coach and work toward getting a job on his staff. There is no better preparation for being a head coach than to work daily with someone who is highly successful and watching them handle all situations, both good and bad. His recommendation could be an important part of your resume as well.

10) Always leave a job better than you found it. Do your job well and make your position an important and essential part of the program. The school should be somewhat concerned when you leave that you will be hard to replace. When you exit for another job, ALWAYS leave that job on good terms with as many of your colleagues as possible. Don't be so busy worrying about the next job that you forget to do a good job of the one you have right now. You never know who you are going to meet again down the road as you apply for that big head coaching opportunity in the future.


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