The coaching life is not for anyone looking for security. Jobs are not only hard to come by, but difficult to keep as well. There’s so much competition in the coaching field these days and there are so many intelligent, hard-working athletes aspiring to continue their careers as a coach. Professional football has opened its ranks to include women as well. Once you enter the career coaching world there are some tough realities you and your family will have to deal with.
There are only a few coaches who can start their career in the professional ranks. Most of these coaches are former NFL players who have prepared during their career by learning as much about the game and the coaching life as possible, as well as committing to being the best player possible. It is great to see some of these athletes who weren’t the superstars of the sport find an opportunity in a career they so passionately embraced.
Regardless of how you get your chance, if you want to continue to climb the career ladder you will have to move, and move often.
I have coached 35 years and averaged a move every 3 1/2 years. I’ve known many coaches who have averaged moving every two years. For the coach it can be an exciting time moving to a new team and a new adventure. The people who struggle the most is your wife and family. Finding a new place to live, trying to find new friends, and getting familiar and comfortable with the new area and staff members are only a few of the challenges. Often a new job means longer hours in the office, in the off-season, and even more time away from home because of it. A coach’s wife is much like a single parent.
It is especially exciting when moving because of the promotion. More often than not, a coach will have to move because he has been fired and needs work. Sometimes the head coach is released and the staff with him. There are times the head coach fires a number of assistants. I’ve been through them all.
It is slightly easier when you have years remaining on your contract so you are guaranteed income to provide for your family as you seek a new job.
When your contract is up and you’re fired, it is much more stressful.
The window to secure another job is small and the stress is compounded knowing a paycheck is soon going to end. I’ve been fired or searching for a job over half a dozen times. It is humbling and a real blow to your self-esteem when you are not nearly as sought-after as you may have thought. People who were interested in talking to you when you were coaching don’t seem quite as interested any longer. When you walk around a crowd at the Senior bowl or scouting combine it is like the Red Sea parting. People try to avoid speaking to you. You feel like you have a contagious disease.
You come to understand you have few, if any friends, but many acquaintances. I’ve been on both sides of the fence and think I’ve been very sensitive by talking to and helping if I could, someone looking for work. Simply returning a phone call, breaking the news a job has been filled, or letting someone know you can’t help is a professional courtesy that has been lost on most people. Very few phone calls, emails or texts are ever responded to when you mention you are looking for job.
It really does beat you down and can be difficult for the family to see their husband or dad face rejection after rejection and struggle to find work. There’s a silver lining in these difficult times. If you keep your faith and stay strong displaying a kind and optimistic disposition, your wife and children gain a valuable life lesson. God did not give us the power of overcoming life, but of life as we overcome!
One of my first times out of a job I was visiting my parents and grandparents in Pittsburgh and I was told something I’ll never forget. My grandmother asked if I had found work yet. I told her I was still looking. She then responded with something I’ll never forget. She said, “A man is not a man without his work.” OH so true in so many ways!