A Letter to a Younger Coach Harper

I wanted to gear this post towards “new” offensive line coaches because I feel that I am still in the later part of that category, and there is no better time to remember information than when you are going through it. I am starting my 4th year coaching football and I have learned valuable lessons in my first 3 years of coaching that I would have loved to have heard my first year of coaching. So, in an attempt to not offend any new coaches I have decided to write this “letter” to my 23 year old self that just landed a job coaching Offensive Line at the biggest high school in the state of Oklahoma.

Obsess over football! If you want to be great one day, (and let’s face it – if your going to do something you might as well be great at it), you need to be obsessed with football. Don’t buy into that garbage that mediocre people say, “You should be very balanced as to not get burnt out.” It is NOT true! If you want to be great at coaching football you have to do what others are not willing to do. You have to learn in 1 year what other coaches have been learning for 15+. The only way to accomplish this feat is to be completely and utterly obsessed with football, which is not a bad thing, no matter how many average coaches tell you it is. There will be plenty of older coaches making fun of you or telling you that your work ethic won’t be the same after 10 years of doing this job with obsessive enthusiasm, but DO NOT listen to them! Just because they are okay with being average doesn’t mean you should be.

 These are the best ways that I have found to keep your obsession of football going.

Find a Mentor! Seek out a coach that has your same goal of being great. Find a coach, hopefully on your staff, that obsesses over the game of football and is well on their way to being a great coach. This guy won’t be hard to pick out. Find the coach that never complains about coming to work, never says he is tired, never admits to being sick or not feeling well. Find the coach that seems to never leave the office and while he is at the office is constantly watching film. This coach is often not best friends with all the other coaches. They respect him and like being around him, but they can also tell that he has a much higher level of commitment to the game of football than they are willing to have. Listen for the coach that all the other coaches say will be burned out in 5 years, that’s the guy you want to emulate. Watch him carefully! When does he show up to the office? Try to beat him there. When does he leave the office? Stay until he leaves. You are not trying to outdo him with this tactic. You are trying to make his habit your habit. Also, by staying at the office 2 hours passed every other coach, you are allowing yourself time to ask questions. When the entire staff is not in the room, you are much more likely to get full honest answers, as long as you ask them humbly. Also, obsessive football coaches love obsessed football coaches! They won’t have a problem helping out what they see as younger versions of themselves.

Eat up Knowledge! Be done with the idiotic college thinking that “nerds” read books. Read as many books as you can get your hands on. Buy and read books, not only on football, but about a variety of topics. Read books about the schematics of football. Read books that the coaching greats have written. Read books about leadership that are often written by military personnel. Take any and every chance you have to go to a clinic. If there is a clinic within 8 hours of your house, find a way to get there! You need to have a clear mission for why you are there. Don’t go to clinics to hangout and have a good time with other coaches down at the bar. Remember, they all have 15+ years of coaching experience on you, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do if you want to be great! If there is a game on TV,  watch it. If it’s a Monday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday, there is no reason for you to not be watching football and breaking it down.

These first 2 are going to be pretty easy for you, you love football and those two things helped you get through your college football career. BUT LISTEN UP!! These last two are going to be a lot more difficult for you, but they are just as important!

Be Humble! Just because your team has a good season doesn’t make you a good coach. You are still a young guy and so you know relatively nothing. You are a coach, not the player, so things are no longer all about you! You can either humble yourself, or you will shortly be humbled. Luckily, there are a couple of really good ways to humble yourself. The hard part, however, is going to be swallowing your pride to do these. Do the jobs none of the other coaches want to do. If none of the coaches want to stay late and wash laundry, you do it! None of the coaches want to do the boring input on film, you do it! Also, any praise that you get, deflect it onto your players or onto your superiors. This is probably a good practice to use all through your life, but it’s especially practical when you are a young coach.  In reality, you probably aren’t the reason things are going well.

Don’t Judge Yourself on Others Approval. It’s a good thing that you want to be great coach, but don’t judge your coaching ability on what other coaches think of you. This isn’t easy to do! It can feel like a cop out at times, but the quicker you can judge yourself truthfully the better off you’ll be. I have seen many overrated coaches, and I have seen even more underrated coaches. It doesn’t matter what other coaches think of you or how much notoriety you garner for being a good coach. What matters is your ability to be very truthful with your own faults and strengths and to judge yourself. It doesn’t matter what others think of you, as long as you can lay in bed at night knowing your living up to your standard of trying to become a great coach.

I want to leave you with the most important rule of all. Always remember why you are a coach. Coach for the love of the game and the ability to transform boys into young men.

3 thoughts on “A Letter to a Younger Coach Harper

  1. Great letter, I have already shared it a few times. One more bit of advice from an older coach; do not forget to put your faith and family as your top priority.

    Liked by 2 people

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