David Alexander is the head football coach at Broken Arrow and a former professional offensive linemen. He played ten seasons in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Jets. He played college ball at the University of Tulsa and was drafted in the fifth round of the 1987 NFL Draft.
He worked as an assistant coach for seven years at Jenks High School. In 2005-06, he was also head coach of the Tulsa Talons of the af2 arena football league. In 2013, he left Jenks to move to Broken Arrow, where had played and graduated in 1982, as the running backs coach. In January 2014 he was announced as Broken Arrow’s new head football coach.
Coach A is also one of my best friends in the coaching business. We have had the opportunity to share many moments together, some great, some very difficult. But I have always enjoyed our conversations about life and football because he has a great heart and great insight into many situations because of this unique education and experiences. He played for Buddy Ryan and Bill Muir (if you don’t know Bill Muir as an OL coach, sit in the corner for 5 minutes and think about the choices you have made in this life and then Google him). He had to block Reggie White and Jerome Brown on a daily basis in practice and then turn around to block Lawrence Taylor or Eric Swann on a Sunday or Monday night in front of millions of people. He has had more injuries than I can name, yet he managed to keep playing for 10 straight seasons in the toughest football league in the world at one of the most difficult positions.
I say these things because it would have been very easy for a guy like Coach A to be arrogant or unapproachable. To be above certain jobs. To be above coaching “lower level” football. He most certainly wasn’t. His first coaching job straight out of the NFL was in junior high ball, in addition to coaching his sons in JTA youth football.
One of the reasons we started working on Team Attack Academy and Run The Power is because of several conversations I had with Coach A and Coach Trimble. They were always mentioning how difficult it was to find GOOD middle school and high school coaches, especially young ones. I also couldn’t understand how some coaches were resistant to work or development in a job they supposedly loved very much. It baffled all of us.
I asked Coach A these three questions to sum up some of these thoughts about hiring coaches and developing coaches.
Why is it so difficult to find quality coaches at ALL LEVELS of your program (8th-Varsity)?
The biggest hurdle we face in Oklahoma is that we are ranked 49th in teacher pay. Good young coaches leave here for Arkansas or Texas, where they immediately receive a 30-40% raise. And many young men coming out of college with a degree can get any job, in any field, and their starting pay will be $25,000+ what a teacher/coach will make in Oklahoma.
That being said, I have found it near impossible to find motivated, YOUNG coaches to take 8th/9th grade coaching jobs. The young coaches (almost everyone I have interviewed) will ONLY accept a varsity spot, and many want to be considered for coordinator spots. My best Jr. High coaches are “Lifers” – experienced, older varsity coaches that want to continue coaching but are ready to slow down from the grind of varsity football.
We ask our players to develop physically and mentally throughout their careers. Why are some coaches resistant to developing themselves to become better coaches, in your opinion?
This is a question that I have thought about a lot!
Developing and growing takes a long term plan, which means it takes time, and a certain amount of humility.
As a society right now, we think of TIME this way: if it doesn’t happen immediately, then I will just move on and find someplace else where I can get my satisfaction.
Being humble and working for the vision of the Head Coach or program is imperative. All motivated people think they can do as good or better than the Head Coach, and they have a vision of what they would do with a team. BUT NOTHING works (a team, a school, a society) if we do not learn from our superiors and teach our subordinates.
Do your job to the best of your ability, and you will be rewarded with opportunities for more responsibility. Humbling yourself to tasks that do not put the spot light on you may not build your ego, but I hope it builds your character and your self-esteem.
When I started coaching, I had just finished a ten year NFL career. The first four years I coached Jr. High football, one at the 9th grade and 3 more at the 8th grade. Looking back, I learned as much during those years as I did during the 6 years I worked for Allan Trimble at Jenks.
Why is it so important to develop professionally and personally as a coach?
I will NEVER hire a coach if he tells me, “I already have all the answers” or “I know everything.” We must all continue growing and learning, or we will fall hopelessly behind. As a head coach, I can tell pretty quickly which assistants LOVE their job and are sponges for knowledge. When I am looking for a varsity assistant now, my number one criteria that I want to hear in an interview is, “I love this job!”
I guess you could say I started learning about “ball” at a young age. This is about 1982. I was 3 years old, and I’m sitting with my father Darryl Walz enjoying some cereal, probably Cheerios. He is wearing his 1981 South Dakota High School Football Playoffs shirt, where he was Offensive Coordinator of a Frederick team that won a 9-man State Championship. For those that don’t know, Frederick is a town of 199 people north of Aberdeen, SD, basically on the border of North Dakota. 9 man football is a cross between rugby and arena ball with offensive tackles removed. It is awesome. And from the stories I’ve heard, my dad could coach it pretty well. He had quite the team in 1981, and he also worked with some excellent coaches. They had to coach both sides of the ball, and they loved every minute of it.
As excellent as Frederick was, the salary for 2 teachers and a family of 4 was not going to allow for much growth, so we moved to Brandon, SD, for a year and ultimately landed in Pierre, SD, my hometown and where both my parents live to this day. I was lucky to have this small town upbringing with two parents who taught me discipline, love, appreciation, and hard work.
Long story short, my father is my hero. I have grown up to be very similar to him: I teach, and I coach. He was always an assistant coach, sacrificing his own career so he could watch his boys (me and my brother Ryan) grow up, and so he could be an excellent husband to my mother Marla. Simple goals, simple life. But he was an unbelievable ball coach. He could coach and reach all kids. He coached every position in his career. He could coach the Offensive Line, and then he could turn around and call the defense. On a staff with 3 coaches total, he was running 3 fronts with multiple coverages and multiple pressures. And teaching run schemes and pass protections. To me, that was the definition of BALL COACH: I can coach and develop all kids; I can coach both sides of the ball and special teams; and I don’t think I know it all, so I’m going to continue learning as much as I can. Oh, and I’m going to be a great dad and husband, too.
Darryl Walz – BALL COACH. Brady Walz – BALL COACH in Training. This is who I am, and it never stops evolving.
As I write this first blog, it still amazes me the football education I’ve been fortunate enough to attain. A Doctorate in Ball Coaching.
How many coaches can say they worked for both Allan Trimble and BillBlankenship, head coaches who have combined for 18 State Titles (and counting) in Oklahoma and Arkansas? How many coaches can say they worked for and LIVED WITH the man who developed quite possibly the most influential offensive system in HS football history (R4 Football System) in Dub Maddox? How many coaches can say they learned Offensive Line play from legendary coaches like David Alexander and Denver Johnson? How many coaches have been a Strength Coach, Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, College Position Coach, JV/Freshman Coach, and Graduate Assistant for teams that went undefeated or didn’t win a single game? How many coaches have built their own business? It has been a unique experience, to say the least. But it wasn’t always roses. It was hard work.
When I got started, I was AWFUL. My first 3 years of coaching – coaching RB, WR, QB, defensive backs, and all special teams; OC for 9th grade/JV (Denver South), and varsity (Golden HS); head coach in Nebraska (Tekamah-Herman); all while, quite honestly, NOT HAVING A CLUE WHAT I WAS REALLY DOING. Sure, we set some offensive records at Golden HS, but then as a head coach I didn’t win a game in Nebraska! F.A.I.L. – First Attempt In Learning. I was learning on the job, and I needed to learn more. Luckily, I had met some good Ball Coaches along the way who were willing to help me. BALL COACH rule #1: Pay it forward. Always be willing to develop other coaches.
Ryan Mullaney gave me my first job. I think he felt bad for me, or he really needed coaches, but I can guarantee I wasn’t his first choice. His impact on my career continues today, but I always remember the 2 things he taught me:
You can know the SCIENCE OF COACHING all you want, but you need to become an expert in the ART OF COACHING.
LEADERSHIP and MANAGEMENT are the most important skills you will ever learn.
You see, in addition to being a great football coach, Coach Mulls (what everyone calls him) was also pretty good at leading multi-million dollar sales and telecom companies. I was getting a crash course on management, leadership, and the art of coaching daily. I also got my first taste of the AFCA Coaches Convention with Coach Mulls, where he would force me to go out and meet new coaches and introduce myself despite my hatred of those situations. And guess what, I am still learning these things today. Currently, we collaborate on a platform helping coaches and athletes develop called Team Attack Academy.
Brad Salem hired me from the HS ranks in 2007 to coach WR at Augustana University (SD) as a GA. I would be making $526 a month, but I leapt at the chance to learn more football. I needed to learn how to watch film, how to recruit, how to better manage a position group, and how to be a professional. Coach Salem, Coach Mike Aldrich, and Coach Steve Olinger were tremendous coaches to learn these skills from. I became much more well-versed on defenses and run game. I learned how to sell and develop a program. In the spring, I was able to move to Tight Ends to learn more of the run game. Coach Aldrich, I felt, was the ultimate Ball Coach. He played OL in college, and he was an undersized, nasty player. He was the Defensive Coordinator, but he always took time out of his busy schedule to answer questions and teach me defensive football. He was also the DC for the Sioux Falls Storm, an indoor football team with several championships. Kids and men loved playing for him. His confidence and belief in his system and players was contagious. He has been a successful head coach now for several years, both at Augustana and Minot State. I definitely wanted to have that kind of impact on young men like Coach Aldrich and Coach Salem had on our athletes at Augustana.
After a couple years back home in Pierre developing a successful strength program and business from scratch, my coaching education was about to enter Hyperdrive: Coach Mulls had helped me land a job coaching at Jenks High School, which would end up being the smartest football move I ever made.
Dub Maddox accelerated my Ball Coach education probably more than anyone. Here was a guy I could sit with in the Lab, talk football 24 hours a day since he was nice enough to let me live in his guest bedroom for a season, and challenge me to find out ways we could coach and teach things SIMPLY and with MORE UNDERSTANDING for our players. It was phenomenal. The perfect set up for a football coach. I am forever grateful to Dub for giving me that opportunity and for helping me learn more football than I thought possible the 3 seasons we worked together. Practice planning, game planning, offensive precision, staff management, film breakdown, mechanics and footwork, play diagrams, teaching progressions, common language…the list was endless. He also trusted me enough to let me coach Tight Ends in 2010, Running Backs in 2012, and Offensive Line in 2013. We ended up winning 2 state titles (2012-2013) and 1 runner up in 2010, where we set numerous scoring records but came up just short in the finals. His offenses have broke just about every record there is to break at Jenks and in Oklahoma 6A football. Quite simply, he is the best OC I have ever worked for. Period. A BALL COACH.
Since Dub believed in me enough to give me a job, I was also able to meet 4 other men whom I consider some of the best to ever coach the game of football. TRUE BALL COACHES.
Allan Trimble is the head coach at Jenks High School. He is the epitome of BALL COACH. He could coach any position in any sport. I have never met a better man in my life. His approach to program development has been emulated and will be emulated for many years to come. He develops a standard for coaches and players, and he holds you to that standard. Coach Trim is dedicated to his Faith and church, and he walks the walk. The man has had a tremendous impact on my coaching philosophy as well as the way I live my life. The list of things he has done for me can fill many blog articles, so I will leave it at that. His current battle with ALS is as inspiring as it is saddening. His greatest impact: THE ULTIMATE IN PAYING IT FORWARD AND BEING A MENTOR TO OTHER PEOPLE.
Please donate to his cause if you are still reading this: Trimble Strong
David Alexander is another Ball Coach I was able to meet at Jenks. He was the OL coach, and he was probably wondering who is this young coach Dub and Trim are bringing in to coach Tight Ends in 2010. We formed a lasting friendship, and he has ended up being one of my best friends and mentors in the game of football. He played OL in the NFL for 10 seasons, he was HC for the Tulsa Talons, and now he is the current HC for Broken Arrow (OK). I have learned a ton from this man. He also knew I needed to learn more about OL play in order to be the coach I wanted to be. I appreciated his willingness to teach, and his willingness to help me get a job at Tulsa to learn this final piece of the puzzle.
Bill Blankenship hired me to be an OL assistant in 2011 under Denver Johnson. Again, not many people have worked for 2 coaches that define high school football in a state like Oklahoma like Bill Blankenship and Allan Trimble. They have won 18 state titles, the most recent coming this season for Blankenship at his new school Owasso. Blankenship is the son of a coach. He knows football inside and out. He has impeccable character. And he was awesome to work for. He allowed me to learn a ton of football. I bet I broke down close to 200 games, watched over 3000 possible athletes, and had a seat in the room for the best OL coach in America, Denver Johnson. What did I learn? A better question is what didn’t I learn. We had film on everyone. Air Raid, spreads, pro-style offenses, zone schemes, gap schemes, man schemes, pin-pull, power, calls and checks, technique, play action ideas, defenses, coverages, blitzes, blitz pick-up, angles and footwork, hand placement, drills…it was heaven. When I wasn’t learning OL, I was watching other films. What did Alabama do on 3rd down? How can we shut down Boise State and their pressures? What are the secrets to Texas A&M and Oklahoma tempo? Who is TCU recruiting? Oh, and we played Oklahoma, Boise State, Houston, and Oklahoma State with some of the most prolific quarterbacks and offenses in college football. An awesome environment to learning OL, football, and how to run a program. All while making $1000 a month, sleeping in the office or my car, knowing full well I could be teaching/coaching and making a comfortable living. But I needed to do it, and I did it.
In the end, I was able to go back to Jenks to win state titles, and I was able to follow Coach Alexander to Broken Arrow as Offensive Coordinator. We nearly won the school’s first state title in 2015, but we couldn’t quite beat Trimble, Maddox, and Jenks in the finals. But I was able to finally put all of these things together to make an impact on an offense, manage coaches (several of which went on to get better jobs), and make a positive impact on kids (dozens went to college to play and improve their life). I still remain in contact with many today, and several of them want to become coaches. PAYING IT FORWARD.
It continues today. BALL COACH DEVELOPMENT. I’m developing myself, and I’m trying to develop other coaches and players to reach their own goals. I now have a circle of BALL COACHES I can depend and lean on. Guys like Jordan Johnson (Jenks), Bobby Klinck (Owasso), Jason Semore (Montana) and the GA Crew from Tulsa, Rowdy Harper (Broken Arrow), Tanner Antle (Flower Mound Marcus), Nick Bunting (Holland Hall), Rick Nelson and Nick Nelson and others from Ankeny High School were I currently work. The list continues to grow.
And I hope I can help some of you become better BALL COACHES. Not gurus. Not “neat guys”. But guys that want to learn the entire game of football. Guys that want to pay it forward and help other people. And guys that love what they do as much as I do.
Dad, I hope I have made you proud. Your son…BALL COACH IN PROGRESS.