by Dr. Thom Park, The Gamebreakers LLC
The modern coach, of whatever sport, works and lives in a siloed sport society. Be it football, soccer, golf, or track, basketball, or baseball, each sport has generalities in common with others and yet specifics unique to each sport. Each sport has a specialty coach, with staff, and is idiosyncratic to others, like languages are different. Every sport culture is unique. The attendants to each sport, such as advisors and agents, are also specialists.
What coaches want their representatives or their agents to do is to help them find and to get better jobs. The agent, on the other hand, focuses on assembling the deal when the job comes, or when a renegotiate in place is due. Agents, whether lawyers or non-lawyers, focus on deal making, contract structure, term, compensation, the negotiation and completion of the coach’s transaction. That is agency work and how agents get paid by their agreement with their coach-client. Helping to get the job can be arduous, disappointing work which we call advocacy. The mathematics of the coaching profession are onerous, even staggering.
All coaches are ambitious, competitive, energetic, generally organized, industrious, often most persistent, usually focused, sometimes driven and sometimes even obsessive. The competitive culture fosters such. Most assistants come from first being athletes, and most wish to become head coaches in their sport. Only a few who start this journey arrive. But there are tasks coaches can do to enhance their prospects for advancement.
To achieve or regain this head coach status, given the mathematics of the profession, good fortune, chemistry, timing, family economics, personal drive and commitment, even institutional and sport politics, all play a role. Yet, as many coaches cite, we must focus on what we can control to have a chance at our personal coaching brass (or gold) ring! Having powerful in-sport mentors can be critical to gaining top jobs. All we can do is all we can do, but we must do all we can do. We must know what to do and when we have the time, we must do it. Let’s see what you must do to gain key career edges over your myriad of competitor coaches.
Every coach must have a resume, that is, a one page career summary of one’s curriculum vitae, ready to deliver on one day’s notice, both on paper and electronically. Resume construction is both art and craft, and generally should be domain specific. Consult resources to learn how to build yours in your sport. Use quantitatives when possible. Numbers are important to convey your accomplishments. For a sample, see www.drthompark.com
Lawyers, academics, professionals, and coaches all need this long career form, an all life dimension, career descriptive document of which the resume is a one page summary. These can take years to build but do get started now if you do not have one. Academics who sit as head coach NCAA institutional search committees expect to see them in applications. All professors have C.V.’s so they expect them in searches. Any candidate for a head coaching job lacking a sound C.V is a leg down in evaluations.
The C.V. contains every career and life accomplishment documented in great detail. Mine has grown over many careers to 37 pages, with 4 books and 127 articles, each cited. Coaches must build such career recitation documents in the offseason, updating them annually, to accompany the resume in any job application package. Humorously, C.V.’s are usually weighed but not totally read. At the document’s end, cite “the contents of this document are believed to be true and accurate” and they must be so. Resume fraud has been and can be a career ending event.
Use of Technology-LinkedIn, Facebook, Constant Contact
LinkedIn is one of the numerous social media business internet sites deemed to be worthy of the investment of the career coach’s time. You can put a C.V. type biography on LinkedIn where employers will actually search for and screen applicants and candidates. Connectivity with key sporting industry colleagues can be built and maintained. Revise your LinkedIn profile as your career evolves. Look at LinkedIn regularly. Connect with key persons in your sport and in athletics. Remember institutional leaders also.
Jack Welsh, former CEO of General Electric, opines that you can create a personal brand on LinkedIn. He states , “be very smart on what you write” since whatever goes on the internet is now etched there into perpetuity. Redo your bio annually or at key career events. LinkedIn is also a way to meet new industry people you might in no way ever meet.
Facebook may have been the innovation of a smart graduate student trying to meet girls but it works for coaches also. Maybe you can couple with an AD and hence an institutional employer you might otherwise never have met. The internet gives us all access to new rounds of people who but a few years ago we would never meet. By intelligently friending the right people, a few minutes a day with courteous, one word messages, you can maintain connectivity unheard of in the past. Become a Facebook user.
Constant Contact is an internet marketing method which if used effectively to a built constituency can effectively help the coach in the future. For example, transmitting coaching techniques and ideas or articles written once is a great way via technology to show your support base your professional capabilities. This is career advancement leveraging technology. Constant Contact can be a way to share your expertise to an increasingly widening circle of disciples. For the career teacher-coach, this tool can render quite a service to one’s sport and industry. Do not hide your light under a bushel basket.
Personal Coach’s Website
We have moved from a paper world into a digital one. The athletes who you are recruiting today are highly digital. Coaches who aspire to advance their careers and build a personal brand are well advised to create their own personal website. Their university employers should support this because it will help the coach and the school in recruiting. Such a site should reinforce recruiting efforts by allowing a coach to gain more stature than being listed on the coaching staff portrayal by the university athletic department website. Coaches seeking to advance must obtain such permission from their bosses as otherwise they may be viewed with askance. Yet, under wise and flexible university leadership, such a personal coach website posits a WIN-WIN-WIN marketing approach. This website approach can beget the coach exposure in the job marketplace that would in a paper world that happen.
Such personal coach websites must be built overtime with photos, color, resume, C.V., coaching philosophy, player testimonials, peer recommendations, and personal statements. These sites can be visual resumes and C.V.’s. They will help in recruiting but they will also facilitate career advancement. Differentiating oneself in a highly competitive professional universe of skilled persons is enhanced with such an internet tool. In a digital world, you become more accessible.
Cabinet and Reference List
There is little doubt that careers are advanced by engendering the support, respect, and admiration of other industry people. These are those who know us for what we do. For the aspiring coach, those professional people cover a number of affiliated groups of various sports pedigree. A former peer coach friend of mine at the University of Maryland told me as a young coach, “All you need to coach in the NFL is one well-placed friend.“ Birds of a feather flock together. It is no wonder that at coaches conventions, much networking is done. Technology too enhances such relationships extending as previously stated. As part of any job application package, the reference list is key. Such a list must be built for each specific position sought. Those on any particular school search must include an array of positions and persons of stature with some institutional connectivity or recognition. This job specific reference list must be constructed based upon the candidates analysis of how the hiring decision will be made. Is it by the AD? The President? How much sway does a search committee have? Knowing or guessing at this equation shapes how one builds a reference list for a particular coaching job application. Remember, submit these both by paper and digital means.
Over time, a career coach must build, recruit, and maintain relationship with a varied list of references of various professional pedigree. These people are to be used for any particular job application. For example, an assistant football coach should include persons of both industry stature and hopeful institutional connectivity on his reference list as follows:
- Your Current Head Football Coach
- Rival Head Football Coach
- You Current Athletic Director
- Rival Athletic Director
- A Top Football Coordinator
- A Head Basketball Coach
- A Senior Women’s Athletic Director
- Your President
- A Powerful Alumnus
- A Key Business Person
- A Dean
- A VIP
- A Celebrity
- An Ethnic Minority
Search a configured reference list if possible, seems to cover most of the bases needed in any university athletic job search. These individuals must want to support you.
The difference between a cabinet, a reference list, and a constituency revolves around relational strength and proximity. A cabinet would be a smaller group of persons like those listed above for a constructed reference list who are held in deep relationship, usually based on a long, deep, connectivity. These might be coaches one played for, coached with early, or mentors. They could be from one’s alma mater. The cabinet is composed of people one can always count upon—possibly career friends. These relationships are to be maintained with some regularity.
A reference list for a particular job application can contain some of your cabinet members and some members from your larger constituency group deemed job appropriate. Your constituency list is a larger group which you must nurture, build, and maintain. Technology can assist in this long term effort. Those who climb in this highly competitive world will do so on the backs of others who love, admire, like, and respect them. These relationships must be maintained. They comprise our loyal cabinet, any reference list, drawn from a larger constituency group.
Letter of Aspiration and Letter of Application
Every coach should write and update annually a letter of aspiration. This is a letter written by self to self that includes the deep concerns for one’s family. It outlines at that point in time what one aspires to do professionally. Goals are best achieved by committing them to writing. This letter shapes our career vision. Write one and revise it annually.
A letter of application should also be kept ready to deliver to a prospective employer on a day’s notice, by electronic and overnight paper mediums. It must be well constructed grammatically and convey one’s passion for the position. Getting trusted and wise others to assist and review the creation of your letter of application is important. Each application must be tweaked to that particular post and school. This letter should be revised annually and ready to go on one day’s notice. Have your general application letter ready shaped by your letter of aspiration. You do not want to write this letter in a hurry when the job opens. Have this letter ready.
Possible job targeting is what every coach should do as one’s career advances. If one is an assistant, possible head coaching opportunities that may open should be identified. Targeted opportunities which are realistically obtainable are ones to be worked toward. Jobs which may open should be monitored. Sitting head coaches should target and monitor other coveted positions which may open.
Working with their agents, strategies and job procurement tactics in the event of an opening must be aligned. If one considers the elimination mathematics of some of the top jobs, such highly competitive posts only go to the very best top candidates who totally prepare to obtain them. Targeting them and preparing to get such posts, when open, year around is a part of such high achievement in coaching.
Net Worth Monitoring
For the past 50 years, the average tenure of the 125 some NCAA Division IA Head Football Coaches has hovered around 3 years. The average age of the Division IA coach who leaves the industry is around age 35. The coaching business is truly Darwinian.
Given this transiency and impermanency of the coaching profession, young coaches are well advised to calculate their accrued net worth and update it annually in the off season. For a form to do this, see www.drthompark.com and hit the appropriate icon on the website home page screen. I am available by telephone appointment to help you with this process. Your net worth needs to grow annually and if it is not monitored, you may not be able to end up in retirement where you wish to be. Knowing annually what your net worth has grown to be is most important. If you do, you and your spouse can make life adjustments that will aid in a secure financial future, despite the vagaries of the coaching profession. Net worth accumulation is highly related to career advancement. These concepts are part of the career advancement behaviors and tasks required of the ambitious professional coach. In such a highly competitive industry, success at high levels may only come to those who leave no stone unturned. These previous points are some of those stones.
What you do in shaping and influencing young people is so important. May your careers prosper. Thank you and may God bless you and your families.