By Mike Podoll, Associate Publisher, This Is AFCA Magazine
Bob Burt knows a thing or two about longevity in coaching. The 2013 AFCF “Power of Influence” Award winner has been a college and high school football coach for more than 50 seasons.
Currently the head coach at Cypress High School in Hemet, Calif., Burt shares his best advice for today’s young coaches, so that they can embrace the personal satisfaction and professional success that leads to longevity in the sport.
1. Be Sincere With Players
Burt says that if you are not being your true self or if you’re being phony in any way, that your players will sniff it out and pick up on it almost immediately.
“If you don’t care about the players, and yet, you try to make yourself appear as if you do, they see through it right away,” says Burt. “It’s not the big things that give you away, either. It’s the day-to-day things and brief personal interactions that show your true colors as a coach who cares.
“Be sincere. Dish out a kind word here or there, and yes, even provide discipline when it’s needed. Those things show players that you are watching them and care about their development. Sincerity and caring are the building blocks that form a lifelong bond between coach and player.”
2. Be Active In Coaching Associations And State Organizations
Over the last few years, Burt says that he’s observed a decline in younger coaches who stay active within the coaching industry.
Whether it’s as a member within a state or national coaching association (such as the AFCA) or by serving on committees within a state athletic association, the veteran coach says it’s critical for young coaches to be proactive in the profession. “Almost every coach I know who has been active in associations and athletic organizations goes on to be successful,” says Burt. “That’s not a coincidence, either.”
3. Be A LOYAL Assistant Coach
One of the primary attributes of a great assistant coach, according to Burt, is loyalty to your head coach. “You don’t have to agree with your boss 100-percent of the time. But at the same time, you need to be loyal to that guy,” says Burt. “Never forget that your current head coach is the man who gave you the opportunity to be a part of his staff.”
4. Stay Focused On Your CURRENT Job
Too many assistant coaches today are looking to get a different job, says Burt, and the prospect of an exciting new job often takes a coach’s eyes off the work that needs to be done at his current job.
“Dick Tomey once told me, ‘Do the best job that you can do for a football program – do your best possible work – every day until the day after you leave.’” says Burt. “In other words, if you interview for another position on a different staff, you absolutely cannot let your work slide in your current job.
“As a coach, I’m a big believer in the power of networking, too. But do not let the prospects of a new job – take away from the responsibilities of your current job.”
5. Develop Your Teaching Skills
One of the key attributes that separates a good coach from a great coach, according to Burt, is the ability to teach. “Teaching is critical – especially for success at the high school level,” he says. “Coaches must be great teachers. Sometimes, how we teach players is the most-overlooked aspect of the job.”
6. Learn From Other Coaches On Staff
Burt says learning is a continuous process and that young assistants must ask questions, find out how the other coaches on staff do their jobs and be a sponge for information.
“It’s not so much about learning the X’s and O’s, either” says Burt. “It’s all the other things you do as a coach that makes a difference as to whether or not those young players become successful on and off the field.
7. Instill Values In Players
Burt says that the impact a coach has on young, student‑athletes, and the values you can instill within players, is a key component to the type of personal satisfaction that leads to longevity in coaching.
“Concentrate on your message to players, and what you are telling them,” says Burt. “The motivation that you can stir within young players becomes the determining factor as to whether or not they will be successful in football. And those motivations always carry forward for far longer than just their playing days.”
One major problem in high school today, for example, Burt says, is the unrealistic focus on a player’s chance to earn a football scholarship. Earning a college football scholarship is not only rare, but it has led to a myriad of negative consequences such as parents who work to promote their kids, the recruiting industry and players who transfer to multiple high schools over four years.
“Statistics show that less than one percent of all senior highschool players actually receive a scholarship to play football,” says Burt. “The quest to win a football scholarship has created a highlight-based, look-at-me culture that gives parent’s unrealistic expectations regarding football.
“The reality is that there are far more opportunities, and far greater money, available to high school students in scholastic scholarships. But, unfortunately, we don’t focus on those kinds of scholarships nearly as much, do we?”
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