By Mike Podoll, Associate Publisher, This Is AFCA Magazine
Glenn Caruso is cut from a different cloth. The current head football coach at the University of St. Thomas knew back in 1999 that his long-term goal was to become a head football coach. Now, that type of career goal isn’t all that unusual for young assistant coaches who first join the ranks of football coaching. In fact, becoming a head coach is probably the ultimate dream for the vast majority of young men in the profession.
What makes Caruso unique is that the then 22-year old had the foresight to start a file which he labeled “When I’m An HFC.”
“When I was a young coach, I was just in awe of trying to soak up whatever I could from a knowledge standpoint. In 1999, I began to maintain a ‘When I’m A HFC’ file on my desktop and it’s a file that I still update and reference to this day, 13 years later,” says Caruso. “Any time something would pop up – whether it’s a topic such as administrative, staffing, recruiting players, an offensive scheme, a defensive scheme, practice management, special teams, community relations or anything like that – I would maintain notes of interest in this file or put it on a master list of things that I need to further research.
“I guess that was a little presumptuous and I should have dubbed the file ‘If I’m An HFC,’ but I’ve always been pretty good at once I’ve set my mind to doing something – without knowing how to get there – to figure out a way to get there. Once becoming a head coach crystalized as my ultimate career goal, my mind began to work. And when that happens, I usually get a million ideas all at once.
“And if I don’t write these ideas down, there’s a chance I’ll forget something and it might be important or something that could germinate into a terrific idea. So once I started collecting all these unrelated ideas together, I gathered them into the ‘When I’m An HFC’ master file and separated the various topics into sub-categories.”
The “When I’m An HFC” file held not only all the things that Caruso wanted to do, but all the things he learned and witnessed over time. “You can learn from every experience,” says Caruso. “Everyone thinks that you can only learn from the positive things that happen. But you can learn just as much from the negative experiences. So I began writing down everything – including ideas that I liked, as well as the things I that saw as mistakes.”
As Caruso’s file grew over the years, the list was always growing, ever-changing and morphing into almost a living evaluation tool. He says that some schemes came and went as fads, and that some ideas he had pondered seem almost silly to him now.
“The bottom line is, that by the time I became a head coach at 31 years of age, I had already thought out the plan,” Caruso says. “I had run the permutations and scenarios of almost everything out in my mind already because of this list. Even though I hadn’t learned by experience, this file enabled me to answer questions that prepared me for almost every scenario I’d face, not only in a job interview, but also on the job, which has allowed me to hit the ground running.
“This file helped answer questions. What scheme do I want to run on offense? And, how does that scheme affect my defense? Or vice-versa. Or how do the schemes I choose affect how we are going to balance and distribute our personnel? How am I going to install the schemes we choose to use? How are we going to recruit? How are the schemes that we choose going to affect our recruiting process? Are we going to be able to recruit players if we choose to utilize a particular scheme? How do I want to handle potential recruits when they visit campus for the very first time? How do I want to reach out to the community? How do I want to talk to our alumni? How do I want to ask for things from the administration?”
Maintaining this file helped Caruso prepare answers for all those types of questions and more. The coach says he wrote down thoughts on all topics, some seemingly insignificant, such as what he would want players to physically look like on game day with regards to their uniforms. He also tracked critical topics that were more philosophically strategic in scope, such as how to bring heavy defensive pressure without the risk of running man coverage. Regardless the size or scope, the topics in this file are wide-ranging and all-encompassing.
Even now, Caruso refers to and updates the “When I’m An HFC” file at least weekly. He says that the list forces him to analyze and map out where his program has been and how to chart a better course for the future.
“I don’t consider myself a real cerebral guy, but I am a real thoughtful guy. I spend ridiculous amounts of time analyzing all things related to our program,” says Caruso. “It’s goal-setting 101, really. The second you write something down, you invariably begin to think about it. The file helps keep everything in perspective.
“If you’re continuously thinking and preparing, you may not be perfect when you put a plan into operation, but you can absolutely avert hurdles that make other people stumble. You’ll avoid many of these pitfalls because you’ll have thought things through long before problems ever come to fruition.”
Caruso says that every coach can utilize this type of system as a means for self-improvement.
“Thinking costs no money and it requires no athletic ability. Thinking and analysis require only diligence, effort and mental toughness.”
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