If you don’t get your dream job, someone else will. Dream jobs give you two choices – keep dreaming or stop dreaming. You have to stop dreaming to make them happen or you just keep dreaming.
“I want to get a full-time coaching job.” That’s what over 90% of all assistant coach applicants have told me when I have interviewed them for unpaid, volunteer coaching position on my coaching staff. A full-time coaching job is the dream job for coaches who work for free. Imagine getting paid hundreds of thousands, even millions, to do what most coaches do for nothing. Coaching isn’t easy. It’ll suck the life out of you. No matter how you look at coaching, it’s a job, a demanding job that some come coaches are making a fortune at. A full-time coaching job is both the number one goal and number one problem facing coaches who want to make a full-time living at coaching. There’s a cost involved to get a full-time coaching job. Like with any dream job, if you don’t get it, someone else will. Whether or not you dream job is coaching football, here’s some advice for all of you who are still searching for your dream job. Even though it sounds like I wrote this article specifically for football coaches, it truly does apply to any dream job that you’re chasing.
I have been blessed beyond all measure with a 40-season football coaching career that has made me rich beyond belief inside my heart and soul but not my bank account. None of my 40 seasons of coaching have been a full-time job. Each coaching job has been my second job. And each one has been unpaid. In fact, I’ve lost money every season through expenses and helping players get recruited to the next level for free. I have been a full-time police officer (1975-1990), full-time college law enforcement professor (1990-2010), full-time business owner, full-time writer but I have never been a full-time a full-time football coach. Yet, I always write “football coach” as my primary occupation because I believe it is. I believe that coaching, like all professions, is a calling. The problem is trying to make a living at it.
I’ve learned a lot about full-time coaching jobs – what to do and what not to do. Mostly what not to do. Here’s part 1 of my experience that I’d like to share with those who are struggling to get a full-time coaching job:
1. Build a functional network that works for you. I‘m blessed beyond belief with a huge network of coaches and players. In addition to over two decades as a head coach, I worked as a coordinator for four different coaches, all at the post-secondary levels. The experience was amazing. I met terrific coaches. But I learned something about myself that I can’t lie about – I can’t work for other people any more. I worked for other people as a factory worker in high school, taking orders from my foreman. I took orders as an 18-year rookie cop. Taking orders was great for while I needed it but it got stale. I needed control over my own life, my own career, my own mind. A network is important to get full-time jobs but the network has to be functional. It has to work for you. My network isn’t functional for me because it won’t get me a full-time job. Everyone knows I can’t work for other people. The word was out a long time ago. So my network doesn’t help. If you want to get a full-time coaching job, learn to work for others in order to develop a functional network that will hire you as an assistant coach first.
2. Get in the system. I have been a coaching outsider my whole life. I was a high school head coach for 12 years but never a full-time high school teacher. Being an outsider kept me on the outside. Get in the system means don’t be an outsider. Be an insider.
3. Build a high-rep track record. Performance is a universal language. Performance talks. Build a powerful coaching resume. The number one part of your coaching resume has to be the highest reputation humanly possible of honesty and character. Build a reputation of impeccable integrity. Nothing is more important than strong character to get hired as a full-time coach because of the responsibility – you’re coaching other people’s children. That is the main focus of a coaching career. You are responsible for the lives of other peoples’ move deeply loved pride and joy. Build a case with compelling evidence that you can be trusted with the lives of other peoples’ children.
4. Build a high-performance track record. Prove you can develop athletes. Not just with naturally gifted talent, build a case that proves you can develop full potential because: (i) its more important than winning, and (ii) its connected to winning.
5. Be original. If you don’t stand out, you’ll never stand alone. Getting hired in any profession is a competition – an intense fight for professional survival. If you don’t stand out of the crowd, you will be forgotten. You’ll never be short-listed for an interview. And if you do get interviewed, they will forget your name. Winning the competition for any job takes expert marketing and sales. You have to build a personal brand and then promote it naturally. Natural promotion is entirely different from unnatural promotion. One attract, the other detracts.
6. What are you willing to give up? I got hired as an offensive coordinator at a Division 3 university without knowing the specifics. It turned out to be full-time hours for $3,000 per year. I was a full-time college professor/program coordinator, writer, gym owner, husband, and father of three daughters. I was unwilling to give up my full-time paying jobs for $3,000 annually. I was unwilling to sacrifice my family life. I was unwilling to move my family if that job turned into a head coaching job somewhere else in the world. I love football but I love my family more. Taking food off the table would have been irresponsible. And, you have to respect your value. If you’re willing to work for $3,000 as a university coordinator, you’re sending the wrong messages – that you’re not worth more and you will work for next to nothing.
7. Don’t make a habit out of working for free. I’ve been an unpaid coach for 40 seasons. That was my choice. No one forced me to work for free. But here’s a cautionary tale – if you don’t treat coaching as a paying profession, the profession won’t treat you as a paid coach. As I said earlier, my volunteer coaching is the richest part of my professional life but it came with a cost – I lost a lot of money. When I was a cop, I had to use overtime hours to take time off to coach. Same thing when I was a college teacher. Working for free doesn’t pay the bills. But it lifted my soul even though I couldn’t do it full-time. If you coach while working full-time at your day job, you may never reach your full coaching potential because divided focus is never as powerful as full-immersion focus.
This is just a warmup – part one. There’s much more.
Gino Arcaro M.Ed., B.Sc., NCCP Level 3
Head coach – Niagara X-men football
Owner – X Fitness Inc.