From One Assistant Coach to Another

Many Assistant Coaches are hesitant to dive in 100% to the SportsLeader program - especially the mentoring. Here below is a testimony from an Assistant Coach, Dave Simon from Cincinnati McNicholas HS, who wanted to encourage all the assistant coaches out there ...

Well worth your time. Please forward this on to all your coaches. I highlighted some parts that I found really powerful.

Lou Judd

Football can not just be a demanding and stressful game as a player, but for a coach as well. In today’s society, many young men choose the path of football not knowing the life lessons they may learn and how they can be guided to become better young men when they’re finished. Many adult males get into the coaching field due to competitive nature and missing the game they grew to love.  

As coaches, we have the most opportune time in a young man’s life, to not just make an impact, but inspire and help young men be able to achieve their dreams and goals in life. Whether coaching in a program with little resources or coaching in a program with unlimited resources, all of our players face life struggles. Some kids come from great backgrounds and supportive families and some kids come from a struggling house with little to no resources at all to fall on. 

No matter the circumstances, we as coaches have a duty each day we are around these players on and off the field. Not just teaching the X’s and O’s but teaching the lessons of life to help create strong, determined, iron-willed, outstanding young men. Young men who become leaders, not followers. Young men who people look to and know they can rely upon.  

I had the privilege to meet a head coach during a coaching clinic years ago. This man did not only inspire me to be a better coach on the field, but be a better coach off the field to all my players that I am blessed to spend each season with.  This man read statistics about how many student athletes come from a broken home. This same coach made one statement of a stat that can’t be measured on paper. This stat was so astonishing, that while I sat there, I understood now the importance of my job. 

I say “job” because yeah, we as coaches are paid upon our duties, but not enough to live on, we don’t coach for that reason. We all heard the same calling in our lives at one point. The statement I talked about earlier, the one that the head coach of this college program talked about, “Who is the most influential person in your life?” The answer……..High School Football Coach. He said 90% of all college players that he has coached answered that single question with High School Football Coach. Pretty powerful response? Makes you sit back for a second and understand how important your “calling” is. Makes you realize the impact we have as coaches not just for one young mans life, but for an entire team. The coach I referred to earlier is Dean Hood. Head Coach of Eastern Kentucky University Football Program.  Now, Coach Hood was a former Defensive Coordinator at Wake Forest University where he used the same character development program that he still uses today. 

This year, our HC decided that something had to change with our football program, not just a systematic or scheme to use for on the field but a system that would reach deep inside a young man’s life and a coach’s as well. He wanted these young men by the time they were done with their four years of high school football, not just to be proud of their on field accomplishments, but their off field success as well. He wanted these young boys to become great young men. Someone that people looked to and knew that this was not just an ordinary young man, but a special young man. We as assistant coaches were introduced to this program this off-season. 

The program is called SportsLeader. Our HC introduced us to Lou Judd and his program and the vast majority it had to offer. At first, I was very hesitant on what this program was about. But, as I sat one Saturday morning at Moeller High School, I quickly learned what Sports Leader had to offer. I learned from coaches all across the country and the neat ideas that were being incorporated in their program. I soon was absolutely amazed at what it had to offer. So, after witnessing this opportunity, our HC decided to take it further and have Lou explain to us a more in depth perception of what this program had to offer. Call it an all access pass if you may. Lou talked with our entire staff and we decided that we would incorporate some ideas and roll with them. 

We chose doing a virtue of the week and having one on one session with the players we drafted to be in our mentor group, father-son jersey night, and letter to mom night. The mentor group was the only thing at first I was very hesitant on. Lou explained that we would draft players of six or seven depending on the number of players we had in our program, sophomore to senior, and go over the virtue of the week chosen by the HC for the week and talk about it maybe before or after practice. Basically you become not a coach, but a big brother. As I sat there and heard the details of what the Mentoring brought upon us coaches, I said to myself, “Hold up! I’m supposed to mentor these guys? What am I going to say? How am I going to make a difference? 

I am a 27 year old young man who had made a lot of mistakes so far, how am I supposed to be a mentor, when sometimes I may not make the right choices. So, I sat back and reevaluated how I was going to approach this whole program. I kept an open mind. I first started by asking myself what makes a man a man? I mean a guy can be 40 years old and still not be a man just as a guy can be 19 and be a man. A man isn’t defined by giving shelter, food, and water to his family is it? Then, I thought about all the coaches I have had the pleasure of being able to stand next to and coach throughout my young 8 year career so far, and thought about them as men. I have been with three different staffs and learned from each staff what it means to be a man. 

These guys are the same guys that I had the pleasure of seeing off the field in their environments at home and around their families. The staff I’m with this year I will use as an example because it’s fresher for me to refer to, but these coaches all reflect what it means to be a man. These guys are the same guys that are very competitive and determined to win, but at the same time are the guys that you see with their children and wives engaged in life and understanding what it means to be appreciative of the gifts they are given in their life. The same guys that you look at and see a great father and husband, or great son and brother. Guys who just don’t provide food, shelter, and water for their families, but unconditional love and laughter to their families as well. 

The love that is greater than money can support, the love that builds a house and a family. The love that helps siblings out and be a role model. Men, who I look up to. Men that I have a huge found respect for. I say this because being raised by a single mother and helping raise a younger sibling you never know if you’re a man or not. Not saying that you can’t be a man being raised by a single mom because you can, my mom is a saint in my eyes and honestly my biggest hero and inspiration in what I do today. But, seeing these coaches I am blessed to coach next to, it just elevated my perception of what a man is. So, as I referred to these guys while thinking of how to be a good mentor, I found my way of being a great young man as I teach my players to be great young men as well. 

My first week of mentoring was a little hectic with our new stadium opening up for our first varsity home game ever in the schools history, so emotions were high as a former alum and the focus was a little stray at times with the virtue of the week and the one on one session with my players. No excuses, so I made sure the next week would go as I wanted this process to go. The virtue of the week was “consistency.” I talked with my players about consistency and how they were going to be consistent in not just football but life in general as well. There was one player that really shocked me while having our one on one session. If I wouldn’t have been a part of this program, I probably wouldn’t have known about his situation nor would have ever been. 

It’s not that I don’t talk to my players and interact, but this program allows an open door policy for a player and coach to talk and not make a coach feel as though he’s crossing the line on asking a question or getting more involved in the players’ life. This helps the awkwardness that may occur in the beginning to allow a more in depth perception of each other. Players look at Coaches as guys who are perfect or on this realm that they make no mistakes in life. But, the mentoring program allows the player to see that the coach is human just like him. It allows the player to see and hear a side that they might not have heard before. We as coaches make the misperception that we get involved in our players life and we know our players so well, but do we? 

This mentoring program made me reflect as a coach on how I have constructed myself. Made me become a better coach in fact. While having my one on one session with this player, I said to myself I am glad I got to talk to him, I’m glad he got to open up to me about his problem and I was able to help in some form or fashion. I just told the young man that we all make mistakes in our lives, and people are easy to criticize on others, but the only opinion that matters is on the inside of us as people and how we perceive ourselves. And yes, the big man upstairs opinion on how we live our lives as well is judged in the end. But, he knows us as humans are susceptible to mistakes, and how we learn and change from them is ultimately what shapes us as human beings and young men. 

As the session ended, I gave the young man a huge hug and told him no matter what, if it’s his assigned day to talk to me or not, and he needs to talk, to come and talk to me. I told him that I make mistakes too; all the time, but I try and learn form them to become a better young man and person every day. I told him that I cared about him and not just as a football player but as a person as well. I didn’t want him to just succeed on the field but off the field as well. I told him we all have obstacles on our journey’s, but its just like a tree fallen on our path, we can turn around and go back from where we came from, cut the tree out of the way or move it to the side and keep moving forward to where our goal is at the end.

The mentoring session hasn’t just helped my players in our conversations and stories we read that relate to the virtue of the week, but has helped shaped me to become a better man each day and lead by example for not just the virtue of the week, but a man as well, just as the men I stand next to on the sideline every Friday Night or Saturday Afternoon coaching along side.

So I challenge you coaches each day you have the opportunity to talk to your players, DO! You answered your calling for a purpose. Don’t be hesitant, we all make mistakes, I know that one best. But, for a young man to admit his mistakes and learn from them and pass the knowledge around to another, well that makes a man, and that ultimately makes a great coach. 

Remember the question that college football players answered earlier in our conversation, Who is the most influential person in your life?......High School Football Coach. Make the impact, make the difference, be the men in their lives and be the inspiration that make these young men, GREAT MEN.

Dave Simon
Linebackers Coach Archbishop McNicholas High School, Cincinnati, OH