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How to Be an NFL Coach
Becoming an NFL coach takes a lot of talent and ambition, plus quite a bit of luck. Start by gaining experience while you're in high school, and work on an undergraduate degree in a related field. Work up the ranks by applying to be a graduate assistant coach or apply for smaller coaching positions at the collegiate level. You can use your experience to move up the college coaching ladder, and hopefully, one day, to land a position in the NFL.
Gaining Education and Experience
Play football in high school.Start out playing football early, beginning in junior high or high school if you can. If you can't, volunteer to help out as a manager for the team. Most teams take on volunteers. All you have to do is ask.
- For instance, you could say to the coach, "Hi, coach. I know I didn't make the team, but I'd still like to help out. Is there a spot open for a volunteer?"
Begin working on a specialty in high school.Most coaches have a specialty. Whether you want to work on the offense or the defense, you'll find there are a range of coaching positions. You may want to develop a specialty based on a position you play, for instance, as you'll have first-hand knowledge.
- To develop a specialty, play or manage in one area if you can. Educate yourself on that specialty by reading up on it and taking related courses.
Work on a football-related bachelor's degree.Most coaches have a bachelor's degree of some kind. Pick a degree in a related field, such as kinesiology, exercise and sports medicine, nutrition and fitness, physiology, or physical education.
- A coaching degree is rarer, but you can use a college search engine to find schools that offer it.
Play college football.If possible, play for a college football team while you're an undergraduate. Most college coaches are looking for college-level experience in their graduate assistant coaches, and playing experience at the collegiate level can only help with other coaching positions.
- If you don't make the team, consider volunteering as a team manager to gain experience.
- Let your coaches know that you'd like to eventually be considered for a graduate assistant position, if that's your goal.
Apply to be an NFL intern.The NFL offers summer internships and positions in a junior rotational program. The summer internships last 8-9 weeks, while the junior rotational program lasts 6 to 9 months for each rotation. Both offer you a chance to work behind the scenes at the NFL.
- While these internships aren't coaching related necessarily, you'll gain invaluable insight into the NFL, which can benefit you in gaining a coaching job later.
- For both programs, you'll apply in your senior year. You'll need at least a 3.0 GPA for the summer program and at least a 3.2 for the rotational program. Apply on the NFL's website
Consider a graduate degree in a related field.While a graduate degree in coaching or a related field isn't required, it can give you an edge. Plus, it gives you an opportunity to apply to be a graduate assistant coach, which can help you get your foot in the door for a coaching position.
Apply to be a graduate assistant coach.If you're getting a master's degree at a university with a football program, you can be 1 of the 2 allowed graduate assistant coaches. You'll usually get free tuition out of the deal, but you'll have to put in as many as 100 hours per week.
- You'll only be able to hold this position for 2 to 3 seasons at most.
- Check on college websites for their job listings, as well as the job boards for the NCAA and NAIA. Don't be afraid to reach out to a program you love, and ask if they have a position for you.
- Typically, you'll apply for a graduate position before you enroll in the school, so you know for sure you have a job there.
Developing Your Coaching Skills
Read and learn from the best.As you're working towards being a coach, read books and listen to talks from the best. Try memoirs and how-to books from former coaches, such as Bill Wash'sFinding the Winning Edge.Try to figure out what made them successful coaches, so you can apply the information when you start coaching.
- To find talks, check out YouTube videos by winning coaches.
- Attend any lectures offered by coaches in your area.
Examine what makes the other coaches good.As you work with other coaches, pay attention to how they lead. Look at how they treat the players, how they build strategies, and how they build team camaraderie. Learning from how others coach is a great way to pick up technique.
- Build good relationships with coaches. That way, when you see them do something you don't understand, you can ask them later why they made that decision. Learning their thought process will help you develop your own coaching strategies.
Go to coaching clinics.Coaching clinics can help you be a better coach. Both Glazier Clinics and the clinics put on by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) are highly respected. Plus, attending these clinics gives you a chance to network with others in the field.
- For instance, you can go to the AFCA's annual convention, which provides educational opportunities. The convention is usually in January. Membership dues range from USD to 0 USD as of 2019, which includes the cost of the convention. You can also just pay for the convention, which ranges from to USD, plus travel. You don't need to be coaching currently to attend.
- Glazier Clinics, which are hosted across the United States and online, run 9 for a single year season pass, as of 2019.
Becoming a College Football Coach
Find jobs on a website devoted to college coaching positions.While you can find coaching jobs through typical avenues, you'll have an easier time using search engines specifically for college coaching jobs.
- For instance, Football Scoop has all levels of football coaching jobs, while both the NAIA and the NCAA have advertisement boards for college-level coaches.
Apply for less-prestigious coaching positions at first.You likely won't be able to land the high-powered coaching jobs right away. Start with smaller programs, such as programs in the NAIA, the NCAA DIII, or the National Junior College Athletic Association.
- If you start in these positions, you can build up a reputation as a solid coach and work your way up to tougher college programs.
Prepare to talk strategy at the interview.Once you land an interview, you have to be ready to do it well. Like any interview, you have to be ready to talk about what you'll bring to the job, which in football means strategy and coaching skills. Be ready to talk about you see the team moving forward and how you'll handle individual members of the team.
- It will be your job to inspire your team. Show your interviewers how you'll do that.
- Check out footage of the team ahead of time, so you can discuss what the team is doing well and where the team can do better.
Stay connected with past coaches.As you gain new jobs, maintain contact with those you've worked with in the past. Send out periodic emails, or call them to see how they're doing. They may know of job openings for you, so let them know when you're looking. Plus, if you stay in touch, you'll have good references for future jobs.
Apply your strategy to win games.As you begin to coach, apply what you've learned in school and from other coaches to your own coaching strategy. When you make mistakes, analyze the situation to see what went wrong. Learn from those mistakes, and help your team do better the next time.
- For instance, analyzing film from other teams can be helpful, and you may have noticed coaches doing this in your past. Watch videos of a team to see how they play, and use that information to figure out what the biggest threats are. Adjust your team's play to help win the game.
- Alternatively, maybe you've noticed that your team is literally dropping the ball too much, which is what cost you a recent game. Focus on drills that encourage your team to hold on to the ball.
Continue to take coaching clinics.Be ready to keep learning, as there's always something new on the horizon. However, you don't have to take the same clinics over and over. Try higher-caliber clinics just for NCAA coaches, such as the NFL-NCAA Coaches Academy, which nominates NCAA coaches to take the clinic each year.
Coaching in the NFL
Coach in another professional league.Gain as much experience as you can at the professional level, such as working in the Canadian Football League. This league is a professional league. However, it's considered a stepping stone to the NFL, so it's easier to land a job in the CFL after working on a successful college program.
Apply for the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship for minorities.With this fellowship, you'll be hired for off-season training camps as an opportunity to observe and gain experience. The NFL recommends that each team hire 4 coaches each off-season.Use the application found at .
- The goal of this fellowship is to encourage and assist more minority coaches in obtaining NFL coaching positions.
Find coaching jobs in the NFL.Pay close attention to sports news to see which coaches are being fired or are leaving positions, which will help you know what positions are open. Websites like Football Scoop also have information on NFL job openings.
- Also, ask your contacts if they know of any open positions.
- Let people know you want to move up to the NFL. If you're coaching in a high-profile college position, NFL CEOs and managers are more likely to give you a chance. Let any contacts you have know that you'd like to move up to pro ball if possible.
Evaluate the team ahead of time.The managers, coaches, and CEOs are going to want you to be able to talk about the different players. They'll want to know what you think works and what doesn't work, so you'll need to be able to evaluate the team members individually. You'll need to spend hours looking at video of how the team plays so you can discuss them intelligently.
- An agent can help you evaluate players if you don't have the time.
Hire an agent.An agent is legal representation that helps you negotiate the best deal when you're interviewing and negotiating a contract. Bring your agent to the interview. It's standard practice, so the team management will be expecting it.
- Pick one based on recommendations from friends and colleagues.
Prepare yourself for an extensive interview.Most interviews will be at least 3 hours, but if things are going well, your interview may last well over 5 hours. They want to get to know you as a person, to get inside your head and figure out how you're going to coach. Be ready to talk about your strategies, such as how you plan to coach individuals and what you bring to the table in your specialty.
- Often, these long interviews are reserved for head coaches, and the head coach will decide who they want to work under them.
- If you want to play before coaching, try to play in the NFL or a high-ranking college team. While not every NFL coach plays in the NFL, it can give you an edge to play at this level. The coaches will be familiar with you, and you'll have contacts all across the league to help you land a job.
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