What a College Football Coach Deals with in the Offseason
When spring ball wraps up, coaches will be thrown into the offseason. Or, "offseason" that is. As the almost cliché adage goes, "there is no offseason" where college football is concerned. Obviously, the players will be getting after it with the strength and conditioning staff, but what about the coaches? They are not allowed to interact, in an official capacity, with their players once spring ends, so what's next?
The coaches have to balance family time with job obligations, recruiting and of course, a lot of praying.
We'll start with the praying, because this is the one aspect of the entire offseason that coaches have no actual control over. Sure, tangentially they control this through how they teach their players and what they expect out of the players, but they cannot actually get their hands on this situation.
If you have not figured it out, we're talking about praying that no bad things happen. No arrests, no injuries, no tragedies, no accidents and no academic issues. And, in all of this, all the coach can do is hope that none of these things touch his program.
The issues hit programs all over the country. Oregon had a tragic death in 2009 when Todd Doxey drowned during a tubing trip. Duke just experienced a near-death experience when Blair Holliday crashed a jet ski on Lake Tillery in the summer of 2012. Clemson dealt with its star being arrested following getting popped for drug possession in 2012. Georgia, in 2011, dealt with the Caleb King academic saga.
Oh, and of course, the far less severe, North Carolina dealing with a TJ Yates thumb injury that occurred during a game of team ultimate frisbee.
Coaches cannot wrap their star players in bubble wrap to prevent injuries, or worse, tragedies. They cannot force their players to avoid any fun in the offseason. They cannot make their kids do their homework or go to class. They cannot even command their team to not smoke a little pot.
All they can do is recommend players practice safety during offseason activities and stay away from drugs. Hell, even though they can give their players all the academic support possible, leading the proverbial horse to water, they cannot make them drink, or in this case, do the work.
Thus, coaches spend their offseasons hoping and praying that nothing bad happens. That the kids they leave spring with are the same kids that come back to them in August for camp. That their players avoid the pitfalls of bad decisions and practice safety while they are out and exposed to the world.
From the world of no control to the world where coaches feel like they have no control: their obligations. If you talk to a coach, especially a head coach, about the media and fan obligations and their eyes glaze over because it is something they just have to do.
Some guys, like Mack Brown, are really damn good at it. They want to be in front of the media promoting their program, answering questions and selling to the masses. They want to shake hands with the boosters and take pictures with some kid who wants to immortalize the time he met the Texas head coach.
However, for most coaches it is just a necessary evil, especially in the summer. Making the press rounds to keep your programs name out there, going to media days and answering the same questions year after year. Hitting the road for the Coach's Caravan to pretend to care what boosters want or think.
Regardless of how they feel, it is a necessary part of the offseason. So they suck it up, put on a smile and answer the same questions time and again, when they would rather be just about anywhere else, like fishing or the beach.
This is where we start to see family truly impacted. Coaching is a remarkable juggling act, where family is concerned. It is an aspect of the coaching life that often gets ignored because, thanks to some remarkable entitlement, fans have this sense of ownership over their coaches. That the coach is beholden to them and should spend all of his waking moments out there trying to win ball games, for them.
With the media and fan obligations, you'll see coaches leave the beach or the lake, handle their business for a couple days and book it to get back to their family. Some coaches even bring their families on these things, although after a few years the novelty of it all wears off and the wife and kids would rather be home than shaking strangers' hands.
Screw the lack of security and the long hours, being yanked away from your family to glad-hand self-important boosters is the hardest part of the profession. You certainly don't get the full summer, but even worse, you rarely even get large enough chunks of time off to have a real vacation. Weeks are broken up with midweek speeches or obligations at random town's booster club or talking with a reporter to help elevate your profile.
Let's not forget the other obligation that is tied into coaching: camps. These certainly fall into the fan category, for the most part, because they are youth camps where kids of boosters and fans show up to learn football from their favorite coaching staff. It does not really count as recruiting, because most of the kids at the youth and high school camps will never, and could never, play ball for you.
No, this is about making these kids feel special, feel important, get some football knowledge, fulfill your contract obligation and make some extra cash.
The exception here is when recruiting and camps overlap. There are all-senior one-day camps that are invitation only that truly fill this void. This is not the "anyone can come, we'll make you feel special" camp; this is the "you're on our radar, we have interest in you and if you ball out then we might offer you" camp.
Summertime is when recruiting gets really hot, as coaches have their targets outlined, the players they want to watch grow and the guys they are dying to get on to campus. Kids take unofficial visits in the summertime; coaches have to be on campus for that. If you miss a kid on a tour of multiple colleges when he stops by your school, and you are not on good standing with him, if he's a target that you covet.
The dance is a bear on a coach’s schedule and his nerves, wondering whether or not prospects will accept offers that have been extended to them—finding out that a rival has grabbed a commitment from a guy that you thought you were going to land; working with high school coaches to figure out when he is bringing his kids up to campus to take a tour.
It is a lot.
Summer, for coaches, is a delicate ordeal that entails balancing all of the job obligations with the praying for his players and spending time with his family. Traveling is a constant, glad-handing boosters to keep the money flowing in is a must and putting in work on the recruiting trail has to happen to power the football machine.
Where the players, and obviously the coaches, are concerned, there truly is no offseason.
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