Some of you are absolutely baffled by how this season went. Some of you expected a “down” year. Some have never had a losing season.
You lay awake at night. You get up before the alarm clock.
You question a lot.
You think through everything you did going back to January. Maybe that quarterback change blew up in your face. Perhaps changing your Defensive Coordinator was not such a good idea.
Or maybe you simply did not have the horses this year.
No matter the case, many coaches are in the same boat as you! Do not despair. As I always tell my wife after a loss, I need some time, babe! Give me 24 hours to mope around, to be a little depressed over this loss. But then kick me in the pants if I’m still sad after that.
In 2008, my program went 0 for. 0 for 10. Zero wins and ten losses. It was awful. It was the perfect storm of moving up in competition + dwindling enrollment + losing a few kids to other schools. If you coach long enough, you’re going to have an awful season.
Here are 4 keys to turning the page on an awful season:
Get going right away on the next year!
I’m a firm believer in giving the kids a break, allowing them some time to relax. However, after an awful season that left everyone upset and angry about the results of the scoreboard, I really think it is vital to get back into the weight room as soon as possible.
Giving kids time off after a really bad season might mean not getting them back. Kids will find reasons to leave the program or transfer if you’re not doing anything. Get back on the horse. You don’t have to work them out real hard; you might need some kids to heal up. No matter the case, get right back after it.
Be honest with yourself
Where did you fail as a coach? What could you have done better? Being honest with yourself allows you to address your shortcomings this past season, fight it head-on, and then get better. Was it something off the field that you could have managed better? Was it a scheme that led to losses? Do you need to make changes with who is coaching what? We tell kids that honesty is the best policy. Ask your mentor for honest advice, ask your athletic director to hold nothing back. Reach out to others on your campus whom you respect.
Meet with your junior class
Depending on how large your program is, have a meeting or two meetings if you need to, with your junior class. Give a kid a marker and put him in front of the whiteboard. Have an open forum with your kids. Give them the floor.
Ask these two questions: what did this program do well this year? What did this program do poorly this year? If you’re very brave, leave the room and let the kids run this meeting. Give them ownership of the program. Get their honest feedback about your season so that you can make improvements. You might disagree with something they say, but if your kids are telling you something, you should listen.
If you leave the meeting to them, make sure to get their feedback. Then, spend some time evaluating what they have said. Then, have a second meeting with them to talk about moving forward.
Now, get away
Once all of the gear is collected, and the weight room is back up and running, once you have had your banquet, and you’ve done exit interviews with your kids, get away!
You probably haven’t stopped since last January. You need to get away from football. Use some time during Thanksgiving Break or Christmas break to get away from it all. Turn off your phone. If your program works out during Christmas break, have an assistant do it. Find some time to get away from football, totally free from the stress of it all. This will help you to clear your mind and move forward. I had a great time away with my life after that horrendous 2008 season. We went to a local mountain area with our two young kids and just played as a family. Coming back down that hill was a symbol to me, a symbol of a new start, a fresh start: the 2009 season.
In the face of an awful season, coaches must demonstrate resilience and take proactive steps to bounce back. Remember, even the most successful coaches have faced setbacks, and it’s how you respond to them that truly defines your coaching legacy.
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Chris Fore has his Masters degree in Athletic Administration, is a Certified Athletic Administrator and currently works as a Principal in Southern California (yes, he went to the “dark side” after 17 years of coaching!) He served as the President of the California Coaches Association for 3 years. Fore is the CEO of Eight Laces Consulting which specializes in helping coaches nationwide in their job search process. Fore has been named to the Hudl Top 100 Coaches, and the Top 5 Best High School Football Coaches to follow on Twitter by MaxPreps. Follow him!