Coaching is a Business

This is the time of year when coaches are shifting jobs. Some of those changes are by choice, but many other coaches are unemployed and looking for work because they have learned one of the hardest lessons in coaching. Regardless of how nice the administration is, or how well you get along with your boss, when push comes to shove, coaching is a business.

Whether you coach in secular or private settings there almost always comes a point where you realize that coaching is a business even when you want it to view your work through the lens of ministry.

There’s no way to prepare for the “you’re fired” conversation even when you expect it because rarely do people handle these things well. Rather than look you in the eye and say hey, I’m sorry but we have to go another way they will feel guilty and start to make up excuses and pretend they aren’t the ones making the decision. Or worse, they aren’t courageous enough to have a conversation themselves and the decision-maker actually has someone else deliver the bad news.

Regardless of who tells you that you no longer have health insurance and a salary or why they are likely to leave you feeling as if you’ve been sucker-punched. Colleges have to balance their budgets and the reality is that donors are more likely to give to winning programs and kids are more likely to stick around when they have a chance to play for winning programs as well.

When administrators aren’t willing to trust the recruiting efforts of the coaching staff or if the coaching staff can’t recruit the right players it doesn’t matter how well everyone gets along. Coaching is a business.

Even when things are moving in the right direction it’s possible an administrator, trustee or alum will decide that it’s time to go in a different direction. This feels especially unfair because the coach usually knows the next coach will reap the benefits of their hard work. Regardless, coaching is a business.

At the high school level, things vary depending on whether a teacher has tenure and if they are in the public or private school system. But coaches rarely want to stick around if they aren’t going to coach and teach. Occasionally they will find themselves stuck in that they are so far along years or steps moving would mean a significant pay cut. As it has been explained to me, this can cause a coach to step out of coaching for a few years until they can lock in retirement and then they may start over someplace else. It’s also why so many coaching families are two-income households.

It’s also important to remember that your favorite player’s parents are also going to quickly complain when their kids don’t earn starting positions. Parent’s aren’t above exaggerating to get their way. Where do you think their kids learn that strategy? If we learned anything from Operation Varsity Blues it’s that many parents believe their child is the exception to the rules.

While we can always hope that administrators will believe a coaching staff before a parent, the reality is that it’s not always the case. It’s especially helpful to have a parent to blame when they are looking for an excuse to part ways. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ever be friendly with parents, but just like co-workers, it’s important to remember that when you are competing for a promotion some people will choose themselves over the truth when they want something bad enough.

Don’t Limit Yourself

After you’ve been burned in the coaching business the instinct for many is to put up a wall of protection, but in truth, doing so limits your experience. There are so many amazing friendships that happen on a coaching staff when you let yourself get to know each other. But just like any other job, there are limits. It’s important to have boundaries and to understand that ultimately, at the end of the day, every coach must do their job to the best of their ability. Even when they do, sometimes leaders will make bad decisions and in the business world, that means the low man on the pay scale often gets the raw end of the deal.

When things feel unfair it’s easy to second guess your previous convictions. We’re you supposed to take that job in the first place? Should you have accepted that other job offer that came along rather than staying put? It’s hard to remember that God is still present when things don’t feel good or make sense. In those moments where you’re tempted to second guess your previous decisions, remember that obedience often requires sacrifice. God knows that we can get ahead of ourselves even when we don’t know the end of the story so because he is merciful he often only tells us what we need to know so we can focus on the tasks ahead.

It’s so much easier to obey God and step into our calling when we know that our goal is to advance the kingdom by serving the people in front of us rather than being paralyzed by the fear of an impending bad ending. The Bible is filled with stories of people who God called to do incredibly hard things. Ruth, Esther, Joseph, Abraham, David, and Joshua are just a few who stepped into their calling without knowing the ending. Their obedience impacted generations and so does yours even when your ending in one location doesn’t come to a close the way you prefer.

Lessons from the Sidelines front cover final

As the wife of a football coach, Beth Walker encourages women whose families are in the public eye to pursue their own callings even as they support their husbands’ careers and ministries. Through her personal stories as well as interviews with other women who are also living just outside their husbands’ limelight, Beth shows it’s possible to do both.

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