How to Be a Defensive Coordinator
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A football team's defensive coordinator is comparable to a vice president or executive in a corporation. Except in rare instances, when former collegiate and professional players return to coach at the high school level, the path to a defensive coordinator position is the result of a coaching progression. Coaches who teach multiple positions over the course of their careers make successful coordinators. They have the ability to communicate to players how the actions of one part of the defense affects the defense as a whole. It's not uncommon for head coaches to intentionally move position coaches around from season-to-season.
Contact a local high school coach about volunteer opportunities. Without prior coaching experience, one of the best ways to become a football coach is to prove yourself as a volunteer. Communicate your desire to coach to defense, but take any opportunity you can get. An effective defensive coordinator must anticipate how an offense will attack his schemes, so experience from an offensive point of view may prove useful in the future.
Focus on a particular specialty and do it well. A defensive coordinator is often a jack of all trades, but that's because he has proven himself to be successful at each stop along the way. If the head coach suggests you help out with special teams, your future may depend on how well the special teams perform. Don't try to overstep your bounds, especially as a volunteer, as it may irritate the other coaches and possibly confuse the players about who is in charge.
Request an opportunity to sit in on coaching staff meetings. In many cases, as a volunteer or positional coach, you'll be required to attend meetings anyway. Showing an interest in learning from the defensive coordinator and head coach can go a long way toward enhancing your own knowledge of the game from a coaching perspective and improve your cohesion with the rest of the coaching staff.
Embrace each new role as a challenge. Not every change in responsibilities is considered a promotion or demotion. Coaches frequently shift positional coaches around to address team needs and to build a more knowledgeable staff. Always ask yourself what you can do to become a better coach and communicator. If you have concerns about your approach, ask the head coach or coordinator for ideas.
Seek opportunities, but remain patient. Reaching the level of defensive coordinator is as much about timing as it is ability. Assistant coaches at all levels, including coordinators, are at the mercy of the head coach for employment. Loyalty to a particular school or program often doesn't guarantee a job, as many head coaches prefer to bring in their own staffs. There isn't a guaranteed ascent to a defensive coordinator position. You may eventually be asked to step up into a coordinator's role at your current school, or move to another school for the chance to advance. Networking is important. Head coaches prefer to hire people they know. Your ability to land a coordinator job may come down to the effort you put in building coaching relationships with colleagues who have moved on to other programs, in addition to establishing new relationships at coaching clinics and summer camps.
Flexibility is key in the coaching world. When an opportunity presents itself, a coach must be prepared to uproot his family on short notice.
Coaching at the high school level is rarely a full-time job. Prepare to have a full-time job with enough flexibility to allow you to coach in the afternoon. Many coaches are teachers or hold other full-time jobs in the school system.
Never question the authority of another coach in front of your team. Doing so can derail a coaching career and damage team unity.
J.M. Soden has been a freelance writer since 2005. He primarily writes sports articles but also enjoys writing about travel destinations, legal matters and electronics troubleshooting. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Notre Dame in American studies.