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With those words, legendary Hall of Fame linebacker and former NFL coach, Mike Singletary’s kicked off the 4th Annual NFL-NCAA 2015 Coaches Academy, held February 20-23, in Nashville, Tenn. Fifty-eight college coaches, and current and former NFL players attended the three-day event designed to develop the game’s future coaches.
The coach emphasized the importance of faith, family and football — in that order. “If Mama [wife] does not support you then you will not be successful in your coaching career,” Singletary said. “And if you do not support your wife or significant other you will have problems in your family … I came home one day and said to my wife we have to make a marriage mission statement.”
Singletary stressed the importance of maintaining a work-life balance — a topic panelists and guest speakers echoed throughout the weekend. He gave examples how new coaches can introduce their wives, partners and significant others to the lifestyle, culture and code of conduct of coaching.
Speakers emphasized the importance of developing student athletes, building relationships and finding and developing your own coaching philosophy.
“I had teachers who believed in me academically and directed my path in life … they empowered me with the ability to make my own choices & educated decisions in my life,” said Charles Way, vice president of Player Engagement. Way discussed a holistic approach to developing student athletes, from the prep level to professional football and beyond.
“We work in a service industry — whether you are a coach, an athletic director or a director of player engagement — if you are not willing to serve without anything in return, then this is not the job for you,” said Way.
“You will have to spend time outside the Xs and Os,” said former general manager and current NFL Network analyst Charlie Casserly. “No matter what level you are at, player engagement needs to be a part of your philosophy. Your ability to improve a player off the field will improve and make a better player on the field.”
Felicia Martin, associate athletic director for academic services at Texas Tech University echoed Casserly, emphasizing the importance of “the total student athlete experience.”
The Coaches Academy also went over proper ways for coaches who are starting out to build and maintain relationships with their organizations, communities, the public and the media."
“Learn to drink their Scotch. Find out who can fire you and start there to build that relationship,” said Casserly.
David Norman, athletics director at Austin College, talked about how coaches at all levels are expected to be “an ambassador not only for your program but for every program in your department on a national level, community level and across your campus.”
Chris Cook, director of communications and marketing at Texas Tech, showed the aspiring coaches how to systematically approach social media and the traditional media, and how to capitalize on both to get a program’s message across to its stakeholders, including alumni, student body and recruits.
Experts also covered tough topics during the Coaches Academy.
“What is the definition of sexual consent?” asked Lisa Friel, NFL consultant and vice president of sexual misconduct consulting and investigations with T&M Protection Resources. A session called “Understanding your Environment” examined the specter of sexual assault and domestic violence in our society. The session provided participants with the same education that all NFL clubs, players and personnel are receiving on these issues. A sexual assault specialist, the NFL turned to Friel to help navigate the best practices in the workplace and learn what to consider and what to avoid when managing relationships.
Significant time was spent over the weekend on personal development and how to be an effective coach.
Felicia Hall Allen, motivational speaker and president and CEO of Felicia Hall Allen & Associatescaptivated participants in the Personal and Professional Conduct Training session. “Lead yourself; Lead others; Lead with others,” said Hall Allen. “Regularly monitor your inner compass; be realistic about your capabilities; never stop learning”
“This presentation really resonated with me,” said Colts return specialist, Josh Cribbs. “Her presentation style is teaching me how to present myself wherever I am and to have my opening line ready for anyone I introduce myself to.”
Character, integrity, accountability, honesty, trustworthiness, and hard work were among the key values cited as necessary for coaches to build successful programs.
A football coach wears many hats: family man, businessman, supporter, ambassador, negotiator, mentor, auditor, reporter, recruiter, evaluator, communicator and football strategist.
“The game of football has great value,” said legendary Vikings coach Dennis Green, as he wrapped the weekend’s event. “Matt Birk, James Thrash and Troy Vincent played the game and understood the value of the game”.
“As a player, I never thought I would work for the NFL. The reason I do is because I am my brother’s keeper.”
DIRECTOR OF NFL PLAYER ENGAGEMENT, JAMES THRASH
Matt Birk is the current director of NFL Football Development, James Thrash is the current director of NFL Player Engagement and Troy Vincent Sr. is currently the executive vice president of NFL Football Operations. All are former players who have excelled on the field and off.
“Don’t forget about your experience as players, it counts. There was a time when it didn’t. Count all your years of football!” says Green.
The Coaches Academy is under NFL’s Player Engagement Next Platform. NFL Next challenges former NFL players to think about the “next step” in their lives and provides services and resources that foster a successful transition to life after their NFL playing experience. For more information on this program or other pipeline programs please visit nflplayerengagement.com.