I had finished my first clinic with the local travel team – doing some meet & greets with parents and sweating it out with the kids in some stations – feeling pretty good about myself. Afterwards, an individual introduced himself to me and gave me my first real piece of advice.
“Congrats, I know that you are excited to get to work. Remember what got you here and remember during games that you are the (F)u’n New Guy.”
Since we are a family-friendly site here I will let your imagination take over for the first initial. A little context to consider with this anecdote is that this friend of mine is a Division I official throughout the region. Our program at the time had started to build up a little bit of a reputation. We had recent success with runs to the state tournament and personnel with a personality to match. Our conversation revolved around the concept of being new to the league, relatively young (despite how you feel at times) in the face and new to the area. In other words, do not expect to get the call or to make friends right away. It was a great conversation, which I was very appreciative of someone taking the time to give me some honest advice. He gave me a little bit of insight of best approaches towards officials and some commonalities you can expect that might help assuage the tension during crucial situations of a game. The advice was simple, but poignant indicating that my mannerisms on the bench during games appear on the surface as the direct reflection of what you are perceived to be instructing your players.
“Keep it simple. Ask question, do not demand for answers.”
This raises the question of what else entails being the F.N.G? If you get the chance to read “Above the Line” by Urban Meyer I would recommend it (might be even cheaper now considering circumstances). In the book there is a line about transitioning from being an assistant to the head coach.
Your whole career prior to this you have the one making suggestions. Now you are making all the decisions. Be mindful of those that suggest you make a decision.
A lot of preparation goes into your first head coaching job. You finally get the chance to run your own program, so you are looking to establish an identity early. Before it was about keeping guys in order because it is in align with the head coach. Now, you are the head coach so it is solely your responsibility to create that structure and expect staff to reinforce those principles. Being the new guy isn’t just about making the first impression on officials. Let’s be honest that is the least of your concerns up until the point where they are your biggest problem, during games. My objective was to be very clear to our prospective (due to tryouts) personnel the direction that our program was headed and how we were going to get there. I did what I always do prior to meetings or practices, I type what I want to cover (images seen below).
This was just my approach and in retrospect it really wasn’t all that comfortable with how I would handle it now. But that is part of being the F.N.G. to the job. Everything is a new experience because as an assistant you can’t replicate being a head coach until you are the head coach. Similar to the advice a coaching friend of mine was given the first time he went out recruiting. He was trying to pick the brains of the more experienced staff in regards to philosophy or best tactics. The staff members told him, “You won’t know until you do it.” There is no right approach until you do it. I mean there are definitely probably wrong approaches, but at the end of the day if you got the job and the trust of your athletic director to lead a team it was probably because of the characteristics you demonstrated during that interview. Looking back at the first interactions I had with my guys it probably wasn’t ideal or the most comfortable. It was a little bit more formal than I would have liked to introduce myself and my ideas. But, that is part of it. Our cultures we build are never static because the personnel we work with are ever changing. However, our efforts to creating that evolving culture have to be consistent if it is going to stay on the right path. The path is up to you though because once you move up a chair your no longer co-piloting. It is your decision. So embrace being the new guy. If you got the job, then you are prepared. Set a tone that matches your vision and don’t expect the expected.