You Want To Be A Coach? – Advice from David Shaw, Stanford Football Head Coach

Chris Vannini, (

So you want to be a coach. Do you know what it entails? Do you really know?

David Shaw participated in a “fireside chat” in the Bay Area on Wednesday, hosted by Chat Sports, and he was asked what advice he would give to a young coach or someone thinking of getting in the profession.

Coaches almost always start out in volunteer or low-paying jobs. It’s typically a grind for years and years before you can make a good living. The millionaires make the headlines, but thousands and thousands don’t get there. Shaw’s first advice: Make sure you know how much you have to sacrifice.

First of all, make sure this is what you want to do. If you’re sure, double check it again and make sure this is what you want to do. If you answered yes twice, go talk to your family, and make sure they understand what you’re about to get yourself into,” Shaw told the audience. “Is it too big? Too a certain degree, yes. Sports in our country are huge, monstrous. Coaching college football, we’re second only to the NFL in terms of how much money there is, how much pressure there is. You have to love it, spend time in it, understand it. The people in your life have to understand this takes over your life. It does.”

Don’t expect your path to go according to plan.

Shaw’s father, Willie Shaw, was an NFL and college assistant for more than 30 years. He came close to landing a head coaching job a few times, but never got one. That was a eye-opening lesson for David Shaw.

“It didn’t deter me, but what it did was kept my feet on the ground,” he said. “I think a lot of guys get into the profession with the pie in the sky. ‘I’m going to be a GA for two years, full-time coach for two years, coordinator for two years and then a head coach.’ Sometimes, the world doesn’t agree with that. My dad was one of the best defensive coordinators in the nation, was outstanding and was this close multiple times to becoming a head coach.

“What that taught me was you can’t earn a head coaching job. Someone has to choose you. Realize it’s not in your hands. All you can do is do the best you can at the job you have. If someone picks you and says you’re their guy, great. If they don’t, great. I’m going to do the best I can in any job I have. That mentality is what some of the younger coaches need to understand. Some guys rise fast, some guys don’t. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It’s just how this profession works.”

But if you do get into coaching, and the working hours consume you, make sure you take a step out.

Said Shaw: “You have to find ways to craft normalcy into your day-to-day world. It can be difficult, because there’s always that feeling that someone is out-working you. ‘We have to try this, have to try that.’ You have to have a certain confidence and belief in what you do and realize that, at some point, I have to go home. At some point, I have to go to sleep, I have to stop and eat and be a normal person. I have to make sure my kids don’t forget what I look like.

“You have to trust your process. It’s an exciting role. I enjoy it. I love it. Much is said about my expressionless expression on game day, but I’m in the moment and love it and enjoy it. I don’t feel that pressure as much as I feel the passion and energy in what I’m doing. If you don’t love it, the time, energy, pain and difficulties are not worth it.”

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