Troy Calhoun’s Advice to Graduate Assistants

Troy Calhoun’s coaching career started as a graduate assistant at Air Force, so he knows how to work a career up from the bottom.

Calhoun joined the Authentic Athletes podcast for a wide-ranging conversation, and he was asked to share his advice for graduate assistants and other young coaches. They need to build relationships, but they also need to understand what a coaching job means.

“Try to interact with as many high-quality people as you can,” he said. “There’s nothing more important than you’re current job. Realize how important it is to build bonds. Respectful, trustworthy, candid communications and links and connections with other people.

“There’s no replacement for the passion you have for football. A lot of times, everybody wants to be a coach during the Super Bowl when you’re eating chips and tasting the queso. But what it really is is a lot of early mornings, long long nights, a significant number of hours. It’s not one win or one loss. You have to appreciate the discipline and the grind and perseverance and preparation involved.”

Calhoun is 77-53 in 10 years as Air Force’s head coach, reaching nine bowl games. As a head coach, he remembers what it was like as a GA, and he says he makes a point to appreciate their work.

“I want to make sure they know how valued they are as people,” he said. “Then how important it is to jump ahead, get a week or two in advance and work on breakdowns. If there are certain tendencies they can show you on Sunday, there’s no telling how that can often save you many hours or provide two or three tips help the players by Monday of a game week.”

Toward the end of the interview, Calhoun was asked what he looks for when he hires a coach. There hasn’t been much turnover at Air Force, but Bart Miller and Taylor Stubblefield joined the staff this offseason.

What Calhoun wants in an assistant goes back to his advice for GA’s, and what he sees in a coach.

“There are three or four factors you look for,” he said. “The integrity part is non-negotiable. The love they have for football. You want somebody’s that’s bright. You want somebody where it truly, truly means something — not just as a coach, but their family and part of a team.

“And then you want to handle the ups and downs. You play enough games, you’re going to lose a good number and you’re going to win a good number. The guys that have a unique drive, a sense of perspective, you fall back on a great, great passion for not just coaching and recruiting — though those are both requisites for the job — but especially for young people.”

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