It is a funny thing this football life. Even if your family “only” coaches football you still move through seasons throughout the year. There’s football season, off-season, clinic season, possibly spring football season and/or recruiting season, camp season, pre-season and certainly others that that are specific to your family dynamic.
Of all these seasons, one that can be particularly difficult to navigate is what I will affectionately refer to as “job season.”
Job season is the span of time between the end of the regular season and the remainder of the school year when the “coaching carousel” begins to spin. The ride usually begins with the legacy coaches who were expected to retire, leaving open coveted vacancies and the coaches who unexpectedly retire creating “surprise” openings that can seem too serendipitous to ignore. There are the coaches who have had incredible seasons who are recruited to “bigger and better” jobs and those who have had miserable seasons who resign or are fired.
No matter how they come about, the reality is this: more coaching vacancies than I ever expect come available every year.
As a coaching family, we have lived two of these experiences intimately. At one school we were very successful, and every year my coach would get phone calls both in season and post-season from people asking him to consider applying for their school.
At another school we lived the experience where we heard “rumors” every year that we were likely to be fired because we weren’t successful enough. In both of those situations, “job season” was a time when we spent Christmas wondering if the tree would be up in another town the following year. It can be a very unsettling feeling.
While I admit that the “recruited” version of job season is a more pleasant experience than the “potentially fired” version, the strategies needed to navigate job season well are similar for both because we are reacting to the same thing each time: the unknown. For all of us, we have habitual ways we react to the “unknowns” in our lives.
Thankfully, after 15 years as a coaching family we have created some structure that helps us manage these unknowns in a more proactive and personal way. I am hoping these suggestions may help you navigate job season in a way that creates some structure and peace for your family.
Strategies for Managing the Unknown of Jobs Season
- Recognize that our futures in coaching and life are inherently unknown. Discuss with your spouse your overall feelings about the unpredictability that can come with coaching. Sometimes simply feeling heard/understood can alleviate a great deal of stress.
- Identify the things about your family that will remain true no matter where you live. Reflecting on those things that will stay consistent can be very stabilizing.
- Ask your coach about his career goals. Where does he want to be in 5 years, 10 years, what does he hope to accomplish in his career? These questions will give you all a framework to work in as jobs come available.
- Compare your coach’s goals with your own career goals and identify any conflicting elements. It is essential that both of you feel valued and considered in potential changes.
- Discuss your hopes for your family dynamic. Are you willing to move your children? At what ages? Is there a time when you want to be “settled?”
- As a coaching family, do you have a “radius” (i.e. distance from family, distance from cities, etc.) that you will not move beyond?
- Make a list of criteria a job needs to meet before you would consider it. This is a great help when the job market floods and you can quickly eliminate positions that do not fit your family’s goals rather than “wondering” about each option.
- Identify your “deal breakers.” These are job criteria that you believe would negatively affect your family and automatically eliminate certain positions.
- Pray for God to prepare the soil at your “next place.” Even if that day never comes and you are lifers at your current school, there will be comfort that you have prayed for your future each time you consider a new job.
At present, our family has no intentions of moving again, ever. However, we know all too well that this is not always up to us, and so we will continue to keep the lines of communication open, pray fervently about “growing where we are planted” and for peace about any “nexts” God may allow.
May we do our best to proactively manage job season rather than letting job season manage us!