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  • Bill Vasko

How to Get Into College Coaching - Alternative Options

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

ln high school, when I began considering career options and I realized I wasn't going to be a professional athlete, I decided that I wanted to be a high-level football coach at the D1 or professional level. I fantasized about frequently, and it was often the subject of many of my writing assignments in high school English class.

Once in college, I had the opportunity to be a student-assistant coach with The Ohio State University football program. I felt I was well on my way to big-time coaching career. I did that for one year before becoming a volunteer assistant football coach at a local high school during my senior year. I made the move because I felt like I needed more hands-on coaching experience--which I got. However, I ended up missing out on a Big Ten Championship ring.....but I still have my OCC Championship t-shirt!!

Following my graduation from college, I accepted a full-time coaching position as an assistant football coach at a D3 college. Granted, this position was a volunteer position, but I was determined to do whatever it took to climb the coaching ladder. If you read my other articles, you know I made ends meet by working at Wal-Mart in the evenings.

After spending one year at this school, I moved to another Division 3 college as a full-time football assistant with a restricted-earnings contract. Following my first year as a football coach at this institution, the baseball program was seeking an assistant baseball coach. I offered my services, partly because I missed my days as a baseball player, but mainly because I needed the additional income that the position would provide. As a restricted-earnings assistant for football, I was making $6,000 a year. By adding baseball, I was bumped all the way up to $9,000 a year. I spent a total of 3 years at this school. In addition to my experience as a football and baseball coach, I also spent time in administrative positions such as weight room supervisor and athletic department recruiting assistant. I felt adding this experience would ultimately help my career down the road.

Even though I continued to coach football for four more seasons, I realized how much I loved coaching college baseball as well. I also started to realize what a grind the football coaching world could be. I continued to coach college baseball for the next 6 years, ultimately dropping football when I realized the time and stress was not worth the poor compensation.

I eventually decided to go back to school for a year to earn my teaching certification and get teaching job to earn some "real" money. At the time, I thought my college coaching career was over. It was a tough decision, but I just could not continue to pay the bills or live any semblance of a normal life on the salary of a young college coach.

I spent the next 8 years in the classroom while serving as a high school Athletic Director for 6 of those years. During my time as the athletic director, the one program that was experiencing a lack of success was our girl's softball program. I hired another female teacher in the school district to be the head coach. She had been a successful girl's volleyball and basketball coach, but had zero experience coaching softball. I hired myself as the assistant coach. I had no experience with softball or female athletes. I told her that if she could manage the female athlete dynamic, I could do a lot of the strategical work. We ended up working really well together and experienced success that hadn't been seen in the softball program for many years.

After 8 years at the high school level, I started to realize a few things.....I hated being on a bell schedule and trapped in a school.....I hated the long hours and lack of support as an athletic director.....I missed coaching at the college level.....I enjoyed coaching female athletes.

There was an opening at a nearby Division 2 college for head softball coach. I was offered the position and though it meant a huge pay cut, at this point I didn't care. I knew I wanted to be back at the college level. This decision ultimately led me down the career path where I am now as a college softball coach.

I've been an assistant coach and head coach for softball at the Division 2 and Division 1 levels. By writing this article, I wanted to help young aspiring coaches realize that no matter what their dream job may be in the present, that may not be what it is in the future. Too many young coaches start out with their sights set on being a Division 1 or professional level coach. I especially see this in the sports of football and basketball. As I've mentioned in other articles, the competition for these positions in football and basketball is extremely intense.

If you love the environment and atmosphere of college athletics as much as I love it, there may be options for you in other sports or at an administrative level. Keep an open mind and gain as much experience as possible when you have the opportunity to do so at the college level.

I love being on a college campus.....I especially love the flexibility that it allows us as coaches. I work very long hours during the school year, sometimes 7 days a week depending on the time of year. But there are so many perks and benefits to being a college coach. Too many to list here now.

Despite my path being much different than how I anticipated it being when I started this journey, college football is still my first love. I can't get enough of it. I love the tradition, the pageantry, the rivalries. And most of all, I love the strategy involved in football. Those are the things that I miss the most about coaching football. However, I realized at an early age that I wasn't cut out for the grind of a football coach's schedule. I enjoy having a social life. I also realized that I didn't have the intellectual capabilities for complex offensive and defensive schemes at the college football level. Ultimately, I decided on a path that made me happy. A path that gave me financial freedom. A path that also opened up other opportunities, such as my camp business. It also provided me with the opportunity to help other coaches by sharing my experiences and providing advice through resources such as The Coaching Portfolio Guide.

So don't limit yourself too much when you're a young coach. Explore other opportunities. I appreciate everyone who comes and reads my articles and shares in my experiences. I hope you enjoy reading about them and they may benefit you in some way!

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