I get the question from time to time, “what is it like to be a college coach”? It can be tough to answer, and it varies based upon when the question is asked. But for the most part, it is such a rewarding job and I recommend it to those who have a passion for a sport or for those who are passionate about seeing growth in others.
One of the parts of the job that I particularly like is recruiting. Every coach is a bit different, and some find this the worst part of the job. But I like it, mostly because I like challenges. And to be honest, recruiting is about as challenging as it gets. You spend a lot of time explaining the program and the student-athletes role…just to get a call that they are heading to a rival school because of variable A or variable B. It can be really tough.
But, what I have learned, is that you have to embrace the recruiting journey. If you want to be successful, you need to put the time in and take chances with talented athletes. You have to have thick skin. You have to be OK with failure 94% of the time….that’s my failure rate the last 14 years.
But one part of the recruiting job that is semi-exciting is the road trip. I thought I would outline a recent trip so the readers can see what I am talking about when I mention challenge to coaching at the collegiate level. Take a look at my journey below and think about the commitment recruiting can be…even for a small private Christian school in southwestern PA.
6:30 AM – Wake up prior to the alarm; run three miles and get an ab workout in because I intend to be on the road most of the day.
7:15 AM – Spend two hours with my amazing 3-year old daughter because I won’t see her all night.
9:15 Am – Depart for the recruiting event. I packed a cooler of food and purchased a large black coffee on the way out of town.
10:00 AM – The office called and I listen to our weekly staff meeting.
11:30 AM -Believe it or not, no stops yet…but I have ripped into the cooler of food and have downed a PBJ sandwich and a string cheese. The coffee has been gone for a bit and I started on a bottled water.
1:00 PM – My first stop of the day, but only for a bathroom break and to fill up on gas. As always, I am worried about getting there on time, so I don’t grab food or drink (Subway has three people in line)…I packed a cooler of food for goodness sake.
2:30 PM – I pull into a McDonald’s after 25 miles of no cell service or GPS. My thought was to grab a quick burger, but they misplaced by order so I end up waiting for 15 minutes or so. At least I got to use the restroom and I also received a free apple pie.
3:30 PM – Arrived at the venue; and for two hours I spend time with the recruit and their family. This makes the trip worth my while, as they are kind, caring and very interested in finding out more about our program and what we can offer their child. I LOVE this part of my job.
5:30 PM – Back on the road; the same roads I came in on, so I am anxiously awaiting the Subway I saw at 1pm on my way into the venue. At 7pm I reach that same plaza and spend 15 minutes filling up on gas, grabbing a sandwich and using the restroom.
7:15 PM – I pull out and pull behind a white truck with WV state plates. Oddly enough, I am with this car for the next two hours on numerous roads in PA.
9:00 PM – This old man is getting tired, so I pull of at a Sheetz to get some gas, an iced tea and to use the restroom. While I am filling up my tank, I stretch for a minute and walk a few laps around the car. This is exactly what I needed for the final stretch run. I pull out of the station, and believe it or not, I get behind the white truck with WV plates.
10:00 PM – Late night (for me) thought: PA has evening construction on major highways!!
11:15 PM – Finally pull into my house. Of course I couldn’t sleep, so I took a quick shower and caught up on email.
12:30 AM – Head to the bedroom to sleep (finally)…..it was a long day with over 11 hours in the car. Next time, I would like to fly…except my budget won’t support that. So I am pretty sure I will be doing this again in my Jeep Patriot.
The moral of the story: College coaching is amazing, and I love it. But it takes time, and it can be burdensome to those close to you (my wife is a saint). They sacrifice a lot while you are sacrificing a lot. That’s a lot of stress and anxiety. So be prepared if you want to coach at the collegiate level….it isn’t just one hour a day of practice. There are so many things behind the scenes that are time-consuming and frustrating. But, you need to embrace them and be willing to work harder than the other coaches you are going up against. That’s the only path to success. Oh, and you need an amazing wife like my Kelley. She puts in more work than me keeping our family afloat..and I love her more than anything. Find a Kelley in your life and let him/her know how much you appreciate them.
Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University. You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.