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You’ve Been Fired … Now What?

There is an old saying in the coaching profession. “There are two types of coaches out there: those that have been fired and those that are going to get fired.” Up until the end of the 2004 season, I never thought much of that phrase. Unfortunately, I became the former after that season.

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As most coaches know, there are a few ways to get fired. If your boss – the head coach – resigns, retires or gets fired, there is a good chance you’ll become unemployed as well. There are other cases where you may not fit the staff any longer and/or the head coach must make some changes. When that unfortunate knock happens, most coaches will land on their feet fairly quickly, but for some it may take a little longer. Others may possibly be forced to leave the profession altogether.

As a coach, you need to understand how to minimize the chance of being fired, be proactive and plan ahead. If it does happen, you’ll need to know how to self-scout and what to do post-axe.

Minimizing Your Chances

First, let’s lay down the facts. You must know that your head coach is one of the smartest football coaches out there. He was smart enough to hire a great coach like you. Don’t ever forget that!

How do you pay him back? You pay with your loyalty, effort and enthusiasm. You must make sure you know exactly what is expected from you. Do those tasks to the best of your ability, with all of your effort and enthusiasm.

Loyalty is the most important quality. If you are loyal, all the other qualities will fall into place. Loyalty does not mean being a yes-man. Express your own ideas and opinions and disagree with the head coach whenever you feel you are right. But do this behind closed doors and not out in public view.

Once the head coach decides on a course of action, abide by his decision and never openly disagree with it. Remember, if you keep helping the head coach look good, you help yourself.

Other coaches I’ve worked with explain it this way. Help the current head coach accomplish his mission and he’ll help you achieve yours. Don’t ever prepare to leave until you are prepared to stay. Do a good job at the job you have. If you want a new job, apply new enthusiasm to the job you already have.

Stay Proactive

Everything in this next part of the article you should discuss with the head coach and get his approval.  There are many facets to being proactive, but the main one is laying a foundation of networking and support locally. You can do this in less than 30 minutes a week.

Don’t confuse this with the idea of being on the phone all of the time networking and gossiping, neglecting your current duties or doing things behind closed doors at work.

Instead, become active and involved within your community, your university, your athletic administration and your profession. Step outside your football office and the field and become known to the community, the boosters, the athletic department, university professors and deans.

Too many coaches never step foot outside their office and never get to know all the great people across the street that can help them in so many different ways. With the head coach’s permission, volunteer to speak to a community service club; ask the AD and head coach if there is anything you can do to help them with their busy schedules.

Within the scope of your job, introduce yourself and meet with campus administrators that you and your staff deal with on a regular basis.

The bottom line is: Get to be known around campus as a guy who gets things done fast and right. If you do a good job and your head coach gets another job, you might be a top choice to replace him. Or if your head coach resigns, there would be a good chance the administration will rally to keep you on the staff.

You must also lay a foundation of networking and support within the coaching community. As most of you know, we don’t have a lot of free time to waste talking on the phone and writing as many notes to contacts as we should. Heck, the 30 minutes a week I talked about in the paragraph above may be a stretch for you. But, by doing just a few things, you can really keep your network strong.

First, keep in touch with all of the coaches you played for and worked with. Try to have a cell number, home address, email address and office number for each of your contacts. Write them, email them and call them a few times a year, if not more. Let them know how you are doing and find out how they are doing.

Keep in touch with your network when things are good and you are gainfully employed. If the axe does fall, they will be more inclined to help you.

Also, because you have been in touch with them over the years, they won’t think of that unfortunate call as the “now-that-he-needs-my-help” call. Remember to let everyone in your network know that you need a job and what kind of job you are interested in. Give them a copy of your most recent resume so they can help you. The more people that know what you are looking for and need, the more people that can help you get that next job.

Planning Ahead

A good coach always scouts his opponent and prepares for what-if scenarios. There is no difference in planning for the axe.  Always prepare for the worst-case scenario. In our case, that’s being unemployed for an entire season.

First find out what your contract says. Does it say your contract ends two weeks after being terminated, the day you are terminated, or will you be under contract until June 31.

Bottom line, make sure you know.

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Then sometime during your first summer, call the HR office and find out what happens to your vacation days, sick days, etc., if you leave or are terminated. It’s also good to check with your state’s unemployment office to find out what the unemployment insurance procedures are and what the weekly payment for your salary would be. Figure out your monthly budget needs.

All of this is for your worst-case scenario and will take about an hour to complete. Once you have all the required information, figure how much extra money you need – on top of the benefits you’ll receive – to make ends meet until the next December.

Can you make it? If not, determine some possible ways to make it work. This doesn’t have to be perfect, just an idea of what you’d do. Once you’ve completed all of this, make notes of it and put it in a file somewhere and forget about it. You now have a base game plan of what to do for a worst-case scenario.

After The Ax: Self-Scout

If that unfortunate day does happen, first check with the athletic administration to find out what compensation they are giving you. It should be at least what your contract states and what the human resources office told you; if it is not, find out why there is a discrepancy and get it fixed.

Now, find out when you must turn in your car, credit cards, cell phone and any other materials that belong to the administration. Also, find out if the university is going to pay for the AFCA Convention and/or Senior Bowl.

Make sure you follow university guidelines for leaving to make sure you don’t hold up the process for your severance pay.  Also, be honest when cleaning out your office. If it’s yours, take it; if not, leave it.

Also during this time, it’s important to do a self-scout. Why did this happen? Is there anything you can learn from it? Is there anything you could have done differently? Learn from this experience to avoid a similar one.

What Do You Do Now?

Now begins the toughest job you’ve ever had: finding a new job. As soon as possible, let your coaching network know what has happened. As stated earlier, give them a copy of your updated resume and contact information to make it easier for them to help you find a job.

It is easy to get into a rut and go into a moderate depression, but the best thing to do to keep this from happening is to create and maintain a routine. In this routine, you must factor in time for exercise and job searching via newspapers, Internet and phone.

You must find time for faxing and mailing resumes, film study (to keep your interview skills up) and networking (phone calls and note writing). Also, keep your eyes open for anything that might lead to an opening where you might know someone. Allot time for the books you’ve been meaning to read, projects you’ve been meaning to start, honey-dos you been meaning to finish, and most importantly quality time with your spouse and children.

During this job search, keep tabs of how many times you contact the people in your network. You want them to know you are looking for work, but you don’t want to overdo it and call them over and over.

Pre-AFCA Convention – As you prepare for the convention, do your best to know what jobs are open that you are qualified for. Make a list of the coaches for each school that have those qualifying jobs open. Your objective is to first find out if anyone in your network has a connection to any of those programs. If so, get the ball rolling with them. If there is no connection, determine who you must meet to help you get into a position that may help you get your foot in the door.

At The AFCA Convention – Plan to meet the coaches you need to visit with in your job search. Make a game of it: Today I am trying to introduce myself to Coach X and Coach Z. Remember, be considerate of every coach’s time. There are many coaches trying to meet them at the same time.

Post-AFCA Convention – First, follow up with notes to everyone you met and phone calls to those who need them. Hopefully you broadened your network, met some interesting people and had some fun while doing it.

Now get back into your routine. Keep the schedule you have made for yourself:

  • 5:30 am – Wake up, exercise, shower, breakfast.
  • 8:30 am – Check email, Internet, sports wires and newspapers for jobs that may be open.
  • 10:30 am – Call five or more people in my network that you haven’t talked to in a week, find out what they have been hearing.
  • 12:00 pm – Lunch.
  • 1:00 pm – Call coaches and schools that might have promising openings that you acquired from the network or Internet.
  • 3:00 pm – Fax resumes to those schools you contacted (possibly mail a hard copy, or email a copy).
  • 4:00 pm – Watch a video, read a book, work on a project and/or play with the children.

This is a sample schedule; you’ve got to make one that works for you. The most important part of this routine is to be consistent and persistent. Then something good will happen.

I hope that you never have to go through the process of job hunting and this article never applies to you. But if you do get that unfortunate knock on the door with your walking papers, I hope this article has some ideas, insight and thoughts that make it worthwhile to you.

Good luck and continued success in all that you do. And remember, when all seems lost, P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Something Happens).

This article was written by Keith Allen, Head Coach, The King’s Academy (Fla.).

Comments 4

  1. As a former Coach for 15 seasons and now a financial planner, one very important aspect that is severely overlooked is what to do with your retirement account, specifically your 401k or 403b. Always remember, this is YOUR money, you’ve earned it, so don’t just leave it with your previous employer!
    Most will leave it where it is because they don’t know how to navigate through through the process and become overwhelmed. Some of you may even have left these funds at multiple employers and you’re not even eligible to contribute to that account any longer! You have probably not even heard from your retirement account administrator in years. Yet, they are continuing to collect your fee and you have probably not even been provided with the proper guidance, if any at all!!
    There is a lot of information out there so don’t get too confused. The first step is to jot down all of your previous employers. Next contact the Human Resources Department and ask what paperwork you need to rollover all these accounts to an IRA or Roth IRA. This will allow YOU to control your hard earned retirement account!
    Then you will be ready to contact your retirement administrator for next steps.

  2. Do you have a list of questions that should be asked to the AD or HR Department, when being let go? Sick days, buyout, leave days, etc.

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