Honestly speaking my assumption when I started this research project was that the role of a high school coach was diminished. All of the communication methods that allow direct contact with the athlete made them irrelevant. Essentially, the gap between schools and players was closing with technology and the high school coach is the odd man out. To the contrary, what I found is the job has become more complex, enhanced and more about relationships than ever.
I talked to Tarig Holman, head football coach at Randolph High School in New Jersey. This guy has been exceptional his whole life and it shows in his coaching. Tarig’s approach to his high school team is what he terms “College Bound”. “I want our student athletes to understand that we are a college bound program” said Holman. This sparked my interest because it was a different focus than most high school programs that I have come across. At Randolph coach Holman has made it clear that he wants his players looking to further their education regardless of the level of football they play or if they play football at all. The focus is more academic. The reason for this is the numbers says Holman, who is realistic with his players. A D1 safety at Iowa in his time, he understands that D1 talent doesn’t just happen every day. “You have to build a relationship with the athletes so they believe you have their best interests in mind when you make suggestions” he said. Sometimes the reality that you are not a D1 athlete is hard to take but then seeing where your academics make you attractive at other levels opens up doors for you. Holman said, that the only way you can be real in that conversation is with a relationship.
Our conversation quickly moved from talent to relationship. It’s all about the relationship for a coach today because there are many people lining up to be that support for a price. Holman has relationships with players, other high school coaches and of course college coaches that he can keep in touch with when the dust settles from the previous season’s college football coaches carousel. A unique relationship building activity that I learned of was kind of an introduction night for athletes and schools. The event incorporates athletes from several area high schools, High School coaches and College coaches, or recruiting coordinators. When Tarig explained that they did this activity for sophomores to seniors I remembered other conversations about recruiting starting at a younger age. He said that it was all part of his goals to remind his players that the program is a “College Bound” program.
What do you make of all of the technology out there, I asked to see if he was up on the latest communication methods. Tarig was not even phased by the question. He has seen it all as it becomes popular then falls off. “Today people can reach you or find a way to reach you without you ever meeting them” he exclaimed. That difference has him also working as a sort of media / social media guide for his players as well. “We try and remind the guys that what you put out there is available for everyone to see”. With so much air time and broadcast yourself out there athletes quickly forget that it is a dangerous world out there where people are looking for anything to make a story of.
Although the role has some new wrinkles in it I like what Coach Holman had to say which reminded me greatly of the men that guided me and probably most of us back in the non-social era. It is still about a personal relationship that can impact the lives of young people. “If a coach is doing his job his players know his heart for them. I love my job”, Holman said.
Stuff to take away from this story
- Be open to a relationship with your coaches that would allow them to guide you and even share their knowledge and contacts with you.
- Find out about the things that your school does to help students find a college.
- Your success in playing at the next level helps the program as a whole.