General Articles,Players,Parents

Ask the Coach: Becoming a high school head coach starts with getting a degree

By Coach Tom Bass Thu, 04/28/2011 - 2:30pm

Coach Tom Bass brings more than 30 years of NFL coaching experience to USA Football. Along with answering youth coaching questions, he also receives emails from young players. You can email the coach at

A member of the military sent the following question:

First, I want to say I have the utmost respect with what you’re doing with your program, and I look up to you. With that being said, I want to ask your advice.

I’m a 21-year-old man currently enlisted in the Air Force, and I love football. My dream is to become a high school head football coach someday, but I have two dilemmas.

I’m very knowledgeable of the game, but I only have one year of high school playing experience. The other dilemma is I have limited time for school since I'm active duty – I always made pretty bad grades in high school – so getting accepted to a university might be a challenge.

My question is: What would you do if you were in my shoes? Do you have any tips or advice about becoming a coach? I also have the desire to play at a competitive level. Do you have any advice of how I could get back into playing with so little experience?

Congratulations for serving our country. Right now you have everything on hold, but you do have long-range goals that you want to achieve. Ultimately, you want to coach at the high school level.

You also state that you would like to play. The challenge is to find, write down and follow a path that will allow you to satisfy both goals.

My suggestion would be to attend a junior college when you are no longer on active duty in the Air Force.

Your high school grades will not hold you back, and in this environment you will have the opportunity to make the team and get some first-hand playing experience.

To reach the playing goal, you need to start working out right now – running, lifting, agility movements – and gradually build yourself up so that you are physically prepared to go through a football season at this level.

Since this may be your last chance to actually play, you want to give yourself the best possible chance to have success, and this must start with you being in the best shape possible when the season begins.

There is always the outside chance that when you finish junior college and select a four year college it may have a football program that will allow you to continue to play.

Ultimately you will need to get a college degree and a teaching credential to get a fulltime high school head coaching position. You can take a majority of your lower division work, satisfy many course requirements in junior college and then transfer to another college or university to earn your bachelor’s degree.

Achieving your goals will not be easy, but with determination, dedication and a drive to complete each task put before you, it can get done. It will all be up to you.

Once your playing days are over, you can begin helping coach at any level (volunteer or paid) so you can gain firsthand experience and an understanding of how to teach and motivate your players.

You should join the local football coaches association in your area, attend as many clinics as you can, start your own football library and begin to create a notebook that contains ideas you want to develop when that head coaching job becomes available.

It is important that you realistically understand that to reach your goal you will need to work hard and not allow anything to throw you off course. Obstacles are made to overcome, disappointments can become victories, and goals can be reached – not by dreaming about reaching them but by constantly working toward that end.

Coaching football is a profession that has positive rewards beyond winning and losing. I sincerely hope that you can work through all your challenges and someday join up with all of us teaching our great American game of football.

Coach Tom Bass

Coach Tom Bass, a 30-year NFL Coach and a technical writer and advisor for USA Football, also is the author of several football coaching books, including "Play Football the NFL Way" (St. Martin's Press), the only authorized NFL coaching book, "Football Skills and Drills" (Human Kinetics) and "The New Coaches Guide to Youth Football Skills and Drills" (McGraw Hill).