College Coaches: Where They Played Before They Coached

College Coaches: Where They Played Before They Coached

In this article, we’re diving into the art of coaching. College football coaches are, for some people, just someone who coaches their team while they sit in the stands and watch. For other people, they want to know what coach to trust their kid with when out on the sports field. We’ll answer those questions, along with related stuff, like did Bill Belichick play football himself?

Looking into college coaches? It’s a way better tactic than basing your college decision off the best and worst mascots. And after you know where you or your child is going, get some accessories to match your future team. 


Coaches: Those Who Played and Those Who Didn’t

Did Bill Belichick Play Football?

Bill Belichick is known in the NFL as one of the most tactile, brilliant coaches in the league. Some people love him and others hate him, basically just determined by whether or not you root for the Patriots. But did Bill Belichick play football? Yes. Did Bill Belichick play football in the NFL? No.

Belichick played both Tight End and Center at a small school, Wesleyan University during his time there. But he never played in the NFL. Instead, after college, he took a small job as the assistant to the Baltimore Colts head coach. That was in 1975, and it wouldn’t be until 2000 that he would become the head coach of the New England Patriots. 


Should You Trust a Coach Who Didn’t Play?

One of the legends of college coaching, Jim Harbaugh, played in the NFL for over 10 seasons as a quarterback for the Bears and the Colts. The greatest pro coach in the history of the NFL, Bill Belichik, never played a single snap of professional football. Mike Ditka, the only Bears coach in the history of the team to win them the Super Bowl, was a TE who won a football championship with the Bears as a player (this was before they called the championship the Super Bowl). So if the NFL is trusting these people to coach, should the same go for the collegiate arena?

Putting on your favorite wacky tailgating outfit is an inspirational move for fellow fans. And so you might think a coach who played could inspire the team. But the truth is quite simple: playing and coaching are two very different things, with some overlap in between. Some great coaches were great players and some great coaches were not. Additionally, some great players make great coaches, while other great players do not make great coaches. There can be a correlation between being a great player and becoming a great coach, but there is no definitive causation. The great player of a sport, for example, certainly has a better-than-average chance of becoming a great coach when compared to the general population of people. 

The bottom line is that as a future player or as a fan, you shouldn’t privilege coaches who played the sport. You should privilege good coaches. Coaches who never played soccer can be just as good as those who did. Additionally, an illustrious playing career or even a mediocre playing career might distract from actual coaching abilities. If a coach is all too happy to tell stories from the good old days of playing, they may not be in it to be a coach, but to relive the pride and glory.


Questions Parents Should Ask College Coaches

Before you buy your decision-day college hat, you need to know where you’re going. All this can be really interesting when you’re considering coaching in the abstract, or when you’re considering the coach of your favorite sports team. It’s a bit of a different story when you are considering the kind of coach that you want your child to play for. You may not have a whole lot of choice in who their high school and local club coaches are. But when it comes to colleges and universities, you can do a lot more to figure out which coaches will be good for your kids and which won’t be.

If you’re a high school athlete heading to college to play sports, it’s important to remember that your coaching staff will easily spend more time with you during the course of your college career than any single professor or even most of the professors in your department combined. That means that the adults who you look up to for those years at college will be massively influential in shaping your life, far beyond the sport that you are playing. Keep this in mind when thinking about questions parents should ask college coaches.


Questions to Ask Coaches in an Interview

If you’re a student looking at different coaches or a parent trying to help your child make a decision there are some questions you should ask coaches in an interview, beyond whether or not they played. Remember that finding the right school to play for is about way more than considering the best and worst alternate uniforms or even just the colors of the college and where they come from. Although let's be real, you can let those things factor in as well.

  • Who are the staff that I/my child is likely to interact with on a daily basis, and can you tell me a little bit about them? 

    Meeting the head coach or even your position coach from a team at the next level can be a super exciting process. But keep in mind that while the coach certainly sets some of the culture for the team, they are not the whole staff. Learning about the kind of stuff that you’ll interact with on a daily basis can be important.
  • How does this university think about the relationship between the sport and my future/my child’s future?

    When you go to play for a college, you’re only going to play for four years of your life. Whether you’re playing football or running track, you’ve got only four years of eligibility. If you plan on going to play professional or club sports, you might approach this question a little bit differently. But if the sports career is over when the college season ends Senior year, then you’ll want to be thinking about how different programs might help prepare you for the next stage of life. 
  • How do you balance the different pressures and goals of coaching?

    Coaches do it for a lot of different reasons. Obviously, these different goals are not mutually exclusive things. Coaches want to do what they love, make money, win games, make the administration happy with their job and the program, develop relationships with players, develop players, and mentor students. Some coaches balance these different goals in different ways. 


Put Me In, Coach

Whether you are a big sports fan or are considering your future team, take some time to look into the people who are calling the shots from the sidelines. A coach’s actions can say a lot about the way he runs a team, even more so than the number of wins under his belt. 

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