I recently saw a tweet from Masaki Matsumoto, the head football coach at Lincoln (Tacoma, Wash.)
. They have won 28 football games over the last three years, pretty darn good. The tweet referred to his schedule for the day, which was packed.
The day started at 7 a.m. with a visit from a coach from the University of Hawaii, then a meeting with a recruiter from Wyoming at 7:15 a.m. He had to visit a middle school at 8 a.m., order pizza for his team's leadership meeting at 1 p.m. Hold that leadership meeting after visiting a second middle school at noon. At 2 p.m. he had another recruiting meeting with a coach from Eastern Washington before volunteering at a rescue mission at 3 p.m., right after a meeting for a student's Individualized Education Plan. In the middle of all of that, he had phone calls and emails and meetings with other staff members, as well as other responsibilities as a teacher. At the bottom of the tweet, it said "Y'all sure you wanna be a head coach?"
That question made a lot of sense. Many assistants want to move on to become a head coach, and most are very surprised when they land that coveted job at all of the duties of a head coach that maybe they never thought of. I asked Coach Matsumoto about this.
What are some things that you have had to do that you never did as an assistant?
Wow where do I begin, Chris? Hire coaches, correct coaches, train and develop coaches. Not always fun, especially when correcting coaches; grown men don't take criticism well all the time. I have to deal with behavior issues, academic issues and parent issues. Dealing with parents, Booster Club, finances, ordering equipment, apparel design and ordering, fundraising, banquet, senior night and picture day. Then there are transcripts and reaching out to coaches, scheduling their visits to our school, scheduling meetings for players, coaches, and parents.
Meeting with feeder programs coaches, players, attending their practices and events as well as setting up visits to feeder middle school, visiting with them, etc. I have to recruit and manage managers, giving them duties, checking on them, making sure they're doing their jobs. Planning trips, camps, tournaments which means dealing with transportation, food and more. Planning out the year as a whole: offseason, spring, summer, and season.
Then you have end-of-season meetings with players and coaches, leadership meetings (planning them, leading them), bringing in guest speakers for 'Wisdom Wednesday' and during season I have to plan for all of the meals (booking them, setting it up, etc). Next, you have planning and being present at volunteer activities like feeding the homeless.What surprised you the most when you became a head coach?
Nothing really surprised me the most. The toughest, I would say, is just hiring good coaches, getting them do all the things you want and making sure they don't get complacent or go through the motions. It's not easy to do that when stipends are little and some are volunteer. So I have to find the balance of being demanding but also, understanding and not losing them. I have to pick and choose my battles, but again, it is tough because I'm wired in a way that ‘Why wouldn't you do everything 100 percent, paid or not?' It's an internal battle, all of the time, on how I should deal with that.Do you think you were "ready" to be a head coach?
I thought I was ready at the time, when I took over Bernstein (Hollywood, Calif.), and I thought I could do better than the previous coach. I wasn't as ready as I thought when I took over for Lincoln, replacing a coach like Jon Kitna. It was a rough transition and I was not ready for the push back, undermining, passive aggressive disagreement of my way. I got it from everyone, players, parents, coaches I retained from his staff. I almost left after the first season, and we went 10-1. I grew a lot from that experience and became a way better coach, in my opinion. Learned that my way wasn't (always) the best way and there were things I could do better. How do you go about balancing the off-the-field responsibilities with the on-the-field ones?
I probably don't do a great job of this. I do a lot of the on-field stuff, I am the defensive coordinator and I coach the safeties. And obviously, I do all things or at least involved in the things that a head coach does. I am working on getting better at delegating and trusting it'll get done correctly. But I still struggle at times. If it was a perfect world, I would give up coordinating and just be the head coach, and focus on program. My mentor told me that if I'm one of the top two coordinators on the staff, you gotta do it, and I believe that. But hopefully someday soon, I could give it up to someone who could do it better. What is your biggest challenge with being a head coach?
Dealing with adults is the biggest challenge, as well as balancing my personal life and being the coach. As the head coach, everything falls on you and you have a responsibility to your players (especially our players who come from nothing and this means everything to them). So I often give up weekends to make sure everything is on point by going into the office; I have sleepless nights because I'm worried about a kid or what I need to do. It has caused some health issues and my personal life has suffered. So that has been tough.Chris Fore is a veteran head football coach and Athletic Director from Southern California. He consults coaches and programs nationwide through his business Eight Laces Consulting.