How to Stay Involved with Football
Let’s face it: No one can play football forever. As fun as it is to suit up every week and strap on your helmet, there comes a point in every player’s career where he has to call it quits and move on. Fortunately, the end of a playing career doesn’t mean the end of all things football. This guide offers two ways to stay involved with the game.
Move from Soldier to General
Of the 10 coaches with the most wins in NFL history, all 10 played football in college and seven went on to play in the NFL.
Once you no longer don shoulder pads and a jockstrap, becoming a coach is one of the best ways to stay involved with the game. Many former players find the transition to coaching a very satisfying move. Coaching allows ex-players to stay directly involved with football, while also providing them with an entirely new look at the game and opportunity to contribute. However, becoming a coach isn’t as easy as saying the words, “now I will coach football.” There are two steps all players should take when trying to become a coach:
- Become certified: Many youth football organizations only hire certified coaches. Becoming certified involves safety training, a background check, and a series of evaluations to ensure that you have at least some football experience.
- Develop a coaching philosophy: You don’t have to have multiple schemes, systems, and formations created from scratch, but you should develop a core coaching strategy. Maybe you want to run a spread offense, or you really like the 3-4 defense. Put some ideas down on paper—describe what you’re focusing on, explain how it should work, and identify any uncertainties you have. This is an easy way to start developing your coaching philosophy.
Also, keep in mind that it’s unlikely you’ll start out in a head coaching position. Most entry-level coaching positions appear at the assistant level or below, except for youth teams with very young players. Besides, working with an experienced head coach is a great way to develop your own coaching plan.
Embrace the Dark Side
Just about every football player, coach, and fan has spoken unkindly about an official at one time or another. There is an unfortunate stigma attached to being an official in almost every known athletic competition: They never make the right ruling. When they make a call for your side, they finally got one right. When they make a call against your team, they’re lousy cheaters who have obviously been paid off by the other team. Though such opinions aren’t (usually) accurate, many players and fans overlook the importance of officiating. Referees are an essential aspect of the game, and football could not be played without them.
Most players have, at some point in their career, felt personally slighted by an official’s call. Other players are convinced that every official has the same IQ as a bottle of ketchup, and shouldn’t be officiating games. Despite their personal viewpoints on referees, former players usually make excellent officials. After all, players spend years familiarizing themselves with the procedures and regulations of the game. That sort of hands-on training would lend itself perfectly to transitioning into becoming an official.
However, much like becoming a coach, obtaining a position as an official requires a specific certification for the organization you want to be involved in. In addition, training sessions are also involved. Don’t expect to jump right in at the high school level. Most officials start out at the youth level and progress upward as they gain experience and get a few games under their belts.
Help Out as a Volunteer
Perhaps you enjoy being around football, but you don’t want to commit a lot of time or effort to get involved in the game. There are plenty of ways to contribute to a local team or organization, many of which don’t require much commitment at all. Here are a few examples:
- Assist at fundraising activities
- Work on the chain gang
- Work in the concession stand
- Help maintain the field/stadium
While these examples aren’t nearly as flashy as being a coach or official, they still help you stay close to football.
There’s More to Football than Playing
Any football player who truly loves the game never wants to stop playing. However, there does come a point when every player needs to stop playing, for a variety of reasons. The examples in this guide are just a few of the ways to stay involved in the game after your playing career.