COMMENTARY: Football coaching isn’t just Xs and Os

Fall football is six months away and once again the Trojans find themselves looking for a new high school coach.

What kind of football program and coach do people want other than a winning one? Have you ever heard of matching personalities with the team?

Most people think that a good team is headed by some overbearing personality who yells and screams at his players all practice long. People usually don’t even think about the coach’s personality. After all, what does personality have to do with football knowledge? It’s more important to know about what kind of offense the coach is going to run and how he will defend against the pass. But is it?

Actually, it didn’t ever occur to me to even look at the personality of a coach until I read a story online in USA Today Sports about Evan Mathis, a Denver Broncos offensive guard. Mathis was talking about the personality conflicts that existed when he played for the Philadelphia Eagles under Chip Kelly.

Mathis told USA Today, “His impatience (talking about Kelly) with certain personality types even when they were blue-chip talents. The Broncos team I was on would have eaten Chip alive. I don’t think he could have handled the plethora of large personalities.”

That struck home to me and made me think of my favorite team that Chip Kelly is now coaching. Personality certainly came into play in the firing of Jim Harbaugh. The 49er front office couldn’t adapt to Harbaugh’s need to control.

So personality is definitely an issue in hiring a coach, whether it’s a high school coach or a NFL coach.

But I often wonder if school admin folks actually think of this and I am not talking about just Pahrump Valley. I am talking about schools in general. Many schools base their hiring on what’s available and sometimes hire because there is no one else to fill the position.

I think a key to hiring a high school coach is his family situation. If the coach can juggle his wife and kids, then he should be able to mesh with the many different personalities on the team.

Can you imagine taking a test that asks you questions about your family life? Probably will never happen.

I often think coaches have to be a tough breed; being able to handle the home life and the stresses that come with winning and losing is a big deal. I have mentioned Urban Meyer in the past. He is a winner but that’s not all that drives him. To him family is important and that’s what you want in a coach.

Any school would be proud to have Meyer as a coach now. But when he was coaching at the University of Florida, he was driven to succeed so much that he ignored his family, but then changed and put family first. It took his daughter to change him. Meyer’s middle daughter Gigi had been accepted to play college volleyball and was planning a celebration after she signed her letter of intent. She made it so that the celebration would not hinder her father’s football schedule and yet he still wasn’t going to go, but his secretary made him. What follows is an incident that changed his life (from ESPN The Magazine by Wright Thompson).

“Eighty or so people filed into the school cafeteria. Meyer and his wife, Shelley, joined their daughter at the front table, watching as Gigi stood and spoke. She’d been nervous all day, and with a room of eyes on her, she thanked her mother for being there season after season, year after year.

Then she turned to her father.

He’d missed almost everything. You weren’t there, she told him.

Shelley Meyer winced. Her heart broke for Urban, who sat with a thin smile, crushed. Moments later, Gigi high-fived her dad without making eye contact, then hugged her coach…”

What followed was a gut check for Meyer that led to him taking a break from coaching due to health matters and family concerns. He realized that he had to put family first.

So how a coach deals with family matters makes a difference and to get a coach who realizes that life is not only about Xs and Os is highly important for young football players.

I think our high school can figure this out. Our school knows that a coach teaches young men about character.

The fact that we had a coach a year ago, Joe Clayton, resign from coaching because his family mattered speaks volumes about that man. If he was to return, the school would be lucky to have him.

-Contact sports editor Vern Hee at