What insanity moves a man to aspire to be a high school football coach?
What possesses a person to seek a job that asks applicants to teach both football strategy and skills to (mostly) inherently lazy teenage boys with little or no training? Why would anyone want a job that requires not just a knowledge of playbooks, but also demands administrative skills and the ability to be an effective counselor on subjects ranging from domestic issues to learning disabilities? And finally, why would anyone want to wade into all of that in order to toil under the microscope of public opinion, enduring a near-constant stream of criticism, for too many hours to count?
To make understanding why anyone in his right mind ever signs up to be a high school football coach even more elusive, consider that the best of them know the real compensation doesn't come in an envelope from the district's main office.
"A lot of people in the business world do not get the gratification that a high school football coach gets," said Logan's head coach Mike Favero. "But they're very successful in their careers. A high school football coach will never have that monetary success, but they'll have the gratification. That's the trade-off."
High school football coaches are more than guys who hand out pads and draw up plays. They become iconic in the communities they serve and especially to the boys they lead. Their passion isn't just for the sport but for the players, their families and the neighborhoods that fill the stands every Friday night to watch them compete. Sometimes it's almost impossible to distinguish between the program and the coach.
"We dive into the atmosphere," said Alta head coach Les Hamilton. "Our life is Alta football. My wife and kids love it too. I live a half a block from Alta and I walk to and from school. It really is a second home."
It may not be possible for people outside the ranks of coaches to understand the affection these men have for the game and its players, but here are a few insights from just a few of Utah's prep football coaches.
Les Hamilton, Alta
HOW LONG? Sixth as head coach.
WHAT GOT YOU INTO COACHING? I played at Snow and I loved playing. I was going to play at a school in California, Sonoma State, as their quarterback, which was my love. But one day something just happened. I wasn't that happy with my classes, I was newly married and we were expecting our first child and my priorities just changed. I went to Utah State and Perry Christensen (then the coach at Logan High) asked me to help out in 1997. I loved it. I knew then this was it. I decided to get my teaching degree and coach. It's been a great ride.
WHY DO YOU COACH? First of all, I wake up excited about going to work every day. Not very many people that can say that. I love the interaction with the young men. I love to see them after high school. I love the camaraderie of the other coaches; it really is a lot of fun. I really enjoy teaching (Spanish), and I think interacting with young people helps me to maintain a youthful lifestyle and to feel young.
BEST ASPECT? The satisfaction of watching these young boys develop into men good fathers, good husbands.
Worst aspect? The amount of time it takes from my family. To be successful you've got to be willing to put in 80-90 hours a week. That means missed football games, missed soccer games, missed dance recitals. It's very hard to be away.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND COACHING TO YOUR OWN CHILDREN? For sure. I'm fortunate to have a great family life. It's not an easy job. You're not going to make lots of money. But it's definitely rewarding. It's definitely what I'm supposed to be doing. We love it.
Bill Cosper, Kearns
HOW LONG? This is my 18th year.
WHAT GOT YOU INTO COACHING? I just missed my playing days (former college and pro). I worked in the business world for about five years, and then I just decided I wanted to coach.
WHY DO YOU COACH? It's what I love to do. Most of your coaches do it, because they can't play. I teach so I can coach. Coaching is really the same thing as teaching, you're just on a field.
BEST ASPECT? Just working with the kids everyday, trying to help them and teach them things that will help them in life that are related to football, related to each other.
WORST ASPECT? Most coaches would tell you time. It's a lot of hours. I don't think there's a bad aspect.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND COACHING TO YOUR OWN CHILDREN? Yeah, if they want to put in the time. I think my son probably will coach after he finishes playing.
Mike Favero, Logan
HOW LONG? A total of 21 years; Nine as a head coach.
WHAT GOT YOU INTO COACHING? My experience with my high school coaching staff.
WHY DO YOU COACH? I enjoyed the process of trying to take an unknown quantity and develop it into something successful. That's unique to high school football. Every year you have different kids. There is a process of improvement that has to take place. I enjoy the process of it.
BEST ASPECT? The process and so much that happens in a season. The thrill of victory; the agony of defeat; getting back up when you fall down; winning the right way; losing the right way; watching the kids move on to succeed in life. All of those things that come with coaching.
WORST ASPECT? The hours. I've never done the math.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND COACHING TO YOUR OWN CHILDREN? Sure. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Jerre Holmes, North Summit
HOW LONG? This is my 20th year as the head football coach.
WHAT GOT YOU INTO COACHING? My mom wanted me to be a pharmacist. I just couldn't see myself standing behind the counter all day. I always looked up to my high school coaches so I went with my heart.
WHY DO YOU COACH? I love kids; I love sports; I like competition; It gives you something to look forward to ... watching kids blossom from being average to really good. It happens at different stages for every boy and to watch them transform is fun.
BEST ASPECT: Working with the kids and having a common goal with them.
WORST ASPECT: injuries.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND COACHING TO YOUR OWN CHILDREN? That's an unfair question. I would, yeah I would.
J.C. Hall, Monticello
HOW LONG? Fourth as the head coach and seventh overall.
WHAT GOT YOU INTO COACHING? I went to school here in Monticello and I live and work here (for Questar). I first coached baseball and was just asked to help with football. I just got involved mainly to help the youth in the community.
WHY DO YOU COACH? For the money. It's gotta be for that big check. No, I just enjoy sports. I love all athletics.
BEST ASPECT? I'm finding out the best part of it is when kids you've coached, down the road, come shake your hand and you see how they're doing and progressing in life. That's been the best part of it for me.
WORST ASPECT? All the arm-chair quarterbacks.
The weekly Deseret News top 25 football rankings and top five classification rankings will be published in Tuesday's newspaper.
E-mail: [email protected]