A Coach's Perspective: Devastation

IrishEyes contributor Tom Beck was a key member of the offensive coaching staff in 1991, the year Notre Dame scored a staggering 426 points. He knows from a hand's on perspective what it is like to be a former coach in South Bend. For IrishEyes subscribers, he provides here a thoughtful essay on what Bob Davie is likely feeling right now.

Copyright by Global Electronic Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes™

December 3, 2001

Analysis – Beck's Beat

Davie Enduring Gamut
Of Draining Emotions

By Tom Beck
For The IrishEyes.Com NewsService

It is tough to be fired from any job.  For a football coach it is extremely tough.    Coaching football is a very emotional job.  The highs and lows of coaching run the gamut of emotions.  Even though coaching football takes an intellectual effort, it's the emotional part that is so draining.  It is so emotionally supercharged.  Coaches are devastated when they lose their job.  

The emotional highs after a win and the incredibly dejected feeling after a loss are as far apart as one can imagine.  Coaching is not a 9-to-5 job.  It's a job where you don't leave your problems at work.  Working out problems and different situations are on your mind during your entire waking hours.

Many coaches don't believe that the demise of a season or their program is their fault.  They believe that if they would have had more support, more luck, a greater budget, easier scheduling, better public opinion, etc., etc., they would have won more games.  Ego and belief in oneself is a strong part of most coaches personality on the major college level. When things go wrong, many don't want to accept that some of the blame might fall on their shoulders.

Regardless of the reasons, being fired or released is emotionally devastating and draining. For the head coach who receives a severance package that is financially substantial there is some consolation.  For the assistant who might or might not receive his salary through the spring semester, it is much more difficult.  Coaching families share in the depression of a release. In the lay world, people are laid off every day.  However, their jobs usually are not as emotionally or publicly involved as that of a football coach. 

This season has been a particularly tough one for the Notre Dame staff.  They knew when they took the job that they were in a high profile position and would be in the spotlight. It's been tremendously draining for them and their families. For some of them, this is deja vu –it has happened before, for some it will happen again.    This is the nature of the beast.  

Many good coaches have been fired - it's just a part of the profession.  The good, and some of the poor ones, will resurface.  Getting fired, laid off or released is tough for most, but the tough are able to get over it. Life goes on and one's attitude is crucial in moving forward into the next chapter in your life.

Successful head coaches have a chemistry with the players.  They have organizational skills, and equally, or more important, they have the ability to lead (both players and assistants).  They have the knack to inspire and to have the players believe that what is done is best for all.  Successful coaches have charisma.  They are able to transfer what they know to the players. 

Intrinsic motivation is the strongest motivation for the players.  A good leader knows how to help the players and assistants to motivate themselves, to see the worth in what they are doing.  He knows the strengths and weaknesses of his staff and team.  He emphasizes the strengths and works to improve the weaknesses.  One can be a hard worker and still not succeed because of a multitude of reasons. 

(Tom Beck is a former head coach whose teams at Illinois Benedictine, Elmhurst and Grand Valley State each led the nation in total offense. He played at Northern Illinois, where the media guide lists him as the best two-way player in the first century of NIU football. He was a team MVP, captain, all-conference on both offense and defense, an Academic All America and is in the NIU Hall of Fame. He was an assistant coach under Lou Holtz during the 1991 Notre Dame season. He is a contributor to IrishEyes.)

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