AFCA 2014: Grad Assistant/Career Forum Highlights

A lot of wisdom was dispensed at this year’s AFCA Convention in Indy, and as always, one of the best segments of the week was the Grad Assistant and Career Forum. Whether this is your first or your thirty-first year in coaching, there are always more than a few grains of wisdom you can glean from guys who have been where you are and succeeded.

Grad Assistant/ Career Forum

Dino Babers – Bowling Green

Jake Spavital – Texas A&M

Chad Morris – Clemson

Gus Malzahn – Auburn

Dino Babers

Dino Babers – Bowling Green


Q: How do we develop relationships with coaching mentors?

Dino Babers: There’s certain people who have accelerated your career. Keep in contact, watch their season, follow their success.

Jake Spavital: Always tried to be around those guys as much as possible because they always brought good people with them. It’s all about expanding your network.

Q: How do we align ourselves with the right coaches?

Chad Morris: Try to choose your mentor based on what you believe in. Hitch your trailer to a guy you believe in. Don’t be afraid to be persistent. No doesn’t always mean no.

Gus Malzahn: Some of these jobs you really don’t want. Look for someone you want to model yourself after. Another great idea is to find an up and comer with the same values as you and develop a relationship.

Q: Most effective path to getting a GA position?

JS: When I was a junior in college, I knew I wanted to coach, so I sent out as many resumes as possible. Was a GA at five different universities. Best thing that could have happened to me was working for different people.

CM: Never was a GA. Spent 18 years as a HS coach in Texas. Spent a lot of time talking to college coaches coming in and always thought “I could do that.” So many guys are wanting to GA. Another way to do it is to spend time in the HS ranks.

Jake Spavital of Texas A&M

Jake Spavital of Texas A&M

Q: What qualities make a great GA?

GM: Hard worker. Be there after I leave.

DB: Be competitive. Make sure you stand out as the best GA on the staff.

JS: Be ready to work endless hours.

Q: What characteristics do you look for in a GA to hire on as a full time assistant?

GM: Want to see the guy create relationships and communicate with parents. All I need is someone who is a worker with a good attitude and can learn.

CM: Someone who I don’t have to ask to do something.


Gus Malzahn – Auburn

Q: Good way to prepare for an interview?

DB: Be yourself. When you’re at the convention, you’re always on an interview.

JS: Appearance matters. Be over prepared. Wear a suit and tie. Bring film and PowerPoint to use.

CM: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

Q: Best way to be considered for an interview?

DB: Difficult to get face to face with me if you don’t know me. You need to get in my circle of friends.

JS: Find out who that particular coach hangs out with.

CM: Be persistent. If you’re not in the inner circle, it’s really hard to get in.

Chad Morris - Clemson

Chad Morris – Clemson

Q: How do you select guys to bring in for an interview?

GM: Have to know someone well. He was the kind of guy I want representing me.

DB: Have to get inside the circle. Have to rely on the circle of friends. You guys need to get in front of the social media stuff. Probably need to go after the guy you played for in order to get your first job.

Q: What kind of preparation would you advise for an interview?

JS: Be over prepared

Carlos Alvarado: Have a game plan going into the interview. Having a binder lets you control the meeting. Ask a coach you respect if they would mind putting you through a mock interview.

Q: Are there any trick questions you like to ask during an interview?

GM: I don’t have any trick questions. By the time I decide to bring in someone for an interview, I already know the guy pretty well. It’s about chemistry and personality.

CM: What’s your passion, what’s your vision? I’m not gonna hire a person whose gonna come in and change everything we do. Wants someone who will challenge his thoughts, not just a bunch of yes man.

DB: What do you do when you’re not doing football? Is there flexibility about you? What kind of person are you?

Q: What should a young coach consider?

JS: Don’t get greedy with the positions you take. You work for everybody. Be around and try to help everybody out.

CM: Confide in someone you trust. Timing and trust is huge. When deciding to take a job, figure out if this guy (The HC) is on the back end of his tenure.

Q: How do you balance loyalty to the HC and personal ambition?

GM: I want our GA’s to be successful. Whenever I talk to them about their career, I always ask “What do you need?”

DB: Make sure you’re loyal to the HC. I’ll do everything I can to help you if I believe in you. All jobs aren’t good jobs. I turned down a job when I was a GA, didn’t feel like it was a good fit.

Q: Is there a difference in hours worked at different levels?

DB: There’s no difference. If I worked minimum wage and worked the same hours as a GA, with over time and double time, I’ll take that right now. It’s more money. If you want to be a play caller, Go to meetings on the other side of the ball. Know what they’re thinking.

Q: Advice on working camps?

JS: Expand your circle, work with different people.

CM: Do you have a good HS player? That’s a great way to help yourself get into camps.

GM: It’s not just about knowing the head coach, get to know the assistants as well.

CA: Go to the HS clinic, can get you into working the strength and conditioning camp.

Q: How does a young coach create relationships in recruiting.

DB: Gotta like people. If you’re well-liked, you’ll be a great recruiter and be added to staff.

CM: As a high school HC, I’m the bullet proof vest between your kids and the bad coaches. How much time did you spend at that school? The ability to communicate face to face is a lost art. Do you make that HS coach feel important?

GM: Within the first five minutes, I know if that guy was full of crap. I want my players to have a relationship with a positive person.

JS: Communicate, and don’t step on the toes of others in the office when it comes to recruiting responsibilities.

DB: If you’ve got my time, you’ve got my attention. My goal was not to hit ten schools, it was to get 2 players.

Q: What separates a good recruiter from an average recruiter?

CM: Can you build a relationship, do they trust you? You can’t fool the players.

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