Rebuilding Years

Michael Shukis

Rebuilding Years


Football coaches are getting fired. It's that time of year. We're five weeks into the season and coaches have already been dismissed. This starts a cycle around the country. It's called the coaching carousel. And it's an unfortunate reality. After the carousel runs its course, we'll start hearing talks of "rebuilding years." But what does that mean?

Rebuilding years is a concept thrown around by coaches to buy time. Coaches say the program is in bad shape and they need time to "clean" it up. You know, with their magic touch. But rest assured that once they work their magic, everything will be fixed. According to the new coach, fans can be sure they'll see a winning team soon. But they must give the new staff time.

So, new coaches come in, fire the staff, kick kids off the team, and do what they want. This is all part of the rebuilding years. You know, so they can win games. At least that's what they want people to believe.

I think it's one of the many games that coaches play. And I don't think highly of these games. Does it make sense that a coach begins "rebuilding" a team by destroying it? Why should they need to tear teams down to "fix" them? How does that work?

It doesn't. Look around the country. New coaches are hired, they fire the staff, hire their friends, and bring in new players. And then they still lose. Where is the magic? Remember all the promises in their first press conference? Now the program is in worse shape than when they started. So, they get fired after a few years and the school starts the process over. It's a never-ending cycle. In case you're wondering, it's called a dumpster fire.

Rebuilding years give coaches a one– to two-year grace period to do whatever they want. They get anything they ask for. They can treat players and coaches anyway they like. The red carpet is rolled out and rules don't exist. It's all done to "build their culture." Whatever culture means. This makes sense, right?

These rebuilding years are an excuse. They allow coaches to lose on purpose. You might ask why they would want to lose on purpose. Losing early makes them look good. Think about it. A coach comes in, destroys everything to "build" their program, and has a terrible record in year one. So, where can the team go from here? One direction: up. And that's the point. It looks good.

Think about a new head coach. Year one is about cleaning up "problems," hiring a staff, and bringing in their players. At least that's what we're told. Fans and administrators tolerate losing for a few years. And these coaches know it. So, they lose. Maybe they go 2-10 in year one. But now they have the program right where they want it. They're laying a foundation, just not the one you think. Now they can be the hero and build a "winning program." They can blame issues on the previous staff.

Any improvement from year one appears like a drastic change. The team might go 4-8 in year two and 7-5 in year three. Now this new coach has saved the program. They've built a winning culture.

Let's not be fooled by these rebuilding years. There might be times when things don't work out. Some players and coaches might be loyal to past coaches. Slight changes are expected. But for a new coach to come in, fire everyone, and remove fifty players from the team doesn't make sense. Things are out of control.

But there is a problem with all of this. It's easy to get lost in the results. Administrators and fans see teams lose a few games and demand change. With enough pressure, change is made. The problem is that young student-athletes are sacrificed in the process. People think schools need to fire coaches to help kids. But that doesn't make sense. How does removing the coach that recruited, coached, and cared for them help? It doesn't. But this is about money and winning, not kids.

Instead of being quick to fire a coach, we need to consider the long-term implications of these decisions. I'm sure there are times when change is justified. But there are 10-20 coaches fired every year. I doubt every one of them is justified.

Sports are a results-oriented business. But we've lost sight of what's important. The focus should be on developing young people. Coaches should be evaluated on their program's effectiveness in helping student-athletes become better people.

These kids will graduate, get jobs, and become parents. A coach's job is to prepare them for this. A team's record doesn't matter in ten years; the lessons they teach do. Does firing a coach teach valuable lessons? If it does, what are those lessons?

If we view things through this perspective, we realize that firing coaches and "rebuilding" the program is often a bad idea. This doesn't benefit the student-athletes. So, let's think before we're quick to fire. Remember: this is about developing young people. The results are irrelevant.

tags: coaching

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