A New Era: Paying Your Dues

gamestrat high school football sideline instant replay

We always hear in all professions that people should pay their dues before moving up. People should put their time in and learn and grow before taking that next step. But, what does “paying your dues really mean?”

Is there a certain time frame? Is there a certain age? I do not think there is, however, I do believe that a coach will not be as successful in the long run if he has not climbed the ladder and fully understands what it means to truly put your time in and WORK towards higher positions in the football coaching profession.

This blog is not meant to offend young coaches. As a matter of fact, there are many young coaches out there that are really much better than some older coaches. Just because you have been in the profession for 20 years, does not mean that you are a great coach. Quite the contrary. My problem is with 20-somethings wanting to be coordinators after coaching for two years. Or guys that played a little college ball expecting to be varsity coaches and then head coaches immediately because of their playing experience.

I have said it before and I will say it again: JUST BECAUSE YOU WERE GOOD IN HIGH SCHOOL OR COLLEGE DOES NOT MEAN YOU WILL AUTOMATICALLY BE A GREAT COACH. PLAYING IS NOT COACHING. They are two different entities completely. I coached for five years at the lower level before I received a varsity assistant spot, and when I returned to coaching in 2012, I took a Junior Varsity spot my first year. It was not beneath me. I knew I had to work my way back up. And I did.

Too many guys nowadays want that instant success. They think freshman and JV ball are beneath them. They do not understand that lower level ball is the absolute best place to hone your craft. It is where I learned how to call an offense and a defense. It was where I learned how to be a coach!

As I was building a staff in June, one coach called me and asked for an opportunity. I interviewed him and I thought he could be a good addition to my staff. I offered him a JV spot with a possibility of helping the varsity. This coach had very little high school experience, and the last five years he had been coaching at a local middle school. His response to me “I really want to be the Defensive Coordinator.” Amazing. Absolute Amazing.

Suffice to say, he is not on my staff today. He ended up taking another job in town as a freshman coach. His greed and arrogance cost him a level. However, I do not know if he even realizes that the freshman job he landed will actually help him become a better coach one day. He probably does not.

Barry Switzer once said “Some guys are born on 3rd base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” When I hear this, I cannot help but think of the profession I am in. I’ll just say it: it absolutely sickens me when I hear a high school awards their head job to some 27 year old with two years of experience; and bad experience at that. Then the school wonders in few years “what when wrong.” I’ll tell you: HE WASN’T READY!! It is not even the 27 year old part that bothers me the most (even though it does bother me), but it is more of the lack of experience part and lack of success as an assistant that kills me.

Read past A New Era blogs from Coach Veliz

I suppose gone are the days of the prerequisites for being a head coach consisting of being a successful assistant and a successful coordinator first. It seems like all that is required in this day and age is a nice suit and a good interview. Solid resumes are an antiquated notion. We are in the age of instant gratification, so I guess I should not be too surprised or angered…but I am. It is these same guys that are handed a job they do not deserve that go through their careers thinking they’ve earned something that they have not.

I suppose I’m an “old school guy” or a “traditional guy,” which are alternate terms for “old.” But to me the game is too special for shortcuts.

It is too important to think that you’re bigger than it. I respect it and love it too much to short change it. My oldest son is graduating this year and he wants to teach and coach football. You better believe he will work his way to the top, not expect anything, earn his keep, and most importantly PAY HIS DUES. And when he does get his coordinator or head coach opportunity, he will realize that he is ready for it and it will feel so much better because he truly deserves it. I just wish more coaches would follow that formula.


Scott Veliz


by Scott Veliz
Oñate High School Head Football Coach
Follow @Coach_Veliz


No More Fumbles

Play Football

nfl play football

About the Author

Jeff Fisher
Jeff is an award-winning journalist and expert in the field of high school sports, underscored with his appearance on CNBC in 2010 to talk about the big business of high school football in America. Jeff turned to his passion for high school football into an entrepreneurial venture called High School Football America, a digital media company focused on producing original high school sports content for radio, television and the internet. Jeff is co-founder and editor-in-chief of High School Football America, which is a media partner with USA TODAY High School Sports.