Coaching at the high school and higher levels can be tough but rewarding.
Strawberry Crest head football coach Ron Hawn has dedicated nearly 20 years of his life to coaching at the high school and collegiate levels and doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. Coaching has taken him around the country and, though the life can be tough, he said it’s been a rewarding ride.
Learning the Ropes is an educational series for high school students, college students or adults who wish to work in the sports world. Not everyone can be an all-star pro athlete, but there are plenty of ways to work in the sports you love.
How did you get your start?
My first job was at Sterling College in Kansas, coaching linebackers and working with special teams. I got paid $5,000 a year. I lived on campus and I had a meal plan. From there I went to Assumption College, which is a Division II school in Massachusetts. I made a little bit more money. I coached the D-line and special teams there. Nobody was full-time except for the head coach, so I worked as a teacher in the Department of Youth Services in Massachusetts for three or four years. My last job in college was at Northeastern University in Boston. I was coaching sam (strong outside linebackers) linebackers that first season. My second season into my third spring, I worked with everything from D-line to DB. My last two years, I was making about $10,000 a year and 100% full-time football. From there I came down here and substitute taught, coached D-line at Tarpon Springs for a year and got a full-time job teaching at Hagerty High School… things happen and before I knew it, I was the head coach at Tarpon Springs for the next four years. Now I’m here.
When you could move all over the place at any time for work and the stipends are so low, how do you manage that?
Living in Boston, you’re basically gonna eat cat food and live in a cardboard box. The refrigerator boxes are too expensive. I did real estate on the side. I worked bouncing bars and did all kinds of stuff… It’s easy when you’re 22 years old. I couldn’t do that now. I’ve got a three-year-old kid and I’m married. It’s definitely a sacrifice to do those things. You’ve got to be willing to up and move. Somebody told me when I was first trying to get in, was that you need to put your ego aside and understand you’re not gonna make any money doing that. Create relationships, network and do those things. Just be prepared.
Since you’re both coaching and teaching at the high school level, you’re putting in long work hours. How do you stay organized?
I’m very fortunate. I’ve got a great administration here and I’ve been put into a position where I teach P.E. and health. I used to teach social studies and that was tough. It’s a very heavy load academically. It gets tough. When you have a kid and you’re married, finding that work-life balance… I’m 40 years old now and I’m starting to figure out that work-life balance.
What’s the average day look like for you?
We’ll watch film on Monday mornings at about 7 o’clock. I’ll get here at 6:30 or so. We’ll go right up until school starts. We’ll do the same thing on Tuesdays but lift weights before school. We usually finish practice at about 6:15 p.m. and I try to get out of here by 7 o’clock at the latest, but it doesn’t always happen. Thursdays are a little weirder because of JV games. Fridays are a marathon. Friday turns into Saturday morning pretty quick. Twelve hours (a day) is the average. I was on this campus a little over 70 hours last week and I did another pushing up on 20 hours of film on Saturday and Sunday preparing for our scrimmage on Saturday. That included a four-hour defensive staff meeting at my house. It’s probably 80 hours on an average week.
For all the tough stuff coaches have to deal with, something has to make the whole process worth it for you all to keep going on. What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
It’s more about the relationships you build over the course of time. The relationships with the kids, the relationships with the parents, the relationships with the school. I think the longer I do this, it’s way more about that than anything else. It’s not the paycheck that makes me come back. It’s not the hours that make me come back. It’s the opportunity to coach football and to be with the people outside of my family that I really enjoy being with.
What’s a big misconception people have about coaching?
I don’t necessarily know that it’s as much now as it was a few years ago, but people think that we get paid a lot more than what we do. They see the Nick Sabans of the world and, yeah, those guys exist. But they’re the 1% of our world. I get paid the same as any teacher and I get about a $3,500 stipend on top of that. Coaching football costs me money every year. I don’t stop. Teachers are on nine-month contracts and I’m on a nine-month contract, but I work 12 months. The big misconception is the money. The second thing is that, as a head coach, you get to coach. I’m to a point now where I do a lot more coaching than I used to, but that’s the last thing I get to do. There’s so much other stuff that you have to do that has almost nothing to do with actually coaching the kids.