The ups of younger coaches: Dordt edition

Connor Van Hulzen – Staff Writer

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This offseason in the NFL, nine head coaches were hired. Inspired by the recent success of Rams head coach Sean McVay, who was hired at only 30 years old, NFL teams have opted to follow suit and hire young, offensively-talented coaches for their head coaching vacancies. The average age of the nine new hires this offseason is only 40 years old.

While 40 may still seem old to some, this recent movement to hiring ‘young’ head coaches is very new to the NFL, which has historically had coaches in their 50s and 60s being hired for vacant coaching positions. Most young coaches in the NFL are offensively focused while older coaches still maintain a heavy emphasis on the defensive side of the ball.

Unlike most NFL teams, Dordt Football’s coaching staff is comprised of coaches all under the age of 40. Granted, NAIA college football may be far from the NFL, but such a young coaching staff is still somewhat unusual.

Graduate Assistants (GA) are a key part of the football team’s ability to maintain such a young coaching staff. When the coaching staff identifies a former player who has graduated and who they believe could make an effective coach, they invite them to become a GA. While serving as a GA, a coach will finish up a master’s degree of their choice. The two years spent as a GA while finishing the degree serve as a sort of trial run and help determine if the GA will be hired to a full-time coaching position.

Special Teams Coordinator Brandon McCormick was a Graduate Assistant at Dordt before becoming a full-time coach.

“Because of [Head Coach] Penner, the transition from GA to coach wasn’t very different,” McCormick said. “In other programs, a GA would operate as a manager and do the coaches’ grunt work. At Dordt, GA’s do end up doing some grunt work, but they also recruit and coach their own position.”

A major benefit of promoting GAs to coaches is the pre-existing relationship they have with players. Having previously played with the same players that they now coach provides a close bond which can help the coaches get more out of their players.

“The relationship with the players is a good,” Defensive Line Coach and current GA Griffin Pelot said. “Now, it’s more of a professional relationship, but the transition was easier because I was a leader and a captain on the team.”

Having former players go on to coach also helps with the relationships within the coaching staff. Those former players know what is expected of coaches and have experience working with the people who have now become their coworkers.

The results of the NFL’s youth coaching movement are yet to be seen. While those coaches struggle to find success on the world’s biggest stage, the young coaches here at Dordt are already leading the program to revolutionary new heights.

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