Algonac (Mich.) coach Scott Barnhart provides five tips for improving team GPA.

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor

A Michigan football coach turned a team plagued by eligibility issues and academic underperformance into a three-time Academic All-State selection with a cumulative GPA of 3.878.

When Scott Barnhart accepted the head coaching position at Algonac High (Mich.) in 2012, he assumed responsibility for a team that was not performing well on the field or in the classroom.

Algonac hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2005 and had never won a conference title. Worse than that – in his view – was the fact that the players weren’t performing well enough in the classroom to even warrant consideration for Academic All-State honors.

Barnhart’s five-year impact on the program is evident both in the team’s performance on the field and its academic success.

Reward academic performance with playing time. If two players are competing for a starting position and their performance on the field is close, Barnhart uses academic performance to decide the starter. “It adds importance to academics,” Barnhart said.

Coach the players to communicate with teachers. “Young men are not great communicators,” Barnhart said. “Counsel them on sitting down with teachers and talking about their goals. Once the teachers understand their commitment, they’re willing to help.”

Ask teachers to keep coaches in the loop. “I allow teachers to communicate with me directly when kids aren’t fulfilling their goals. If a kid says he wants to earn an ‘A’, and he doesn’t follow up with it, a teacher will pull me aside.”

Pull grades once a week. “We pull grades on game day,” Barnhart said. “We pull kids and talk with them. That sounds like a negative meeting, but it really isn’t. It’s more, ‘Let’s talk about why and see if we can fix it.’”

Coaches serve as tutors. High school coaches often teach during the school day. Barnhart delegates subjects of expertise (i.e. math, science, etc.) for each coach on staff, and has the coaches tutor athletes.

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Dan Guttenplan