FNF Coaches Talk — Kirk Ferentz’s Advice for HS Coaches, Don’t Specialize Too Early, Photographer of the Year Q&A

FNF Coaches Talk

Happy Friday, Coaches. We’re going to be on vacation on Monday, so check back on Tuesday, and enjoy your weekend.

Here are three stories for today.

1. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz: Best recruiting for HS coaches ‘is done within the hallways’ (FNF Coaches)

We had our College Coach Q&A with Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, and we found him to be extremely interesting. He started his coaching career at the high school level and continues to try to model his Big Ten Conference program after his own high school sports experience.

“One of my mentors once told me there are two kinds of coaches – coaches who are in it to be head coaches and coaches who love coaching. I’ve tried to enjoy every day as best I could at my given responsibility. I’ve tried to learn. That’s incumbent for all of us. We do the best we can do as coaches, and we ask the players to do that too. I wouldn’t describe myself as someone who is preoccupied with the next job.”

We also asked Ferentz about the most common problem for high school coaches: parents.

“We’ve got to educate the parents on what this experience is about. What are the goals? What are we trying to accomplish? The reality is very few high school players are going to become scholarship athletes. Educate parents on what the realities are. The best thing I’ve heard about this was from legendary De La Salle (Calif.) High coach Bob Ladouceur. He said the goal of his team every season was for the players to have the ultimate team experience. That takes a little bit of salesmanship and education to get the parents to buy in. They might say, ‘My kid’s 5-8, and Bob Sanders was 5-8.’ Well, Bob Sanders was dynamite. Our guys might dream of making it to the NFL, but every player SHOULD get a degree. That’s realistic. Make sure you’re advocating for that.”

Check out the entire interview. Ferentz is a great advocate of high school football.

What college coach would you like to see us interview in 2019 or 2020?

2. You Don’t Want a Child Prodigy (The New York Times)

There has been much debate about when athletes should specialize in one particular sport, and this article shows evidence that it’s actually later than most of us think. While the specific age varies from athlete to athlete, it’s safe to say that the consensus is it should never be earlier than high school.

Athletes who go on to become elite usually have a “sampling period.” They try a variety of sports, gain a breadth of general skills, learn about their own abilities and proclivities, and delay specializing until later than their peers who plateau at lower levels. The way to develop the best 20-year-old athlete, it turns out, is not the same as the way to make the best 10-year-old athlete.

While the writer makes the case that too many parents push their children to specialize before they are ready, he does not have a problem with an athlete deciding to focus on one sport — if it’s the athlete’s decision. He uses Mozart, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods as his examples.

Both Mozart and Woods’s fathers began coaching their sons in response to the child’s display of interest and prowess, not the reverse. As Tiger Woods noted in 2000: “To this day, my dad has never asked me to go play golf. I ask him. It’s the child’s desire to play that matters, not the parent’s desire to have the child play.”

What is your philosophy about players continuing to play other sports outside of high school football season?

3. How the Photograph of the Year Happened (FNF Coaches)

Just to put a bow on the FNF Coaches Photographer of the Year Contest, let us introduce you to the winner, Manhattan High (Kan.) photographer Will Gold.

“I never studied photography in school; it was all self-study,” Gold said. “I’m a geek at heart. I’m an IT director for my day job. I started shooting football about 12 years ago, and got some good feedback. I never planned for this to become one of my jobs.”

Gold offered three tips for any aspiring photographer who is trying to get a great photo.


Gold used a Canon 7D Mark II camera body with a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L lens. If the action is more than 50 yards from Gold, he uses a Canon EOS-1DX Full Frame with a 400mm f/2.8 L Canon Lab lens.


Photographers should bring a notebook to games and chart plays. Look for patterns, like what plays are called in specific downs and distances.

“Get in position and prepare for that one great shot,” Gold said. “Find a location that gives you the best chance for success.”

Photo editing

Gold is not embarrassed to admit he uses filters, Photoshop and Lightroom. Of the 1,000-plus photos he takes per game, he makes edits to 50 or 60.

“That winning photo was probably taken from farther away than it looks,” Gold said. “If I’m going to present it, I process and crop it.”

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk!