Three Tips to Following a Legend

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor

Mat Taylor fulfilled his dream of becoming head coach of a high school team at age 32 in 2008. But the Skyline High (Wash.) coach was in the unenviable position of replacing local legend Steve Gervais, who had three state titles to his record.

  • Do things differently. Chances are that if you try to be exactly like your predecessor, you won’t be a better version. Be yourself and coach on your own terms. “You have to do things differently,” Taylor said. “Steal ideas, but change things that you think could be better.”
  • Respect the tradition. Although the previous coach may be gone, many of the players remain. Don’t tell them to forget about the past. “I always tell our players this is our 21st season, and Team 21 hasn’t done anything,” Taylor said. “But that doesn’t mean last year’s team didn’t do anything.”
  • Start small. Taylor made the mistake in his first season of trying to keep all of his predecessor’s plays while adding his own ideas to the playbook. “If I could do 2008 over again, I’d do it differently. Philosophies and schemes change, and you don’t need to preserve everything.”