Coach Tony Shiffman is currently the Offensive Line coach at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest,IL. With a large following on social media Coach Shiffman is well known in the coaching community, especially in the Offensive Line world. He runs the group #HogFBChat (also #HogFBPodCast), where the main focus is for OL coaches to learn from eachother. Whether it’s learning new schemes or coaching styles, Coach Shiffman is focused not only on expanding his own knowledge but in helping the next generation. He has learned a lot in coaching but some lessons have really stood out.
“The first big lesson I’ve learned from coaching is that you have to be fair and honest with kids. The more you try to beat around the bush with kids, I think the further away you push them. I think that’s really important at any level, whether you’re coaching a 10 year old or whether you’re coaching a twenty one year old. I think it’s super important to be really open and honest with those kids. You have to learn that as you go and I think that’s something I may have struggled with in my first year coaching. I probably was trying to make kids happier instead of focusing on how to make them better football players.”
Coach reiterates that being open/honest is even more stressed at the college level.
“And I think it can be more important at the college level, because obviously we’re recruiting and you’re trying to sell kids on your program and sell kids on you as a coach. More so than at the high school level, where you know that the player you have as a freshman, is going to be there as a senior, too. So there are a lot more different aspects to it, I think, at the college level.”
“Another big lesson for young coaches is that you have to be very organized. You Must be. There are some coaches that seem like they fly by the seat of their pants and have some success. But I think if you really boil it down, they’re actually a lot more organized behind the scenes. You’ve got to have a good organization plan because if you’re not organized, it gets chaotic.”
Looking back on his first 30 days in coaching, Tony makes two points he wishes he could have told himself.
“If I could talk to myself before I took my first coaching job I would really give myself two big pieces of advice. Take Notes and know when to shut your mouth. I think there are, especially in this era of social media, so many young coaches getting into the game and being outspoken. We don’t know everything, and it’s good for a coach to sometimes keep his mouth shut and ask questions later.”
“On the flip side of that, something that’s very important I would tell myself is to not be afraid to ask questions. And more importantly don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know what’s going on. I think that’s super important and ninety nine times out of 100, you’re going to find a coach that is going to be very helpful because we’ve all been in their shoes. They’re going to treat you with respect and they’re going to teach you how to do it and how to be better at it. But ask those questions no matter what because you never know when it’s going to be your opportunity to to be in that position. And you never know when those questions are going to be asked of you. It’s important as coaches to really be helpful in this profession and to really be genuine and respectful, because it’s going to come around at some point. You never know when, but it’s all going to come around at some point.”
In all of his years of Coaching football Tony has met some great coaches that have made it their priority to help the younger generation. This is something he looks to continue in his own career.
“There are some great guys in this industry and for example, our offensive coordinator paid the younger coaches bill one night. He went out and bought them dinner because he said, “I’ve been there. I know how tough it can be. Let me get your dinner. Let me take care of you guys.” And he didn’t have to do that because at the Division 3 level, it’s not like he’s making a ton of money anyways. He didn’t have to do that but he did because he knows how it is and he’s been through it before. For the most part, I think a lot of coaches have a good feel and a good respect for anybody that’s in the profession.”
Getting into the coaching industry can be difficult and Coach Shiffman reiterates to use Social Media as a resource. Not only to get your foot in the door but to learn.
“Like we talked about being open and honest. I think of young coaches out there, especially guys that are trying to kind of climb the ladder, don’t be hesitant to reach out to other coaches through social media. Reach out, email them, shoot them a dm because there’s going to be a lot of guys that will respond. There will be some that don’t. But I think especially after everything going on with Covid and all the online things that are happening. It’s such an open book right now and you have to use that as an advantage. Ask them how they do things, why they do things and about their thought process. It goes both ways, be a good role model for the younger generation as you personally climb the ladder and help the coaches that are going to be coming behind us.”
“All it takes is one opportunity to get your foot in the door and then you’re there. And I think it’s important that those guys that get that opportunity really, really cherish it and respect it because you don’t know when it’s going to come along again. So I think it’s important that we jump on those chances and really hold on them with two hands and make the best of them.”
Being able to learn from successful coaches but mold your own style is something that Coach Shiffman focuses on.
“There’s truthfully a lot of coaches I look to learn from but someone I’ve always looked up to is Herb Hand from the University of Texas. He is a guy that I really value what he’s doing and what he’s done. Also a guy that doesn’t get talked about a lot that is really great for the profession is Matt Jones. He is at UT Martin right now as the offensive run game coordinator. He does a great job and he’s local for me. He’s from Chicago. So we’ve had some good conversations.”
Tony thinks the community of football coaches across America do a great job helping eachother out.
“You know, the Offensive Line coaches community is very close in this profession. So I think a good offensive line player is the same way too. Because we’re probably the guys that get most fired up during practice and especially during games. But once we step off the field, it’s very open arms and very much a caring community.”
When asked how he would define his job, Coach Shiffman responded with three main words.
“Leader. Mentor. And most of all, Teacher.”
We look forward to shining a light on the Athletic Administrators, Coaches and support staff that help put Student-Athletes first through these difficult times. To see more articles like this, check out our page “Dear Younger Self”. And if you’re interested in leaving a quote on the site. Send an email to Worth.Gregory@WeAreGamePlan.com .