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May 3, 2022

X's and O's Don't Breathe w/Michael DiMatteo

X's and O's Don't Breathe w/Michael DiMatteo

#39.  Michael DiMatteo has been a teacher and coach for 35 years, coaching football for 33 with 15 of those years as head coach for four different high schools. He is a 2022 inductee into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame and a Golden Apple Teacher of Distinction (2010).

Coach DiMatteo has also written two books: Confessions of a High School Football Coach as well as a historical fiction novel set in 14th century Greece and North Africa entitled Flavius Fettotempi - a family saga.

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Transcript

Luke:

This is episode 39 of The "I" in Win

Mike:

unfortunately more now than maybe ever before we, as teachers and coaches. We might be the only positive force in their life for that day, for that moment, for that week.

Luke:

Today's episode with feature Mike DiMatteo, who is a teacher football coach, and also an author. And most recently, an inductee into the Illinois high school football coaches association hall of fame. On this episode, coach to monitor and I cover a Ray of topics from the importance of being a great teacher. To the importance of having a supportive administration. And how parenting today may have changed, which is further complicated. The relationship between teacher, coach, and parents. As you will see from this episode, coach DiMaggio was very articulate, candid, and honest. I think you're going to really enjoy the coach DiMatteo has the share. And I also think you can get a lot of value from taking, look at his books. Which are also linked in our show notes. Here's coach dimatteo Thanks for being on the show. And I want to start with your exciting spring. You were an inductee into the Illinois coaches, football hall of fame. I know that was never the goal. When you got into this profession, I know it's about the relationships and the impact of kids, but I know that it had to be a pretty special moment for you. So what was going through your head as you were inducted into the Illinois coaches football hall?

Mike:

First, thanks for, thanks for having me on this show. I think it's awesome. Um, it's always nice to be invited to something like this. as far as that event is concerned, first of all, it was much, much bigger than I thought it was going to be. I thought it would just be, you know, some really good coaches in a room and, and it was much more grandiose than that. It was in a banquet hall and, we were presented. Big plaque and speeches and it was, it was beyond anything I thought. And so, you know, from a kid that was 12 years old, thinking that he wanted to be a high school football coach to being inducted in the IHS FCA hall? of fame, it was beyond anything I ever thought possible for me. I was, it was, it was really cool. And the other thing was there was so many. Fantastic coaches. Um, it was very humbling to be in a room with, with the guys that were in that room, you know, and on the DS with me, it was, it was very humbling, but it was cool.

Luke:

as you know, our careers have intersected a lot throughout the years. And I don't know if you remember this, but I'm named head coach at lakes, high school brand new school. I'm 29 years. I, you know, you think you're ready to be a head coach, but you're not. And I walk into our first bowl for me was my first north suburban conference head coaches meeting. You were in that room. Think about who else was in that room? How many those guys were in the hall of fame right now. And I'm the one like in that room and you want to talk about us a humbling moment. And I remember. Just be quiet.

Mike:

Hey man, you that's what happens when you're a rookie? You, you, you gotta take a seat. And I felt the same way when I left Zurich and went to Hinsdale central. Um, I walked into the west suburban, coaches meeting. Uh, John Bell SKUs was in that room. I mean, there were some, uh, John wander is in that room. Chad Hetland is in the room and Chad was, uh, actually I take that back. Chad was there a couple of years later, he was my DC that first year, uh, at central. Um, but there were some like, I mean, I'm talking about like really big name and I'm thinking, holy crap, I better be on my game. You know? It was, it was, Yeah. it's kind of interesting when you look back at some of that stuff.

Luke:

Yeah. I mean, place at the table. You got one, but, uh, there are a lot of great. Yeah, right. But a lot of great coaches that, uh, have been in your life and you talk about the positive role models and that's what inspired you to become a coach yourself. And, you know, the coaches you had, you referred to them as, you know, men of character. They're tough, but they're caring they're firm, but they're fair. I mean, is that a lost art? Does that exist in the coach today? What are your thoughts?

Mike:

That's a really good question. I think that the first of all, the coaching game has changed so much over the 35 years I've been involved. but the one thing that hasn't changed I think are developing relationships with kids. and, but sometimes that, you know, when you say that immediately people start thinking warm fuzzies and, you know, pugs and all that stuff. And sometimes that relationship involves discipline and meaning. I have this set of standards in the hold you to those standards. I think that over the years, the most successful coaches have been able to do that. I'll talent out, you know, outside of talent. And even then you can have great talent if you can't connect, you're not going to be as successful as you could or shouldn't be. Uh, so I think the, the coaches that have stood the test of time and the coaches that have been the most successful in a variety of different ways, are those people that can make those connections, uh, and, and facilitate those connections. And most of them. being honest and genuine and being who you are, kids are not stupid, kids are pretty smart and they know when they need discipline. They know when, they also need a pat on the back. And I think if you are an honest coach, and if you're an honest teacher and you do both of those properly, meaning, you know, at the appropriate. Uh, I, I think that, uh, you can sustain yourself and you can, you can help not only your program go grow, but your kids can grow. Having said that I will say this over the last 10 years or so. What's been happening is the, the older generation. I'm kind of like that to me, I'm like the tail end of that generation of. People that I looked up to and people that I felt like were the golden age, that was just me. and I'm at the very back of that line. meaning the older guys are leaving the profession. There's new guys coming in, but a lot of these new guys, they don't want to pay their dues. They don't want to be a freshmen coach. They don't want to have to be a freshman core. That everybody's a varsity guy, all of a sudden. And as a result of that, you know, they don't necessarily do the work necessary to learn how to coach. and I think as a young coach, The most important thing you can do is coach freshmen for a year, that's where you really learn how to teach. And that's the other thing. the young coaches coming up today are all about X's and O's ex and those, but here's the deal X's and O's don't breathe. And if you can't figure out how to get your expert, oh, to get from point a to point B, technically, you're not going to be very successful in the long run. Now you can drop X's and O's all the time. You know, how do you execute that? You know, how, what, what should your stance be? What should your foot work be? Those are the things that, that take time to learn. And so many young guys don't want to do that. They want to jump right into the fray and, you know, be Sean McVay and hold the big place sheet and you know, and all that kind of stuff. And then. that's really not the way you should approach this. it's like investing in the stock market, right? You've got two types of investors. Really. You got the long-term investors, you've got the day traders. They traders, you can be super, super successful and you can lose everything. Long-term investors typically do much, much better. And I think it's the same thing in the coaching profession, but we live in a society where everything has to be instantaneous and you get your first job and immediately want to be a varsity coach. And really don't know what's involved specifically. And what happens guys flame out, because they don't realize The. time commitment and they don't want the time commitment. They don't want to learn these things. So I think that's where the biggest change has been. To be honest with you.

Luke:

Yeah, and it's kind of ironic that all these coaches want to just. Level jump and no, I'm a varsity culture I'm out. And then we're seeing that same behavior in some kids, right? You suddenly, well, I'm a sophomore. I should be starting on varsity because I made the elite travel team. And that same coach is complaining about the behavior of the kid. And just like, as a head coach, like you said the same thing to me about you, you know, so yeah. I, I see that as well. And let's touch upon something else that you mentioned. That's the teaching aspect. Coaching is teaching. Teaching is coaching. They're very intertwined. However, the amount of us meaning guys that are high school teachers and high school coaches that seems to be diminishing and we're getting more and more coaches that are out of the building and they're there. Their trade is not being a teacher and coaches. Aren't getting professionally trained. So as a head coach, how do you. These guys that do care about kids and do want to help, but don't understand that it is about teaching.

Mike:

Well, first of all, that part of it, not having coaches in the building, that's specifically an administrative problem and that that's a, that's a bad problem, For some odd reason, the tide has changed over the last 15 or 20 years where these administrators, many of whom have never been coaches themselves. think that, if you're a coach, somehow academics are. You know, that was never how I approached it. you know, and I've never been that way. And one of the reasons, for example, we were able to turn lake Zurich around in 2000 when I was hired by Dr. Wayne ERG, who by the way, was a Brigadier general United States army. as crazy as this sounds, I was a varsity offensive coordinator and head sophomore coach at the same time. And he offered me the position and I said, I don't want to condition, you know, Like a crazy person, I suppose. And he said, what's that? And I said, I'm going to give you my word that I will never, ever, ever recommend anybody to you. That isn't a good team. As well as a good coach in return, you have to give me your word that you'll at least give them strong consideration. Cause that's the only way we're going to get this thing turned around. We had a turnover of 26 coaches a year at lake Zurich before I got there. Um, and we shook hands on it. It was strictly a handshake deal and we hired nine coaches and teachers that year. And most of them, I think one guy felt fell by the wayside. Brian Storts for example, was one of those. That we hired bill Hauser, the DC now at Barrington, highly successful coach, um, was another one of those Joel Lewandowski we brought in, great offensive line coach, outstanding throws coach, and all of them are excellent educators. Now, Brian sources, an outstanding math teacher. he's an excellent social studies teacher. My point is. They've missed the boat and that's truly a big problem in high school athletics, but that's because you have many administrators who were never coaches or, had a cup of coffee as like an assistant coach. You know what I mean? but as a head coach, if you are saddled with that situation and I was at Hinsdale, I had one my last year that I had one in-building coach. They wouldn't bring anybody in the building for me. I think, first of all, this is the hard part about being a head coach. You have to figure out a way to teach these guys. So it's on you. And we would have monthly meetings and I would tell them my expectations. First of all, how to treat kids. I had a handbook that I would, that I'd give them. I don't know if they read it or not, but it was down, you know, on paper. Um, and you saw the purview and the, the, the thrust of a head coaches to coach. that's really where you have to do most of your work. It's not the X's and O's type stuff. Those are your coordinators. You know, you got to coach your coaches. And if a lot of your guys are out of the building, you have to spend a lot of time coaching those guys, um, and telling them what you want. They don't know what you want, and you can't let them do their own thing. At least initially until you become a staff. And that takes time, the most successful stabs are the ones that are together for a long time. Kerry Grove is a prime example. Those guys have been together for years and have very, very little turnover, but they also know the expectations. So you have to set that as a head coach. Secondly, you have to teach your system, as a head coach, can't coach every position on the field, then you shouldn't be a head coach. In my opinion, you have to be able to, to be serviceable at every point. You know, you have your specialty, but listen, I'm not as good. A linebacker coach is bill Holzer was the Hauser is a great linebackers coach, but if I need to jump in and coach linebackers, I can do it and I can do it fairly well. And I can do it for DBS. I can do it for defensive one because I've coached all those positions at some point. And I've learned those positions at some point, and I continue to learn those positions. so you have to teach your coaches. You have to coach your coaches, how you want them to coach. And if it's a new staff, it takes time. It takes a year. but if you also get young coaches who think they know everything, that's a bad mix. Cause they're going to fight you every step of the way. And what I'm seeing from some of the guys that are still head coaches that I'm friends with, they're having these issues, you know, administrators just, Hey, I got a coach for you and they just hire a guy. No, that's not how it works. And so we're, we're seeing some issues, pop up in the coaching profession. That are not necessarily positive for players or for programs or for head coaches. And this is part of the reason, a lot of really good head coaches are stepping down now is, as I said earlier, a lot of these young guys, they don't want to pay their dues. And, and that's, it's unfortunate, but I think you can alleviate some of those things. If you have open conversations and you say, look, man, this is, this is how it's gotta be. And you lay out what you need for those guys, because people don't know what you want them to do or to know, or to be, unless you tell them and coach them.

Luke:

Let's talk about something that. You talk about in your book and you're pretty candid about it and I'm guilty of it. I'm guilty of it as well. And that's obsessing over every little detail to the point that it starts to impact your sleep. When you're home, you're not really home. You're just always thinking about your program because it's on your shoulders as a head football coach and that's not healthy. So. How do you find some balance? Because we're competitive. We want to be great. We want every T to be crossed and I to be dotted, but there has to be aligned, drawn, and I struggled that myself. So what would be your advice to finding that balance?

Mike:

Hindsight is always 2020, right? It was one of the biggest problems I had as a head coach is I couldn't turn it off. and, and I had a very difficult time, even in the off season, I'd tell the coaches get away from the game and I couldn't do it. I had a very good friend of mine, Brent Perlman, tell me one time. He said, listen, you, you've got to start learning how to turn things off. And I, you know, we'd print and I still talk every single morning. And, and I, I was never really able to get there, but after my illness, it came to the point where. I was only able to be a head coach for another two years. And I wasn't very good at that. And I, I talk freely about it in the book, um, because of my health issues, but, came to the realization that, just like weightlifting and just like, you know, working out just like, you know, coaching sprinters and track, which I've done for 30, some odd years, days off are about as important as daily. And you have to give yourself an opportunity to step away and just close the door. Jeff dock does a great job of that with our staff. he's the head coach at Buffalo Grove. Now he was my DC when I was there, in his, he has a rule and the rule is, Sundays and Saturday afternoons. I don't want you anywhere near a football. I don't want you anywhere near the film. I don't want you to do anything you get away from. And it's, it's pretty healthy. it was not something I was able to do. Remember I grew up in that generation where you just, you just go, you know, to the point where I'd come in on Saturdays, uh, in the off season and spent four hours watching film. And, you know, I used to make a, a lowlight tape, you know, of, of all the crappy plays we had and try to figure out why they were bad, and it got obsessive to the point where I'd never neglected my family, but, you know, Doing something with my kids or something. I was in the basement watching film or writing something or, something football related and it burnt me out. It ate me up is what it did. And, and I would strongly advise coaches to find that time, not only in the off season, but during the season to take some time and just put everything on. You know, and, and don't be like, I was, you know, like I said, I'm very candid about it in the book. I, that's why I wrote the book. I wrote the book to highlight the things that we did well, and also the significant errors I made, Um, in hopes that somebody would learn from it, you know? And that's one of the things that I hope people take away is you cannot obsess. You just can't. But head coaches, I think in any sport, but I can only speak for football. Because there's so much pressure in there so much. Uh, the way I always saw it, I had coach rep head football coach represents this community And you're never ever, ever off. And I never thought I'd never felt I could be off. And that was a mistake. That was a mistake I made, you know, and you have to find a way to be off. You just have to, or else you'll, you'll eat yourself up. Um,

Luke:

again, the book that coach's referencing, I mentioned it in the introduction, it's called confessions of a high school football coach. And you are very candid about another aspect in that book. And that's the complicated relationship between head coach and parent. And it really is complicated because let's be honest and it's no fault of the. they care about that kid. Our job as a head coach is to care about all of the kids. And sometimes those things just don't mesh really well. And I understand that sometimes conflicts inevitable, but I do think for the enjoyment of the coach, Dean German of the kid, and even the gentleman of the parent, we have to work on that relationship. In my opinion is getting worse. do you see that like our parents worse today? Or is that just an urban legend? And what would be your advice on how to manage this complicated relationship?

Mike:

Here's what I think. I think that it may not be quote unquote. But what I think it is, his parents are much more brazen than they used to be. It used to be that, you know, there was a lot more respect and I, and I, I'm not sure that's the correct word either. but I'm just going to use it because it seems to be the only word that fits. There was much more respect, a little bit more deference to the head coach in the sense that, you know, this guy knows what he's doing, or, you know, if it's a female coach, she knows what she's doing. But now I think, especially with. the rise of the, the gurus as I called them, the speed gurus and the technique gurus in the seven on seven gurus and all this horse hockey. And I, I'm not a believer in any of it. Very, very little of it. I shouldn't say I shouldn't say none of it. it is, it has created a significant conflict between parents that pay for these services, thinking that because they're paying somebody, that these guys are the, end all be all experts versus. Somebody like me, for example, who's being paid by the school and some parents see was a no offense to the youth guys, but, you know, glorified youth coach, you know, a volunteer guy and that's not it, you know, I'm me and others like me, yourself included. Now we're professional coaches, and are highly respected in, our world. we choose to do it at the high school. You know, a lot of guys know Tony monks is a great example. He could have been an extremely successful collegiate coach. He didn't want, the hassle of travel all the time. He didn't want that. He didn't want changing jobs because that's the nature of collegiate coaching. you know, we're not, a glorified youth code. You know, we're not these volunteers, but they see it that way. And more and more because there a conflict with, all these gurus that are out there that are making money, hand over fist and promising people this and evaluating their, their athletes this way and telling them they're, you know, that's the other thing that they're, everybody's, I've had more kids and parents the last few years. If I, if I'm not going I'm not playing at all, you know, and I'm here to tell you, first of all, that's a ridiculous statement. If you look at the. And second of all, you know, division three football and having coached it, it's very high level football. These guys are all, all state guys. They're all, all area guys, you know, that are the starters in, in all of these kinds of things. And, and, uh, they're just make me two inches, two shorter, I don't four tenths of a second to slow. These kinds of things. But there's this fascination of, of D one or bust, you know, most of these people have no clue what it takes to be a division, one athlete. They have no idea what a division one athlete looks like. They don't, they don't know how a division, one athlete, trains. They don't have. They don't understand the, the unbelievable skill. And I've been fortunate enough to coach for guys that have been in the NFL. one of them was Jack Allen who played for Michigan state and was a four year, uh, center, all everything. And his brother, Brian, I coached for a year. Who's currently the starting center for the Rams. Anthony Costanzo in high school played 14 years for the, Colts. Matt Blanchard played in the NFL as a quarterback. These are elite elite, elite, elite athletes. and then most people don't fit that bill, you know? And so I think there's some pressure from parents thinking that they're paying all this money to these gurus as it were, that, that their kids should be a D one guy, you know, that kind of stuff. And so that puts more pressure. So they're more brazen about it because they're paying all this money, you know, and, and in fact, sorry, vast majority of. Just how it goes. Um, but they don't trust us because we're, we're free for lack of a better way of saying it. So, you know, has it gotten worse? I just think it's, it's been more out in the open. It's more brazen, you know, and I think it's completely unrealistic expectations from parents. I see in baseball and a little, little kids pitching 87, 89 innings in the summer major league guys don't do that. And that's why they get blown out their arms. Concentration, I'm going to concentrate on my sport. And then now you get overuse injuries. W whatever happened to just let kids be kids and let them play. And you know, what was the percentage of kids of guys that played in the super bowl this year? Wasn't it? Something like 93% of them were dual and try sport athletes, something like that. You know, you, you, you let, let them be after. You know, and I don't buy this whole thing where, you know, whoa, my son or my daughter loves playing X 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You know, it's going to miss three weeks of school to go to some volleyball tournament in, you know, out of the country, but I just, I don't buy it. And then I, and I, I think that everybody's in this program, so many people are in the pursuit of this division. One dream. There's, there's only so many scholarships out there, you know, and while your son or daughter may be. Phenomenal in their community and really, really good in their region and a good, you know, a nice athlete and their state. There's probably 30 people like that in, one community in Georgia alone or, you know, California or something like that. And so there's unrealistic expectations. And I think that's created a lot of problems with coaches and parents and my rule was, and it was very specific about it. And it's the same rule in the classroom too. And I tell parents this on the first day of that, you know, the, what are the it's like to come and meet the teacher thing? my relationship is between your kid and myself. That's how it has to be if we're going to move forward. And if there's a problem, I will absolutely reach out and talk to you is as an athletic parent, you want to talk to me and talk to me about your son or daughter, you know, in this case, your son, no problem, but here's the rules. We're not talking about playing. That's number one when I'm not addressing it. And number two, I'm not addressing somebody else on the team. This is your son. I'm not, we're not going to play this. Compare the game, not going to do that. And lastly, your son or daughter, in this case, again, your son is coming with you. You know, the one thing I can stand is don't tell my son, I called no. I'm telling your son that you call. And the reason is because there has to be an open line of community. And if you feel that strongly about it, then, and then your son should feel that shine. But most of the time the kids know, they know. And, and I'm going to give you an honest evaluation. I'm going to tell you the truth. You know, not, it doesn't work out all the time. You know, I've had, well, Anthony Costanza, for example, great NFL player. He wasn't recruited out of high school, you know? And he, he, he, the reason he wasn't is because of. You know, 220 pounds, he was 6, 3, 2 20, and he was two. I had more, I had four division. One guys convinced these too thin in the hips, too thin in the hips. if anyone would want to fork union put on 60 or 70 pounds over two years and went to Boston college and he wound up in the NFL, you can't predict those things, you know, but what you can say is this, person's not ready. Yeah. and I can't help it if, you know, if somebody is not going to get recruited. So there's, there's a lot of those things that are intertwined. It's a much bigger question than you asked, but I think you have to be upfront and honest

Luke:

Absolutely. And you know, some key words in there that I want to talk about. One being the concentration, the specialization that is that's growing. And I think where we went wrong is we made youth sports profitable. Once that happened, forget about it. And I want it, I want to say that I support entrepreneurship. I support capitalism. I think it's great. And you know, but what's happening is, we're making money off of people's hopes and dreams. You know, maybe I dunno. Maybe I live in a dream world. I ethically, I, I struggle with that a little bit, but anyway, I played sports because my parents didn't want me on the streets literally. Right. And they wanted me to learn the value of teamwork and work ethic. And you know, all those things that you to learn talking about growing up in Melrose park, I grew up on the south side of Chicago. Like, no, you're playing a sport, so you don't end up like those guys on the street corner and think they did. So it's all a matter of what the end game is. And I think a lot of parents end game has changed because. They're investing money. And my argument is, can you imagine the money we invest in youth sports? Can you imagine if we invest that in education where we would be in the world? Right? So we're spending $150,000 on, like you say, gurus to get the D one scholarship. That's what. $150,000. So did you really come out ahead when you could have been spending that money on a private tutor? And the other thing you talk about our expectations and I may be wrong. I felt, and maybe it's self-imposed coach. I don't know, but like expectations are up, but support is. So everybody believes that their school should win a state championship. Everyone believes that they're the next sleeping giant and we should go out and win. But then the support is down, Why isn't my son plan? my kid can't come to the weight room. He's gone with his private coach. He can't be there there isn't that buy into the team. So. W, what do you do? You've built up programs. You've turned programs around. So what do you do with that? You're trying to build a program. You have expectations, but let's be honest, it's becoming more and more individualized and what that individual's end game should be about. So how do you build that program? Despite those things?

Mike:

Well, I think you're correct in that, things have changed quite a bit in that regard. And there isn't as much buy-in to the team and to the school as there used to be, you know, you see this. Mind, you know, things? like volleyball, for example, kids will forego their high school team to play on some travel. I mean, I don't know what is the name of it, sky hires only that they, you know, all those. And so there's soccer is another one, you know, kids will forgo playing on their high school team football. It hasn't reached that yet because it's kind of the only venue right now. but Yeah. you'll get the kids that, uh, will not come to summer camp because they're. I don't know the baseball tour, the showcase tour, that kind of thing. Then they wonder why they, can't, why they can't make the starting lineup in the fall, because you've missed all this training. That's why we've changed things and you're not up to speed. That's why, and I'm not sure I disagree with this. I, I think this has changed too. people will go on vacations for two or three weeks at a time. You know, I actually think that's probably a good thing. Um, I think that as I've gotten older anyway, summer camps have gotten, we've gotten kind of crazy and gotten nuts. And I don't think the 25 day rule in Illinois is a bad thing at all. I think kids need to have that time with their family in all sports, by the way. but having said that the kid that misses the entire summer, for example, you can't expect to walk in and get a starting job. You just can't expect to do that. And I think parents do expect it. So I think the first thing, if you're going to try to build a program that you have to, you have to reignite the passion for the team. again, that's number one, and realize that this particular, and I'm strict, strictly gonna speak about football. this team represents our school and represents in many ways, our community on Friday nights. And, and you know, if we're going to put out a good product, you know, and, and, and, be as competitive as you can, everybody needs to be there. That's number one. And I think you set that as a head coach, we took over a league Zurich. That was exactly what we said. You know, you're, you're going to be here. And if you can't be here, no problem. We shake hands and you go your own way. But this is the. You know, and that's why I'm a big believer, for example, when to platoon, if you can do a small schools can't but there's ways around it. The second thing though, is administrative help. Sorry. It comes down to administrators. They have gotta be willing to make a commitment. You know, it's kind of funny. correct me if I'm wrong, but you know, there's always the, national search or the big search for the head football coach. not so much for the baseball coach or. field hockey coach or the lacrosse coach, but there's always the big grandiose search for the football coach yet when that football coach gets higher than they need help administrators, aren't willing to help out, you know? Well, wait a minute, a good head coaches only as good in many instances as the assistance that that person gets. You know, some of that's on the head coach, like I said earlier, you got to got to teacher assistance what they want, but the administrators gotta be willing. You know, and I will say that is the biggest complaint that I'm hearing from veteran coaches who are stepping away from the game. It just a good friend of mine. Just keep him, he just stepped down and he said, I'm done. Cause they will not help me. And they're holding my feet to the fire. And so our parents, but I have coaches that are quitting. I have coaches that won't spend the time. I have young guys that don't want to do any of the work and I can't do this by myself. So it's time that you let somebody else do it. You know, that's unfortunate. One of the, one of the problems with being a head coach today, or is the fact that you just don't get enough help, you know, so you're, you're caught in between. mom and dad have paid all this money and they want to see their kids start. but the kid either doesn't want to do it or can't physically do it. Despite the money that the parents have spent, you've got administrators who are putting a priority on hiring a head coach, but forgot that that head coach needs help and are not hiring people. To assist that head coach, you have assistants that are getting hired that have their own goals and are not willing to pay the dues that it takes to become a head coach. When you know, you should be coming in a great assistant first and then work your way up the ladder. I always thought my purview as a head coach, was to try to help my sisters get head coaches. No, that was one of the things I felt it was my responsibility, but I can't do that. If you're not going to work with me, you know, there's only so much I can do. So I think the, the business of being a head coach today and rebuilding a program is much, much, much more complicated than it used to be. And it's because of those factors. but you, you have to somehow rekindle a love for the game and for the weight room, by the way, in, in that, in that school. And I also think that if you're going to rebuild a program, there has to be cooperation between yourself and other sports. I'm a big believer, for example, in, in all of LA, although my linemen wrestling and my skill guys, that they wanted to play basketball, playing bass. I was a big believer in that I never believed in the old thing that you got to spend 24 hours a day in the weight room. I didn't believe that. Um, and I still don't. I, although I would encourage and then have encouraged places, I was at the past adopt some sort of a weightlifting. You know, I, I think for every sport, that's huge. I know what Kerry Grove does. And I think Bruce Kay started to use it on huge. There there's a program for every sport in the school and everybody participates in it, you know? And I think that's awesome. You know, you, if you don't have a comprehensive way program to every sport, then you're shortchanging your kids. but, there has to be a cooperation between the sports. Cause again, you, you want your kids to be multi-sport athletes with that consistent weightlifting component that, bridges all those sports. I think that's a really important part of building a program, from the ground up, you know, or trying to rebuild something that's been broken. The weight room is significantly important, so to recap, but I suppose you've got to get, You got to get the spirit of football back in school. You, you got to have cooperation with other sports. You have to, temper the expectations of parents. Uh, and you have to get administrators who are willing to help you do this. And, and you gotta include them. By the way, as a head coach, you can't be an island and put your, say, your administrators were over there. It should be up. It should be a team effort, you know, and it was when I was at Zurich and it was for a time when I was at Hinsdale. and if you can do those things, I think you have a pretty good shot.

Luke:

So we've talked about some of the harsh realities of being a coach today. There's the expectations of parents may be a little bit more brazen, a little bit of lack of support at times from administrators.

Mike:

temper that other thing too, by the way. There's I don't want you to dwell on the negatives because there had been. Incredibly helpful parents. some outstanding administrators. I mean, w w when I was at Hinsdale, we had some incredibly generous giving parents that were just, they were all for the program, the Allen family, for example, the buttock family, for example, just wonderful people. so, you know, the, the people that create the biggest problems are really, in my opinion, a very small. Vocal, but small group of people. you know, and sometimes we, you know, we dwell on those things as opposed to looking at the bigger picture, you know, at Zurich, our parents were awesome. You know, you always have your young, my idea at the time he used to tell me every year you pick up five critics and, you know, you're, you're wherever you're at. You're picking up five critics every single year. And he was probably right. but that this should not over. The, the, the, the great people that you work with, whether it's fellow coaches in the building, or, you know, the great student athletes, you have an opportunity to work with, or, the excellent administrators that get it. Um, and the parents that are like, what do you want us to do? We'll get it done. I mean, there's a lot more of those, you know, and I want to make sure I get that out there. That's really important to understand.

Luke:

Yeah. And that's exactly where I was going, was the positive aspect of it. Like we just talked about the realities of it and it's a tough job. That's just, that's real. And it's okay for you and I to talk about, and if you want to say, man, they're negative. No, we're just being real about our experiences and what we're seeing. So, and you use. You kind of went there, but I want to continue with it. Cause I think it's really important as we start wrapping up this conversation of how do you stay positive? How do you not let that minority infiltrate your mind to the point that we have great teachers and great coaches leaving a profession, as we mentioned throughout this episode, because I think more than ever in the history of our country, we need great men and women. Great role models to lead our young and we're losing them. Right. It's it's sad when I hear teachers saying, yeah, my son or daughter wants to be a teacher, but I discouraged that. I don't think that's a good idea like that really bums me out. So how do we tell our listeners that are teachers and coaches, which make up a massive the listeners? How do we tell them to stay positive? what should they be focusing on? What's a daily routine. Anything.

Mike:

We get, and we are granted a very small space of time. And I, I tend to look at things in time probably because of being a historian and a writer of history. Um, we're granted a very small space of time. That's what our life is. Um, Lucius Seneca said it best. He said, people complain about the fact that they didn't have enough time, but in reality, we have all the time we need, we just don't use it properly. And I agree with that. If we understand this and understand that, we have every single day. The opportunity to impact somebody positively. through a, an exchange, whether it's verbal, whether it's a high five, whether it's, uh, a hug after a great play or Hey, wow. That was a great job you did on that test. You know, those little things matter to so many kids and for many, many, many, many, many kids, unfortunately more now than maybe ever before we, as teachers and coaches. Might be the only positive thing in their life. We might be the only positive force in their life for that day, for that moment, for that week. And those are the things that are motivating. You know, when, when I know I can, I can see that kid in the class who's been struggling for whatever reason and they get. Nine out of 10 and a quiz. And after the class is over, I pull them aside. I want you to know that was outstanding and they get this big, giant grin on their face. Or when a kid does a drill properly for the first time, because they struggled with it. And I go, that's how it's done a great job. And they get this big fat grim. I mean, those are the things that we need to concentrate on and it shouldn't be Pollyannish because then it's not genuine. And kids will see right through that. But if it's genuine, And, you keep that in mind that we might be the only positive force they see for that day, that moment, that week that's the motivator that we need. And that's, you know, Mike, I retire in may on May 27th this year. And Yeah. I have a lot of issues with regard to how things are being done in, in the, in the public schools, in the world of coaching. However, every day in my classroom, it's about. And I, adore my classroom. I love to teach. I could talk about the art of teaching forever. I just love it. And it is an art. It's not a recitation of names, dates, places, facts, math problems, it's connections. It's people. It's, it's that kismet that you have with a class when you build the tambour of the class properly, you know, and when you have those expectations, kids understand that expectation. They meet those expectations because you've helped them not through artificial. But through showing them how to get things done, not by, fake set of circumstances. That's going to help them pass by, by real circumstances when they can actually climb the mountain because they done it. Those are the things that are the positives, and those are the things that we should look forward to. And those are the things that matter. And those are the things that resonate long after we're gone, because you're going to get an email in 10 years, you're going to get an email in 20 years. Like I did the other day from a kid 20 years ago, that remembered something I said, and. Those are the things that matter. And those are the things that should keep pushing you in a positive direction.

Luke:

Coach love it. That's what we call a Mike drop, as you know. And, uh, I needed to hear that, to be honest with you because I had a rough day last night. So, uh, I appreciate you sharing that positivity. Cause I think that's important that we are there for each other and we have a very important job. So thanks for sharing that positivity. And I would like you now to share your contact info, if any of our listeners would like to reach out to. And talk a little bit more about what you do in the classroom or what you do on.

Mike:

Yeah, so you can reach me at history, guy thirty1@live.com. With email, you can follow me on. Twitter at triple underscore 31. You see a theme there, football And history. I have a website called think 30 one.com. You can find me on sub stack. And, uh, on Amazon I have two books. Uh, one of them is confessions of a high school football coach. And the other one is a historical fiction novel set in 14th century, Greece called Flavius Fetzer, Tempe. Um, and I'm working on the sequel to that now. so those are the things that I do, and I'm happy to help anybody that I can help just reach out and like.

Luke:

And to our listeners, I will share links to coach's books in the show notes. I have read confessions of a high school football coach. Anyone that's been a head football coach, really? Anyone that's been a head coach. It's a great read. You, you relate so much to how honest and candid coaches throughout his book, so that that will be linked in there and coach, some audio, congratulations on the hall of fame. Congratulations on your upcoming retirement. I'm sure you're going to be hopping on your Harley and cruising the country.

Mike:

Absolutely.

Luke:

Yeah, man. Well, well deserved. I tell my players, my retirement is going to be, uh, I don't have a Harley. I'm not a motorcycle guy, but I'm a heavy metal rock guy, right? I'm gonna, I'm going to learn how to ride a Harley and I'm gonna jump on it and I'm just gonna follow metallic all over the country. That's

Mike:

come see me in Tennessee. We're moving to Tennessee. So come and see me in Tennessee and we'll we'll uh, we'll ride the mountains. It'll be great.

Luke:

Love it. Well, thanks so much. It's always great to see. I've always been a big admirer of you and I appreciate your professionalism. You always helped me throughout my career. And thanks for being on the podcast. And I would like to talk to you more about the authorship at a later conversation. Cause, I'm sure that was a real big leap of faith for you to do that. And I know it's hard. I, it was hard for me to put myself out there with this podcast. I'm sure it's hard for. I put yourself out through the book. So that's another conversation, but congratulations on that success. And again, I really appreciate you being on.

Mike:

My pleasure was a lot of fun.

Michael DiMatteo Profile Photo

Michael DiMatteo

Author/Writer/Teacher/Coach

I’ve been a teacher and coach for 35 years, coaching football for 33 with 15 of those years as head coach for four different high schools: Leyden, Lake Zurich, Hinsdale Central and Buffalo Grove. I am a 2022 inductee into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame. I am also a Golden Apple Teacher of Distinction (2010).

I’ve written two books: Confessions of a High School Football Coach as well as a historical fiction novel set in 14th century Greece and North Africa entitled Flavius Fettotempi - a family saga. I’ve also written for Real Clear Politics, Real Clear History, and Real Clear Public Affairs. I try to write for the average person, so they can better understand politics, the Constitution and some of the more complicated social issues. I write from a historical point of view, meaning, like Naill Ferguson, applied history.