By Jeff Greenberg
Here is Part 2 of our conversation with Appalachian State Head Coach, Scott Satterfield, on his journey in coaching.
- When you think back to the days when you were an assistant, how would you have finished this sentence, “When I get my own program, the first thing I’m going to do is…”? – “The first thing I always thought about in that sense, was that I wanted to surround myself with great people. So putting together the best staff was most important to me. In order to create a culture that everybody wants to be a part of, you have to have the coaches in place that can help you, as the head coach, create the culture, and then help you live the culture and breathe life into that culture. Culture was important to me because that’s what I was brought up in here at App with Coach Moore. He created an amazing culture. When I left to coach at other places, I realized that all cultures are not the same. I had always figured every program did things the same way for the most part. I was wrong. So when I thought about being a head coach I knew that creating or continuing our culture here at App was the most important priority for me. The key to that was hiring the right staff.”
- What do you think the hardest part of being a college head coach is that fans don’t know or understand? – “I think it’s hard to comprehend how many different hats a head coach has to wear in this position. Honestly, unless you’re in this position, it’s hard for anybody to fully grasp it, except maybe your wife. Everybody in the world that you come into contact with every day, and I mean every day, is coming to you with questions or needing decisions made. It can be the training room, the equipment room, the weight room, the video room and the locker room. Then you have your full-time staff, your GA staff and your quality control guys. Let’s not forget the 100+ players you’re responsible for every day. Then when you leave the football building you have your bosses in the athletic administration office and the chancellor’s office. Next you have your alumni base, your donors and the fans. You have all of that coming at you at all times and on every day. Don’t forget you’re also trying to have some resemblance of a family life as well at home. Then comes a little thing called coaching and trying to win. It can be overwhelming and it takes time to get used to because it’s almost impossible to prepare for it until you’re living it.”
- If you could go back in time to talk to a young Scott Satterfield, what are the 2-3 things you would want to tell him most that he didn’t know, to get him ready to be a head coach? – “The first thing I would tell him is to remember to be true to himself and you have to be who you are. You can’t try to be somebody else. That first year as a head coach will test you and you will have moments when you start to question yourself. Particularly when things aren’t going well. It’s easy to be confident in the good times. But you have to remain confident in the bad times that your decisions and the process will bring you out of that and back onto the right track. So I would tell my younger self to stick to his guns and trust his instincts. Be patient and be confident in your decisions.”
- What do you do better now as a head coach than you did during that first year? – “I am better at managing all of the chaos I described above. My time management is better and more efficient. I knew then, but I definitely believe it now more than ever that my #1 priority as head coach of this program are the student-athletes in our locker room. I have to do whatever I can on a daily basis to make sure I put them in the best position to have success in the classroom, on the field and in their college experience as a whole. Everything else comes second to that or else I’m doing them a disservice. So I think I’m more comfortable now protecting that priority and if that means having to say no to some things, then that’s what I have to do. College football is a year round thing now. There is no off season in terms of the time with the players and the focus that I have to have on them as their head coach.”
- Outside of Appalachian State, how much football do you watch during the season? – “You know what, I watch as much football as I can. My wife and my kids are always asking me how I could possibly want to watch more football when I’m home. But I enjoy it. I do analyze it at times and what different guys are doing with their schemes. But I just like to watch to football. I can relax when I watch games and not care about who wins and who loses. For instance, we’ve played our bowl games somewhat early in the bowl season the last three years. It’s awesome, after winning those games, to be able to kick my feet up and relax over the holidays and enjoy the bowl season. I love it. Like I’ve said before, I’m a sports guy. Have been my whole life.”
- Are there any coaches or programs that you like to follow in particular? – “Not really. And what I mean is I like to watch everybody. I love games like the Army-Navy game. And I do like watching teams like Oklahoma play who throw it around like we do. Honestly, I can find plays or sets in any game that interest me and I make a mental note to discuss with my staff. That’s just coaching and being a student of the game. Nobody is ever done learning in this job.”
- What coaches do you consider your mentors that you like to stay in touch with and talk football with from time to time? – “There have been several guys over the years that I would either consider a mentor, or a guy that I learned certain aspects of the job from as a head coach. Obviously Coach Moore has had a huge influence on my career and is a huge reason I’m where I’m at today. When I was at Toledo I came in there with Matt Campbell as Co-OCs and I had actually known Matt for about four years prior to that so we always keep in touch and talk ball together. We talk all the time and compare notes. Jason Candle, who’s the head coach now at Toledo is somebody I consider a friend in the business and we talk regularly. Shawn Elliott at Georgia State and I played together and coached together for about 17 years, so he’s one of my great friends in this business. That’s the thing too, is it’s not just your mentors that you can learn from, but also your friends and your peers in the business as well. As time has gone on I’ve gotten to know a lot of other head coaches now and all of those relationships have helped me in different ways.”
- Do you keep a list of guys on hand that you would call in case you have an opening on your staff? – “I have a mental list, yes. Guys I keep in mind for those situations. I know who I would call in those moments. But it’s all about timing and that list has to evolve. I’m also a proponent of developing guys from within your staff too. The last two guys we just hired were homegrown guys who have been here and played here. I love developing young coaches because that’s how I got to be here in the first place. There are five of us now on my staff that played here at App. That’s important to me and speaks to the culture part of this program I mentioned earlier.”
- What advice do you give to those young assistants or guys that approach you at the coaches’ convention about what they need to do to become a head coach? – “Number one, do the best job you can do in whatever role you are in at the moment. Be the best guy at that job. Create value in everything you do in your specific job. If you create value to a program, somebody will take notice. It could be a head coach or another assistant coach, but somebody will notice you if you’re bringing value to the table. For example, if your job is to break down the film, don’t just break down the film. Do that and then some. Do the extra work. That’s what will get you noticed. The extra work is what adds value to what you’re bringing to the table. The guys that do the little things well and make the most of those little things will rise to the top. When people can always say that you’re one of the guys that always does more than is expected of you, then the sky is the limit for you in this business.”
- In 2014, your team reached a point that season where the direction of the program was on the line, and quite possibly, the direction of your head coaching career. Your team turned the corner in a major way, and they haven’t looked back since. How did you make that happen? – “It started in the Troy game on the road. During my first year, we went 4-8. It was only the second losing season at App since I don’t know when. Then we started the next season 1-5. We had just lost to Liberty at home for homecoming. That was the low point here for sure. It was miserable. Then we went on the road to Troy. I told our DFO that Sunday, if we win that game then we’re stopping to get milkshakes for everybody. We’ve never done that before or something like that. We go into that game and we played an unbelievable game. I knew we were getting better before that but we weren’t winning. But I could see us getting better as a team. I just asked our guys to stay together and stay the course. Feed off of each other and have each other’s back. It was getting ready to pop in our favor. Now in my own mind I was hoping it was getting ready to pop(laughing), but I think the guys on the staff saw it coming too. So we beat Troy, but then a few weeks later we went on the road in back-to-back games and beat Arkansas State and Lafayette, two perennial powers in the Sun Belt. That gave our guys all the confidence in the world at that point. We knew at that point we belonged and we could compete in the Sun Belt. We finished the season on a 6-game winning streak to end up 7-5. We carried that momentum into the offseason and into the last few seasons. Since starting my tenure at 5-12, we have gone 36-9 since that moment, which only follows schools like Alabama and Clemson for the best record over the last 45 games. It all came down to believing in ourselves at that moment and sticking together instead of fracturing apart. Our culture won out and that resulted in winning ever since then.”
- Was seeing your guys persevere during that time and ignite the progress that’s taken place since then the highlight so far of your head coaching tenure? – “Absolutely. It’s been tremendous. Those players that went 4-8 were the class that just graduated with all of those wins and bowl victories. That class trusted us and they carried us through those valleys and saw it through to the mountain top of winning conference championships. It’s been awesome to be a part of and it’s been awesome to be their head coach.”
From the field at Orange High School back in Hillsborough to the stadium in Boone they call “The Rock”; Coach Satterfield worked his way from a walk-on into the starting lineup as the quarterback for the Mountaineers. He did the same thing in his coaching career. Starting on the field at Mitchell County High School, and then on to different stops in between, Coach Satterfield has now reached the mountain top in Boone. He’s a head coach, like he always knew he would be. He was able to do something he wanted to do for a living instead of something he could do. Today, some young Mountaineer fan in elementary school might be doing a book report in school on a sports’ figure. That sports’ figure might just be Coach Satterfield.