7 Lessons On Keeping Your Job via Frank Beamer


In a December 20, 2008 New York Times article entitled “One Loss Away From Dismissal”, the average tenure of the head coaching jobs in professional sports were given.

  • NHL – 2.58 seasons
  • NBA – 2.64 seasons
  • MLB – 3.78 seasons
  • NFL – 4.34 season  

Here is what they stated contributed to how long coaches stay in each sport.

  1. Length of seasons – Football has the shortest season so that may be why coaches stay the longest.  NBA and NHL seasons are longer allowing for more opportunity to change.
  2. Complexity – Football is the most complicated of the sports having the most complex systems.  If something isn’t working, you must be patient and give it more time because it is so difficult to start all over.
  3. Comparison – When owners see others have success, they want to emulate that and make the appropriate changes in hope of doing so.
  4. Marketplace – The NBA and NHL allow for many play-off teams.  Therefore, owners may think that a new voice or thought will immediately push their teams into contention.

 While win-loss records and the ability to get along with people ultimately determine coaching tenures, I feel the length of seasons, complexity of systems, comparison, and an expanded marketplace do not form the best decision grid for making coaching changes.

Take the case of current Virginia Tech Hokie Head Coach Frank Beamer.  Coach Beamer is one of the most beloved and respected coaches in college sports.  However, if we take a look at his record, we find something interesting at the beginning of his tenure.

  • 1987 – 2 wins, 9 losses
  • 1988 – 3 wins, 8 losses
  • 1989 – 6 wins, 4 losses, 1 tie
  • 1990 – 6 wins, 5 losses
  • 1991 – 5 wins, 6 losses
  • 1992 – 2 wins, 8 losses, 1 tie
  • 1993 – 9 wins, 3 losses and the rest is history.

So how did Beamer retain his position after such a difficult beginning?  Here are some insights:

  1. He had opportunity.  Because of NCAA violations, a loss of scholarships, and no television exposure as a southern independent, he had a job no one wanted.  
  2. He made tough decisions.  He had to remove three assistants who were not qualified. 
  3. He built a strong team around him.  He then hired the best assistants he could find.  
  4. He empowered his leadership.  He let them do their jobs. 
  5. He values people.  He intentionally spends personal time with his assistants.  
  6. He is authentic.  He has no hidden agendas and is genuinely likeable. 
  7. He had vision.  He knew even back in the early 90s his team would one day play for a national championship.  

In today’s world, Beamer would not have remained head coach after the ’89 season.   If you are looking at making a leadership change, what decision grid are you using? 

Opportunity, Courage, Teambuilding Skills, Empowerment, Values People, Authenticity, and Vision.  If your leader has these traits, be careful before dismissing them!  You may already have a Frank Beamer-type on your staff and don’t even know it.

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About Brian Dodd on Leadership

I am a church stewardship and leadership consultant for INJOY Stewardship Solutions. This blog combines my personal passions of church, sports, pop culture and family into a single leadership resource. I trust your time on this site will create conversations and add value to your life.

4 Responses to “7 Lessons On Keeping Your Job via Frank Beamer”

  1. This was an interesting read, thank you

  2. amazing stuff , this really helped me out … I’ll make sure to bookmark this page for future reference , keep it coming! 🙂

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