Clemson’s coach reflects on what he has learned in his first 149 games as a head coach
As he was heading into his second year as a head coach, Dabo Swinney was asked what he learned during his first year on the job.
The question kind of caught Clemson’s coach by surprise. He had not thought about it.
When he went back to his office later that afternoon, Swinney went into his desk draw and found a sheet of loose-leaf paper and wrote across the top, “What I have learned as a head coach.” That single sheet of paper has now turned into five as he writes down those moments when he learns something new about his position.
“I just write little notes on it along the way,” Swinney said.
Those notes are especially significant this week as Swinney embarks on his 150th game as a head coach when No. 1 Clemson hosts Charlotte Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
In his first 149 games, the Tigers’ head coach has posted a 119-30 record, a .799 win percentage. He has already coached the second most games in Clemson history, behind College Football Hall of Famer Frank Howard’s 295 career games from 1940-’69.
The biggest thing Swinney has learned in his time as a head coach is how to manage his time.
“I think that is probably the biggest thing,” he said. “I would probably say for any new head coach, it takes a little while to try and figure that out because there is just no way … you can be very, very prepared for a job, but until you do that job there is just no better teacher than experience.”
Swinney says one of the biggest challenges was learning how to be more efficient with his time and understanding what was really important and what wasn’t. He says he has had to learn how to be very organized and efficient in that area.
“When you first get a job there is just so much to do from organization, processes, philosophies, the people. Just getting everything and the synergy you need to be successful. It is a very hard thing,” Swinney said. “So, in the initial stages it is a natural instinct to do too much. So, you can become inefficient that way.
“It takes a little while to kind of figure out and get things in order the way you want so that you can be efficient and really manage your time and the organization the way it should be.”
It has worked out well for Swinney. In his 11 years as the Tigers’ head coach, he is one of the 17 winningest coaches in the history of college football and he has already won two national championships.
But despite all of his success, the Clemson coach is still learning what it is like to be a head coach. He admitted he went into his notebook just a few days ago and wrote something new down.
“I need another piece of loose-leaf paper because I just write random things down,” he said while smiling. “It is just things I have learned along the way.”
What does Swinney hope all the notes and education lead to one day? Maybe more national championships? Maybe a College Football Hall of Fame induction?
“I am always learning,” he said with a smile on his face. “I got a long way to go. When I grow up one day, it is going to be awesome.”
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