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I believe coaching is similar to college advising in so many different ways. I have been coaching high school football since 2014 and have been an AdviseMI college adviser for two years. Both roles require a lot of patience and teaching. During my time coaching, I have discovered that not every athlete learns the same way. For example, some of my players just need a play sheet to memorize and study the plays, while others need visual demonstrations on either a white board or on the field with moving people. College advising is the same way; some students learn the college process from listening to me speak, some need a PowerPoint presentation with visuals, and lastly, some need a one-on-one advising session to really make the material stick.

Both coaching and advising involve building relationships with students from diverse cultural backgrounds. Football coaching has taught me how to work individually with each student. Some athletes need tough love, and some just need a pat on the back and a reminder that you support them. I truly believe this results in a trust factor. Once you start earning students’ trust and they know you care about them, they will listen to the guidance you offer. This holds true for advising as well. In my role as an AdviseMI adviser, one of the greatest strengths I have had is my relationship with the students. They know I care about them and only want the best, so they trust my help and guidance in navigating the college process. I still have students from last year asking for my opinion on certain classes, and requesting I look over their FAFSA. One of my favorite quotes by Theodore Roosevelt is particularly fitting: “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Through my service as a college adviser, I have learned the ins and outs of the college admission process. This has enabled me to become a much better coach as well. I handle the recruiting at Center Line High School for most sports. We had more than eight student athletes go on to play college athletics last year, and expect to have around six do the same this year. Because I know how the college admission process works, I can help these students target schools based upon their academic skill levels, to match the requirements to get in. Many college coaches have told me during recruiting that the knowledge I have in the college process as a whole makes recruiting students from Center Line so much easier. From transcript retrieval, FAFSA submission, completion of college applications and outside scholarships, to understanding how students can use the Michigan Tuition Incentive Program and Pell Grant to help fund their education — I owe this knowledge to AdviseMI.

AdviseMI has done a lot for my professional career. When I first entered the cohort I had no idea what advising work was like, and the disservice experienced by students who don’t have a full-time college adviser on staff. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and work with AdviseMI toward college access, and to be able to provide support and guidance to the students who otherwise would not have as much support. I encourage anyone who works in public education to also coach a sport, and help build relationships with their students.

Zachary Zimmerman is a second-year adviser at Center Line High School. He also coaches high school football and writes about using similar techniques in both coaching and college advising.