by Katie Stuhldreher
Notre Dame running backs and special teams coach Buzz Preston was among 20 ethnic minority football coaches selected nationwide to attend the inaugural NCAA Advanced Coaching Program in Orlando, Florida, on January 2-4, 2004.
This unique opportunity for strengthening coaching skills and networking with other minority coaches across the nation was developed through the NCAA Coaches Academy. In light of the fact that only four African-Americans hold head coaching positions out of 117 schools with Division I-A football programs, the Coaches Academy strives to provide such opportunities to assist ethnic minority coaches in excelling to head coaching positions. This conference received support from both the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and the Black Coaches Association (BCA).
“I really enjoyed being able to meet other coaches who strive for the same things I strive for, especially coaches from other parts of the country who I would not otherwise run across,” Preston said.
The three-day conference consisted of structured discussions and networking focused on topics including communication, fiscal responsibilities, camera tips, building a philosophy, academics, and goal-setting.
“This conference was a great opportunity to gain different opinions on how people do things and how to handle certain situations,” Preston commented.
Although this is only Preston’s second year at Notre Dame, he was one of the more experienced coaches at the conference, with over 27 years of experience behind him. His extensive and diverse coaching career has included working with such programs as Washington, Washington State, UNLV, Stanford, Hawaii (his alma mater), and Southern Illinois.
Thus, Preston mentioned that a good deal of the material at the conference was simply reinforcing things that he already knew and presenting new perspectives on familiar topics. He also enjoyed the opportunity to interact with many younger and less experienced coaches just getting started.
“I really liked the one-on-one, individual atmosphere at the conference because it allowed me to offer my insights to some of the younger guys while many other coaches shared their interesting perspectives with me that I will carry back to Notre Dame,” Preston added.
Preston continued, “It’s good to get to know all of these other coaches because somewhere down the line we can help each other and know if we’d want to work with one another in the future.”
Preston commented that he would strongly recommend such an opportunity to other coaches in the future because it is always helpful to network with peers who are dealing with the same situations and can offer help throughout one’s career.