Greg Gulley has been an Annapolis PAL Hawks football coach for nine years. He’s past commissioner of the organization and single dad to four kids, ages 9-19. We caught up with him this month to find out about his passion for football, his family and how he does it all. Here is an excerpt of our conversation.
1. Why do you coach?
There are not too many people in the city that played high school and college football and tried out for the NFL. (5 teams, never made it). Not many have been down the road I have, and I wanted to give my sons and others a chance to learn the game the right way, not the way it’s seen on TV.
2. How do you coach? What’s “the right way”?
I try to simplify it. Football is a lot like life. Your teammates have to depend on you, and you have to depend on them. There is a respect you have to maintain. You have to do right by the people around you, and they hold you accountable. As a football player, you have a job to do, just as a student has to go to school. I try to figure out a way to explain it so they understand what is expected on the football field. Football taught me so many life lessons. It teaches you to be accountable, to have a plan, to execute the plan and, if there is a bump in the road, you have to adjust the plan.
3. What do you like best about coaching?
The relationships you build with the kids. You see them grow and progress from point A to point B. It’s the best feeling to see a kid that wasn’t the best athlete when you first met them, but you instill confidence in them and see them get better. I love seeing a player that I coached as a 5-year-old make the high school team. They remember all the lessons they learned at 5 years old.
4. What’s your favorite age to coach?
I like coaching 5- and 6-year-olds because they are raw. Their mind is not contaminated by what’s on TV. At that age, it’s pure. They just want to have fun; they don’t want to be superstars. They just want to be part of something. There are so many distractions for kids nowadays — to make an impact at such a young age is gratifying.
5. What’s one thing parents do that annoys coaches?
Trying to coach without coaching. Those parents who sit on the sidelines yelling and screaming what we should do, and need to do, but don’t take time out to volunteer. If you have the knowledge, and clearly know more than me, feel free to come and take my place. That, and the parent who constantly yells at their child when I’m trying to work with them to teach them something. A lot of times, it’s not the parent but the grandparent or aunt or uncle who isn’t at practice every day and wants us to run like the Dallas Cowboys.
6. What’s your favorite team?
The Baltimore Ravens because of Ray Lewis. I played linebacker and Ray Lewis was an idol to me. He had such dedication to the game and passion. Since he’s retired, I stuck with the Ravens because they are the home team.
7. What do you do when you are not on the field?
Watch football. I love all kinds of football but professional is probably my favorite. Football is always on in the house — the NFL Network, ESPN, Fantasy Football. I get up in the morning and watch football.
I tell people football saved my life. Growing up, my mother was sick. She died when I was 13. Football was my only outlet. My dad was a state trooper, my older brother was running the streets and my younger brother was too young. When she was sick (she had Lou Gehrig’s Disease), I had to bathe her, get her out of bed, help her when the nurse wasn’t around. Football was it for me. It was my outlet.
I also love exercise, music, going to concerts and spending time with family.
8. Do you find it difficult to balance work, coaching and family?
Two years ago I did, but because I’ve reduced my role at PAL, it’s gotten a lot easier. I used to come home sore, tired and too exhausted to spend time with the family. It would stress me out, and my girlfriend was not too happy about that. One of the reasons I scaled back at PAL was because I wanted to make my family my main focus. But family also takes a lot of sacrifice. There was a time that three of my kids were all playing a sport. For a three-year span, we went from football to basketball to baseball with no breaks in between. Last year was the first time no one played baseball and it felt like I was on vacation.
By Betsy Stein