Graduate assistant jobs at the college football level are typically reserved for former players and graduate students interested in entering the world of coaching. Koty Church, a 2011 West Lincoln graduate and former Rebel football player, was able to bypass those steps and enter straight into a graduate assistant job with the Mars Hill College Lions last year. He wasn’t a total stranger to the pressures and responsibilities of coaching — Church has previously worked with the West Lincoln Optimist Club and football camps at several schools in Lincoln County.
Church, a history major now in his second year at Mars Hill, said when he found out he could delve into coaching straight out of high school, he jumped at the opportunity.
“I wanted to go ahead and get a job coaching because I knew that even if I played, it would be in college and that would be it,” he said. “Mars Hill was the only school that gave me the opportunity to do what I’m doing now. I talked to the guys here and they said I could start right as a freshman and get oriented to being a graduate assistant rather than waiting.”
Church’s first year at Mars Hill was a monumental one for the school’s football program. Mars Hill earned a share of the South Atlantic Conference championship, had its most wins in a season since 1985 and earned a trip to the Division-II playoffs. Running back Jonas Randolph was the recipient of Division-II’s most significant award, the Harlon Hill Trophy, and set several school and conference records in the process.
The Lions have started the 2012 season with a 1-2 overall record, and began conference play last week with a 38-0 win over Brevard College. Church said his responsibilities have grown along with his experience with the team. He is involved in the team’s film breakdown, he helps prepares the game plans for the upcoming week and works with the wide receivers and quarterbacks in practice.
“You have to know the offense and give your input out there if you can,” he said. “It’s a bit more stressful as the years go on. People might not think it’s that big of a deal, but behind the scenes they’re some of the most important things that have to get done.”
Church said that most importantly he is “learning the trade of coaching.” He plans to get a job as an assistant at a Division-I FBS school when he graduates from Mars Hill, and the contacts he’s made already should help him get there.
“The coaching staff here has given me so many options,” he said. “All these guys know guys at pretty much any college in this country.”
Church’s long-term career goal is to become a head coach at a major Division-I school.