Higgins has football PhD

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

Raising three children has given Tom Higgins the perfect experience to be the head coach of a football team.

The daily routine for the Calgary Stampeders senior vice-president of football operations includes nurturing, instructing, discipline and psychoanalysis.

"I believe everybody is a coach," said Higgins. "It's the same as being a teacher. It's the dynamics of thinking like someone else and trying to get on the same wave length."

With about 25 years of coaching experience, Higgins can now call himself an expert. He came back to the Stampeders in the off-season to head up football operations after resigning as head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos.

Through 11 seasons in Edmonton, Higgins moved up from assistant general manager to GM then eventually head coach. He did everything there is to do in running a team, right down to working with concessions and ticket sales.

So when he returned to Calgary, he brought with him a greater appreciation for the entire business, especially when it comes to the Labour Day Classic and what the back-to-back games mean to both CFL clubs.

"When I left here, I was just a on-field guy," Higgins said. "I got my football PhD in Edmonton. I had the opportunity to hire and fire front office people, I had to let the head coach go the final time and then someone handed me the degree."

Being head of football operations means numerous duties. Among other things, Higgins meets daily with his co-ordinators to review game plans, talks with GM of player personnel Jim Barker for updates and speaks with vice-president of marketing Darrell Moir about game operations.

It's not uncommon for Higgins to work 12 to 16 hours a day to accommodate all his work.

The most important thing he does is review medical reports to find out how his players are feeling. This is when his parenting skills take over.

"There's not a day that goes by that we don't get a medical report but, even with that medical report, you still like to talk to the athlete directly," Higgins said. "A lot of times health is as much mental as it is physical. When you get back to being ready to play, a lot of it is mental. You have to believe you can do it.

"You have to listen to what's being said but you also have to look at how it's being said. Sometimes your eyes won't deceive you. A player might be out there who's supposed to be 100 percent but is clearly not. Sometimes you have to protect the athlete from themselves."


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