Five Assistant Coaches Attend Symposium

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Tight ends coach Ben McAdoo (left) and running backs coach Edgar Bennett (center) were two of the four Packers coaches who attended the NFL Coaches Symposium last week in Florida.

Assistant coaches who have recently broken into the NFL ranks have no way of predicting how far up the ladder they might eventually climb.

But it never hurts to start laying some groundwork early, and that's what the 2008 NFL Coaches Symposium was all about last week in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Five members of the Packers coaching staff -- assistant special teams coach Shawn Slocum, assistant offensive line coach Jerry Fontenot, running backs coach Edgar Bennett, tight ends coach Ben McAdoo and new defensive quality control coach Joe Whitt -- attended the symposium and returned to their coaching duties feeling both better prepared for their future and eager to apply some lessons in leadership, teaching and communication as the team returns to the practice field next week for OTAs.

The sessions, held over three days, covered a wide range of topics. First-time coordinators such as the Dallas Cowboys' Jason Garrett (offense) and the Buffalo Bills' Perry Fewell (defense) discussed how to prepare for an interview for a coaching promotion, while a New York City fire chief highlighted the leadership traits he has found beneficial in an intense line of work.

"You want to make progress in this profession, and at an event like this you get to meet the top people in our game, be around them and see how they operate," Slocum said. "One of the biggest things I got out of it was the leadership qualities of different guys, and how they're about the same fundamental things.

"If you're in another profession, this is the kind of things CEOs go to, to see what other leaders are doing in their professions."

Other presenters included various front-office executives, who talked about the process of hiring a head coach and what they're looking for in an interview. And Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin, hired last year, spoke about making the transition from an assistant coach to a head coach, and how to start implementing a specific program or system.

Tomlin's message was in essence that there's a way to adhere to a plan and be a strong leader without acting like you know it all.

"He talked about all the pitfalls you can run into as a head coach, but he basically said that whatever you do, come in with an open mind," Fontenot said. "Whatever scheduling and whatever system you want to get done, stick to your values and whatever you believe in, but be pliable and be open to change.

"A lot of that information can be applicable to anyone in any position in the NFL, or any walk of life or profession."

There were plenty of discussions about issues outside of most assistants' core job descriptions too. NCAA president Myles Brand talked about the relationship between the colleges and the pros, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer provided some media training, and an FBI agent talked about the influences gangs and gang members can have on young players entering the league.

Commissioner Roger Goodell also addressed the coaches about the state of the league and answered some questions about the upcoming collective bargaining issues.

Whether or not coaches have major aspirations to rise through the ranks in the future, hearing how other coaches have become successful still has plenty of value.

{sportsad300}Bennett said hearing other coaches talk about planning and teaching methods, communication tactics, and coaching philosophies gave him some thoughts to bring back to his current job in the here and now.

"It's great to have those ambitions and wanting to be more as a coordinator or head coach, but an important thing they touched on was continuing to do your job to the best of your ability, and making sure you're doing what you're supposed to do at your current level," Bennett said.

Added McAdoo: "They walked you, step-by-step, through the interview process and preparing for the interview, but they reinforced that the way you do your job now is what gets you the opportunity."

The symposium also presented an opportunity for all the coaches to network with their peers. McAdoo noted that other than the annual scouting combine in Indianapolis, those types of opportunities are getting harder to come by.

"It's always good to be around talented individuals and people with a lot of knowledge," he said. "You take from it what you can. Not everything fits you -- you have your ideals and everything -- but if you can take one, two or three things from an event like that, that's always a positive."

And like most professions, you never know when an opportunity might present itself to move up, so it pays to be ready.

"It gave me an opportunity to see that it's good to have a vision for yourself," Fontenot said. "I know what my job is and my job description and know what I need to do, but having a vision to see where you might want to go is important.

"I'm very happy with what I do. I love working with the offensive line, and I'm blessed to be able to do that. But it's nice to see a whole world of opportunity out there if you want to go out and get it."

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