Kurt Hines has been coaching the Coronado High School (CHS) Islanders football team for the past five years where he has become a well-loved and respected figure in Coronado athletics. Hines leads by example with a philosophy of building meaningful relationships with his teams and coaching staff, and putting players first, to help them reach their potential on and off the field.
Hines grew up playing football but it wasn’t until his first coaching experience in college that he considered pursuing it. “One of my professors asked for volunteers to coach for a middle school special needs flag football team and I jumped at the chance,” he recalled. Hines was pursuing a major in elementary education at a school in New Hampshire and saw this as a perfect opportunity to get first-hand experience teaching students around that age.
“There was a young woman in sixth grade, I believe, that had Down syndrome, and she and I were tossing the football. She dropped it five or six times in a row but then the first time she caught it she just lit up,” he continued. “It was a moment I’ll never forget, where I always knew I wanted to be a teacher (although school was always hard for me) but I never thought about coaching until that moment.”
Hines went on to teach elementary school and a few years into teaching ending up getting his first official coaching job leading a freshman football program at the Souhegan High School. “[The high school coach] came by with his team manager, and he showed up with a young man who had Down syndrome so that was kind of a cool connection,” he noted.
After seven years leading the freshman program there and a season as varsity assistant coach at Goffstown High School, Hines went on to become head coach at Bedford High School. “I was able to be a part of building a powerhouse,” Hines described of his time at the, then, brand new school and program. Hines and his family then made the move from New Hampshire to San Diego to be closer to their eldest daughter, where Hines has continued to both teach elementary school and coach football.
“This is my 25th year of coaching high school football and I just love everything about it,” he commented. Hines takes a people first approach to coaching with an emphasis on building relationships. I asked him if there have been any people or moments that have influenced that approach and Hines told me about a player he had coached and worked with in the offseason who had taken his own life. “The family asked me to speak at the funeral, and that incident didn’t really change the way I coached per se, but it really emphasized more the importance of relationships and that as great as the game is, it’s a tool. It’s a vehicle to empower people, bless people, and serve people,” Hines said.
“I try to share with our staff all the time that our number one job is to serve [our players],” he continued. “Yes, we want to make them better football players but we want to build relationships.” Hines says his background in elementary education has also served him well as a high school coach. “People think, ‘Oh, those are so different,’ but they are so closely entwined because I think it really comes down to those relationships. I’ve had parents tell me about how their kids hated math and now they love it, and I don’t think I’m a special teacher, I just focus on the relationships.”
For Hines that means creating a space where his students and players know that their interests, their growth, and who they are is something being genuinely cared about and encouraged, and they feel comfortable to try and fail. “We tell our players all the time that we want them to mess up in practice. If you’re not messing up you’re probably not getting reps, and if you’re not getting reps in practice you’re not getting them in the game,” he explained. “So we tell them, ‘Mess up as much as you can, Monday through Thursday, so come Friday night you mess up less when it really matters.’”
Hines continued, “Teaching also helps me [with coaching] because there are kids in my class who have IEPs or 504s for special education, and sometimes coaches forget on the football field that there may be a kid that you think is being disrespectful but they may have a learning disability or something else going on. And they may care just as much, but need a lot more teaching.”
He mentioned one player he’s coached who lost a starting position, pulling himself out with a minor injury. “I talked to him after the game and then called him two days later and just asked him, ‘Was it really this body part that was hurting that much or were you a little bit afraid?’ And it was over the phone and he could easily have just lied to me but he paused and then told me it was both,” Hines said, explaining that it’s those moments where he can connect with a player or student on a level to help facilitate their growth and personal success that keeps him inspired as a coach and teacher day after day.
Hines recognizes that his teams have players of different athletic backgrounds, abilities, and familiarity with the game and he and his coaching staff strive to create a program that meets each player where they are. “There are players on the team that are all character, all heart, all great athletes; it’s easy to love them. But when you get the players that don’t fit the bill as much, can’t put their helmet on straight, all that stuff, that fires me up,” he told me.
“I truly think a lot of other programs they would either be bullied by the players, coaches, or not even part of the team and I think we pride ourselves on having a football culture where every one of our players thrives on and off the field,” Hines added, mentioning the example the coaching staff sets for these young players when they see that each player is treated with just as much importance and respect as another. “We want to empower our players and we tell them, ‘We want you to be great, but you have to be willing to go out there and make mistakes.’”
That mentality plays into Hines’ philosophy of how to grow a program overall that looks at every upcoming class, freshmen to senior, rather than relying solely on senior players for success. “If they’re a stud we want to help them become even better, and if they can barely put their cleats and helmet on we want to help them learn how to do that and then, get one percent better every day is what we preach.”
And for Hines, if his players can walk away from their time on the team knowing that their growth was more important than the game and that they were a part of something bigger than themselves, that’s a win. “As passionate as we are as coaches about the game, we’re more passionate about them,” he explained. “I think as simple as that is – whether you’re raising a family, or its sports, or business – when people have relationships with others, they’re going to do more good and do the right things more often.”
This year’s program has 70 players on the roster (up from 41 last year) that includes students from each class along with three female athletes suiting up this year. “I love where we’re headed and think there is strength in numbers. If you have backups and players in practice challenging each other, it’s going to make us all better. And the more success we have on the field, the more it’s going to attract young men and young women and the more lives we can change.”
One thing that will make this year’s season special for Hines as well is the opportunity to coach with his son, Brockton “Brock” Hines. “It has been absolutely amazing, for me,” Hines commented, adding how appreciative his is of this chance for them to share this experience and time together right now. “My dad recently passed away and I used to call him every Saturday morning after football games for 25 years. And there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s looking down and seeing us, and it’s just been awesome.”
Coming to Coronado, Hines was aware that the community wasn’t necessarily a “football town.” One thing he hopes to do as he’s grown the Islander program, especially as sports have been able to return in full, is to generate interest and excitement for the sport and continue to let more students discover the game. “Community support for all sports is huge,” he noted, adding how important youth sports is for helping students stay healthy, motivated, and in successful in school.
The Islander Football season kicked off on August 19 with a win against Montgomery High School. Varsity games will continue to be played on Friday nights where fans are welcome and encouraged. Visit maxpreps.com for further schedule details for both the varsity and junior varsity teams.
VOL. 112, NO. 37 - Sept. 14, 2022