By Rick Assad
Adam Colman, the Burbank High football coach, has literally come full circle.
A winning quarterback for the Bulldogs, Colman then attended UCLA where he majored in Psychology and graduated in 2015.
Colman found his way back to the Burbank campus during his senior year in Westwood, where he became an assistant coach.
When Richard Broussard stepped down as the head coach after the 2016 season, Colman, who guided the Bulldogs to the CIF Southern Section playoffs three times, including twice to the quarterfinals as a sophomore and junior, is entering his fourth season at the helm.
“To be honest, when I went to college my goal was to experience life without sports and find out what I was really passionate about outside of football,” he said. “I always knew I wanted to coach at some point, but that could’ve been my kids’ little league team one day for all I knew.”
Colman, who passed for slightly more than 4,000 yards and unloaded 44 touchdown passes in two and a half years between 2008 and 2010, spoke about what it’s like to be back home.
“I got into coaching at my alma mater because of people and that was what has guided me ever since,” he explained. “I had amazing coaches and teachers at BHS that shaped me into the man I am. In college I realized I wanted to give back and try to have that kind of impact on the next generation.”
Colman, who teaches Algebra I and II at Burbank, added: “When Coach [Broussard] got the head coach position, I knew I had to join him. I always looked up to him and he has always been my mentor and friend to me, so getting to coach with him was a dream,” he recalled. “My goal became to coach with him at BHS and build something special for the kids in our community.”
Colman added: “I honestly had no intentions of becoming the head coach, but when he left I felt it was my responsibility to carry on what we started together back in 2008 when he was the offensive coordinator and I was the quarterback,” he said.
Returning to his old stomping grounds has been a blessing for Colman.
“The experience being the head coach at your alma mater is obviously special,” he noted. “I know this community and what these kids’ lives are like because I lived it not that long ago. I’m an only child with no relatives West of the Mississippi besides my parents, so growing up the football team became my family and it still is to this day. That’s part of what has made the experience so special – getting to coach kids who have had brothers that I played with or coached before them.”
Colman, whose squads have qualified for the postseason all three seasons, continued: “The word “family” gets thrown around a lot in sports, but being at Burbank, it’s more than just a word. It’s a promise that no matter where you go or how old you get, we’re always going to be here for you because you’re part of the family,” he said.
When asked what’s the biggest difference between being a player and coach, Colman had a ready answer.
“I would probably say being a player was more difficult. As a player, especially as a quarterback, you want to feel like the result of the game is in your control,” he said. “So you put more pressure on yourself to be perfect and you care more about stuff that’s out of your control. As a coach, you realize that you can only control so much, so you put all your energy into the things you can control and you’re at peace with the things out of your control.”
Aside from reaching the semifinals in 2017 and the quarterfinals in 2019, Colman has built something lasting at Burbank.
“We care about not just the four years we get them, but the next forty-plus years too,” he said about that relationship. “Football ends for everyone at some point, so we better have prepared you for that or we haven’t done our job as coaches. I’m a big follower of John Wooden and it all really falls in line with his philosophy. The Pyramid of Success, the Two Sets of Three, everything he preached was about life and character first and being an athlete second.”
With the presence of COVID-19, the Burbank football team will begin its season early in 2021.
“COVID has definitely thrown a wrench in our plans. We were off to a great start in the off-season when everything shut down, but luckily we have an amazing group of kids and they were able to keep that momentum going,” Colman said. “We did all of our spring practice over Zoom. Watched a ton of film, studied the playbook. Once we knew the season was postponed, we scaled back a little and have turned our attention to culture building and using Zoom for workouts to keep everyone in shape so that when we are able to return to the field we aren’t starting from scratch.”
Colman added: “The biggest thing has been mindset,” he pointed out. “Like Wooden’s second Set of Three: don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t make excuses. We’re looking at this as an opportunity to get more time together and more time to improve both physically and mentally and, ultimately, we get to play one more memorable season in January.”
Because everyone is human, mistakes are bound to happen. Still Colman wants maximum effort.
“Not to get too philosophical, but I really see success as Wooden’s definition: “piece of mind that is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming” and I share that with our kids,” he said. “Winning games, scoring high on a test, whatever the objective measure people may use really doesn’t matter. All you can do is measure yourself against what you are capable of.”
Colman went on: “For me, coaching and teaching is a passion so I’m going to put everything I’ve got into it. I’m not going to leave any room for any “what-ifs” and when all is said and done, I’ll be content knowing I gave everything I had to this,” he said. “If other people see the results as success, then that’s great, but I’m just focused on being the best coach and teacher I can be.”
Colman has constructed his program behind hard work, diligence and talent. “From a schematic perspective, my philosophy is a bit malleable. I think at the high school level when you’re not out recruiting or drafting players, you have to be able to work with who you have,” he said. “So I try to learn as much as I can so that each year I can assess our team and come up with a system that is going to put them in the best position to succeed.”
One way Colman prepares his team is to play a rugged non-league schedule. “But ultimately, regardless of the scheme, we are always going to be tough. We take pride in our toughness,” he noted. “We don’t back down from a challenge and have the most fun playing the best competition. A lot of the time we’re not the biggest team on the field, but we’re going to battle no matter who the opponent is and win or lose, we’re going to earn our opponent’s respect.”
Finding wins isn’t like picking out a pair of shoes. “Dealing with adversity is always difficult. We take a few approaches. First, we schedule the best competition we can in our non-league season so our kids are used to struggling. We want things to be difficult so that they get comfortable in those situations,” he said. “In football, there’s a saying: “you’re never as good as you think you are, but you’re never as bad as you think you are,” so it’s all about staying level and approaching each game as a new challenge. No matter how good or bad you did the week before, it doesn’t matter this week and it won’t matter the week after that.”
Colman continued: “A lot of it comes down to leadership and that’s why we’ve developed a Leadership Committee to really teach our kids what it means to be a leader and how to lead both when things are going well and when things are difficult,” he said. “It’s all of the work you do in preparation that helps you right the ship when you hit adversity. There’s no magic pill or speech that is going to fix things in the moment if you haven’t properly prepared.”