The art of coaching football

From player to coach — is the emphasis still on winning? (Photo by Dan Adorn)

By Ashley Tarckini
Saj Thakkar, a Fitchburg State graduate and former football player, has taken on a new role here at the University as the running backs and special teams coach. “I can relate to the players because I was recently in college and in their position.”
Thakkar, a graduate of the FSU class of 2013, can easily relate to the football players because not too long ago, he was one of them. Thakkar has been a coach here at the University for 2 years, but didn’t always plan on this. “Around sophomore or junior year” was when he started to have an interest in coaching college football. “I didn’t see myself coaching football until I started playing in college.”
When asked the biggest differences between playing and coaching he said, “Coaching is mentally demanding and playing is more physically demanding.” Not only is Thakkar attending the football games, but a lot of planning goes into preparing for each game during the week. “There are more hours going into it as a coach. We plan for each game and set up films, lots of films, and review the previous games.”
There is a lot of game planning that goes into coaching and Thakkar says that is one of his strengths. Another one of his strengths is relating to the players on and off the field. “I know what they go through socially and academically. I know what the college life is like.” By recently graduating, he knows what the players go through on a daily basis and says that is what makes him a better coach.
The most important thing to Thakkar when he was a player was winning, as most college athletes would say, but that has changed since he has become a coach. “I want players to be successful, not just by winning, but in the classroom and the community.” Coach Thakkar also monitors study halls for the football players. This ensures the academic success of the players and helps them do well in the classrooms. It is very important to coach Thakkar to motivate the players in every way possible.
It’s very important to Thakkar that he stays humble after a win and that he gets the team to do the same. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves after a win.” After losing a game he says, “We need to fix our mistakes, learn from them, and move on. One game doesn’t mean everything.” Thakkar doesn’t like to dwell on a losing game. “It’s in the past and we need to regroup our focus for the next game. It’s important we bounce back.”
A challenge for Thakkar when coaching football is managing the levels of all the players. “Everyone wants to play”, he said on how he goes about planning for each game. “It’s hard because you have freshman that come in that are ready to play, and seniors that have been here for four years and want to play every chance they get.” For Thakkar, it’s finding a medium between all that.
When asked his purpose for being a coach, he responded “I not only want to make them better players, but I want to better their future.” Coach Thakkar has big goals for his own future. He is currently in graduate school for Business and wants to become a Division I coach.
When asked what his favorite thing about football was, he said, “The team aspect.” Thakkar has a big passion for football and is sharing all his knowledge as a football coach. He sees potential in his team and believes that they can win a championship this year. His main goals are to stay focused and humble and be the best coach he can be for his players.