University of Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard talks balancing football with home life

By Kailey Harmon | Posted 7/11/2018

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In a recent USA Football Coach and Coordinator podcast, University of Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard joined as the first guest on the new “Home Team” series. This segment, hosted by assistant coach and offensive line coach at Brookfield Central (Wisconsin) High School, Joel Nellis, will broadcast once every Monday for the next few weeks. Nellis was also a guest on the Coach and Coordinator podcast on July 2. The series will include interviews with various coaches and how the balance a career in football with home life.

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Before coaching at Wisconsin, Leonhard was an All-American defensive back there. He later spent 10 seasons in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns. Leonhard is entering his third season with the Badgers. Leonhard coached the defensive backs during his first season at Wisconsin, and then was promoted to defensive coordinator in his second year.

In the podcast, Leonhard discusses the importance of creating a balance with home life and your career. He also shares how he integrates his family into his work.

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“Family is No. 1 for me and making time for them, whether it’s taking my kids into the facility for practice and have dinner afterwards or go home a little early,” Leonhard said. “It makes me a better coach in my opinion. I’ve got to find the time throughout the day to make those phone calls and Facetime with the kids because I think it puts a better perspective on what we’re doing.”

Leonhard says that it’s easy for players to be self-centered in sports and it’s important to see that it’s bigger than just them.

“There’s sacrifices that are made by everyone who touches the program, and I think it’s important for those guys to see that because that’s life,” Leonhard says. “There’s going to be sacrifices in everything you decide to pursue and some of them aren’t comfortable, some of them you regret, but it’s daily. That’s how football translates to life.”

RELATED CONTENT: [PODCAST] Brookfield Central (Wisconsin) High School offensive line coach Joel Nellis talks about work-life balance

Leonhard wants to see his kids learn from the passion he’s had coaching football and apply it to their lives one day.

“I think if they see how much it means to you and how much positive impact it puts on you, they’re going to learn from it. Whatever they [kids] decide to get into when they grow up to just be passionate about and care about the people involved and feel like they’re making an impact.”

To hear the rest of Leonhard's interview on the podcast, click here.

Subscribe to the USA Football Coach and Coordinator podcast on iTunes.