Past the End Zone: West Coast Zoom Clinic Goes National
By Gehrig Parker | Posted 2/25/2021
For San Jose State running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Alonzo Carter’s 28-year coaching career, it’s always been about using his experiences to benefit and uplift the community he finds himself in.
So when Spartans head coach Brett Brennan challenged his coaching staff to invest in their professional development and come into the 2020 season better than the year before, Carter didn’t have to stray far from the driving force that got him into coaching in the first place.
Hampered by a pandemic that was just starting to infiltrate every sector of society, Carter initially joined a running backs coach group through Zoom to talk ball and hone his craft. While on the call, however, he made a simple observation that would come to alter the course of his entire 2020 offseason: Everyone coached the same position and was Black.
Though always grounded by the adage “be where your feet are,” it got Carter thinking of how he could expand the conversation and bring fellow Black coaches together to help one another develop and advance their coaching careers towards earning jobs as coordinators and head coaches.
And so, the West Coast Zoom Clinic was born in March 2020. Guided by the principles of Listen, Learn and Network, what started as a group of 30 Black college positional coaches soon evolved to more than 600 coaches featuring a who's who speaker line up: Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, longtime Bengals head coach and current Arizona State assistant Marvin Lewis, Penn State head coach James Franklin, Stanford head coach David Shaw, Washington head coach Jimmy Lake, Syracuse head coach Dino Babers, Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards and Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliot, among a laundry list of others.
“As a Black coach, you’re often only given one shot as a coordinator or head coach,” Carter said. “The whole goal of these conversations was to learn from guys who had sat in the seat and learn what they did to help us climb the ladder. ‘What did it take to get there and how were they able to maintain their position?’ These were the things we were asking, and it really became a who’s who of sharing information.”
With the help of his co-host and Oregon State wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator Kefense Hynson and his wife Roezell, Carter held the bi-weekly West Coast Zoom Clinic from March through September of last year, totaling more than 8,000 participants.
“I don’t emphasize this enough, but it was really getting everyone on the same page to understand how we as minority coaches could help and support each other,” Carter said. “We might be competitive on the field, but it shouldn’t get in the way of being brothers off the field and doing what we can for one another because when one of us wins, we all do.”
Naturally, the platform became a prime outlet to discuss the social unrest that shook the nation in the summer months.
“With everything that was going on in the country, it was interesting to see how coaches were approaching it differently personally, within their programs and in the sport,” Carter said. “There were so many different perspectives and ways of dealing with these issues, but nothing was off the table when it came to discussion.”
Ultimately that led to Maryland head coach Mike Locksley joining the call and pitching his idea for the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches, which has since been officially formed and aims to remove the roadblocks and level the playing field for minorities with respect to coaching opportunities with Carter serving on the executive committee.
Looking back on the year that was, one might think it’s hard for Carter to pinpoint his proudest moment considering the coaches he befriended, the conversations had and the lessons learned, but for him it’s obvious.
“Using my platform as a coach and the relationships I had and being able to reach back and help Black coaches like myself is why I started this,” Carter said. “And to see it come full circle with guys being promoted and advancing their careers and know that our calls played a role in that means the world.”
For his work creating a network and unifying men and women of color nationally using the Zoom platform, Carter was honored with a 2020 Zoomtopia Award for Innovation in the category of "Emphasis on Diversity: Bridging the Divide" last October.
As for future plans for the West Coast Zoom Clinic, Carter says he’s in the process of getting it going again in the coming months while he works to balance his other responsibilities and opportunities that were born out of the calls.
If interested, he encourages coaches to email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter and direct message him @RealCoachCarter.
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