At a Crossroads: A Unique Transition Away from the Sidelines While Remaining Close to the Game

At a Crossroads: A Unique Transition Away from the Sidelines While Remaining Close to the Game

After more than a decade of coaching at the highest levels of college football, Zach Crespo found a new football career path and a focus on family with Vertical Raise.

Jared Frank
June 5, 2024

Coaching ball is a volatile career. And while coaches understand the risks and sacrifices when signing up for the job, getting the rug pulled out from under still hurts. Frequent job changes, moving trucks, and new schools for little ones wear down even the toughest warrior for the game. Coaches are humans first.

We all love the game. But one cannot know love without also knowing fear. For too many coaches, they stick with it even after becoming jaded because they are afraid that they are not good enough to do anything else. “This is all I know how to do” is a common refrain. Let’s dispel that myth right here, right now.

It’s harder to make big changes as we age. We become protectors and providers for our families before our programs. We tuck away a few acorns in retirement accounts. So the older one gets, the more he has to lose. And loss aversion is one of the most powerful and paralyzing psychological motivators.

But remember, great oaks grow from little acorns. If you are a coach, that means you once had the faith to leap and invest in yourself to get started and the organization to water that acorn every day. That’s what coaches do. We do hard things. And that’s a skillset that transfers to many other organizations, business categories, and even alternative disciplines within our sport.

I didn’t really know what I had to offer to other people.”

You Have Options

A variety of disciplines fills the football industry. There are thousands of vendors and suppliers serving football programs with elite goods and services required to win. And while we are not trying to talk anyone out of coaching (we wouldn’t have an audience without you), if you are on the fence, just know that you have options to earn a living while also attending every one of your kids’ baseball games and dance recitals.

After almost 30 years of coaching, our own Keith Grabowski left the profession but not the game when he joined USA Football and started Coach and Coordinator Podcast.

“Every year in November, I get calls from college coaches contemplating what their next steps are inside or outside of the game,” says Grabowski. “I took that leap of faith in 2016 because I wanted to see my kids do their thing. I had missed a lot. For me, it was heartbreaking. I hated missing that stuff.”

An Intersection of Football and Family

In 2022, Zach Crespo faced a similar crossroads. Coach Crespo gave over ten years of service to the profession, starting as a volunteer student assistant and GA under George O’Leary and Scott Frost at Central Florida, before following Frost to Nebraska, then working on Mac Brown’s staff at North Carolina.

“I’ve seen people go in and out of college football,” says Crespo. “It’s a very unique profession because you can be the best at what you do and still get fired for no wrongdoing of your own. If the head coach is gone, everybody else underneath them is gone. I saw how many times people were moving, and I saw how many times that dads were missing their kids’ games.”

Crespo was a star on the rise. He was also a young dad looking to replace 100-hour workweeks with more of a focus on family.

“I wanted to be there for my kid and for my wife,” Crespo says. “I didn’t want to see her move. And when our kids start going to school, I didn’t want them to have to jump schools. And so, I just knew that there was a lot more out there, and I was going to put my faith in God.”

Transferrable Skills

Coaching is repetitious labor. Outside of gameday outcomes, elements of routine, control, and predictability accompany the work. And creature comforts of the lifestyle are easy to get used to.

Coaching is also an identity. For many coaches, they consider it a calling. Moving on from something so engrained into your being can breed an existential crisis. But remember, who you are does not depend on what you do.

“We get narrowly focused on the skills that we develop, and a lot of times do not see that there’s application for those skills all over the place,” Grabowski says. “There’s a ton of value to people, companies, and organizations beyond football teams that would love to have those skillsets and the kind of person who can be dedicated.”

Amid searching for a home for his skills, Zach Crespo got a call from Vertical Raise, the premier online fundraising platform for sports teams.

“I didn’t really know what I had to offer to other people,” admits Crespo.

As it turned out, Crespo had plenty to offer. As a coach, Crespo cultivated finely tuned organizational practices and an aptitude for building relationships.

“If I didn’t have those skills that I had in college football, then I wouldn’t be as successful as I am today,” Crespo says. “There are a lot of things with Vertical Raise that involve organization, speaking to many different people, and getting pulled in many different directions.”

“We talk about it on the podcast all the time,” adds Grabowski. “A lot of coaches mention one of the most important things they do in coaching is build relationships. That’s true in anything you do. It’s true in education. It’s true in the business world.”

A Fundraising Coach

Football coaches want to coach football, not fundraising.

“The last thing I want [coaches] to be worried about is fundraising,” says Crespo. “If they’re the offensive coordinator, I don’t want them to be the fundraising coach too. So that’s where I step in and become their fundraising coach.”

Vertical Raise pairs every partner school with a local fundraising coach. This Vertical Raise representative works with coaches through every step of their custom fundraiser. In addition to online donations, the local fundraising coach can set coaches up with digital discount cards, premium product sales, and even spirit shops. Like Coach Crespo, many local reps are former football coaches themselves, making the role a helpful one for customers while offering coaches a great way to stay in the game after they leave the sideline or press box.

“The biggest thing about Vertical Raise is the people,” says Grabowski. “It’s the relationships. You as the rep, you’re like an assistant on that staff who’s going to take all that [fundraising] work off the plate for the coach. You’re helping build that program, and it all comes from the relationships.” CC Logo

About Vertical Raise: Vertical Raise is the premier online fundraising platform, using innovative technology to create the easiest and most efficient system available. Raise more money in less time, with a local fundraising coach who works with your team every step of the way to customize the ideal fundraiser. With options for online donations, digital discount cards, premium product sales, and even spirit shops, Vertical Raise has top-of-the-line solutions for every fundraising style.

To find out more, visit, and connect with an exclusive offer on your first fundraiser. Or contact them here to inquire about becoming a Vertical Raise representative.