a man and woman smilingJust over 20 years ago, Andrew Zow was practicing hard as quarterback to lead the Crimson Tide football team to victory in the 1999 SEC Championship game. In 2020, he is working hard as head coach of the Sylacauga High School football team while virtually returning to UA by earning his master’s online in Kinesiology with Sport Management P-12 certification through Bama By Distance.

Since earning his bachelor’s, Andrew has built a solid career as a high school football coach, and he also owns a manufacturing and supply business in Birmingham. He explained that coaches used to get a master’s to advance their careers, but there wasn’t necessarily a master’s related to athletics. The Sport Management program focuses on leadership in school athletics as well as fundraising, legal and risk management issues that can help coaches and athletic directors execute their roles more strategically. “When I found the program at UA and realized it was online, I thought, ‘What better place to go than where I got my bachelor’s?’ And that’s UA,” Andrew said. “When I saw they had waived the GRE test score requirement for a limited time, I realized now was the time to jump on it, so I applied for Summer 2020.”

He said the flexibility to set his own pace in the coursework was a selling point, especially since his schedule as a football coach stays full. “There’s always that fear of ‘Can I do it?’ But with the way this program is set up and how the professors and advisers are so engaged with helping, it’s set up for you to succeed at your own pace.”

When Andrew did return to the role of student, he had some catching up to do. “Blackboard? What is that? I was thinking, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’” There was a bit of a learning curve, but with the help of advisers to walk him through it, he adjusted quickly. It helped that his oldest son was also a student at UA. “I got my Crimson email and saw that it had a 2 at the end, and I was confused. Then I realized that my son, who is Andrew Zow Jr. got the 1 on his email, and that gave us a good laugh!”

Andrew took two classes over the summer, and he’s currently enrolled in one class for the fall. So far, the program has exceeded his expectations. “It’s really been more than I thought it would be. Because I haven’t been in school in so long, I thought it was going to be a lot of paperwork and regular classwork. But it’s been helpful to me not only in my coaching, but in my day-to-day life as well.”

Andrew has enjoyed the marketing and research classes he has taken, but it’s his current class, Administration of School Athletics, that has inspired him to consider how to maximize his positive influence on the young men he coaches. “I’m not a huge reader, but Dr. Michael Baptiste has had us reading 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and Good to Great — books I should have read years ago! And it’s been a treat to apply these principles to my life, whether that’s in my family or in my sport.”

While he loves football, what drew him to coaching was not trophies and championships but instead, those more important wins off the field. “What I’m in it for is motivating and inspiring young men to be better not just at football but in life. Athletics gives you that opportunity to pour into these men and women and partner with them for a better life, teaching them and modeling for them how life can be, because a lot of them may not have seen it otherwise. I tell my coaches all the time that we’re teachers before we’re coaches — teaching them how to succeed in life. That’s what it’s about.”

Somewhere in every great athlete’s story is a coach who challenged them to work hard and commit to excellence. For Andrew, that person has been his wife, Amebriss. She encouraged him to pursue his master’s and has used her own experience with online classes to help him stay organized “She helped me set a schedule of when to do school, when to do football, when to spend time with the family, and that has helped keep me from being frantic at the end of the day.”

In addition to following his wife’s advice, Andrew also follows his own advice to his a man and woman in a side hug next to their three adolescent-aged sonsstudent-athletes. “I tell my players to spend at least 45 minutes to an hour on their schoolwork every day. I go to work every day, I spend time with my family, I go to my son’s soccer games, but as long as I can take 45 minutes to an hour every day for school, I can stay ahead. Sometimes it takes a little longer if there’s a paper or something, but if I tell my players to give it 45 minutes to an hour every day, I can do that, too.”

Andrew is on track to graduate by 2022. “I don’t know where it’s going to take me, but I look forward to the opportunities that are out there when someone sees my resume and wants to know what I bring to the table and I can tell them about all I’ve learned and practiced from the program.”

Published: November 30th, 2020