In the past six years, Kurt Hines has amassed something of a cult following among high school football coaches.
More than 44,000 fans gobble up his relatable, positive (often car) selfie video content and wise musings on Twitter.
He’s used his aversion to pants (or ‘leg prisons’ as he proudly proclaims) to build a unique brand, which also plays well to the TikTok crowd.
The success has spun off into a podcast series and motivational speaking business complete with polished website and paid corporate engagements. His popularity is partly because of his big personality.
He jokingly admits he cultivates his image in the sense that he doesn’t post unflattering photos where he has seven chins (preach 🙏), but his primary goal for social media is to create relationships.
This genuine love for people comes through in daily interactions: he returns messages and trades comments with most anyone who’ll reach out and tag him. In demand more than ever, Hines deftly schedules meetings around family commitments. Wife Jillian, who convinced him to join Twitter in the first place, often drives to outings so he can use traffic time to talk to other coaches.
Despite the polish inherent to most ‘influencer’ personalities, Hines exudes realness in all realms.
In person, Hines is physically imposing like you’d expect a 6-foot, 2-inch, ex-college football player to be. His longtime strength coach + gym-rat frame, shaved head, and penchant for cutoff shirts exudes traditional alpha.
But he’s humble and funny about it.
When people ask if I’m ready for football! pic.twitter.com/9QdfeKRTFW
— Coach Hines 🇺🇸 (@CoachKurtHines) April 30, 2020
- is a fourth-grade teacher
- describes Jillian as his best friend
- prefers a hug to a handshake
Most interesting, he’s unafraid to share his flaws.
In high school, Hines recalls being a tough kid who really loved fighting.
He was an average student with consistent B’s and C’s. He played center and defensive end at Barrington High School.
At times, he worked with Special Olympics athletes and won art awards.
Other times, he got arrested.
A fight with three police officers resulted in his parents refinancing their home to pay his legal fees.
A year later, he spent the night in jail for fighting … this time out of town. He recalls being pulled into an office after spending the night in a cell. The lieutenant asked questions that caused him to rethink his decisions:
How many guys in prison do you think are boys who never grew up? Too many.
How many of those guys had great potential and now aren’t doing anything with their lives? Most.
“I had great teachers and a fun-loving, blessed childhood with supportive parents. The chief of police, despite my bad behavior, ultimately was a fan. I wasn’t given, or handed, many things, but I made a lot of stupid decisions. I had to grow up. I loved football as a player, and I love it even more now as a coach.
I have an opportunity to share what I’ve learned about how fragile life can be.”
Hines played college football at Plymouth State in New Hampshire for three years. He majored in elementary education thanks to the impact of a seventh-grade math teacher and a part-time high school job working at a football coaches’ daycare.
He loved working with kids.
“I think all students do better in class, give better effort, and learn more easily, if they know we care.”
He’s carried that sentiment into his roles – as football coach and fourth-grade teacher – and this level of care sets him apart.
At times, it has drawn his critics.
Early in his foray as a head coach, an assistant confronted him after practice and delivered this blow: “The team doesn’t respect you.”
Hines was embarrassed but had the fortitude to ask for an example.
The position coach responded simply. “They aren’t afraid of you.”
This defined an uncrossable line for Hines … and became a non-negotiable in his approach.
“Fear and respect are two different things. If I have a young man, or woman, in distress – whether its worry over sexuality, suicidal thoughts, or they are dealing with a bad family situation – if they fear me, they will never tell me what’s going on.
“I can never help them.”
Hines traded his senior year of playing college ball for coaching a flag football team for kids with special needs.
Three years into teaching, he asked the head football coach at Souhegan High School for a volunteer job, and ended up as a paid freshman head coach for seven seasons. He proved his talent, and approach, and was recruited into a role at Goffstown High School.
His first head coaching role was at Bedford High School, which was in its infancy as a varsity program. The team had no seniors and he inherited four coaches, two who played college football.
“We were so bad, no one lied to us. They’d say … ‘man, coach, you have a beautiful field’ instead of ‘good game.’
“Sometimes when I speak to people, I lead with ‘we set some records in the state.’ Most people get a knowing look in their eyes, and I go on to say, ‘we set records for being beat up more than anyone in the state of New Hampshire.’ ”
Still, Hines reflects on that year as his greatest as a head coach despite subsequent years flush with success in division, league and state championships and a selection as Coach of the Year in 2012.
The early failure made him really examine his motivations and goals:
How badly do I really want to do this?
Why do I want to do this?
In the soul-searching, Hines found some answers:
As a head coach, Hines wanted to be able to be completely be himself. And, he wanted to choose his own staff – great coaches who loved people.
“Everyone talks about this in an interview process, but when times are tough, your true colors show. I want coaches who truly align with my goal to change lives.
“I am focused on living what I’m selling. If you want the best team, regardless of wins and losses, you better produce that in players who are doing better in the classroom and staying out of trouble. That success comes down to relationships. Players realize what we’re doing is more than a game. For all of us, playing football ends.
“If winning is the only goal that matters, you will be disappointed.”
Hines grew his Bedford team into contenders, serving as head coach, OC, RB, DB and strength and conditioning coach alongside teaching first through fourth grades.
But despite all the experiences in his extensive career, Hines will be the first to say he doesn’t have all the answers.
He admits sometimes he thinks more about what he’ll say next in a conversation instead of really listening but knows as the leader, he doesn’t want to do all the talking.
“I spent half my career as an assistant and there’s nothing worse than the feeling that if you left, no one would notice.”
Hines wants coaches who will own their areas, without reservation. His vetting process to find them has evolved. He traded letters of recommendation for a three-step hiring process that uses in-person meetings to determine fit.
- First: discuss intentionally non-football related topics.
- Second: position and game-specific chat.
- Final: weight room sessions with students.
“I’ll see the red flags – does the person talk over you in a conversation? Do they have a personal life outside of football? Will they take the lead? Will they engage with all the players or gravitate to the most athletic and ignore smaller or heavier kids? I think it’s most telling to see coaches interact with players and afterward, to get the players’ opinions.”
Hines wants to be challenged by his assistants, to have genuine, thoughtful conversations. He admits his ego has taken a few hits with this approach, and early on, definitely caused him to second-guess himself.
Ultimately, it’s also made him better … which translates to reaching players.
“A few years ago, we had to game plan against a 140-pound, shifty, fast player with 2,000 yards or so that season. We really didn’t have an answer to him but felt if we put our best corner on him and safety over the top, we’d have the best chance.
“I had two players in practice who I could tell really didn’t believe in our plan. When that happens, sometimes you have to humble yourself and be real with kids. I pulled them aside after practice and said, ‘look, we don’t have all the answers, but we think we have the best answer for us.’ Then I asked them what they would do. The most important thing in football is always to do things together, and if I can get my players to buy in and work together no matter what, we’ll have something.”
Hines doesn’t use voting for captains. He schedules and promotes meetings of a players’ leadership council.
“Some may never even play varsity, but they can see you working with everyone. They may never make an impact on the field as a part of the team, but that experience can impact their lives forever.”
Hines challenges councilmen to brainstorm on topics like what defines good leadership. The group negotiates a list of top leadership qualities and grades themselves against stated benchmarks. Hines participates in the exercise.
“Some players roll their eyes at first. I will give myself a six in an area and share how I can do a better job with it. Players assume coaches all feel like we’re a 10 in everything. For me to share areas where I know I can improve is empowering for them to see in someone they admire and respect.”
There is no compromise in faith or family.
Even in the darkest days of some epic losses as a head coach, Hines has not, and will not, hold a Sunday meeting.
“Too many coaches talk about raising players of character, but at the same time, their family goes by the wayside during football season. One of the most powerful things I can teach my players and coaches by example is balance.
“Football is important but it’s not the only part of who I am.”
In New Hampshire, Hines coached against son Brockton’s football team in his back-to-back junior and senior Homecoming games.
“At halftime his first year, we were up 21-0 and I was jogging up to the fieldhouse to use the restroom. I saw my wife come down from the stands, arms folded and this ‘knock it off’ look on her face. I truly did not even run our best play in that game, but after halftime, we took out all our starters and literally ran dive left and right.”
Hines recalls a more competitive game the next year, which included Brockton’s best individual game – a shared highlight for them both.
In a somewhat surprising turn of events for some in 2015, Hines and his family moved closer to eldest daughter Halee who attended San Diego State and started a family on the West Coast.
“It was hard to tell the kids [at Bedford] I was leaving, but it was easy because I, and they, knew why. I’m now three miles from my grandsons [Cruz and Maddox] and we get to be present in their lives.”
In California, Hines interviewed at Christian High School and was hired as running backs coach, special teams coordinator, and strength coach. The family drove cross-country, arriving on a Saturday.
Hines reported to practice two days later. The opportunity parlayed into what he hopes is his final head football coaching role at Coronado High School in 2017.
As suspected, there’s an awful lot to the real Kurt Hines.
He turned a love for kids into an expansive varsity football career on both coasts.
He coached a 0-9 team to three state runner-up finishes in three divisions.
He’s the teacher who legitimately oozes with pride in sharing he’s never raised his voice to his elementary school classes in 25 years.
Between positive, uplifting (and, often, comical) posts on social media, he actively shares his life in and out of football, and his family and faith, with the world.
For all the things he is, Kurt Hines knows why.
“As much as I care about the game, I care more about the people. It is such a blessing to selflessly serve those we lead. I think we have an opportunity every day to change lives. I want people to know me for serving that passion.”