How to Be a Great Assistant Coach

These are some of the notes presented by Tennessess Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood that apply to all sports.

How to Be a Great Assistant Coach

Know and Understand Yourself

Take some time to think about and write out answers to these questions:

1) Why did I get into coaching?
2) What do I love about coaching?
3) What do I dislike about coaching?
4) What are my present and future goals?
5) Why am I in coaching now?

Know This Profession

1) Job security
2) Stress
3) Scrutiny/criticism
4) Time-consumption
5) Things beyond your control that impact success
6) Limited flexibility/autonomy (as an assistant)


1) Teach life lessons and impact people
2) Working at what you love
3) Competition
4) Each season and team is a new journey
5) Keeps you “young at heart”
6) Help people/teams mature, develop, and win


1) Loyalty
2) Integrity
3) Passion for work/commitment to excellence
4) Love for people/your team
5) Love for your sport


1) Support Head Coach and team mission
2) Reinforce program values, principles, and standards
3) You are always representing your Head Coach and your program–realize the power of your own example
4) Take pride in and fulfill your role
5) Check your ego at the door–be careful of your pride, it’s not about you
6) Servanthood–pour into the lives of others
7) John Maxwell’s 3 things everyone asks of leaders/staff:
A. Do you care about me?
B. Can I trust you?
C. Can you help me?
8) An assistant’s overall tone should be positive
9) It’s all about TEAM
10) Make the “Big Time” where you are


1) Use we/us/ous instead of I/me/my
2) Must have honesty in all interactions
3) Treat ALL staff as colleagues/peers/equauls–Head Coach is your boss, others are co-workers
4) Never talk to anyone (other than the Head Coach) about another staff member unless it is positive
5) DO NOT talk whenever the Head Coach is talking
6) NEVER undermine the Head Coach (Disagree in private, support in public)
7) Find out what the Head Coach needs from you
8) Pick your times to discuss certain things with the Head Coach–be aware of “Mind Space”
9) Don’t just point out problems…present some solutions
10) Be a buffer without being a crutch
11) Do not allow players to play you against the Head Coach or other staff
12) Don’t “write checks you can’t cash” (don’t overextend your authority)
13) Look for legitimate ways to encourage and complement
14) Verbally and non-verbally convey to players: “We believe in you.”
15) Check for consistency
A. Are we doing what we are saying?
B. Are we reinforcing it?
16) Develop positive relationships with other staff, department members, administrators, and faculty


1) Be at ALL presentations by Head Coach to team
2) Pith in–help other coaches/staff members when you can. Share burdens, nothing is beneath you. Everyone has a role
3) Make the job of the Head Coach easier–take on tasks that help the Head Coach focus on the team and recruiting
4) Anticipate–what does the head coach and team need? (See the need and fill it)
5) Share material and resources
6) Share information: team issues should be out in the open
7) Bring these every day: Energy & Encouragement–be a battery charger–your passion and energy should inspire others.
8) Time management: invest time where it matters most. Recruit, teach, develop, graduate, help team win
9) Attention to detail: Little things matter
10) Continually develop, hone, and evolve teaching skills (Your position group, phases of the game, within systems)
11) Teach every day (be demanding without being demeaning) Pete Newell-“The game is over-coached and under taught” Coach Lombardi “Blocking and Tackling”
12) Laws of learning: instruction, demonstration, imitation, repetition, correction, repetition
13) 33 years has taught me: Simplicity of the game and execution of fundamentals
14) Learn and use your program’s terminology
15) Be available for extra work/shots/film with players
16) Watch video of your team (Self scout)
17) When watching scouting video look for ideas and concepts that you can steal for your team
18) Program organization: Play book, Drill book, Criticals (Special Situations), Team notebooks, game notes
19) Game Management
A) Bench demeanor 10% emotional–90% analytical
B) Bench comportment of team
C) Staff interaction (positive, analytical, team-oriented, never allow players to hear anything negative about team or player coming from you
D) How do you need to feed information to Head Coach (How does Head Coach process info?)
E) MUST know/be aware of fouls, timeouts, possession arrow
F) Leave officiating issues to the Head Coach
20) Post game breakdowns
A) Watch game tape
B) Take emotion out of it; analyze what happened and how and why it happened
C) Know what hurt your team; know what was effective for your team
D) Notes/charts/stats
E) Suggestions for next practice/game/moving forward (support with video clips often)


1) Pat Summitt: You never arrive in this game. You are always learning and improving
2) Don Meyer: Get all the good ideas, but you can’t use all the good ideas
3) Growth is intentional. Become a better teacher and communicator
4) Continue to increase your value: recruiting, teaching, scouting, etc…
5) Be a lifelong learner
A) You can’t give away what you don’t have
B) The same principle that applies to your players applies to you-KEEP GETTING BETTER
C) Read, observe, listen
6) Seek out mentors and people who can help you learn and grow
7) Success is “rented” and the rent comes due every day
8) Realize that the one certain thing is change and uncertainty… things will change often in this profession
9) Talk to Head Coach about you long-term goals and aspirations (But always do a great job where you are. When the team wins–everyone wins)
10) Appearance and presentation
11) Leave it in better shape because you were there: Make it better. James Naismith
12) Take time to “Sharpen Your Saw.”
13) Be thankful and appreciative. Enjoy the journey

PGC/Glazier Basketball Clinics is a preferred partner of The Coaching Toolbox

3 comments for “How to Be a Great Assistant Coach

  1. March 23, 2017 at 8:31 am

    Great checklist for coaches from all walk of life. I actually wrote a similar article some time ago.

    March 23, 2017 at 10:20 am

    Great article!

  3. C. R. Tiller
    March 23, 2017 at 10:34 am

    Learn your head Coach’s message. Then, learn your head coach’s style and develop one that is complementary i.e. Emotional v. Analytical, Verbal v. Visual. This will help your athletes who don’t learn as your head coach does.
    If you’re a duplicate of your head coach, you don’t add anything to your team.

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