Working with Assistant Coaches

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By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA, CIC

As the head coach, you are in charge of your program, and it’s your job to manage your assistant coaches. If your team were a business, you would be the CEO, responsible for overseeing and mentoring your employees. When a CEO fails to provide instruction, feedback, and encouragement, his or her employees can’t do their jobs well. And when a head coach doesn’t provide that same kind of leadership, his or her assistant coaches can’t thrive, either.

Your role as CEO starts before the season begins. Before the first practice happens, develop clear expectations for your assistants and make sure they know what those expectations are. It’s helpful if you put your expectations into writing in the form of a job description. It is also beneficial to provide your assistants with a written description of your coaching philosophy and your plan for the season. Meet prior to the start of the season to give them these documents and talk them over.

Once the season has begun and things get busy—between practice sessions, scouting, and games—you may struggle to find the time to continue to mentor those under you. The following are some suggestions on how to fit in the important job of managing your assistants.

Take 10. After each practice or game, meet for 10 minutes to review responsibilities and quickly outline what is on deck for tomorrow. If there was an oversight or mistake made during a practice or game, correct it immediately so it won’t be repeated. In these brief meetings, it is vital that you communicate in a quick, concise manner while still covering what needs to be corrected. (And don’t forget, while you are meeting, the locker room still has to be supervised!)

Hold longer weekly meetings. Schedule a staff meeting once a week for 20 to 30 minutes, perhaps on Saturday after practice. During this session, focus on the upcoming schedule and the responsibilities for the next week. Even though you probably created a season-long schedule, you want to remind everyone and cover any changes or concerns. It is much better to be proactive than to have someone miss an assignment and create a potential problem.

Meet individually. Sit down with individual assistant coaches in private for one-on-one meetings to provide help with issues or to give pep talks as needed. Reassure, teach, correct, and guide in a non-threatening and supportive manner.

Send them out prepared. Meet with your assistants prior to sending them out on their first scouting assignment. Clearly explain how to approach the task of scouting. Provide hints about what to watch for so that the information they gather will be helpful when you prepare for practice sessions and make a game plan.

Get them game-ready. Explain what the assistants will be responsible for during a game. One might be in charge of charting the offense or defense and another may keep track of time outs, substitutions, individual and team fouls, or other items pertaining to your sport. Whatever your assistants’ assignments are, take the time to explain them well in advance so they can be totally prepared.

Utilize bus rides. On return bus trips, review why you made key changes during the game and ask for input and suggestions. You will need to continue to supervise your athletes while you talk, but this can be a great chance for your assistants to contribute, and they can use this opportunity to ask you questions.

Talk electronically. Encourage your assistants to e-mail or text you when they have a question or problem. Good, effective communication goes a long way toward preventing mistakes.

Show your gratitude. Don’t forget to thank and praise an assistant for a job well done, either in practice, with scouting, or during a game. Being appreciated is important to everyone and creates good working relationships, loyalty, and dependability.

Managing your assistant coaches takes thought, planning, and effort—especially once the season is in full swing— but it pays big dividends. The better job you do, the smoother things will go and the more your assistants will grow and develop. So embrace your role as CEO and look for ways to provide your assistants with excellent leadership


David Hoch retired in 2010 after a 41-year career as a high school athletic director and coach.  In 2009, Dr. Hoch was honored as the Eastern District Athletic Director of the Year by the Nastional Association for Sport and Physical Education.  He was also presented with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Distinguished Service Award, and in 2000 he was named the Maryland State Athletic Director Association’s Athletic Director of the Year.  Dr. Hoch has authored over 460 professional articles and made more than 70 presentations around the country.

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