Assistant coaches are built into sports teams for a reason. All of the coaching that is required for managing a team can’t be taken on by just one person. Even on a little-league scale, the amount of work that can go into volunteer coaching to provide the kids with an overall positive experience can easily become overwhelming for one person. Assistants can be the blessing you need to get through the season in one piece, as divvying responsibility even in small ways can go a long way toward fostering a solid team. The dynamic between you and your assistant coach and theirs with the team are both crucial toward the team’s experience as well, so understanding how they can best be of use to you is the first step toward that.
First and foremost, your assistant coach or coaches should be your teammates in the truest sense. It’s in all of your best interests to have the team succeed and enjoy themselves, so why wouldn’t you want to work together as much as possible to ensure that that happens? Loyalty and trust are paramount between coaches -- the worst thing that can happen is an assistant who criticizes the head coach’s coaching or voices concerns to players or parents. For the children, or the developing players, there needs to be a certain level of communication and professionalism between coaching staff at any level so that the focus can remain on providing the best experience. Besides, having your coaches on your side when making decisions for the team can keep players happy and motivated.
It’s fairly easy for players to tell which assistant coaches enjoy the job by the energy and enthusiasm they bring every day to practices and games. When players are able to see how hard a coach is willing to work with them, they appreciate it and usually respond positively. Most players will increase their effort and intensity in practice, others will try to perform during games or figure out how they could best be utilized. Players want to be coached, and players want to improve. They understand the work that has to go into improving, and the work ethic of an assistant coach plays a huge part in the kind of ethic players will try to employ. Thus, that work ethic becomes largely responsible for the players’ improvement and the team’s success. All coaches have to take great pride in what they do in order to bring a positive energy to the players and help them do the best they can. If that isn’t the case for whatever reason, you should find a way to address it as a head coach to make sure you’re doing your part to best use your staff.
Your assistant coaches should also be your greatest support in knowledge of the game. At the end of the day, your team will only be as strong as its knowledge, and your players’ know-how will come directly from you and your assistant coaches. From teaching them the fundamentals to breaking down more advanced levels of technique and application, none of it can be done properly without a secure basis. Especially at higher levels, the learning shouldn’t really ever stop. At the end of the day, no matter what level you’re at, you are a teacher. It’s your responsibility to nurture the athletes in your players and make them want to continue to improve. If someone on staff isn’t able to answer a question or provide a reasonable explanation of a technique, someone else should be able to step in and fill in that weakness to ensure that every important concept can be taught and received.
There are a lot of different ways to play any given sport. That’s why, especially at higher levels, having a system in place to teach the players and reinforce concepts is so important. Said system allows coaches the structure to know exactly what is being worked on and why at any point in the season. It also gives players something in particular to work on. Assistant coaches should be involved in the planning of that process if possible, or otherwise be completely informed of it such that they can help execute it as planned. That makes the process of playing out the season and teaching the players much smoother and more sensible.
Assistant coaches are also a body for when the head coach can’t be there. If sometimes the head coach is too busy running practices or planning drills to be able to really work 1-on-1 with players, that’s a great opportunity for the assistant coach to jump in. Assistant coaches, depending on how many there are on a team, can section themselves out amongst the players and really get in the personal time that helps hammer home certain concepts. That personal attention goes back once again to the players’ desires to improve, as it’s a surefire way to motivate them toward a brighter end goal.
Coaching isn’t easy, plain and simple. Whether you’re a head coach or an assistant, the responsibility that inevitably falls on your shoulders is a hefty one. How you choose to go about it is up to you, but coaches are fundamental in cultivating the young athletes of tomorrow. Delegating work properly is essential to a successful season and providing a positive experience for the players.
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