How to Work with Assistant Coaches

I have been blessed with great assistant coaches.  Last year, with my 13U competitive team, I had four assistant coaches, each with their own special expertise.  They worked tirelessly and actually ran all the practices.  I outlined the practices and what I wanted to accomplish, and they stepped in and made it happen.

That left me free to work with individual players on pitching, hitting or whatever they needed.

This year I have three assistant coaches, two of them returning from last year and one new one.  The new one has been at every practice and is a real take charge guy.  His expertise is in batting, plus general defensive fielding info.

However, I know that things do not always go smoothly with assistant coaches. I know some head coaches who have complained that their assistants don’t add much value, don’t show up for practices, or aren’t very good at teaching kids the basics. Maybe I’ve just been lucky. However, here are some things I have done that I think have helped create an effective coaching team:

  1. I am clear about my coaching philosophy, starting at tryouts. I want to attract people who are like-minded. It’s easier if we start out on the same page, at least on general principles.
  2. I listen to their input. When they feel that their input is appreciated, they really blossom. While I have the final say on how things are to be done, I implement their suggestions much of the time.
  3. I find out their unique strengths, and try to find a role that suits them the best. Some coaches are just better at some things than others. For example, being a good 3rd base coach isn’t for everyone. I try to find someone who’s good at it–and, hopefully, someone who enjoys it–to be in that position.
  4. Sometimes I’ll ask them to do things they haven’t done before. For example, I like using Total Control Balls to help the batters learn to swing hard all the way through the ball.  Sometimes a new coach needs a little instruction on how to use these tools effectively.  It’s important to explain what the drill is supposed to accomplish and to be sure that they are demonstrating it properly to the kids. It can help to ask assistant coaches to show up a little early if you want to go over something with them.
  5. I know that not everyone would appreciate this, but I spend a lot of time communicating by email with my coaches. We discuss what’s going on, how to help a particular player, and have a fair amount of banter. I know that years ago, when I was an assistant coach, I really had a lot of respect for the head coaches–however, I would have appreciated being a little more “in the loop”.

So, I’m curious what challenges you have encountered, and what you have found helpful in dealing with assistant coaches. Also, assistant coaches–what do you appreciate in a head coach? Feel free to leave a comment.

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