I was so excited to have my first teaching job and especially my first coaching job. I was to be an assistant freshman wrestling coach. Yes, I wanted to be an assistant in football too, but there were no openings. Football would come in my third year of teaching. For now, I was plenty happy. Visions of being Dan Gable on mat side filled my head. I was so pumped. The head coach met with me in pre-season and gave me my first responsibility with our team. He said, “You’re in charge of the Mat Maids.” Say what? “What’s this got to do with coaching?” I thought. For those of you that don’t know, the Mat Maids were the statisticians for the wrestling team. They sat along with the coaches and recorded stats during the matches and compiled them later for the head coach. It’s an essential task but I was less than thrilled. I met with the students who were interested in being stat girls and taught them how to score a match and compile statistics. It was a humbling experience for me and a great lesson on serving the program. Over the years I learned more and more of what a good assistant coach does and how he helps the head coach. I learned that many times it’s taking on the little things, the menial tasks, the boring stuff that occupies the head coach that he just doesn’t have time for. He limits the distractions that the head coach has to deal with, willing to do whatever to help get the job done without being asked – like getting the med kit ready, taping ankles, and helping the managers. Do assistant coaches have larger responsibilities too? Absolutely. He may be a coordinator, or a head coach at the lower levels like the head freshman coach, but in the end, it’s all about being there for the program. A good definition of an assistant coach might be, “Members of the coaching staff that contribute their knowledge and skills in helping the coach develop players, as well as aiding in building an effective program”. If the head coach is the driver of this vehicle we’ll call the football program, the assistants are the engine. Hopefully, 427 engines, not six bangers. The HC can’t accomplish what needs to be done without good assistants. And how many of us would argue that? None, if you’ve been at this coaching stuff for awhile. The head coach has a wide range of responsibilities and he must delegate some coaching responsibilities among his assistants. Every HC must surround himself with the very best assistants he can find. We’ve defined what an assistant coach does but what are the qualities, the attributes of a good assistant? That may vary from coach to coach but there are some common denominators. Let’s take a look at what most consider the essentials.
Trustworthy – The the head coach and players can trust him to carry out his assignment, and to carry out the vision of the head coach.
Loyal – He can disagree in private but he MUST ALWAYS agree in public with the head coach. He’s loyal to the head coach, to the program, and to the school. He’s a champion for the head coach and makes the head coach look good at every opportunity.
Dependable – He’s there, on time, every time. Sounds simple, but oh so important.
Responsible – Takes ownership for the position he’s coaching, for the side of the ball he’s coaching, a special team, a fundraising activity, program management, or equipment.
Sound – Knows and teaches the fundamentals of his position/segment thoroughly and is always learning more. He’s willing to spend most of his time listening and learning the system.
Enjoy the job, the kids – If not, this will be evident early. It’s a tough business, but you gotta have fun.
Knows his role – His role is defined by the head coach. I always appreciated it when the head coach communicated this clearly. If he doesn’t, the assistant takes the initiative and figures it out. He understands that assistants make suggestions, the head coach makes decisions.
Accepts a specific duty – Even if it’s being in charge of the Mat Maids!
After thinking about how valuable an assistant is and writing it all down, it becomes almost overwhelming. A good assistant does all of this? Yeah, and I even thought of a few more considerations. We mentioned that assistants should offer suggestions but they don’t mind (too much) if their ideas get shot down. I also became mindful of balancing out the head coach’s demeanor and personality (good cop-bad cop). I really love listening to Herm Edwards, former NFL head coach. When he coached with Tony Dungy, he said he (Herm) was bad cop! Herm also said he tried to take care of all minor issues with players on his own. He only informed Dungy when necessary. I’d bet Edwards was a 427. I also tried to use the same terminology as the head coach. If he called an ISO play SLAM, I called it SLAM. It’s important for him to learn every aspect of being a coach…from setting up cones for drills to running practice. He’s always looking for ways to help improve the team and program. He views it as his team too. In addition, I think it’s great if he aspires to become a head coach at some point and views being an assistant as an apprenticeship.
How many years did it take me to figure all those qualities out? Oh, about 25. But when it was all said and done, I thought I had become a good assistant.
Coach L. Albaugh – DBLITY
Now, all of you head coaches out there, think about your assistants and all they do. Got anyone on your staff you would like to recognize for Chiefpigskin’s 427 Award? Well, you can and here’s how.
- Be a Head Football Coach
- Follow us on Twitter
- Tweet your recommendation to us @TheChiefpigskin
- Email us the name of your school, where you are, your nomination, a picture of your assistant, and rationale (150 words or less) to firstname.lastname@example.org
For Nominating an Assistant by March 23rd You Get – $20 Gift Code for Chiefpigskin videos.
Chiefpigskin will announce three 427 Award winners on Friday March 31st. Winning Coaches will be recognized on Twitter, through an article right here on our blog at Chiefpigskin.com, AND will receive $50 gift cards to Chiefpigskin.com.