When a young coach joins your staff, there are certain expectations placed upon them by the head coach, the other assistants, and the athletes that he coaches. Let’s not forget that the coach is also a teacher in the classroom with expectations from the principal, the teachers in their department, and the students he serves. For a young coach, especially fresh out of college, this can overwhelm them quickly. Very few coaches arrive on their campus and excel in their position immediately. It takes years to master and develop the skills required to coach their position, breakdown opponents, and build rapport with the athletes. Many times a coach may start their careers with skills in one area, but lacking in the rest. What are your expectations for them and how patient are you with them?
I believe that we are doing a disservice to our young coaches. In this day and age of expecting immediate results, those same expectations are trickling down to coaches who have less than three years of professional experience. If they must perform and achieve at a high level of success now, how are we supporting them? What resources are provided to them and how do these young coaches know these sources are available to them? These questions are crucial in developing the next generation of coaches that are beginning their careers now and will be tasked with carrying on the values and traditions of the coaches before them. As a veteran coach, we must be able to answer these questions in a way that helps the new/next generation of coaches understand the importance of the duty they are inheriting. We must answer these questions in a language and a style that the current generation understands and is able to apply to their professional development.
From polling coaches that are in their first years of coaching and head coaches, what I have found is communication is key. Consistent, frequent, pointed communication makes a huge difference in helping young coaches understand the job in front of them. James Kowalewski (Coach Kovo), the head coach of Aldine High School in Texas sends daily texts to all of his coaches containing what is expected of each coach to accomplish, athlete injury updates, and the focus for that day. I love this because this is how the current generation communicates. People respond to their phones and are more likely to engage with a text message. The text gives them a reference point to return to and think about what they need to accomplish that day. A simple text reaches the young coach and lets them know that what they are doing today is important to you and the program. If we expect our new coaches to embrace the standards we have for ourselves and our program, we must be able to communicate our expectations effectively.
This means that coaches must start to evolve. Evolution begins with adaptation, in this case, by embracing technology and how young coaches communicate. Coaches are some of the best at adapting to and using technology when it comes to teaching and reaching their players, yet we still incorporate old habits when communicating with our staff. We can still use staff meetings to relay the expectations of the program, but follow it up with an individual meeting to answer questions and further explain responsibilities. The daily text used by Coach Kovo can provide reminders to the entire staff of these expectations. We use our video editing system to “flip” the practice field with our players and we can do the same with our meetings. Provide access to resources that they can study using their phones, laptops, and tablets. Give them a breakdown of what the coach needs to know, so as not to overwhelm. Treat them as adults, but use the teaching methods and technology you incorporate in your classroom.
Coach Jerry Edwards of Killeen Harker Heights HS believes in modeling the practices and behaviors you want the young coach to perform. Young coaches need to see that you actually exhibit the tenets that you teach. Providing a mentor coach is a great resource for the young coach. Someone they may be more comfortable talking to, and someone they can learn from by talking to and mimicking. Every coach has their own way and style of doing things, but we all need that older coach to lay the groundwork and can act as an immediate source of knowledge and wisdom.
Scouting live football games is a great way of establishing this relationship. This is an old school practice that is, and in some places has disappeared from the usual football week. I am a believer in it because it gives the opportunity for the young coach to learn the offensive and defensive system and language you use in your program. Divide up your freshmen and junior high staffs with a JV coach and send them out to watch games and complete a scouting report. The time together is great for learning football and establishing camaraderie between new coaches and older coaches. Have them follow up the scout by inputting the information into the video editor together. We are quick to divide up video editing into a solo job because of the way technology has evolved. In order for learning to occur we need help to ensure the job is being done correctly.
The onus is not completely on the older, more experienced coaches. Young coaches have responsibilities as well. I read an article on How to Think Like a Millennial that has many great insights and ends with some great advice for young people entering their profession.
- Step Up. Rise to the challenge in front of you when you don’t want to, don’t have to, and even when you don’t know how. Accept this challenge and show what you are capable of doing.
- Step Out. Get out of your comfort zone. We learn when we try things we have never done.
- Step Forward. Embrace your role. Set goals and go!
Coaching is an amazing profession that impacts many lives, young and old. In order to pass down the lessons and traditions of the past, we must embrace our future. So be patient with the new guy and communicate consistently your expectations. We can all take the advice to Step Out of our comfort zones and be amazed at what we learn.
Feel free to comment! What are you doing to help and educate new coaches?