assistant coach

Are you lucky enough to have an assistant coach? Maybe you are an assistant coach who is eager to help the team.  Or maybe you’re like me, for a long time I was a head coach doing everything alone and wishing for some help! 

assistant coach

I know how hard it can be to coach alone. But I also know the right assistant coach isn’t always easy to find. Over the years I’ve talked to a lot of coaches about how to create a successful partnership with their assistant coaches. It doesn’t have to be complicated. But like most aspects of coaching, it takes deliberate action and planning.

I spent 6 years coaching by myself until I convinced the powers that be at my school to let me have a JV program and an assistant coach. It was another 4 years after that until I got a varsity assistant who as actually able to work by my side. I will admit I hit the assistant coach jackpot and had a wonderful experience. But of course, it wasn’t always perfect. We did a lot of work to make sure we communicated well in order to have a solid foundation for our program.

Good communication starts at the top

From the very beginning of the season, it’s essential to give your assistant coach dedicated time to work out your vision and plan. You also want to discuss their role and expectations, and how you see your leadership team working together.

To help you get started, I’ve put together my top questions to discuss. Answering these questions will help you create a good foundation for head and assistant coaches to be a unified leadership on your team.

Head Coach:

  • What do you see your roll on this staff/team? 
    • Also, you have to know what YOU want as a head coach and if there’s a discrepancy, talk it out. Do you want someone who has your back 100% of the time? Or does a “yes-man” not serve you and you want someone who communicates their own ideas and plans?
  • What do you think your strengths are as a coach? How can we use those strengths to improve our program?
    • An ideal assistant coach will have different strengths than a head coach. Talk about each of your strengths as weaknesses, how you can help make up for each other’s shortfalls and utilize strengths across the whole program.
  • What do you think your weaknesses are and how are you working on turning those into strengths? OR What are your weaknesses and how can I help support those?
  • How can we improve consistency in how we teach our younger dancers so that they are learning “our way” from the beginning? 
    • If your program focuses on pom, how can you ensure your assistant coach is training the correct technique? Do your practices have similar levels of challenge and expectations? Talk about CONSISTENCY on your program. Between levels, or even between practices! You don’t want the freshman team to be too easy and calm and then they get to varsity and the culture feels like a completely different world! You especially don’t want different practices with different coaches to feel unrelated.

Assistant Coach:

If you’re an assistant coach, this may be on you to bring to your head coach and ask for some of their time. That’s ok! Take initiative and ask!

I believe an assistant coach’s job is to understand the vision and direction of the program, and then learn how they can best use their skills to help bring that vision to life.

  • What are your goals for the program? How can I help you achieve those goals?
    • This also means the head coach should be able to answer this question! The entire program should have a clear vision for the future of the team, and it’s the head coach’s job to see the vision and articulate it to everyone else. Where is the program headed? What are the long-term goals? What has to happen this year to make that happen? How can JV support that? Can the assistant coach support that bigger vision on his/her own team/practices?
  • How do you see me participating in practice, games, competitions, etc? Hands off, hand on, etc. 
    • Communicate clearly about each coach’s expectations. Are you trading off practices? If so, how do you communicate in between? If you are both there, what are the expectations? Follow my lead, jump in, some days you sometimes me?
  • How will we make decisions?
    • Especially for big things like what to compete, how to handle punishment (if needed), costume choices, etc. Outline the plan from the beginning so there is no sense of stepping on toes. Does the assistant coach make all decisions for a lower-level program? Are somethings head coach’s decision that trickle-down? Does the coaching staff discuss everything together? 
  • How do we use our different skill sets? 
    • Whether this comes from the assistant or the head coach, it’s worth reiterating… Know each other’s skill set. The best assistant coaches are complimentary and have a DIFFERENT skill set than the head coach. Use your initial meeting to understand each other’s strengths and talk about how best to utilize those strengths throughout your whole program.
  • Other question ideas an assistant coach can work on for their own growth:
    • “What am I good at?”
    • “Where can I grow and learn from my head coach?” 
    • “How do our coaching styles blend together?”
    • “When do you take the wheel and when do I?” When am I comfortable being in the driver’s seat and when do I need more help and guidance?

Keep it Organized!

There are a lot of great ways to communicate between coaching staff, and if you are a little type A like me, you might enjoy this free project planning tool to help you keep up the strong communication between coaching staff. Check it out!

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