The MOST Important Thing A Head Coach Looks For In An Assistant
In April, 2015 I surveyed 183 Head Coaches from all over America. 98% of the coaches are were in the high school ranks. 96% of the respondents were Head Football Coaches. Even though most were Head High School Football Coaches, I really believe that the results of this survey would be just about the same no matter which level you are at, and no matter which sport you are coaching.
The “2015 Eight Laces Consulting Assistant Coach Survey” asked Head Coaches 10 questions. I will be sharing the results of this survey right here at CoachFore.org in a series of articles.
Eight Laces Consulting helps coaches nationwide with their job search process. I was really interested in hearing from Head Coaches on their hiring process, and their mindset through not only that hiring process, but also the firing process.
I hope that this survey helps Assistant Coaches in their job search process, and I hope that it helps coaches keep their jobs. Read through what coaches are saying. Think deliberately about their answers, and how these might apply to your career. How are you doing these things the right way now?
And in what area can you improve as an Assistant Coach?
The first question I asked was open ended. Meaning that there was not an answer bank at all. Coaches simply filled in an answer. And I was looking for just ONE answer: THE most important quality. Boil it all down for us Head Coach!! What is THE numero uno thing you look for?
What is THE most important quality you look for in an assistant coach?
By far, the most common answer here was “loyalty.” Thirty six percent of coaches said that loyalty is THE most important quality they look for in an Assistant Coach.
“Loyalty and passion. I know this is two things, but they go hand in hand to me. I want a coach as passionate as me who I can trust is on board with what our program is about. To me, if he’s loyal, he will inherently be passionate and vice versa.” – Tyler Hales La Jolla Country Day School La Jolla, CA
“1a would be professionalism and the 1b would be loyalty to the program. As a head coach you can always teach football to coaches….loyalty you can not!” – Anonymous
Coach Hales has summarized here what many coaches reported. That loyalty factor is very important to Head Coaches because they know if you’re loyal to them, to the community, and the players then you will be passionate and on board for what the Head Coach is trying to do.
Loyalty can be defnied as “the quality of being loyal to someone or something” or “a strong feeling of support or allegiance.”
Wikipedia says that loyalty is: “faithfulness or a devotion to a person, country, group, or cause.”
I have been a Head Football Coach for 8 years here in So Cal, at two different schools. I can tell you first hand that loyalty is very important. During those 8 years, I had a few coaches quit to devote themselves more to their own career as most of my coaches have not been in the building. Luckily, I only lost ONE coach in 8 years leave to go work at another school. And he made a great move, to a college! I had very loyal coaches.
One coach said “Loyalty. Don’t need another staff member second guessing me and saying different comments to players.”
Another said, “Loyalty. We want coaches who put our program first and want to be a part of the community.”
Head Coaches want loyal coaches because they have so many people questioning them, doubting them, not supporting them, etc. The last thing they need to have is a coach who is not “faithful” to the cause. The last thing they need is a coach bad mouthing them behind their back. (Some Head Coaches deserve that, without a doubt. But that is not the topic here!)
I believe that loyalty is the number one answer here because coaches can usually find hard workers, they can usually find people who know the game, and they can usually find people who can teach the game. But it can be difficult to find coaches who will put the program and the Head Coach before themselves. This is exactly why Head Coaches want to find team players as Assistant Coaches who will strongly support them. They need allegiance from Assistant Coaches more than anything.
The second most popular answer was:
“Willingness to learn” – Mark Holcomb Head Football Coach Athletic Director North Davidson High School Lexington, North Carolina
“Willingness to learn how to teach my system and properly talk to these young men.” – Annonymous
Coaches want someone who will come in and learn their systems, learn their program. I’ve hired coaches who knew more football than I ever will, but they became a great asset very quickly because they were willing to learn the systems that we had in place. They subverted themselves to that system.
I find this to be a rare thing these days. So many coaches want to do things that they know only. They think that they know everything there is to know about football. They want to show everyone that they know everything, so they aren’t as willing and ready to learn the systems in place. This is unfortunate.
Some more of the top answers
“Reliability.” – Citos Marinez. Head Football Coach, Gladstone High School, Covina, CA
“Great people skills, enthusiasm and a teacher.” – Sonny Wolfe, OC at College de Montreal; previously HC at McGill University (5 years) and Acadia University (19 years)
“Ability to Motivate players” – Damian Gonzalez, Head Football Coach/Athletic Director, Poway HS, Poway, CA
“High character on and off the field.” – John Joyner, Head Football Coach, Mater Dei Catholic Chula Vista, CA
“I look for assistants that aren’t afraid to voice their opinions, but also know that the buck stops with me. I don’t want “Yes” men as coaches. I want those that are willing to generate ideas and help put things in motion.” – Kyle Brady, Head Football Coach, Tooele High School, Tooele, UT
“Honesty, integrity, and the “IT” factor. The ability to communicate with players, parents, and fellow coaches and the ability to be able to sell what he is pitching.” – Coach Martin Berry M. Ed., Head Weightlifting Coach, Yulee High School Yulee, FL
“His connection with the kids/me the staff – knowledge is important but is he cannot communicate that or talk with people he is no help to me.” – Anonymous
“Motivation. An assistant should have the best relationship with his position group and should know what needs to be done to get the best out of them on a daily basis.” – Anonymous
And even more answers
Support head coach
Positive can do attitude
Are they good teachers and can they connect with kids
his connection with the kids/me the staff – knowledge is important but is he cannot communicate that or talk with people he is no help to me.
Great people skills, enthusiasm and a teacher
Honesty, integrity, and the “IT” factor. The ability to communicate with players, parents, and fellow coaches and the ability to be able to sell what he is pitching.
Production/ getting it out of athletes
I look for assistants that aren’t afraid to voice their opinions, but also know that the buck stops with me. I don’t want “Yes” men as coaches. I want those that are willing to generate ideas and help put things in motion.
Commitment – Willing to put in the time and effort to be successful.
Initiative; hard worker
High character on and off the field
cares about kids
Someone who has an understanding of our team culture and enthusiastically embraces/promotes it.
Motivation. An assistant should have the best relationship with his position group and should know what needs to be done to get the best out of them on a daily basis.
Character. If he has it, he’ll work hard enough to compensate for any lack of knowledge he might have and will make himself into a quality coach.
Ability to teach fundamentals
Connection with kids
Commitment. If he is “all in” it makes all the difference
Can he manage his unit like state government. Every group is run differently but in coordination with the main focus.
Communicate with Players
Has the same vision for a program and the same coaching philosophy.
Be early & prepared
Ability to connect with kids
Personality/philosophy are compatible
The ability and confidence to work on his/her own. But the humility to take instruction and fall in line when necessary.
Ability to Motivate players
Is he a we guy or a me guy
Ability to buy in to the system regardless of personal preferences.
How well can he build relationships with athletes/communicate with them.
Can they teach!
Being like-minded. We need to being going the same direction.
Passion and respect. Show the kids you care about them and the game. Respect the game, coaches, school, and hc philosophy.
Commitment to our program
Is he or she a “team player”
Being a lifelong learner in all subjects
can they make a connection with the kids…to me football knowledge can be attained but the ability of a coach to be a person who is truly called into this profession can be hard to find
I look for the right fit for our situation first. Is he willing to work hard, will he do little things that no one else wants too and is he loyal.
How he develops relationships with players, coaches, families, & administrators.
Is he/she willing to work until the job is done.
Passion for the sport and kids