Coaching Staffs - Assistant Roles

Coaching Staffs - Assistant Roles

Surrounding yourself with the best possible Assistants/Teachers for the players on your team is imperative to all youth coaching staffs. In order to ensure proper communication, – each coach understands that it is his or her role to clearly delegate what their Assistants primary jobs are with the team. You want everyone on the same page so the staff can work with the team seamlessly. You cannot have “factions” of players or parents who try to play one coach against another, and by clearly defining roles, you avoid this pitfall. Nothing derails a team’s success faster than an Assistant coach who does not see eye to eye with the Head Coach or pushes their own agenda with the players/parents.  The coaching staff needs to speak ONE voice.Some Head Coaches see the presence of one or two strong Assistants as somewhat of a threat to them or their coaching authority. Nothing could be further from the truth if development is the #1 focus for everyone. First, every great coach that I know welcomes strong staff additions because every great coach knows a well-coordinated team effort provides a better education for the kids they work with. Having accomplished assistant coaches, who all understand their roles (even when the Head Coach is eminently qualified to coach the team without much help) only bolsters the learning curve for all the players. You want a staff that would best benefit the kids. One that has no egos involved, and, if it is good for the kids you do it.

The Head Coach may typically need to find an Assistant who has strengths in areas that they may not.  Most teams search for a D person who has the ability to teach the defense corps the intricacies of the game that a Head Coach cannot…the individual aspects that can only be conveyed by someone who played the position at a high level. That is not a knock on the Head Coach. Most Head Coaches always seek out an experienced defenseman as their Assistant because they know they cannot teach the kids enough.  If your Head Coach was a Dman then the same would apply for the need for someone to work with the Forwards more.  There is too much talent on offense/defense/goaltending to pretend that one head coach acting alone can properly improve them all, and the fact is – the players are in need of a coach who can specialize in different areas of the game.

Head Coaches rightfully focus their main in-game attention to systems and line changing, and then try to have their Assistants work with the players individually as they come to the bench after a shift. So, you have the Assistants focused on details, while the Head Coach is in charge of the big picture. This is how most coaching staffs work. During practices, it remains the Head Coaches responsibility to prepare a practice curriculum, and to mete out duties to his/her assistants as they see fit. Nothing frustrates me more then seeing Head Coaches who do not get their Assistants involved. Practice time is very expensive or scarce for a lot of youth teams. Successful Head Coaches make full use of every minute by fully involving their assistants. Don’t let the Head Coach be the whole show while assistants stand along the boards with nothing to do. Give your assistants some responsibilities (warm ups, specific drills, specialty teams, face offs, individual work etc..) and prepare them to be a great Head Coach someday.

Most solid youth programs take this very same approach by always trying to make the coaching staff significantly better. If I were to personalize this, I would suggest looking at this as it impacts your son or daughter. During the course of either a game or a practice, he/she will now have the luxury of receiving more personalized feedback both in games and in practices. Your child can have a discussion with a “position” coach if he doesn’t understand something and not have to worry about the fact that the head coach needs to be focused on what’s going on out on the ice, and therefore doesn’t have the time to complete a dialogue with them. The assistant can talk, draw on the board, and make sure a lesson is taught well. I have yet to meet a player at any level who doesn’t need more teaching, and now each player will be able to get it. Simply stated, at every advanced level of the game, this is how it’s done.

There have been times over the past 20 year where some Head Coaches do not understand the real focus of their organization. It is a club’s job to ensure that elite players are being developed so that when they step into Prep, Junior, or College hockey, they are totally prepared to compete successfully. Wins are transitory, learning lasts. Having said that, everyone wants to win, but you want to make sure that you are winning WHILE the kids are learning all the intricacies of the game. You do this… with a solid staff!