Commentary

Head coaches: 'Treat assistant as a peer and respected colleague' (Part 2)

By Mike Woitalla

In Part 2 of our series on assistant coaches, we asked for advice for head coaches on how best to utilize their helpers.

Sam Snow (U.S. Youth Soccer, Coaching Director):
“Be sure to give your assistant coach public credit whenever possible, listen to that person's ideas and comments while you are consulting on team matters, give the assistant coach opportunities to grow -- be that in running portions of a training session, managing a match, running a team meeting or attending continuing coaching education events. Treat your assistant coach as a peer and respected colleague.”

Ian Barker (NSCAA, Director of Coaching of Education):
“It is important for the head coach to show confidence and trust in assistants. A significant part of that is giving the assistant coach a wide range of responsibilities that head coach feels he or she can manage. It is important to achieve a balance so that the assistants are motivated and challenged and yet do not feel out of their depth.

“It is somewhat inevitable that an assistant coach may have the ability to interact with the players in a more informal fashion than the head coach, who is the ultimate decision-maker. The head coach must trust the assistants and indeed use the insights that they are able to pick up from players to inform the overall conduct of the team.”

Gerry McKeown (PDA, Boys Director of Coaching):
“The most important thing is communication of the short- and long-term goals for the team and a vision of how that will be accomplished from a technical standpoint. The role of the assistant should be clearly spelled out and can vary based on experience from running all training sessions to only doing the game warm-ups or simply to sit back and learn.”

Rusty Scarborough (CASL, Director of Soccer)
“Be specific and clear in how you would like the team to function -- training, games, pre-game, post-game and communication.”

Tim Schulz (Rush Soccer, President & CEO):
“I have played both roles, There is nothing worse than an assistant not feeling as if he or she is contributing. Get your assistant involved. For example, let them lead at halftime.”

Bob Montgomery (New York Red Bulls, Director of Youth Programs):
“You should have a dialogue with your assistant. You should have assistants whom you can trust but also challenge you. You don’t need someone around who is just a yes-man as an assistant and whatever you say is right. You want someone to challenge you, and then give you full support.”

Read Part 1 of our assistant coach series HERE.

(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, is co-author, with Tim Mulqueen, of The Complete Soccer Goalkeeper and co-author with Claudio Reyna of More Than Goals: The Journey from Backyard Games to World Cup Competition. Woitalla's youth soccer articles are archived at YouthSoccerFun.com.)
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