As we approach the 2011 Fall youth football tackle season, I thought I would share my thoughts on choosing assistant coaches. First let me say, choosing and in most cases accepting volunteer help is like hiring temporary Holiday workers that want off every Weekend and is seldom a perfect match. Especially, since the volunteer talent pool is usually limited by team size, and the HC normally does not have more than a few weeks to interview potential coaching assistants to learn if your football coaching style matches well against their style, personality, dedication, and expectations of the Head Coach. Your youth football league may also require your team volunteers to pass a background check, so Coach Budweiser and Team Mom Mrs. Stoli do not show up at practices. Now, I always start out by asking volunteers if they can pass a criminal background check, this always sets the tone and usually weeds out any tire kickers and window shoppers. Cross your fingers and wish for a little luck when you choose your coaching staff, and I would rather have luck over skill any day.
You might be wondering how many assistant coaches you should have on your staff. I personally like more than two coaches on a staff, because youth football practice is difficult with just two coaches running drills. It is hard to herd all those cats with only two wranglers. I’ve tried to have just two coaches, one HC and one AC, and ask for parent volunteers during practice, but that does not work out for the entire season. I prefer four to five coaches on my coaching staff one Head Coach and three to four Assistant Coaches; one focused on Special Teams, two focused on Offense and two focused on Defense. Four to Five coaches allows you to focus more on position coaching too, not just group coaching. When you usually have only 4 to 6 hours of practice time a week, you really need the extra coaching man power to individually teach the youth football players through individual position time and more drill stations so they get more repetitions. It’s all about the reps.
The best time to choose your assistant coach is a year or two before you decide to coach tackle youth football. Maybe you are coaching flag football, tee ball baseball or pee wee soccer. These other youth sports offer a great opportunity to start looking for potential youth football assistant coaches, volunteers, and especially youth football recruits. Befriend a few parents that you think might make good assistant coaches and few potential parent volunteers. Get to know these potential volunteers very well before youth tackle age approaches and start talking football. I did this strategy while coaching YMCA tee ball baseball, but then our year for tackle football, our local youth tackle league reorganized the grade / age brackets, and we three coaches went to three different age brackets. We all did well in youth tackle football but we missed coaching together. We are still friends today, even though we now live in different cities.
So what if you are and Head Coach now and did not plan on coaching youth football a year ago or in a similar situation like me above. Look back at all your child’s previous youth sports team rosters and identify a few dads and moms that you find interesting as potential assistant coaches and their children as recruits for your youth football team. Make sure their child will be a potential starter on your team. It is always tough on everyone when an assistant coach’s son or daughter does not start on the team they are coaching. Start calling and recruiting for your youth football team! Don’t be afraid, all they can say is no and no means not now. You have everything to gain.
Maybe you or your wife knows a mom that knows everyone in your neighborhood, reach out to her. Ask her if she knows any potential youth football coaches and or any youth football players. If she responds positively, politely ask her to send out an email to her friends or post on Facebook for anyone interested to call you or her. This mom might also be a good team mom for your team since she already knows everyone. Does she have a child interested in playing tackle football? If you don’t ask, you don’t get any. Patience is a virtue but not in football recruiting.
In my first year as a coach, I looked up an old High School football buddy, and we started coaching together along with a good friend from work who had hooked up with a dad at a local youth football league. We had a great football season our first year, and were elected by our coaching peers as the Coaching Staff of the Year. The key to our success was our friendship, knowledge of football, and our HC delegated the responsibilities clearly. The HC knew he was not a football guy, so he focused on the league and parents, and we as the assistants taught the kids the game of football.
Ok, so now you have found 5 or 6 people that are interested in coaching with you. How well do you know them or who do you know that knows them? If you do not know them very well, then I would start getting to know them. When I first started coaching youth tackle football in Denver and I needed to find a few new assistant coaches, I called a few dads from the early roster and we met for drinks. We met as a group and I outlined my expectations for the assistant coaches and the team, then I met with each of them twice before making my final choices.
What to look for in an Assistant Youth Football Coach
- Do you know them personally? How long, at least 1 year?
- Can they pass a criminal background check? Any domestic violence?
- Would you let them babysit your children over a weekend?
- Have you watched them coach youth sports?
- Have they coached youth sports before, youth football?
- Can they give you parent references for coaching youth sports?
- Did they play youth football, HS football, College?
- What do they know about coaching youth football? Did they read a youth football book or video?
- Do they have older children that play youth football?
- Are they organized? Did they bring paper and pen to your meetings?
- Do they prepare? Did they download league info prior to your meeting?
- Do they know the difference from an odd or even defensive front? Def Coordinator?
- Do they know the difference from an I formation and a Double Wing? Off Coordinator?
- Do they think Special Teams is as important as Offense? Special Teams Coach?
- Can they tell you what GOL or GOO means? Offensive Line Coach?
- Why do they want to coach youth football?
- As the HC are they willing to give you the final word?
- Do you think you will like this person in the long run?
- What do they do for a living? Work? Employer? 25%+ Travel for work?
- Do they have time and dedication to be an assistant coach?
There are a ton of other questions, you should ask a potential coach, but I am sure you can figure those out on your own. Your gut will tell you if you like this person. Trust your gut. If you have any internal resistance then move on. Like I said earlier, it’s tough to find a good volunteer assistant coach. Look how long it took you to find your wife or girlfriend. It’s best to find someone you already have known a long time to become your assistant coach. Even then it could turn out bad. Trust your gut and hope for little luck.
What do you look for in an assistant coach? If you have anything to add, please leave a comment.
Fort Worth, Texas
I previously wrote an article on How to Choose a Team Mom http://coachparker.org/2011/01/09/choosing-a-team-mom-in-youth-football/ which has been well read.
Play for Fun and Winning is Funner.
Written by Coach Parker