There I was, a new coach confronted by 25 middle school boys’ lacrosse players full of energy and waiting to hit somebody. Luckily, I had a background in education and classroom management. I got through that first season on my own, but it wasn’t exactly Coach of the Year material.
In my second season, I brought on a volunteer assistant, which presented a new challenge: How do you get 2-3 adults to follow your vision for success?
Here are some ways to unite your staff to best serve your athletes.
- Provide clear and consistent messaging.
Encourage your staff to meet for at least 15 minutes prior to each practice to review your objectives for the day, organize the practice plan and address any other issues they need to know about. It’s important that all the coaches are on the same page for the direction of the team. Nothing is worse than having athletes confused because Coach Buchanan is telling them to do something one way, Coach Snyder is telling them the opposite and Coach Moe is telling them something altogether different.
- Show your gratitude.
Take the time to publicly thank your staff, especially in front of the athletes and their parents. Let them know how much you appreciate the time and energy the assistant coaches expend on the team. A free shirt or hat can go a long way toward making your volunteer coaches feel like valued members of the staff and integral to the program.
- Do the heavy lifting yourself.
Volunteer coaches are just that—volunteers. They are helping you because they have some interest in the game beyond a paycheck. Try to respect that and be mindful of it when asking them to take on responsibilities beyond on-field coaching. If it’s not something you want to do yourself, your unpaid volunteers most definitely don’t want to do it either.
- Be flexible.
Keep in mind many volunteers might not be able to attend all team activities. You must decide how much you delegate to them based on what they can commit to. Perhaps you’ll assign them low-priority tasks like running substitutions on game day — not only are you getting them involved in the game, but you’re also free to focus on the play as it unfolds.
You may also want to consider volunteers for specialized positions like faceoffs or draws. They can work with those specialists on days they are able to attend practice and really focus on making those players the best they can be.
How else have you found success in managing your coaching staff? Let us know in the comments section.
TJ Buchanan is the coaching education content manager at US Lacrosse.
A version of this article appeared in the January 2014 issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.
Photo Credit: Joe Koshollek
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