by Bill Shepard, Durand (Ill.) High School
Now that you are the person in charge of the football program, what comes next?
With this position comes great power to organize, develop, plan and direct. Yet also what comes with this new position is great responsibility. There are five important elements that can help new head coaches be successful. The first is organization.
Organize With A Mission
Everything you do affects everything you do. This is a simple phrase that I have been telling coaches and players for years and it is so true.
Taking on the position of head coach can carry with it great power and responsibility. To realize this will help you organize your staff, players and even yourself. Before making a lot of big promises and telling everyone about the greatness of your system, investigate and see what you have.
Evaluate Film And Player Character
Whether you are taking over a program with which you have previous experience or whether you are moving to another town, district or area to take control of a program, investigate what you have.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the players or former staff. Read old news articles from previous seasons. Interview teachers, administrators and staff. Find out what you have on the team. Watch film on how they perform on the field.You may have the right team of players, but they are in the wrong positions.
Gain your own perspective of the program. Interview the players themselves and get information about them through a simple form they can fill out for you (include interests, family background and academic information). During this process, listen more, talk less and gain an understanding of what you have to start with.
Organize Your Staff
This may take the most time, but even the best staff hits a few initial speed bumps. Speaking from personal experience, uniting your staff is a process. It needs a lot of attention and skill.
I have misread people, situations and experiences that have caused me to reorganize and examine what we were doing. I have had experienced coaches (of 10-15 years) watch as I coach because they support the old coach, and others with limited experience make rookie mistakes yet work hard to overcome their experience. I have even been sabotaged by other coaches because I was an outsider and it was their way of telling me to move on.
Even if you have the opportunity to organize and put your entire staff together, it does not guarantee that they will all follow your lead and get along. Make sure that whatever you are lacking in areas of coaching, you have a staff member who can fill the void. You don’t need a staff made up of “yes” men, but they do need to be on the same page and unified with you.
One of my coaching friends came and gave his time to help me start a new program on the high school level. I discovered that his philosophy and mine were different. Even though he helped me with many important projects the first year, where he thought the program should go and where I thought it should go were drastically different.
I still believe that we should have had more success that year, but there needs to be a unified direction with all coaches supporting the same goals and objectives for the program. Coach your coaches, keep tight reins on what they are doing, organize them based on their skills, and unite them in purpose. A divided staff with little support for the head coach can hurt a good team.
This is a broad area because there are many people out there who wish to help you succeed so their agendas succeed. There are others who want to see you fail, and finally there are those who will help in anyway possible because they want the program to succeed.
Always evaluate helpers from the perspective of your overall plan or direction for the program. Be upfront and honest with those who wish to contribute, and also recognize that even if you sit down and explain your intentions and program direction, people may still miss the message because your agendas aren’t the same.
Make sure those who are willing to donate time, money and resources as volunteers or helpers know and understand the direction you plan on taking the program. You don’t want to deal with unintended consequences later.
Budgets, Inventory And Supplies
Take the time to conduct an inventory, examine budgets and check supplies that you control for your program. Do not accept floating budgets. Make sure you have detailed expected costs for the program each year. Sit down with the Athletic Director and review expected costs for the next year and review your plan for the program in the coming year.
Present a handout with goals and intentions for the program, likely expenditures and a complete inventory of what you currently have within the program.
Keeping the communication line open with the Athletic Director is important. As the new head coach, you must know what you currently have in order to make improvements.
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