Whether you're a college coach or a coach at the high school level, there are a lot of similarities when it comes to filling out your coaching staff and making it the best it can possibly be.
Every head coaching situation is different. Some programs are able to have a bunch of quality stipend coaches, or offer teaching jobs with their coaching duties, while many others are faced with finding some volunteers in the community to come and help out, or the situation falls somewhere in between.
Regardless of where the program is, there are a number of qualities within the head coaches control that stick out to me when I reflect on what it takes to have an elite coaching staff...and most of them are relevant regardless of what your budget is.
Below, I share eight of those qualities.
1 - Everyone's opinions are valued
Few things are more frustrating than to put in time throughout off season workouts and two-a-days before stepping up to chime in with well thought out and researched suggestion during game planning meetings that gets shot down time after time. Head coaches and coordinators will have their own thought processes and make their own calls, but great coaching staffs aren't full of "Yes men," they're comprised of coaches who do their homework and come to the table with suggestions that are valued and discussed, not simply dismissed without much of a second thought.
Making sure that everyone's opinion feels a sense of value, regardless of whether it is actually used or not, is an important part of having a top-notch staff.
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2 - Each coach understands their roles and expectations
In order to a program to run both effectively and efficiently, every coach needs to understand what their role is on the staff, and the expectations of that role. Just as every head coach assigns a position (or positions) to his staff members, secondary responsibilities like headsets on game day, or handling the post game and practice film work should be assigned as well. Making sure everyone has at least one or two secondary duties on top of their on-field duties will help the program run much smoother. Having roles and expectations for each guy for game day is also a huge help, and make sure each guy knows what he has on his plate during your preseason meeting.
Equally as important, is holding your staff accountable to those roles and expectations and clearly communicating when things are going well, and not-so-well.
3 - Coaches are given the freedom to be themselves
When bringing coaches onto your staff, it's important to know what their personalities and coaching styles are like before the handshake to bring them on board. Just like you can't ask a tiger to change his stripes, you can't ask a coach to make a drastic change to who they are. The only exception to that may be young guys just starting out in the profession...they'll be a bit more malleable than a veteran coach who has been around a while.
Understanding what types of personalities you want on your staff, and even how those relate to certain positions (for example, do you want a fiery / rattle the cage type as your defensive coordinator, or more of a calm, cool and collected type?) can be very helpful in building your staff and knowing how your coaches will work together, and how kids will respond to that coaching.
4 - Everyone is putting comparable amounts of "sweat in the bucket"
The really good staffs in high school and college football are full of guys that are putting (about) the same amount of work in. It's really tough to get on the same page and really mesh with one another if you've got a bunch of guys that show up to the first day of two a days ready to coach, while one or two guys have been running the weight room all off season.
As coaches, we have no issues criticize players for not putting in the time and sweat equity, but how many staffs are there where everyone on staff is investing in the kids the way that we expect them to invest during the course of an off season?
5 - The coaches, and their families, enjoy spending time together off the field and away from football
Perhaps no single thing builds staff continuity like creating an environment where coaches and their families want to be. If you can find a way to create a special place that wives and kids love, and are able to bond with the other wives and kids in the program, and your coaches are top-notch, you've got a chance to build something really special.
6 - Every member of the staff understands that it's about the kids
Down at the AFCA this year, I heard a number of speakers comment about how there seem to be a growing number of coaches getting into the profession for the money, and the title and perks that sometimes come along with being a coach. The best staffs are made up of people that understand that it's all about the kids.
Be very wary of the guys who make it about them, or always seem to be focused on the next job, and not where their feet are.
7 - Coaches feel empowered
I think one of the most powerful things that a head coach can do for his staff can also be the most difficult in a lot of cases, in a lot of cases because ego can often be such a big part of football. With that said, the importance of finding ways to empower your coaches cannot be understated.
Empower them to make mistakes. Empower them to think independently. Empower them to challenge you (when the time is right). Empower them to make important decisions about the program. Empower them to find different ways to do things. Empower them with new responsibilities and challenges.
Coaches who feel empowered feel valued, and valued coaches in turn pour more into the program and your kids.
8 - The staff compliments the weaknesses of the head coach, and each other
I see this one as super important, and while I think that a lot of college head coaches get this, I'm not sure the same can be said for high school guys. Head coaches have shortcomings and weaknesses just like everyone else. If you're not a great scheme guy and more of a motivator, well you'd better get a great X's and O's guy on staff, and the same goes for the other way around. Not great with fundraising, or paperworks and budgeting? Find a guy that's willing to take that on. At the college level, staffs are full of guys whose primary skill set may be he's a great technician and awesome with the fundamentals, while another guy is an elite recruiter or really develops talent well...the same can be said for coaches at the high school level.
Having guys that help to fill in the cracks will really go a long way in strengthening your staff.