The characteristics of a good assistant coach

There’s an article from the basketball world on the characteristics of a good assistant coach. I know as volleyball coaches – especially in the US – there is a tendency toward animosity when it comes to that other sport we have to share our court space (and sometimes our players) with. Coaching is coaching, though, so I recommend you give it a read. It’ll be quick, I promise.

You’ll note that top of the list is loyalty. I’ve written about this myself before – most recently in Assistant coaches acting unprofessionally. Loyalty also topped the list when I asked one of the Volleyball Coaching Wizards I interviewed about that he looked for in his assistants.

To quote the above post:

“Assistant coaches need to understand that it is the head coach’s program and they are there to help the head coach succeed. You need to support the head coach in all decisions and help them fulfill their vision for the team. Everything you do is to help the head coach and the program succeed.”

I firmly believe that head coaches also have a reciprocal responsibility to their assistant coaches. This is especially true for those who are early in their careers. Think about it, though. Is your head coach likely to do positive things for you if you aren’t supporting them and their efforts? Would you in their shoes?

There are two other key characteristics of a good assistant coach mentioned in the piece. One is anticipating the head coaches needs. The other is not simply being a “yes” man. The personality of head coaches vary, of course, in terms of how much push-back they are willing to accept. You need to walk the line between providing constructive thoughts and ideas and being argumentative.

You also need to keep in mind that the head coach has the final call and not pout when you don’t get your way. As an assistant, I’ve had my share of times when I disagreed with what a head coach did. Sometimes it made me angry. What I didn’t do, though, was act out or undermine the head coach in any way. It wouldn’t have done anyone any good.

The bottom line is that, in terms of your own career prospects, the better you help the team and head coach look, the better you will look to future employers. If you bring discord to the team it’s not going to help in that regard – even if you think you’re “right”.

John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women's team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

2 comments

  1. Chloe says:

    This is dumb. Assistant coaches are human beings with options too. Just because some older coach has too much pride to listen to someone else’s ideas does not make it okay to be rude and comdescending. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be respect for a head coach, but making the assistant coach role one that is basically an object that’s there to obey anything and everything the coach says without any input of their own or voice is greedy, wrong, and coming from a place of some serious insecurity. If you’re not okay sharing ideas or treating someone who literally just wants to LEARN from you with respect then you need to check your self before tearing down others.

    • John Forman John Forman says:

      Chloe – Where in this article do I suggest that it’s “okay to be rude and condescending”? I explicitly state that head coaches have a reciprocal responsibility to their assistants. That’s basically the opposite of rude and condescending.

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