They say teamwork makes the dream work—but what happens when you and your assistant coach hit the floor during practice?? I was very lucky to work with and observe many coaches during my time at Club Estudiantes, and I was able to learn the ins and outs of coaching staff dynamics at a high level youth development programme.
If you have never had an assistant coach, just want to get better at how you work together with your assistant, or you are an assistant coach then look no further. This is your ultimate guide, and it covers everything you need to know.
Working together as a head coach and assistant coach in youth basketball requires clear roles and responsibilities to ensure a smooth and successful team dynamic.
First and foremost, it’s essential to have a discussion and define each person’s role. This means assigning specific areas of responsibility and determining how the team will be led.
Will you both equally share the coaching duties, taking turns leading drills, running practices, and coaching during games? Or will one person take on the primary coaching role while the other provides support?
Going through the practice schedule and game plans together and noting who will be responsible for each activity or drill is crucial. If one coach is leading a specific exercise, it’s important to clarify the other coach’s role during that time.
Think of it as a well-directed play, where each actor has a specific role and knows what they are responsible for throughout the performance.
By clearly defining each coach’s role, you can minimise confusion and maximise productivity and teamwork. This allows for a cohesive coaching approach and ensures that each player has the support they need to reach their full potential.
The head coach and assistant coach need to align on expectations and establish communication signals.
Firstly, both coaches should discuss how they can support each other throughout the game and practice sessions. It is essential to consider specific points where each coach can jump in with their thoughts and contributions. However, it is equally important to have moments where the head coach leads alone without any interruptions.
Secondly, the coaches must establish clear communication signals. One way to do this is by using non-verbal cues that they both understand. For instance, they can agree on a certain hand gesture to signal an issue or to indicate that it is time to wrap up a particular exercise or discussion.
By aligning on expectations and establishing clear communication signals, both coaches can work together seamlessly, ensuring the best possible outcome for the team.
It’s important for the head coach and assistant coach to work together seamlessly in order to create the best experience possible for the players. One way to do this is by having a dress rehearsal before the season starts.
Coaching a team together is not the same as coaching individually. You need to be in sync with one another and work around each other’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, does one coach like technical skills and one coach tactical? Is one coach a defensive specialist and the other knowledgeable when it comes to offence? Schedule in a practice run before the first game, either in the gym where you will be practising or during coaching meetings.
The practice run provides an opportunity to iron out any lingering confusion about your respective roles, to check that your communication signals work, and to get a feel for how each person coaches (especially important if this is the first time working together). It also helps you to ensure that you’re both on the same page when it comes to the overall strategy for the team.
During the practice run, you can test out different scenarios and strategies, practise different drills, and make sure that you’re both comfortable with the overall approach to coaching the team. Perhaps one coach is more vocal than the other, if the less vocal one doesn’t speak up if something goes wrong perhaps this is part of the approach they take. Knowing this will help all staff and players on the floor and will help to create a more cohesive and effective coaching unit that can work together seamlessly throughout the season.
Head and assistant coaches need to introduce themselves to the team and offer clarity on their roles. This will help the team understand why there are two coaches leading them and what each coach’s responsibilities are.
Start by clearly introducing each coach and explaining how they will be working together. You can also provide examples of specific areas that each coach will be focusing on, such as offence or defence. Allow the team to ask any questions they may have so that everyone is on the same page.
By doing this, you’re setting the stage for effective communication and collaboration between the coaches, which is crucial for the success of the team. With a clear understanding of each coach’s role, the team can focus on improving their skills and working towards their goals.
To give the best chance of a successful season, it’s crucial that coaches support and respect each other throughout the entire process.
During the early stages of the season, the head coach and assistant coach should keep an eye out for any non-verbal cues they previously agreed on to indicate when the other might need a hand. If a discussion becomes heated, they should consider if they can step in to support their fellow coaching staff member without undermining them.
It’s important to remember that as a staff, coaches need the players to respect them. So, they should lead by showing each other the same level of support and respect. By doing so, they can create a positive and collaborative environment that will benefit everyone involved.
When working as a head coach and assistant coach, it’s important to avoid interrupting each other and to approach any differences in opinion constructively and supportively. As a team, you should aim to work collaboratively, not compete for airtime.
If you do have a difference in opinion, it’s important to approach it constructively. Don’t outright disagree with each other or point out that they’re wrong about something. Instead, ask questions or consider alternative perspectives to turn it into a productive, respectful discussion. I remember with the U10s I worked with the coach encouraged me to speak up in front of the team if I disagreed and had another opinion. The coach liked the idea that being part of the team and club was a basketball education and the more ways a player could learn to approach a challenge on court the better.
Remember, you’re setting an example for your players. Just as you encourage them to engage in constructive discussions, you should apply the same rules to your interactions with your fellow coaching staff. By doing so, you’ll work more effectively as a team and be better equipped for the season.
Working collaboratively can be incredibly effective, but only if you work as a team. Therefore, checking in with each other throughout the days, weeks, and months is essential.
No matter how much you plan and practice, there will always be some unexpected bumps in the road during the season. It’s essential to have a system in place for checking in with each other to make sure everything is running smoothly. This can help you to identify and resolve issues before they become bigger problems.
I met with a coach before every practice to discuss the upcoming session and it wasn’t even my team. The coach from the U16s team at Estu (check out the U16s PDFs in the Hoops Europe shop) loved to discuss the technical and tactical. I also attended many coaches meetings in cafes and restaurants to discuss what was going well and what needs improvement.
So, what should you be checking in on? Here are a few ideas:
Is everyone engaged and participating?
Have the players bought in?
Is the pace of practice/play/teaching appropriate?
I have mentioned that during my experiences at Club Estudiantes that some coaches adapted the season plans and some coaches stuck to the plan (happy to discuss email@example.com).
Whether plans are altered or not, if you notice that the players or staff aren’t engaging or buying in, it is important to be transparent and explain why plans are being stuck to or not.
It’s crucial to work together with your staff and players on any changes you make. Making changes without consulting them can lead to confusion and undermine your teamwork.
Working effectively as a coaching team is crucial to the success of any sports team. Whether you’re a head coach or an assistant coach, it’s important to work collaboratively with your coaching counterpart to ensure that you are both on the same page and working towards the same goals.
One important aspect of successful coaching teamwork is to debrief together. After practice? End of the week? On zoom? WhatsApp? Find a way. Take the time to discuss how things went and give each other feedback. Ask questions such as: What went well? What could have been better? What would you do differently next time? This will allow you to learn from each other’s experiences and identify areas where you can improve.
In addition to discussing the overall performance of the team, it’s important to assign clear action points to each coach. Who will be responsible for sending the follow-up email to the team? Who will upload and share photos or ideas captured during the session? By assigning these tasks, you’ll ensure that nothing falls through the cracks and that you’re both taking responsibility for the success of the team.
Finally, it’s crucial to remember that you’re a team. Celebrate the team’s successes together and work collaboratively to address any areas where improvements can be made. By following these simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to building a strong coaching team that can lead your team to victory.