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June 24, 2018 • Athletic AdministrationCoaching

Dear athletic directors: Show appreciation to your coaches

For seven years, we’ve surveyed athletic directors asking about the greatest challenges in their programs. And for seven years, one of the top answers has been retaining high-quality coaches. It’s a problem with no clear answer, but the only way to get to the heart of the issue is to ask the coaches themselves. So, that’s what we did.

In our June issue, we introduced the Coaches Report, a survey of high school coaches that we expect to make an annual project. Among our priorities was asking coaches what they consider most important to maintaining job satisfaction at their schools. Is it money? Is it opportunity? Is it the quality of the program?

The answer is all of the above, but our survey also revealed something much simpler — it’s respect and appreciation.

Athletic directors, of all people, should understand the enormous amount of responsibility that comes with the job, and it’s not so different with coaches. They give up their weekends, and sacrifice time with their families. In most cases, they’re not fairly compensated but they do it out of love for the sport and their student-athletes.

In our report, a number of coaches pointed not to the workload but the culture as a major problem. One said all he wanted after a long season was a “thank you,” but the athletic director never once said it. Another complained about in-fighting between coaches, and the AD’s refusal to do anything about it. Some said their athletic administrator rules with an iron fist, preferring to treat coaches like subordinates instead of critical members of his team. Words like “support,” “loyalty,” “respect” and “fairness” were repeated over and over.

It’s possible that all along we’ve been guilty of overthinking the issue. I’ve spoken with athletic directors who claim winning is the key to finding and retaining top coaches, and others said it’s about facilities and resources. I don’t doubt some coaches value those above all else, but that’s not the secret to keeping them happy. In 2014, the Boston Consulting Group created a list of the top 10 factors to job happiness after surveying more than 200,000 people. Three of the top five were related to appreciation for the job and relationships with co-workers. Positive relationships are impossible if you don’t show appreciation for the work done by your coaches.

Words are powerful. If you haven’t already, tell (and show) your coaches what they mean to you, the school and the student-athletes. A little appreciation goes a long way.


Kevin Hoffman is the Editorial Director for Coach & Athletic Director magazine. He can be reached by emailing [email protected]


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Love this, Kevin! Thanks for sharing! Honestly, as a coach, it’s not the grand gestures that really make me feel like my AD appreciates me so much as the small comments here and there. On the one hand that makes it SO easy for someone to show appreciation for those they work with, but on the other hand it’s so easy to overlook the power of passing words and comments (and, therefore, not be intentional with them!). I began implementing this one idea, The Impact Frame, in my program, with my assistant coaches, each year to help drive home the… Read more »