Hiring the coaching dream team
If you attend a conference or meeting of athletic administrators, you might hear complaints that it’s difficult or impossible to find qualified coaches for their programs.
This is partly due to fewer teachers and individuals willing to put up with unrealistic expectations, and pressure from a couple of misguided parents. Teachers also must now deal with greater academic standards, paperwork and regulations, making it difficult for them to consider leading a team. But for whatever reason, it’s more difficult today to find well-prepared, nurturing individuals to fill the vacancies in your athletic department.The first step to fixing this problem is to take a hard look at what you mean by the term qualified and what’s important for your program. Does your definition include the following?
- Understands the role of teaching while coaching.
- Serves as a positive role model for not only student-athletes but also spectators.
- Places the welfare and success of athletes above their own goals.
- Is committed to professional development in all aspects of coaching, include certification by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Hopefully, you embrace the education-based athletics concept in which the growth and development of young people is the No. 1 objective. The acceptance and use of this philosophy should guide your efforts in the type of person you want to lead your teams and programs. Finding individuals who buy into and work within this framework can be challenging, but it’s necessary.
Once you have completed these two preliminary steps, and you understand what’s important and what you’re looking for, these eight suggestions should help.
1. Get on the same page.
Meet with and educate upper-level administrators in your district concerning the education-based athletics philosophy. Not everyone is familiar with this concept, and this step is essential to gain their total support. And, to find and retain quality coaches, you need administrative support.
2. Carefully craft the job description.
Clearly state in the job description, vacancy notices, website postings and all other communication vehicles that your program operates within the education-based concept. As part of these documents, you should explicitly spell out the responsibilities for coaches and how they fit into this philosophy. There can be no ambiguity so that coaches know exactly what the expectations are within your district.
3. Coordinate with other vacancies.
Work with your administrators to identify upcoming teaching openings. With this information, you can work to convince your supervisors that looking for candidates who are willing to jointly coach and teach is a great investment for your school. This understanding and cooperative effort is essential to your approach of attracting quality coaches.
4. Support your current coaches.
Develop a climate and culture in which coaches know that the athletic director protects them from unwarranted parental complaints. This is vitally important to attract more candidates.
Since problematic parents represent the main reason that coaches leave the profession, anything you can do to set and enforce definite parameters and provide a support mechanism is an essential part in securing exemplary individuals at your school. Coaches might even spread the word, giving their colleagues throughout the region a positive impression of your program. The importance of this step cannot be overstated.
5. Educate the community.
Constantly educate parents of your athletes and community members about the purpose of education-based athletics. This effort may not eliminate all unrealistic parental expectations, but it’s vital that these individuals understand the foundation of and how your program operates. Part of this message is the fact that coaches are less concerned about winning games and more focused on the development and growth of student-athletes.
Frequent communication can eliminate many potential problems and, if something does occur, you can always refer back to specific documents and presentations.
6. Promote professional development.
Cover the costs for your coaches to take the NFHS education courses. These offerings lead to national certification, and this is definitely one manifestation and component of what’s involved with a quality candidate. While budgets are often stretched to the limit, supplemental funding can be found in gate receipts, booster club initiatives, specific fundraisers, grants and other sources. Paying for these courses is a great incentive for individuals to coach at your school.
7. Use networking to recruit candidates.
Reach out to your colleagues to identify candidates. This means contacting local colleges and speaking to coaches about their recent graduates or former players who might be interested in entering the coaching profession. During these conversations, be clear about what qualities you’re looking for and that you want candidates who would be a good fit for your education-based program.
8. Look for help.
Take a preemptive step and sit down with upper-level administrators to explain your difficulties in finding qualified candidates. Even though they entrust you with the daily operation of the program, they’re likely more than happy to provide some input or suggestions. Could the coaching stipends be increased to make the position more attractive, or is it possible to do more advertising of vacancies, highlighting the positive aspects of your school and program? Or how can the school provide more support for its coaches? Get your supervisors actively thinking about this situation and helping to identify a good solution.
For many schools, locating quality coaches represents a major challenge and takes a sustained effort, hard work and a little creativity. But your student-athletes and program deserve the absolute best, and this means doing everything possible to provide exceptional leaders for every team.
David Hoch, CMAA, has 16 years of experience as a high school athletic director and served for 12 years as the executive director of the Maryland State Coaches Association. In 2000, he was named Athletic Director of the Year by the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association. His column, A.D.ministration, focuses on issues in athletic administration and appears regularly in Coach & Athletic Director magazine.