What makes good coaches great?
Results from Coach & Athletic Director’s annual State of the Industry survey, published in our January edition, again revealed that finding qualified coaches is a major problem for athletic directors.
So, how do you find the best people to lead your student-athletes?
Our columnist and long-time athletic director Dr. David Hoch used his latest column to address this topic, but I wanted to offer a complimentary perspective. During my college years, as editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, I developed a shortlist of qualities I thought were critical when hiring students to join our staff. I continue to use this list today, and I think athletic directors will hire better coaches if they place these virtues at the top of their list.
• Passion. You can hold all the soccer knowledge in the world, but if you don’t sincerely care about coaching and teaching, it’s meaningless. Look for excitement and enthusiasm during the interview. Does this coach sound like someone who’s anxious to get on the field and work with kids, or are they only concerned about their next championship? You want someone willing to invest in the job.
• Desire to learn. Despite all we know, we’ll never know it all. And those who think they have nothing left to learn will eventually become a problem. Look for candidates who regularly attend conferences and clinics, or talk about the mentors who led them along the way. A willingness to learn shows a desire to become a better coach for student-athletes.
• Selflessness. Pay close attention to their choice of words — you want to hear a lot of “we” and not “me.” Championships are won through a team effort, and those who believe otherwise probably think their assistants and athletes are beneath them. Find someone who values the people around them.
• Humility. Can coaches admit their mistakes and openly talk about them? We can all learn something from our faults, but we first must be willing to accept them. This also is true of their accomplishments. Do they carry on when discussing their win-loss record, or do they downplay what they’ve done, focusing on their teaching and the road ahead?
• Work ethic. Don’t hire “clock punchers.” Coaching comes with an unpredictable and somewhat hectic schedule, and they must accept that. If someone has the tendency to head home before their work is finished, they’re not invested in the job or the success of your program. To them, it’s just a paycheck.
This is my list, and it’s one that served me well when hiring young journalists to join our team. My philosophy is this: I’m more interested in someone with passion and enthusiasm than I am in somebody with a wealth of knowledge. I can teach the skills necessary to do the job, but it’s much more difficult — maybe impossible — to force someone to care.
Keep these qualities in mind the next time you interview a candidate for your coaching vacancy. I don’t doubt that finding qualified coaches will continue to be a challenge for athletic directors, but knowing exactly what to look for is an important first step.
Kevin Hoffman is the editorial director for Coach & Athletic Director magazine. He can be reached at [email protected].