By Josh Cordell
Did you know that assistant coaches are a go to person when it comes to talking about the difficult things in life?
I have the unique privilege of having one-on-one conversations with multitudes of young athletes. They often share the heavy things of life with me. After thanking them for their honesty and for trusting me, I like to ask follow-up questions. One of those questions is, “Do you have some other people you can talk about this with?” I ask that because I believe there’s wisdom in a multitude of councilors as well as checking to see if they have some other people that they are willing to trust with these big things, so they don’t feel alone. Sometimes they don’t have anyone else. Sometimes it’s their parents. Sometimes it’s a coach. But when it’s a coach it is almost always an assistant coach.
Why is this? What makes an assistant coach the person of choice over a head coach when it comes to talking about what a player is going through? Here’s a few of the reasons I believe why:
• Assistant coaches don’t decide playing time or position, so they are a safer place to go than a head coach.
• Head coaches have so many things to focus on and manage that they may not be as in tune to an individual athlete’s attitude or body language. So they may not see when a player needs to be checked on.
• Assistant coaches often have more available moments to say, “How are you doing?” Which is ultimately going to lead to deep conversations, once time has allowed for trust to be built. Young people are more likely to share when they are asked, and head coaches don’t often have time to ask.
• Because head coaches need to be a little more serious to keep it all together, an assistant coach can often be a little more lighthearted. This attitude can be more inviting for a young person to want to talk about difficult things.
There are many great head coaches out there. They put in so much work to make things happen (way more work than most people know). They shape the culture of a team and program. They get their name listed next to the championship and they take the blame for all the losses. Head coaches are often underappreciated. We need great head coaches to teach our young athletes valuable lessons and give them great experiences. But we need solid assistant coaches too!
In fact, we need more great assistant coaches. Experts in Xs & Os are nice, but what we really need are expert listeners and question askers. Assistant coaches that can become trusted ears and voices. Assistant coaches that can relates to young athletes and have eyes that see kids in need.
So let’s thank the assistant coaches. Let’s celebrate the ones that are doing awesome, often invisible, work for our kids. And perhaps, think about becoming assistant coaches ourselves. Can you support a kid? If you can, I’m sure there is a team that you could help with!
Josh is the founder of Prep Success Coach where he works with athletes as a mental coach and mentor.