Profile of a Successful Assistant Basketball Coach – Supporting the Program & Maintaining Vision

In good programs at every level, an assistant’s suggestions may never be implemented, especially if those suggestions are a rapid departure from the status quo. It is at these times that an assistant coach’s true character is tested.

An assistant who can pass that test of character is far more qualified for the position of head coach than one who’ has all the answers’ but responds childishly when the head coach doesn’t listen to them.

Good assistant coaches also have a responsibility to challenge the head coach’s thinking from time to time. Good head coaches will appreciate the perspective, and will usually respect the assistant for stating it. For the assistant, the difficulty begins with knowing how to deal with the head coach’s response.

Profile of a Successful Assistant Basketball Coach – Supporting the Program & Maintaining Vision

Online forums can be a good space to air out frustrations…but the real test for the assistants is continuing to work hard and support the program and head coach’s vision. Every assistant has as temptation at one time or another to respond unprofessionally by: undermining/backbiting the head coach in conversations with players or parents, ‘disconnecting’ from the program by working less or even quitting, and ‘doing your own thing’ even if it isn’t what the head coach has asked you to do (this happens a lot with JV coaches who don’t agree with the framework laid out by the varsity coach, so they run something completely different with their team).

o “He (head coach) made the wrong call.

o The players don’t even respond to him. They respect me

o “She insists on running a zone when we should be developing our man-to-man defense”.

o “If a varsity coach has an ego issue and thinks that freshmen should be doing the same thing that varsity is doing, he or she needs not to be a varsity coach.”

One more association comes to mind. The head coach is In Control. For many young assistant who haven’t come to fully understand the burden of responsibility that also comes with the position, the control that the head coach has over his/her program can be extremely appealing, and a motivator for personal advancement in the profession. If this motivation is handled correctly it can be a good thing for a young coach. Anything that acts as a motivator for improvement and growth in the field has real value. It can become a problem, though, if a coach allows his desire for autonomy and control to undermine his ability to fulfill his obligations as assistant An assistant coach’s job is a difficult one. Her primary role is to teach the game in the context of the larger program. The framework of the larger program is laid out by the head coach. Nearly every aspiring, ambitious assistant has a vision that is broader than this context. This is a good thing.

“Head Coach”. The title alone will afford anyone degree of respect in the basketball community. For aspiring coaches the title represents “who I want to be”; the term is more an aspiration than it is a title. Head coaches receive a degree of respect from other basketball coaches, even if they are not aware of that coach’s background or track record. The title alone carries a degree of significance for any aspiring basketball coach.

Assistants who respond like this fail at their jobs just as much as the head coach. It doesn’t matter if the head coach asks you to run a shotgun formation; there is never a good reason to undermine the head coach or the direction of the program. This is the difficult part of being an assistant…not only having the courage to challenge the head coach’s by making suggestions, but having the maturity to accept the outcome, even if it isn’t what you’d like it to be.

There are several ways for the assistant to respond. Go to any active online basketball coaching and you’ll find assistants complaining about their situation.

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