The Role of the Assistant Coach

Abraham Schwartz, Assistant Coach at Perry Central High School, Leopold, IN

Holding the title of an assistant basketball coach for a high school in Southern Indiana could mean many different things.  Roles may vary from manager to janitor and sometimes, even parent. If you are an assistant coach, you most likely are not doing it for the money or the fame. Most people cannot name the top College or NBA assistants in the game; why should they know you? 

Many if not all of us coach because we love the game and we want to impact our athletes like someone once did for us. And then for some, it is also the desire to eventually grow to become a head coach one day.  I coach for all of these reasons, and plan to do it my whole life if God allows. 

The role of an assistant coach can look very different from one program to the next, but I believe no matter what program you are a part of, you should be doing the following with your team of assistants:

  • Each Assistant Coach (AC) should contribute a unique set of skills and strengths to the program.
  • Always represent the culture of the program and community while empowering the players to do the same.
  • Be present for everything; if the Head Coach (HC) is coming in an hour early, the assistant coach should be there as well.  
    • Serve as a role model for the team and be committed to working hard at all times.
    • Inspire the future players of the program by bringing energy to all youth events.
  • Serve the team by your willingness to do any task like sweeping the floor, folding the laundry, running the clock, etc.
  • Build personal relationships with each player alongside the HC and provide moments to share personal topics.
    • Relationships with players should always be professional, keep in mind sometimes players are intimidated by their HC and might be willing to share more with an AC.
    • Be familiar with the team handbook and team expectations and communicate directly with the HC on any player concerns.
  • Continuously contribute positive comments to all members of the program and speak in private with any member of the team if a problem arises.
  • Study the game and always be willing to learn more.  
    • Find a mentor that can guide you and prepare you to be a HC when the time comes.
  • Provide assistance to the HC with practice plans.  
    • Understand each drill and what skill is being taught.  
    • If the HC is sick, the AC can take over practice without skipping a beat.
  • Help communicate practice and game times, when the bus is leaving, or when meals are arriving, etc.
  • Memorize the scouting report of the opposing team, and your team’s game plan forwards and backwards.  
    • The AC assists with the organization of scouting reports by watching film or watching teams in-person.  
    • Be able to communicate the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing team and their favorite plays.
  • Maintain the ability to draw up every single play and know all five spots of the team’s offense to help players when the HC cannot. 
  • Gather all of the equipment needed for home and away games and prepare them when the HC cannot.  
    • This takes stress off of the HC and allows them to focus on last-minute game preparations.
  • Assist with in-game decisions, and communicate ideas or thoughts when asked.  
    • The AC must understand when it is a good time to speak up and when to keep quiet (maybe most important).
  • Have all stat sheets prepared for practices and/or games.
    •  Always be ready to give the HC in-game summaries when asked. 
  • Always be aware of how many timeouts are left during a game, the foul situation, and who has the possession arrow.
  • Help calm and refocus an upset player coming to the bench.
  • Admit your mistakes in front of the team to show that everyone will make mistakes, but  also be willing to learn from them. 

Assistant coaches play a vital role in the growth of a player, a team, and a program.  Without them, many great things would cease to exist, but with them, a program’s possibilities become endless.  In my short time as assistant coach, I have made many mistakes but I never quit striving to learn and improve from them.  In order to become the head coach that I want to be someday, I know I must continue to serve and learn from one.

‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.’ ~Mahatma Gandhi

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