Assistant Coach Primer

This is a small-school primer for assistant coaches (ACs). While the needs and requirements of ACs can vary greatly when programs have different resources, there have been a few consistent needs I’ve seen throughout my career.

Right after being eligible to do the job (ie: passing the background test), loyalty has to be the first attribute every head coach is looking for in assistants. Headers want guys that are loyal not only to the program, but to the head coach and his vision. Guys that go behind the HCs back and either pursue his job or talk negatively about him or the program won’t last long in the business.

Be accountable- no one, but especially not guys giving 365 days a year towards a program and asking for peanuts in return, wants to hear excuses. There are 4-responses for players, right? Same for the ACs in my program. We all make mistakes, own up to them and fix them. No excuses, sir.

Dedicate your time- whether it’s to watching film, breaking film down in Hudl, fundraising, staying after practice to learn the game, or going on blogs and to clinics… you have to dedicate time to home your profession. Carry a notebook around and take notes, fill up the water and ice, paint the field, stay in the locker room with the players until their parents get there.

Don’t have an ego- Head coaches have a lot on their plate, and finding guys that will do the little things to take weight off the head coach can be pivotal. For instance, I spent my first couple of years running after water, fixing equipment, picking up team meals, and doing all the little things asked of an AC in their first year or two at a major program. I believe in doing those tasks because I became valuable even though my coaching ability, maturity, and football IQ weren’t any better than anyone else that turned in a resume.

Listen and learn- whether it’s during film sessions or during a game, listen up, especially if you’re a first year guy trying to get in and fit in. We all respect your Madden online record, but no coordinator wants you to suggest a play in the middle of action, or for you to question their decisions. During pre-week planning make suggestions and ask questions, but once it’s game time, tempers are flaring and the coordinators and head coaches only have time for down, distance, hash and personnel- unless otherwise asked, of course.

Have ambition- Don’t be pushy about promotions, but have the ambition to lead a program of your own one day. It’s a great way to be taken serious about your dedication to the profession. When I got into this game at 20, I had no ambition of being a varsity head coach, but by the time I had completed year three, I was wondering when my time would come. At 28 it finally got there and I wasn’t ready.

Dottavio.

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