The Active Assistant Coach

Posted on Aug 16 2022

As coaching and support staffs grow at all levels of the sport, developing the skills to be an efficient and effective assistant coach is an important growth are for all coaches.

Often in Australia, a coach’s first coaching role is that of a head coach at the junior level and for those coaches who have transitioned from an elite playing background, again the first role may be as a head coach.

With a more collaborative environment in the coaching space in the modern game, having an integrated approach and dynamic approach from the coaching staff is a common thread with successful teams.

Pre-practice  –

Respected international development and skill coach Joerik Michiels has a saying “practice starts as soon as the first player is on the floor.” By that, he means once a player steps onto the court with a ball, there should be a coach there to rebound, chat or work on an identified skill.

It doesn’t have to be a “burn” or a series of high intensity drills, simply a chance for a coach to have an individual touch point with an athlete.

Many teams adopt the “daily vitamin” approach made famous by the San Antonio Spurs. This is where the assistant coaches get on floor with an individual or small group pre-practice to work on specific skill areas, often linked to positional skill requirements.

Regardless of the approach, the assistant coaches should be on floor prior to the players and available to do anything from rebound for a player wanting extra free throws or work on their post counter.

Be part of the drill –

One of the best ways for a coach to impact the energy or function of the drill is to be an active participant in as many drills as possible.

This doesn’t mean the assistant needs to be in a stance defending in the full court, but acting as a passer, rebounder or simply standing in a certain area to provide stimulus for decision making, coaches need to be involved.

This is particularly important early in practice to help build energy and communication. Having coaches act as passers in shooting drills allows genuine engagement and is an effective way of impacting tempo, talk and task.

With decision making such a crucial part of player development, having the coaches stand or occupy an area of the court to impact a player’s vision and decision-making process is important to developing this area.

By positioning the coaches to “see what the players see” is another effective to impact decision making. For example, with pick and roll small-sided games, have a coach play “dummy” defence on the handler to see how the guard reacts to specific stimulus.

Get your steps up –

We expect athletes to be engaged, energetic and pro-active in every session. They should have that expectation of the coaching staff as well.

As an assistant coach, continually adjusting your position in relation to the head coach and other assistants is important corral the court and provide an opportunity to constant “flightpath” coaching.

By being on the move and constantly adjusting to communicate effectively with an individual athlete is a valuable way to share energy, support players and create a positive learning environment.

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