What Makes a Valuable Assistant Coach

Posted on Dec 16 2020

The majority of coaches will start their journey on the sideline as an assistant coach. We asked a host of senior coaches from around Australia to share the key points they look for in a valuable assistant coach.

The coaches shared a range of traits and skills that make for a successful and supportive assistant coach. From technical to cultural, some great observations and thoughts for young assistant coaches to consider.

Darren Perry – Head Coach, Australian Under 19 Men

  • Understand key messaging and adopt in all communication with players
  • Be ready to offer ideas – sometimes a great idea or “wrinkle” to what the head coach is doing takes a little time process
  • Genuine and solid relationships with players – have to know how the players tick

Dee Butler – Former Head Coach, Australian Under 19 Women

  • Adopt similar terminology for campaign/tournament so players get the same message from all coaches to limit confusion
  • Have an understanding of key points of emphasis made the head coach for that drill/session and provide specific feedback/corrections on the run if you see players missing the mark
  • Show a united front with all coaching staff to demonstrate culture

Kristen Veal – Head Coach, BA Centre of Excellence Women’s Program

  • The ability and capability to understand, complete and anticipate the work required in the preparation (scouting + review) process.
  • Working out what support the head coach needs and adapt to that space (i.e. coffee catch ups, after game debriefs, going for walks, being flexible to work through issues/scout when the coach needs to)
  • Being able to fill in or share details and/or knowledge to support the athletes understanding of the game plan, and with younger players to continue to increase their basketball knowledge
  • Driving energy and engagement at practices
  • Positivity, work ethic, knowledge and alignment with values of head coach and team

Jacob Jackomas – Assistant Coach, Hawks NBL

  • Multi-skilled and willingness to do the work – video, player development work-outs, rebounding before and after practice
  • Focus on being an assistant – your job is to support the coach, add to the core philosophy with suggestions, do what is needed to help the coach and not be constantly looking at what is next for you
  • Alignment with the head coach once a course of action has been decided on/planned for – concept of “argue, agree and align”

Adam Caporn – Head Coach, BA Centre of Excellence Men’s Coach

  • Loyalty to Head Coach –

The basic requirement of any coach is that when they leave the coaches office and enter the floor, the film room, any interface with the team and more importantly the outside world, everyone is united and on the same page. More important than what you do, is that everyone buys in and commits to doing it together.

All staff members play an integral part in creating an effective decision making environment in any organisation. Creating an information sanctuary where ideas can be debated and scrutinised is required to get as many decisions right as possible. This will obviously be critical in achieving success.

This won’t happen without the right environment and culture. A united voice and belief in the direction. Trust and loyalty are required in making good decisions, but its bigger than that. They are the foundation for everything. An assistant coach must leave their ego at the door.

  • Relationships with players –

Building meaningful connections with the players is where an assistant coaches job must start. Ultimately your job is going to be to help the players develop and align their personal goals within the team context. Be able to understand and motivate them to work at their craft daily is your job as a leader.

Having genuine care for them as people and a holistic approach will be required to support them and facilitate growth the certain adversity. There are so many important reasons for this.

Firstly, it should be the most rewarding part of the job. It can make the journey truly meaningful and give you a chance to make a difference that matters.

From an organisational point of view, the most valuable asset in team are its players and your ability to make them better and support great performance will make you invaluable to the organisation.

There will undoubtedly be some difficult times. Maybe personal hardship that will require some empathy and understanding. Maybe you need to help keep an individual accountable and they are more likely to listen to you if they know you care about them.

Bruce Palmer – Former NBL head coach

  • Be loyal to fellow coaches – take your opinions/suggestions to them first
  • Understand that if given key area of responsibility (e.g. team defence), head coach has the right to over-ride at any time
  • Focus on specific details – shooting with bigs, free throw block out etc
  • Scouting – identify personnel strengths and team trends of opponents

Thanks to all our coaches who contributed their thoughts. We will share Part Two of this article in the coming days, with further thoughts from coaches throughout the National coaching network.



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