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Monday, January 29, 2007

Filling the Remaining Spot on the Coaching Staff

So with Shawn Watson officially being promoted to offensive coordinator and QB coach, and Sean Callahan of Huskers Illustrated reporting that Ted Gilmore is expected to be named recruiting coordinator, Nebraska’s coaching staff lacks just a TE coach. I thought that this news would give me a chance to look into the process of putting a coaching staff together. This also gives me another opportunity to turn to my man-crush Bill Walsh and to his book, which I’m currently reading - Finding the Winning Edge. This book is like the Holy Grail when it comes to coaching football. It covers every, and I mean every detail of the life of a coach, from organizing a staff to working with the media. Although the book is out of print I managed to pick up a used copy that once belonged to the Jamaica, Queens Public Library.

First like any CEO, a head coach must be able to project the future staffing needs of the organization. This is crucial as over time, openings for assistant coaches will occur for any number of reasons (e.g., individuals take a position with another team, some retires, a coach is fired, the size of your staff increases, etc.). Walsh notes that:
“Each time an opening exists and is filled, a certain level of transition among the previous staff members typically transpires. If this transition is not handled properly, the situation can be very divisive and disruptive when the individuals are passed over for a particular position they wanted or reassigned from a job they preferred”.
Next it might be useful to define the role of the TE coach, according to Walsh:
“This person oversees the establishment, development and implementation of the game plan as it pertains to the tight ends. He works in association with the offensive line coach and the receivers coach. His primary responsibility is to work with the tight ends on their blocking techniques and skills.”
Once these basic responsibilities have been established a coach needs to identify the desired qualifications of staff members. This can be a difficult proposition. One the one hand, the staff must have the technical knowledge of the game that is necessary to ensure that every player performs up to the best of his natural attributes. On the other hand, the staff must possess the personal attributes that enable them to collectively focus their energies on a common goal. In addition, it is helpful to consider the diversity of your staff so that each person offers a somewhat different combination of traits, capabilities and experiences. Walsh highlights five major qualities of prospective assistant coaches:

1. A fundamental knowledge of the mechanics of his position. An assistant coach must be technically competent. His competence level must be such that he can work with each player on an individual basis as needed.

2. Ability to communicate. An assistant coach must be able to communicate with the players in a relaxed, yet authoritative manner. Such a quality is the fundamental basis of an assistant’s ability to effectively teach and interact with his players – perhaps the two key responsibilities of every assistant coach.

3. Ability to evaluate and project talent. Assistant coaches must evaluate the abilities and the performance potential of those players with whom they are working.

4. A relatively high level of energy. Assistant coaches must exhibit an appropriate level of energy that enables them to be upbeat, motivated and animated while in the presence of the players and their fellow employees. It is not unusual for a group of players to collectively take on the personality of their position coach.

5. Loyalty. Assistant coaches must exhibit loyalty at all times, both to the head coach and to their fellow assistant coaches. While a head coach always expects his assistants to display unconditional loyalty to him, their sense of loyalty should also extend to the other staff members.

That should hopefully shed some light on part of the process facing Coach Callahan as he looks to fill the final spot on the staff. I’m planning on writing a bit more on putting together a staff including the interview process and a few other details as the week progresses.