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To Be An Efficient Assistant Coach

By Ilan Kowalsky

In every branch of sport there are coaches who are not known to the wide public, but who have a vital task regarding the success of every program. We are talking, of course, about the assistant coaches. Good assistants are a vital component when compounding a successful program. They are required in every branch of sport, notwithstanding its extent.

The training methods of the present are so complex and technical that every head coach needs qualitative assistance in order to be able to send every week a properly prepared group to competitions.

Unfortunately, it is often more difficult to find good assistants than head coaches. In the 20 years of my work as a coach, I fulfilled tasks of head coach, as well as assistant coach for basketball.

From my experience of both sides of the matter, I have succeeded to localize the central traits that are the necessary characteristics of a good coach. It may also be stated that there are important matters which head coaches are able to implement in order to develop qualitative traits.

There are various reasons which motivate some people to become assistant coaches, such as: an accumulation of experience towards a possible appointment as head coach in future or being near a sport best loved by a person.

Unfortunately, not all the reasons are positive. Most branches of basketball suffer from a lack of coaches and managers and are forced to appoint less talented coaches for the training of tasks and pay them very low salaries. Very often these coaches do not have the wish or skill to implement their tasks as best as possible, either because of the low salary or because of the sort of relations they encounter.

One must want to be a coach

In order to be a good assistant coach, one must want to coach in specific situations. A talented coach, who fulfills an undesirable task, usually avoids an activity that will assist the work program.

On the other hand, an inexperienced assistant coach who is interested to coach, will always be able to learn the theory of coaching and the techniques from other coaches, as well as from books, brochures and workshops and thus become an important addition to the team.


After having decided to become a coach, loyalty should be an obligatory approach of the program that is to be coached.

It would be very good if every coach or assistant coach could be able to correlate his thoughts in advance with his colleagues regarding a new situation that may arise. We are aware that in reality, differences of opinion will come up in the spheres of techniques, styles and disciplinary problems. Regarding the above, it is very important to point out that the assistant should adjust himself to the requirements of the head coach and not the other way around. All differences of opinion must remain behind closed doors. In the open, all the members of the team are obliged to cultivate unity. It is well known that very often there are those who become wiser after a certain event who have better means of the implementation of matters. They love to criticize the comprehensive program and especially, the coach. When the coach meets with this sort of criticism, his assistant should actively defend the program without relating to his own real feelings.

All those who remain silent in such a situation are actually helping the criticizers and verify their claims.

It is appropriate that this loyalty will be extended over the whole program, if coaches will not support each other - who would?

Don't be a "Yes-Man"

The loyalty of the assistant coach does not mean that he must always agree with the opinion of the head coach. It is important that the assistant will in future fulfill the task of a "devil's advocate" and appeal against the opinion of the coach when it is not acceptable to him during the discussion of matters in the programming meetings. It is very important to present one's personal opinion about subjects such as strategy, implementation, techniques, etc.

Nevertheless, the final authority that determines the process is the authority of the head coach. He must consider the comprehensive framework that is not perceived by all the assistants when observing it from their point of view. Therefore, do not be disappointed when your ideas are not implemented. Perhaps your next idea will be applied. Nevertheless, it will be better to keep your disappointment to yourself. On the court, it will always be more advantageous to demonstrate unity.

To work hard

You must organize yourself for every day for the training. Know what are the spheres of your responsibility and be prepared to take over command of the subject when arriving at the field for the purpose of coaching. Make sure that you are correlated with the head coach regarding the material you are expected to transmit and the timing of the training. If you are not properly prepared for the coaching, the players will feel it and very quickly will lose their appreciation of you. If this happens, you have contributed to the damage regarding the authenticity of the whole program.

You responsibility is not fulfilled with the ending of the coaching. A successful assistant must be prepared to help treat injuries, mend equipment, supervise the dressing rooms, fulfill and implement many other tasks that come with the assignment of an assistant, all in correlation with the head coach, such as individual coaching or helping the head coach with individual coaching, throwing balls to a player of the team who wants to train after the training has ended, observe games and get all the information that may possibly help the head coach to succeed with the main program.

Cultivating the motivation and discipline

You should demonstrate enthusiasm about your program. We should be most positive in order to convince our players that our program is the best. They should be convinced that we have prepared them by the best methods for every game and it is important to integrate constructing remarks and positively at every possible occasion. It is important to give them the feeling that they are doing something worthwhile and not only transmit criticism when they are making mistakes. At times when you are obliged to criticize, do it privately as far as possible. Enforcing discipline is one of the less desirable aspects, but it is most important in the work of a coach. Every assistant must take part in guarding the group discipline. Furthermore, do not use rude language and do not get overexcited during coaching, because such a negative behavior may spread over the whole coaching program. If it comes to your knowledge that there has been a breach of one of the coaching regulations or that one of the players has an academic problem, inform the head coach immediately. There is no point in keeping secrets. It is important to demonstrate to the players that you are interested in them in the field, as well as outside. Give them the opportunity to feel that they may refer to you in any situation, but they must not be given the sensation that they may keep secrets with you, as if you were one of their "gang".

Be active during the process of the games

Most of the assistants work very hard during the coaching if the head coaches permit them to do so, but get lost on the outskirts of the field during the games themselves. Do not allow yourself to get caught in such a situation. You must be active during the games and be involved in everything related to the game. Be focussed on helping the players with your expert proficiency. If you are aware of something that would be worthwhile doing in one sphere or another, or if you observe any weakness in your opponent, refer immediately to the head coach. You must be prepared all the time to provide him with alternatives.

Possibly, one of your ideas may change the game and contribute to the victory of the team.

It is important to look and function like a professional

It is important to look like a coach (with regards to your clothing and acts) when coaching and during the games. Do not use any rough language or physic power in your relations with the judges. It is much better to coach with a clear head. One of the tasks of the assistant is to stay relaxed during the game and prevent the coach to get a "technical foul".

What may be expected as a reward?

You should devote the best of your efforts to the players. The head coach may demand a maximal investment from you, but he should give you a proper attention in return.

This attention comprehends:


We are talking about a two-way relationship. The head coach may demonstrate his loyalty in various ways. The most important of these is giving backing to his assistant. He should not accuse his assistant for the failure of a game or even of the assignment, during a game. He should use a clear language, making use of the expression "us" when talking about decisions in order to cultivate the unity of the team. He should share the credit with his assistants and he should not ask his assistant to deal with a dangerous or illegal activity. Above all, he should do everything in his ability to help the professional advancement of his assistant, not depending on the importance he has with regards to the program.

The division of the responsibility

Every assistant should be aware of what is expected of him in the field, as well as outside of it. He should definitely point out all the spheres of responsibility, be clear about it and not leave any opportunity for doubts or mistakes, because these will cause tension among the team.

Let the assistant do his job

Once you have given a task to the assistant, give him the freedom he needs for the implementation of his task. Allow him to coach according to his own method, as long as both of you agree about the aim to be achieved.

Criticizing in private circumstances

It is forbidden to criticize the assistant in public, even if it occurs only among the players. Such remarks must be expressed only in the privacy of the office.

Be open minded

It is important to cultivate an atmosphere of open- mindedness in which the assistant will feel himself to be relaxed when expressing new ideas. You must encourage this trend in the meetings of the team. Refer to him regarding his opinions during the programming meetings. Devote some time to the consideration of ideas even if you disagree with them. Ask the assistant to give you a full and clear specification of his ideas if you consider these to be advantageous.

It is important to make the utmost of every assistant

It is desirable to give every assistant an opportunity to act within the spheres of his main interests.

Use his special traits, but remember that the easiest way for an assistant to lose interest and enthusiasm is to force him to do things that are of no interest.

It is important for the assistant to be involved in what is happening

Share your ideas with your assistants. It is important to remember that many of them look for the experience of gathering knowledge. Do not keep any secrets from them.

Evaluate the assistant

Every assistant deserves to be formally evaluated and receive a written evaluation at the end of each season. Meet him privately in order to discuss his positive traits, as well as his weak points and explain to him the changes that would be necessary to be made in the coming season. It is desirable that a copy of the written evaluation, signed by the head coach and the assistant, will be filed with the chairman of the association or with one of the trusted persons of the system.