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It's always difficult to make that decision to leave a program that you've dedicated so much of your life to, and even harder to get up in front of the players and coaches to explain that you're leaving. If you coach long enough, you're going to make a decision to take a step up in your career, or you are going to move for a better position, or maybe you're going to be let go.
At some point, you're going to have to tell a team that you're not going to be their coach next season.
Here are 4 keys to telling a team that you're leaving.1. Think clearly about what needs to be said, and what doesn't need to be said
What do the student-athletes really need to know? The last thing you want to do is bring unnecessary drama to the program. Even if you're leaving because you were fired, try your best to be a professional. The kids do not need to be brought into your drama, or the administration's drama. So think clearly about what really needs to be said when you've made the decision to leave.
When I resigned from my first head coaching position, I did so without knowing what the next step for me would be. Looking back, it was a foolish move. I thought it would be so easy to find a new position. Man, I got lucky to find a new head coach post. They are so rare! But I really wanted to be an athletic director, and my athletic director was married to the superintendent, so I knew that wasn't happening any time soon. It was easy to explain my goal of finding an athletic director position to the kids, they understood that.
The kids do not need to know about the issues you dealt with that led you to making this decision. They don't need to know the school pays you peanuts. And they definitely don't need to know that you have had it with their parents! 2. Have notes with you
Put together your thoughts, either formally by writing the team a letter, or informally by putting together some bullet points. It can be an emotional time for you and for the team. So to make sure your message to them is clear, concise and professional, have something written to refer to.
That time I referred to earlier, I wrote a letter to the team, and I read that in my meeting. It was a great way to do it for me personally. Another time, when I was forced out and it all happened quickly, I didn't have notes with me, and I regret not having something to rely on because I gave a very impersonal talk to the kids.3. Be compassionate
Remember, no matter why you're leaving, many of your student-athletes will be hurting. You have invested too much into them, you've been like a second father to some of these players. So, it's natural for them to be sad about your announcement.
They are losing a second father, the most important man in their lives in some cases. So, be compassionate about your kids' feelings. 4. Keep it positive
Again, there are a variety of reasons that you might be leaving. Do your best to keep it positive, and leave the kids with a positive thought, and positive vibe. Hopefully, you'll leave the drama out, you'll be compassionate and keep things positive so that the kids can move on. At the end of the day, that is what is important: that the team stays together and moves forward.
Compliment the kids as a way to keep things positive. That first time I resigned, I said some specific things to some of the leaders in our room, and some of those kids have reminded me what I said, 10 years later. Obviously, I said something positive and meaningful to those kids. Saying something positive to the group and to individual kids will help to bridge from you to the new coach. If you know that your spot has been filled, pump up the guy who is taking over for you. That vote of confidence from you will go a long way for the kids.
It's never easy saying good bye. Organize your thoughts, be drama free, be compassionate and leave the kids with some positive words. Chris Fore is a veteran Head Football Coach and Athletic Director from Southern California. He consults coaches and programs nationwide through his business Eight Laces Consulting.