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I always enjoyed hiring brand new coaches when I was a head coach. Giving guys their first shot at coaching the great game of football was something I really enjoyed. Obviously, there were certain things to look for in those guys. Passion for the game, availability, teachability, some level of knowledge of the game and leadership are a few of the important aspects of hiring a rookie coach. But we all started somewhere; every coach had their rookie season.
The role of the head coach needs to be that of mentor to the rookie coach. Depending on the coaches involved, this can be a great relationship, or a very poor one that deteriorates quickly. As long as the rookie coach keeps a teachable spirit, and the head coach is willing to spend extra time with the rookie, everything should work out very well. Here are some ideas for mentoring a rookie coach.Regular meeting time
Set up a regular, weekly meeting time with the rookie coach, just you two. This insures weekly communication to help both coaches check in together. Weekly meetings are key for communication for this new relationship. Avoid friction in the relationship by having these regular meetings.Ask a lot of open ended questions
The best thing that you can do for a rookie coach is ask questions. Ask open ended questions and let them talk. This will help them to process everything they are learning, and will help you to get a look in to their mindset.
A few questions I like to ask are: "What has been the best thing about coaching so far?" "What has been the hardest thing in coaching this year?" "Did you think coaching would be this easy?" I really, really like this question! When the rookie answers "Oh yeah, I thought it would be this easy, I got this, no worries," that's usually a red flag! Asking open ended questions will really help the head coach figure out where this rookie is.
Many times rookie coaches do not even know exactly where to stand when coaching a drill or overseeing part of a unit. For example, I had a rookie coach coaching my punt team years ago. He was coaching from what I consider the "wrong side." I want my coaches teaching and coaching from behind the punt team because this helps to insure they are able to see the proper steps and technique. It's tough to see those things from the defensive side.
I told the coach to "come over here near me for this." He said "I'm good here." I didn't want to waste more time explaining things to him there. So, I pulled him aside after practice to explain why I wanted him behind the punt team. It made complete sense to him. Where I failed as the head coach was not telling him before that spring practice where I wanted him.Teach them to watch film
I really believe that Hudl is a great tool for coaches. However, the one downside that I've seen on staffs I've worked on, as well as in other programs I've spoken with, coaches aren't watching nearly as much film together these days. This can handicap a rookie coach.
Rookie coaches need to be taught how to watch film. The head coach has got to make sure the rookie knows what to look for, knows how to mark up the Hudl film, how to create notes to talk with his players about, and much more. Every head coach has different expectations for their staff.
Do not assume that the rookie coach knows how to watch film. This is a crucial mistake that I think many head coaches make. Head coaches are busy, I get it. But I really think this is one of the most important aspects of mentoring a rookie coach. 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.