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The offseason brings self-reflection on the past season, and it brings change. Coaching staff changes can make or break next season. Getting that staff to hit the sweet spot of teamwork, unity and chemistry year after year can be a real challenge. But there is nothing better than coaching on a staff that is unified and gets along well. Usually, this all starts with the head coach.
Five things a coach can do to get assistant buy-in
Have a plan, and stick to it
People want to follow someone with a plan, someone who is committed to that plan and someone who executes that plan. Head coaches who waver end up frustrating their staff. General Patton said "Lead me, follow me or get out of my way." He knew what he wanted to do, and did it. That's one thing that made Patton such a great leader.
Give assistants a stake in the program
Part of that plan should include the assistants playing a key role. Great leaders engage their staff by allowing them to help carry out the plan. Each assistant should have a role they clearly understand, and can carry out. Not just on the field, but off the field as well. Giving each staff member clearly defined roles helps them to buy in to your plan.
Allow them to coach
The best leaders understand that micromanaging limits growth and success. Hire the best that you can, and then let them do their job, period. I strongly believe this is one of the best ways to create buy-in from your assistants. When they know that you trust them to do their job, they will do that job well, and follow your lead to fulfill the plan. When you micromanage them, they back off from following your lead because they know you don't trust them. Be a good listener
Head coaches should have a plan, yet be open to listening to other ideas to help develop that plan. Great leaders are great listeners. Staff input and collaboration allows for a greater vision and may help you see something you might've missed. Shutting down their ideas makes assistant shut down on supporting your plan. Be open to what your staff has to say. You never know what kind of ideas your staff has without asking their opinion on things. As long as everyone agrees to have a unified voice when they leave the room, head coaches should be open to what their assistants have to say.Genuinely care about the individual
Treat your staff with respect and dignity. The old phrase that "people won't care how much you know until they know how much you care" applies to your coaches just as much as it applies to your players. Show your staff that you are concerned about them as a person. Go out for a meal, and talk about life, not just Xs and Os. Help them move. Buy them diapers when they have a baby. Go on a double date with your spouses. Simply look for ways to spend time together away from the field, to show them that you care about more than the 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.