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I firmly believe a football program is only as strong as its staff. If you've coached long enough, you've been on some great staffs and some poor staffs. What makes a staff great? Or poor? I believe a lot of that comes down to staff continuity. It is difficult to build a loyal staff if guys are continuously moving in and out.
The head coach plays the most important role in building a loyal staff. Some head coaches care about building a loyal staff because they are loyal guys who recognize it goes a very long way in building a dynamite football program. Some think they can just plug and play, it doesn't matter who the assistants are. Their egos are so big that they think the program is all about them.
I was very fortunate to land on a great staff in 2001, a staff who was very loyal to their head coach, my predecessor. It seems like an eternity ago, but in 2003 I became a head coach at the ripe old age of 27. Fortunately, everyone from that staff stayed on. We coached together for five years until I left for an administrative position. Some of those guys are my closest friends still.Communicate
Without a doubt, the most important thing to maintain a cohesive staff is communication. Make sure that your staff understands you have an open-door policy for the assistants. Nothing is too big or too small to discuss. Staffs can go sideways when communicate goes sideways.
A head coach recently told me a story at a clinic about getting in to a disagreement with one of his coordinators during a game. They didn't talk about that after the game, the coordinator left very quickly. Then, he failed to show up to their Sunday meeting, text that he was sick. Communication quickly went southas they communicated about that play call all through text, probably not a good idea. Communicate quickly, in person, especially when there is disagreement. This way things don't fester.
One way to get your staff to really buy in and be loyal is by sharing the load. As a young assistant, I had some ideas to help make our program better. For instance, we didn't have a game day program. I suggested that we needed one. His response was "run with it." He showed a lot of trust in a young 25 year old. I appreciated that. That made me loyal. When you delegate responsibilities, it gives assistants buy-in to the program, and will ultimately make them more loyal to the program. Resonate
Resonate means to "relate harmoniously." This goes back to communication as well. The job of a head coach is to maintain harmony with his staff. This can be difficult to navigate sometimes. Do everything possible to keep the peace, to make sure relationships do not become fractured over philosophical differences. This is where a mission statement can come in handy; keep bringing folks back to the mission of your team, and reminding them to set personal agendas aside.Appreciate
Not enough of us in the coaching business show enough appreciation to those we work alongside. The coach interested in building staff cohesion will make sure to show his guys appreciation. A simple handwritten note after an assistant has gone above and beyond, affirmation of a new scheme or play design that has worked well in front of the whole staff is another idea that will go a long way with some coaches. Make sure to show appreciation to your staff. What is one way you can do that today?Rejuvenate
Nothing is going to keep that staff unified like time away from football. Getting to know each other off the field and out of the meeting rooms is key to staff loyalty. These times of hanging out at the beach, going on a snowboarding trip together or loading up a school van for a trip to the clinic three hours away will help to form bonds like nothing else being around the facility will do. As the head man, make sure that you take time to rejuvenate with your coaching staff. Get away from it all together. 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.