Coaching at the high school level can be a demanding, yet rewarding experience. Athletic administrators understand that highly effective coaches are more than “managers of a game.” Coaching, mentoring, advising and even parenting are synonymous terms for many coaches.
Since coaches play large roles in the lives of players and the school community, the unexpected resignation of a coach can quickly disrupt an established system of comfort, trust and routine. At the end of the day, athletic administrators are left with the daunting task of dealing with the issue. With a thorough plan for dealing with a coach’s resignation, however, the community can heal and the athletic program can return to stability and success.
Planning with the Coach
While students and the community may be surprised by a sudden resignation, it is important for the athletic administrator to first meet with the coach. The goals should be to establish an open environment for discussion and create an agenda that focuses on the transitional plan, especially for higher profile positions. The building principal and other administrative staff impacted by the unexpected vacancy might be asked to join the meeting.
It is important for the athletic administrator not to concentrate on the reasons why the coach is leaving, but how the school can best support the coach’s exit. Regardless of the reasons for the resignation, the coach has most likely invested a great deal of time in the program and will also want a clear transitional plan that will ensure success after he or she leaves.
1. Transparent Transitioning – The athletic administrator should openly discuss with the coach what he or she sees as important issues currently facing the team. Often, there are “in the trenches” matters that the athletic administrator may need to know about prior to the coach leaving. The concerns may be related to a part of the game or player preparation, a player situation, a parent or guardian issue, a recreational topic, etc.
In the right situation, the coach could offer a recommendation for his or her replacement or if someone currently on staff or in the building would be able to serve on an interim basis, depending on the timing of the resignation. A temporary replacement is a concern for many individuals within the building, so a committee may be put together at the principal’s discretion to determine a permanent solution.
The administration should develop a plan to inform the players, the staff and the community. It is important for the coaching staff and the administration to be on the same page. Be clear on the goals and the timelines of these informational sessions. Some positions may demand an informal gathering, while others may call for a more formal meeting with supporting organizations such as recreational leagues and booster clubs. The athletic administrator should offer assistance to the coach and attend these meetings in order to support the answering of any questions that arise.
2. Finances – The current financial status of the team should be discussed with the coach. While the Board of Education handles all budgeted funds, ask questions to determine the possible existence of any outside fundraising or booster accounts. With this information, directions can be provided for the closing of these accounts and the business administrator can offer recommendations on how to properly transfer the funds.
3. Promises – The coach should be asked to share any promises that he has made to the team or the community. Are there apparel orders that have gone unsatisfied to team members? Have purchases for equipment been made with vendors that are unresolved? Are there any big events that have been scheduled in the next couple of months, such as camps, clinics or off-campus trips?
4. Orders – Discuss if there may be items that still need to be ordered, reconditioned or addressed to provide the incoming person with a successful foundation.
5. Social Media – Conduct a thorough analysis of the team’s social media presence such as Twitter, Facebook or websites. This should not be a plan to close these accounts, but rather to develop a plan on how they can be successfully transitioned to the next coach. Since these are school or team accounts, it is important to get the usernames and password information.
6. Administrative Concerns – At the end of the meeting, communicate with the coach that the team should be working in a “business as usual” fashion. All changes and cancellations such as practice sessions, team dinners and fundraising events need to be communicated first to the administrative staff. This should be done to avoid miscommunication because of the sensitivity of the unsettled situation.
Depending on the situation, the athletic administrator may decide that it is best to meet separately with the assistant coaches, student-athletes, community or booster organizations without the coach.
It is important to take the time to collect all points that were discussed and explain to the coach that a memo will follow. This is done to outline all of the items that need to be accomplished in the upcoming weeks.
Some coaches may be viewed as the social fabric of a community. During this critical time, it is important for an athletic administrator to remain organized, patient and transparent. With time and careful planning, stability will once again be restored and everyone can get back to the mission of providing the best environment for student-athletes.
Dr. Daniel Uszaki is the assistant principal for athletics at Northern Burlington High School in Columbus, New Jersey.