While many athletic administrators want and feel that they should do more with regard to mentoring their coaches, they are often confronted with a perceived lack of time to adequately guide their staff. Some may also be unsure how to begin the process and limited money is an ever-present problem. The following suggestions should help even in light of possible limitations that athletic directors may face.
• Use email frequently – daily if there is something important to share – to remind coaches of basic responsibilities, provide encouragement and include tidbits that will provide a better understanding and appreciation of education-based athletics. Some of these prompts also might be able to be used by coaches as teachable moments with their teams and athletes. Through email, athletic directors will be actively
and effectively mentoring their coaches.
• Look for and share specific articles covering topics that will help the staff grow and develop as professionals and those which cover the various aspects of education-based athletics. Coaches should be just as professional as classroom teachers because they are both educators. Therefore, articles centered on sportsmanship, leadership development, respect, fair play and a host of other topics will help coaches meet their responsibilities. Athletic directors should share articles that are most pertinent to their particular setting.
• Set up a schedule and utilize the NFHS free courses at www.NFHSLearn.com. Athletic directors should determine which course, based upon the central topic, that they want their coaches to take and give them two to three weeks to complete it. By following this routine throughout the school year, coaches could complete eight or nine courses – all of which are connected to the coaching profession and education-based athletics. Also, it is extremely easy to monitor if any coach did not complete a course by going online and checking the national data bank. These courses are a great professional development and mentoring vehicle and they are easy to use, free, practical and valuable.
• Match a new coach with a hand-picked experienced one, preferably an individual who is not in-season. Athletic directors, however, have to provide instruction and mentor the mentors, because guiding coaches is ultimately the athletic director’s responsibility. Ideally, mentoring guidelines for veteran coaches should be crafted, reviewed and revised during the summer so that they are ready for the fall season. The mentor-coaches should be individuals who embrace education-based athletics and will be good role models for new coaches. Not all coaches have the prerequisite qualities needed to serve as a mentor and, therefore, should not be entrusted with this responsibility. And as with the entire coaching staff, athletic directors should remind and communicate with their experienced coaches who serve as mentors in order to ensure that the information and advice is inline with the school’s policies and expectations.
• Athletic directors should be available to counsel coaches who need assistance with major issues and problems. Yes, this means that an athletic director may have to re-adjust his or her daily To- Do List and schedule. However, guidance and help has to be provided when it is needed and not strictly when it is convenient.
In addition, an athletic director shouldn’t wait until an inexperienced coach comes with a question or for advice. The situations and responsibilities for which many new coaches will need some guidance and help should be anticipated. Why? Because there are any number of details that all coaches new to the profession and specifically those pertaining to the school setting will not understand.
• Athletic directors should acknowledge the positive accomplishments of coaches, and not just for winning a game. Showing appreciation and providing reinforcement for doing things in the right manner can be a very powerful tool in the mentoring process with all coaches. This can be easily and effectively done by sending a brief email message.
Does mentoring take time and effort? Absolutely! But it may also arguably be an athletic director’s most important responsibility. Since coaches have direct, daily contact with their student-athletes and they have great impact upon young people, athletic directors should prepare their staff members to provide the best environment possible. And this is where mentoring efforts of athletic directors come into play – helping coaches succeed in education-based athletics. The athletic director is the coach of coaches.
Dr. David Hoch is a former athletic director at Loch Raven High School in Towson, Maryland (Baltimore County). He assumed this position in 2003 after nine years as director of athletics at Eastern Technological High School in Baltimore County. He has 24 years experience coaching basketball, including 14 years on the collegiate level. Hoch, who has a doctorate in sports management from Temple (Pennsylvania) University,
is past president of the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association, and he formerly was president of the Maryland State Coaches Association. He has had more than 500 articles published in professional magazines and journals, as well as two textbook chapters. He is the author of a new book entitled Blueprint for Better Coaching. Hoch is a member of the NFHS High School Today Publications Committee.