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Athletic Directors Play Key Role in Mentoring Non-teacher Coaches

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA on September 29, 2020 hst Print

One of the legal duties of athletic administrators, as detailed in the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association’s (NIAAA) Leadership Training Course 504, is the training of coaches. And one aspect of training is mentoring. While this educational approach should include all coaches, it may be more of a challenge to accomplish this responsibility with non-teacher coaches.

If a coach is also a teacher and, particularly if he or she is in the building, it is a little easier to mentor this individual. The athletic director or one of the coaches on staff who will serve as a mentor, can set up a mutually convenient time to meet with a staff member who is in need of guidance and help. This effort could be done over lunch, during a preparation period or before the school day actually starts. It’s just a matter of finding a good time.

Mentoring coaches who come in from the community to work in your program present much more of a challenge. Often these individuals usually show up a few minutes before practice starts because they have another full-time position elsewhere not associated with the school district. Needless to say, this makes finding a suitable time to mentor one of these coaches much more difficult.

The other major hurdle to overcome is that of communication. With teachers who coach, the athletic director can possibly see those individuals at lunch or while they are on hall or cafeteria duty. In the case of an emergency, the athletic director can stop by their classroom at the end of a class. But this isn’t possible for coaches who come in from the community.

When trying to minimize the obstacles or hurdles involved with mentoring non-teacher coaches, the following steps or considerations should help.

  • Start each season with a meeting for all coaches, which would include head, junior varsity and assistant coaches, and include those who are teachers and non-teachers. The initial gathering would be guided by a detailed agenda and would include illustrative handouts of forms, policies and pertinent materials. The purpose of this meeting is to review and outline the expectations and responsibilities of the position.
  • Send the meeting agenda, PowerPoint and handouts as an email attachment to non-teacher coaches who cannot attend due to a work conflict. While actual attendance is much more desirable, this alternative will suffice in an emergency.
  • Follow-up with a Zoom or Skype meeting to give these out-of-school coaches a chance to ask questions. It is imperative, however, to emphasize that they are responsible for all of the material presented at the meeting and included in the handouts.
  • Emphasize that non-teacher coaches must check email periodically during the day. Since they will not be able to hear school announcements, this step is critical in order to be kept informed of all the latest developments and changes. For example, if a bus time has been changed or there is an early dismissal due to the weather, they need to know. But it is also important to stress that checking email one time is not enough because changes can and will occur throughout the day.
  • Set up a mailbox within the athletic office for each non-teacher coach. Even though much of athletic department work is done electronically, this step is important for U.S. mail and hard-copy materials. It is vital that coaches check daily to pick up these items and not to allow them to accumulate. Some will need immediate attention.
  • Establish a schedule for a non-teacher coach to meet with the athletic director for at least 10 minutes once during the week. This may necessitate that the coach will have to report a few minutes earlier than normal before heading down to supervise the locker room prior to practice.
  • Explain to coaches who come from outside jobs that they should use phone calls, email or text messages as soon as possible to keep the athletic director informed about any problems. Whether it be a serious injury, a confrontation with a parent, a bus mishap or whatever serious situation arises, they need to be proactive and provide the athletic director with all pertinent details.
  • Use email to provide reminders. Even though all coaches benefit from these efforts, it is especially important for non-teacher coaches who do not have daily contact with other individuals within the building or may not be aware of the normal school routine. When school is dismissed due to weather, for example, no practice sessions can be held. So that there are no mistakes, it is wise to send a quick reminder.
  • Review with non-teacher coaches the parameters of what is appropriate when communicating with athletes via phone, text messages or email. While this is a necessary topic for all coaches including those who are teachers, individuals already in the building are also frequently reminded about these boundaries in faculty meetings, memos and from other sources. The athletic director may be the only contact that coaches from the community have concerning these protocols.
  • Impress upon all coaches, but especially non-teacher coaches, to get clarification with respect to department or district policies, procedures and expectations if they are not sure. It is always better to get a clear sense of direction as opposed to simply forging ahead and creating a problem. Whenever in doubt, call or email first.
  • Strongly suggest that coaches who are not teachers to get involved with other school activities when possible. One or more of their players, for example, may be involved in the school play or a musical performance. It would be a good gesture to attend and support these young people. This will not only help the non-teacher coaches to see their athletes in another role, they will also gain a better appreciation of the total mission and offerings of the school.

In addition to meeting the responsibility to provide training, finding an effective way to mentor non-teacher coaches has an important additional benefit. Coaches with a more complete understanding of education-based athletics can provide a better environment and experience for student-athletes.