This year I’m the head coach at a different school in town. It has forced me to review things that were taken for granted in my old position. I should have sat down and reviewed a great many things with him. First and foremost is discipline. What are your expectations for your assistants as far as discipline goes? The assistant coach in a difficult situation can tell a swimmer to leave the deck and change but cannot tell an athlete he is off the team. I expect him to constantly encourage , prod or verbally insist a swimmer not stop during a set. If he continues to stop or miss repeats, the coach can tell him to sit out for a time. If this process is repeated by the same swimmer he is told to change. If this happens on repeated days, he is told his status on the team is in jeopardy. After a conversation between my assistant and me, I would inform the swimmer he is no longer a part of the team. It is my responsibility and at no time should an assistant be asked to do this. We have not had to do this this season but it is something I failed to do before the season started. My assistant understands this from practices but I was remiss in not making this clear.
Is your policy about your absence clear. In your district can your assistant run practice if you are not there. Things happen so you should have a clearly explained position that your assistant knows. Don’t say you would never miss without calling because there are many reasons why you could be absent without being in a position to notify your assistant. We have an attendance list and multiple practice workouts in plastic sleeves in the equipment closet on poolside for just these situations. Some districts require practice to be canceled without the head coach present. Some require assistants to have certain certifications in order to run practice alone. Others have a required swimmer to coach ratio. Such policies should be reviewed before the season starts.
Did you have a coach’s conduct discussion with your assistant. Ours covered language in a great detail. This was to avoid any assumptions on my part or my assistant’s part about what was acceptable and what was not. It also covered attire for both practice and meets. We also discussed the problems he would encounter because he works lifeguarding at the local beach with many of our juniors and seniors. He had to deal with what they called him and create a certain amount of distance between himself and the team.
The last major area I could have handled better was coach speak. Talk to your coach and make sure he understands how you want a drill done. Make sure he uses the same name as you do. What are the points of emphasis in the drill. I want my coach to state the purpose of the drill every time he tells them to do the drill all year long. I want it fresh in their minds while they are swimming. What are the major corrections you want made in each of the strokes. If your assistant doesn’t know what you want he cannot teach it to your swimmers. It does him an injustice to correct him or add to what he says in front of the swimmers. We have clear ideas about body position, stroke entry, stroke technique, finish and kick. This all should be discussed and reviewed before the season starts. A great preseason conversation with your assistants can be a huge factor in your instructional success and minimize problems. Go out and have some wings and a cold before you start and you enhance your program. Don’t be afraid to coach your coaches.