Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Down-sizing and Saying “Goodbye!”

Posted by admin February - 19 - 2013 - Tuesday

I had the unenviable task yesterday of telling one of my assistant coaches that I had to let him go. With the economy still being sluggish, our private academy has had to “tighten their belt.” The Headmaster informed our AD that two assistant football coaching positions were being eliminated. My AD worked very hard to convince the Headmaster that this could be devastating to our football program and he agreed to reinstate one of them. (I have a very supportive AD!)

So I was left to decide who I had to let go. It was not an easy decision. What I want to comment on to head coaches, bosses or anyone reading this who is in a position of authority: when it’s time to eliminate a position, remember this— you’re not eliminating a position, you’ll eliminating a person! That person has probably worked very hard for you for a number of years. He probably exhibited a commitment to your program. You must treat that person with the respect that he deserves!

What I am getting at is this. If you have to let someone go, do it in person. I think it’s pretty gutless and doesn’t show a lot of class if you just send him a text or an email telling him that he’s fired. No, it’s not easy to look somebody in the face and tell him that he won’t be coaching with you anymore, but… it’s the right way to do it!!!

So, if this situation arises… suck it up! Call the guy and make an appointment where you can meet in person. If he asks what it’s about, simply tell him that you will discuss it when you see him. You don’t need to go into it on the phone. Before you meet, I’d encourage you to plan out in your head what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. The circumstances surrounding the dismissal will dictate the “atmosphere.” Have a reason as to why you are letting him go, express it and thank him for his time with you. I don’t belabor the point. It’s awkward anyway so I don’t spend a lot of time making “small talk.” Get to the point, thank him, shake his hand and be on your way. One thing I recommend that you DON’T do is say: “Do you have any questions?” This just opens a can of worms. You don’t want to go there. In your explanation of why you are letting him go, you have answered the single most important question he would have: WHY are you letting me go?

I had a meeting once where I had to fire an assistant and he got belligerent— very argumentative. I realized afterwards that it was my fault. I failed to do what I just recommended: I opened up my decision for debate.. and HE wanted to debate! I finally had to get very assertive and tell him that “this meeting is over. Thank you for your service to our program” and I got up and walked out. I did a poor job of being the one in charge of the meeting. I’ve since done a better job.

I hope that some of this will be helpful. It is never a pleasant situation but if you’re going to be a head coach who’s respected for your integrity and class then it’s important to handle an uncomfortable situation with as much respect for the other person as possible. As my wife always cautions me, “take the high road!”

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