Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Staff Unity

Posted by admin March - 19 - 2010 - Friday

This question came from a coach who asked me to comment on a situation that’s occuring on the staff at his school. They have an assistant coach who is being contentious and hard to get along with… and doesn’t seem to care that he doesn’t get along with the others. What should be done?

My first reaction is: guys, we don’t get paid enough money coaching HS football to have someone like this on the staff– who makes it no fun to come to work! Something needs to be done to change this situation. Nothing destroys a staff quicker than one “renegade” who doesn’t want to get on board with everyone else.

I discuss this in my book, 101 Little Things but it’s worth going over here. The first thing that needs to be done is to be sure that the HC is aware of how the rest of the staff feels. Don’t moan and groan behind the back of your HC when you need to be communicating with your HC what your concerns are. At that point, it’s up to the HC to decide how best to handle this. In my opinion, it needs to be dealt with up front and rapidly. The proverbial “one bad apple” can affect your entire staff.

As the HC, you will need to call this coach in and meet in private. It is best to find out what’s going on in his life before you “lower the boom.” He might reveal something going on at home that is affecting his relationships and attitude at the moment. It might give the HC some insight as he broaches the subject of concern. Jsut to be a listening ear may be just what the guy needs.

This is never easy (having to confront people) but it’s like the little cartoon that our school nurse has taped to her door. It shows a middle-aged man sitting on the table in the doctor’s office. The doctor’s comment is: “What fits your busy schedule better… exercising 1 hour a day or being dead 24 hours a day?” Confrontation may be the only way to solve the problem.

You need to define the problem. He won’t be happy when you tell him what’s going on and what your concern is. He will probably become defensive… but hear him out. Again, there may be something there that will be uncovered. But, in most cases, you will have to lay down some guidelines in terms of the behavior you expect to see changed and set up a time table as to when you want the behavior changed. If he cannot or will not agree to the stipulations you lay down, you may have to terminate him right there. His job on your staff and respecting the chain of command that is an accepted part of any group/team/organization is being minimized by this person. You have just uncovered the tip of a potential iceberg. As I mentioned at the outset… you don’t make enough money nor is any one individual that indispensable that you have to put up with someone that makes coming to work an unpleasant situation.

I had 2 different situations where I had to confront a coach because he was causing dissention on our staff. One resulted in the coach being demoted to JV status. He was not happy with this move and subsequently walked off the practice field one day in August right in the middle of practice. The other time was tougher for me as HC because the guy was a good coach; a tireless worker; the kids seemed to like him and he was loyal to me. The problem was that he was one of those guys who didn’t care if he offended people. He was going to say what was on his mind and the heck with what you think of me. The other coaches brought their concern to me and I feared a near mutiny if I didn’t do something about this situation. As much as I would have liked to keep him, I knew that it would create too much division on the staff. I had to sacrifice one good guy for the good of the whole. No, it was not pleasant but I think the guy appreciated my honesty and we remain on good terms today.

Unity in your program needs to be a core value. I’m not saying that a coach may never disagree with what you want to do. There will be times that things may get a bit contentious. But when you leave the coach’s office, you present a united front and everyone stands together in public. It’s that guy who has to have everything his way and is right all the time— he begins to spread seeds of discord. For the sake of team and staff unity, unless he’s willing to change, he has to go.

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