The assistant coach has a vital role in the team for all the reasons that we already know about. But there are some parts of that role, and pitfalls that go with it, that are not talked about so often.
An assistant coach’s role is a very delicate one. Normally, and mostly by design, the assistant coach is closer to the team than the head coach. The head coach must keep an overview of the whole team and must maintain some distance because of the decision making component of the job. The assistant coach can cultivate closer relationships with players, both individually and as a group. This means that the are often walking a tightrope, as part of the staff and yet confidant of the team. On this basis they are privy to much delicate information, not least what the players think of the head coach and what the head coach thinks of the players. To maintain the team, and effective relationships, most of this information must be held in confidence by the assistant. Some things, however, must be shared. But when they are shared it must be delicately, and somehow without betraying confidences. And the head coach must action that information delicately to avoid putting the assistant in a bad position. None of it is easy, and a good rule of thumb is never drink with the players.
There are also pitfalls for the assistant. Often assistant coaches are young and ambitious. A characteristic of young, ambitious coaches (people?) is certainty and impatience. They are certain that they know everything and impatient to put it all into effect, preferably right now. It is inevitable that the head coach will not act on every suggestion which leads to potential conflict in the coaching staff. From the head coach’s perspective it is important to give credit to the assistant where it is due and make sure they understand that the value of their contribution is not measured by how many of their suggestions are followed up. From the assistant’s perspective it is important to avoid ‘Assistant Coach’s Disease’. ‘Assistant Coach’s Disease’ is the manifestation of frustration at having a limited role. Every assistant will have that feeling at some stage, but it must remain a secret to all. During practice the assistant must fulfill his role without displays of frustration (you know what they are :)), and in all conversations with the team must continue to support the coach. As I wrote, it is a difficult and delicate role (and always underappreciated) and a good rule of thumb is never drink with the players.
I know how difficult it is to battle this illness, and like everything it requires a team effort to avoid its debilitating effects.
Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.