Nothing wrong with assistant coaches speaking up

jonbuzby@hotmail.comApril 15, 2012 

Most area youth sports leagues are well under way, and like on any team, my guess is there are some disgruntled parents, maybe a few not-so-happy players and in some cases, an assistant coach or two ready to pack it in.

Unlike on professional and college teams, most youth sports head coaches don't pick their assistants. Usually the assistant coaches volunteer for the job -- and often only because nobody else wants it.

I served as an assistant ice hockey coach for two years. I had exactly no ice hockey coaching or playing experience, but compared to the other parents in the bleachers -- also with blank resumes -- I had the most general coaching knowledge.

I felt my job as the assistant at the beginning of the season was to execute any task given to me by the head coach. After all, he was the head coach.

As the season went on, I started questioning some of his coaching ideas. My issues weren't with tactical decisions, but more along the lines of why we were running the same boring drills practice after practice. I knew from my research there were other, more fun drills, which accomplished the same goal of the over-used ones.

Without questioning or criticizing, I asked the coach if he'd mind if I tried a new drill. I just took the approach that I thought I found a fun one the kids would like. He agreed and the drill was a hit. He told me afterwards I should try to come up with a fun drill like that for every practice.

So with my confidence flying high, I made the second suggestion of my rookie season: To take the "C" off of our captain because of his sometimes defiant behavior on and off the ice. It was met with a flat-out "no."

I found out later that the player was dealing with some issues at home and school, and one more "blow" to his ego could do more harm than good. His situation off the ice was life-related; on the ice, it was easily tempered with a little coach intervention.

It ended up being the right move, as the player turned things around on and off the ice.

Assistant coaches shouldn't be afraid to speak up. But at the same time, they must realize that not all of their ideas are going to be accepted or implemented. Often, that's what leads frustrated assistant coaches to become head coaches the next season.

And there's nothing wrong with that, either.

Reach Jon Buzby at and follow him on Twitter @JonBuzby.

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