Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

Moving Up From Assistant to Head Coach

Many youth football assistant coaches out there have aspirations of becoming a head coach. They want to run their own offense, defense, special teams and want to see how their methods will pan out, there is nothing wrong with that. I’ve had about 14 assistant coaches coach with me that went on to be head coaches. I encouraged them and mentored them and most good youth coaches will do the same if asked.

Many youth organizations have more people that want to be head coaches than they have head coaching positions, so the organization has to determine the best choice for the organization.

The first step in becoming a head coach is to be the best assistant coach the organization has ever seen and here is how you do it:


Be the very best at whatever task is given you, if you are in charge of something as mundane as water, make sure the water situation is the best it has ever been. Get personalized water bottles for every player and make sure your timeout water is the freshest and coolest the team has ever seen and get it out there in quantity and in a hurry, you get the idea.

Be loyal to the head coach�s schemes and practice methods. If he is running a spread offense with zone blocking rules, learn as much about those systems as you can. He is in charge and gets to run whatever he wants, no matter if the offense is a poor choice for your team. Do not criticize him or his systems publicly if forced to comment just say ” My job as an assistant coach is to implement what the head coach wants in the fashion he wants it done in”.

If you have scheme and technique suggestions, make those to the coach away from the practice and game fields. Present them in a non-aggressive, non-threatening way. If he disagrees with you and is firm on sticking with his methods, do not hold a grudge, aggressively teach his methods the best you can.

Be punctual, get to practice early, help set up and develop positive relationships with the kids and parents.

Offer to take whatever load from the head coach as possible. This could include bringing some of the blocking dummies to practice or scouting an upcoming opponent.

Ask him to take you along if he scouts teams to learn how he does it.

Ask the head coach what he uses to learn more about his system and ask to borrow it or buy it yourself.

Be beyond reproach from an ethical standard, even if other coaches smoke or drink in front of players, do not do so. Stay above petty frays in the coaching staff or team dynamic.

Be the very best sport and model exceptional sportsmanship to your players.

Be well dressed, well groomed and professional.

If your area of the team is having problems, ask the head coach for suggestions, be humble.

Be enthusiastic and friendly with opposing coaches and referees. If you attend other youth games, develop positive relationships with them.

Take initiative with small things and excel at it. Something as simple as making sure everyone on the kickoff team is on the field. Or even picking up all the trash on your sidelines after the game. Offer to make signage to make the field more special on game days, things like that.

Suggest fun team building drills like those in the book in chapter 4 for a day the team is starting to run out of gas. Suggest something unique that you are in charge of and run it. Make theses suggestions off the field and show the head coach why it is important and how it will help “his” team.

Break down film of your games and offer stats to the coach.

Bring in a donor or run a fundraising effort.

Do year end framed certificates or awards for the kids, the frames we use are just $2 each and the certificates are free on the internet.

Let the head coach know you would like to be a head coach and ask him what areas he feels you need to improve upon to become a head coach. Ask him to recommend coaching materials or clinics you should attend.

Attend league board meetings and let them know of your interest and qualifications.

Finally, get recommendation letters from the head coach, other assistants and even parents of kids on your team.

Go to the coaches clinics in your area, sit up front, learn and become known, be part of the demos. The clinics are always looking for volunteer workers, volunteer.

If you do these things somehow, somewhere, people are going to be beating down your door to be a head football coach.

As someone that has “hired” 100’s of head coaches, I can assure you we look for the coach that has the best ability to lead and balance that against any liability you may have. Most youth organizations like to keep their risks as low as possible, so if you are not well organized, are a pain to deal with, have sportsmanship issues, this will often outweigh your coaching expertise.

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