Co- Head Coaching in Youth Football
In a handful for youth football programs instead of having a Head Coach, the organization head assigns co- head coaches. While it can work, in most cases it is going to be a disaster. Assigning co-head coaches is usually the result of the commissioner not being able to make a decision or some type of last minute politics. In this post I will spell out why it usually doesn’t work with youth football teams and how it can work if managed properly.
I decided to write about this after becoming aware and offering some advice to a coach caught in one of these co-head coach quagmires. This coach had studied my materials for a good part of the off-season and had laid out a very detailed plan for the team he was assigned to head coach. At the very last minute the organization commissioner assigned a “co-head” coach to his team, they were supposed to work out their responsibilities on their own.
Right from the beginning there were problems with this new dynamic, the new guy jumped in and demanded to run the offense, but didn’t have a playbook or a plan to implement it. Neither guy knew the other prior to this season. When asked what blocking rules and schemes the new guy planned on using, his response was that the simplest thing for the kids to do would be to “block the kid in front of them.” The old “no blocking scheme”, blocking scheme that reveals to all that whoever said it to has NO clue on how to coach youth football. Of course our friend had spent hundreds of hours in the off season doing research and had chosen and studied our blocking schemes, rules and techniques and was well prepared for the season. The other guys playbook – was “in his head” he smilingly stated.
So our friend bowed out to be a “team player” and decided he would run the defense. The only problem was his “co-head coach” didn’t like the defense our friend was putting in, and “couldn’t live with” several of the concepts of his defense. So while the bully “co-head” was adamant on running his offense- still being formulated in his head with NO blocking rules, he wouldn’t allow our friend to implement his very sound, proven, well thought out defensive scheme.
The problem with co-head coaches is, there is no one in charge. If there is an impasse, there is NO ONE there to break the tie. In most cases co-head coaching is a HUGE mistake that most coaches should avoid at all costs. This has been proven with this team as I had predicted. In just their 4th practice, they have “installed” 20-25 plays and have worked on defense a grand total of 30 minutes. They are scrimmaging after just practice #5 and yes, with just 30 minutes of TOTAL defensive individual AND team time. My prediction for this team- TOTAL FAILURE. Co-head coaches is almost always going to result in dysfunction, frustration and disaster.
My teams have consistently lead our leagues in scoring in 12 of the last 14 seasons and CONSISTENTLY average over 35 points per game without EVER going over 50 points (sportsmanship). We rarely go into our first game with over 8-12 perfect- integrated plays, let alone 25 after just 4 practices.
We also understand the value of defense and divide our practice time evenly with offense and defense. In fact today our practice will be our 4th practice of the 2010 season and the entire 120 minutes will be devoted to defense. This new coach doesn’t have a clue and the boys are going to suffer through a disaster season because of it. Once this team starts getting blown out by 30-40 points every week, the parents will turn on both of them and GUARANTEED the guy making all the decisions will blame it on the other “co-head” coach as well as the players. GUARANTEED, he will say the kids didn’t “want it” bad enough, when in all reality, the kids were just suffering from poor coaching.
In our friends example, a bully first year coach assigned the co-head coach role is dictating what should and should not be run on both sides of the ball it seems. It really doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve run organizations with 3-16 teams and assigned hundreds of coaches to over 200 teams. On just 2 circumstances did I assign co-head coaches. This season I have two guys, one owns several car dealerships and has coached with us for 3 years. He played college football for NU and is a great guy, very smart. Another coach coached with us last year for the first time, he has been a very successful head coach at 3 different small High Schools here in Nebraska. Both guys knew each other from our program and got along very well. The car dealer guy couldn’t always be at practice, he was going to miss about 20% of the time. The retired High School guy had a bad back, just had surgery and wasn’t going to be the “main guy” by choice. The car dealer guy’s wife was a very experienced and very competent team mom- so that solved some of the paperwork issues. Co-head coaching made sense for this dynamic- BUT WITH LIMITATIONS.
First I asked if each were ok with the relationship- that they could trust and work with each other. They spoke with each other over the phone and both were ok with the arrangement. Then I assigned one the offense and one the defense and let them work out the special teams between themselves. The practice organization/practice methodology, offensive scheme, defensive scheme and special teams scheme were already set for us, all 3 teams run the same system. They of course have the flexibility of selecting players for positions, which series they wanted to run and which adjustments to put in. We’ve never had any problems with co-head coaches because we always make sure we choose smart collaborative guys with experience and NO EGO. Then we make sure each understands their responsibilities and boundaries and of course they always know they can come to me for help in resolving any issues.
If you ever get asked to be a co-head coach, DON’T accept until you understand in BLUNT terms what your role is AND have spoken in blunt terms with your co-head coach as to how you are going to work together. If not, it will be a year wasted and a disaster season for the kids, take that to the bank.
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