In my time as a coach, I’ve noticed a strange trend among travel teams: An overflow of coaches. But how many coaches do you need?
Looking into some dugouts, it looks like a “Bring a Parent to Work Day” for kids. The coaches don’t even fit in the dugout. Four or five spill out onto buckets outside.
This can get a bit ridiculous. In fact, I contend it can be an enormous problem. Let’s take a closer look…
Practice vs. Games
First, let’s clarify the difference between coaching in practices and games.
You could technically have many more “coaches” (adults who players refer to as “coach”) during practices than during games. I need parents to help by pitching, soft tossing, and more. Additionally, we get instruction from paid coaches within our practice facility.
But many of these people aren’t official coaches. They are dads or practice instructors who won’t be in our dugout on the day of a game.
The Bare Necessities
The Spiders focus on the basics when it comes to coaches…
1. Head Coach/3rd Base Coach: As the head coach, I generally want to be the guy giving signs. It’s not a power thing. It’s just that if I’m making final decisions on strategies, I should probably be the guy giving the signs.
2. Assistant Coach/1st Base Coach: The Spiders have an assistant coach who coaches first base. This is standard. You can’t get around it.
3. Assitant Coach/Bench Scorer: While we do have a parent scoring Gamechanger for other parents to follow along, I don’t consider these stats “official.” I have an assistant coach who scores more detailed actions using iScore from within the dugout. A big reason for this is so that we can also take that information and apply it for positioning defenders and other strategies.
The three of us manage everything on the field — from pre-game warm-ups to in-game strategy and one-on-one instruction.
We have the bare necessities this season, but we could technically have one more — particularly if I were to take a break from giving signs at third base and I wanted to be in the dugout to talk to the kids during our at-bats. Or, we could have one coach who is focused specifically on the pitcher/catcher relationship and strategies.
But I truly see four coaches as the limit. Even then, it could be too many with the wrong personalities. Anything beyond that just isn’t necessary.
Problem: Too Many Coaches
One nice thing about our current set-up is that we three coaches have three very different personalities. We aren’t all incredibly vocal. I’d consider myself on the average-to-below-average side of the noise scale. And one is even quieter than I am.
But I think that’s good, particularly for games. It’s good to have one coach who can provide energy. We have to call out plays and make corrections where necessary. But for the most part, we just let these kids play during the game.
The problem with having too many coaches is that you’re bound to have at least a couple of loud ones. In fact, I’ve witnessed straight chaos from these benches that overflow with coaches. If the umpire makes a questionable call, they’re all shouting. Something goes wrong on the field, and they’re all freaking out. It’s a mess.
The umpire thing, in particular, can get you into unnecessary trouble. You can get away with questioning a call as a single coach. But if five ego-driven coaches are all shouting about it? Someone may get ejected. And rightfully so.
When multiple coaches are yelling at the same time, it all just becomes noise. It’s confusing for the kids. It creates tension and anxiety. And it just isn’t helpful.
If you have six official coaches for a youth team with 11 players, that means more than half of the dads are coaches. I can tell you what the perception and expectation will be, and it’s something you’ll need to combat from the start.
Oh, you know where I’m going with this. It’s Daddy Ball on steroids.
Those dads who aren’t coaches will fall into the minority. They will watch very closely to see the time and responsibilities granted to the coaches’ kids compared to their own.
You know they will. All you need to do is read the comments under just about any of my posts and someone will start griping about the coach’s kid. Now multiply that by six.
The politics of youth sports is difficult to avoid. But you’re making it even more difficult when it appears as though you need to be a coach to get certain advantages. This will become an even bigger deal with a bloated coaching staff.
Each Role Has a Purpose
When I see a team with an endless line of uniformed coaches, I can’t help but wonder: “What do they actually do?” Do they have a purpose? Do the kids know what that purpose is? Or are they just there to look important?
Because that’s the flip side of having too many coaches. If they aren’t loud, creating noise and canceling each other out, is there anything that they are actually doing besides sitting on a bucket and spitting seeds?
Just make sure that however many coaches you have, they all have a clear purpose. It should be communicated and useful to the kids. And having each coach should add value, rather than simply taking space and adding noise.
You Coach ALL Players
Once again, you battle perception…
I get why these coaches want to be in the dugout. There’s the innocent reason of wanting to be closer to their own child. Maybe they like being in the middle of competition. But one thing MUST be true: They are there to coach all kids on the team.
Far too often, you’ll see it. A coach is there, essentially, to be no more than a babysitter for his own kid. Coaching him. Correcting him. Berating him. Parenting him. Ignoring the other players.
And, let’s be honest: He’s also there to make sure that he has a say in how his kid is used. He doesn’t want to be one of those poor saps sitting in the stands while his kid sits the bench.
These can’t be your only reasons for helping out as a coach. You must provide value to all kids. You can’t treat your son as “your son” during the game. Otherwise, get out of the freaking dugout.
In the end, this is more than just being about the number of coaches you need, but whether some parents should be assistants at all. Be careful about which parents you add to your staff. Make sure that they have the wellbeing of all kids in mind. And be sure that they actually have a purpose.
Because the truth is that maybe this person doesn’t need to be a gameday coach in the dugout. I’m sure you still need plenty of help in practices!
Anything you’d add? Let me know in the comments below!