The Case Against Being Both AD and Head Coach

May 27, 2019

 

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA, CIC

Around the country, there are various ways in which school districts construct the athletic administrator’s position.  In some areas, an individual serves as an assistant principal, and also has the title and responsibilities of athletic director.  This is quite common.  Obviously, it would be ideal for someone to simply be the fulltime leader of the athletic program.

It is also possible that someone might serve as the head coach of a sport and also fill the athletic director’s position.  However, there are major limitations with this type of structure.  Both positions are complicated and time intensive, and it may be impossible for one individual to provide his or her full attention  to both aspects.

Some might answer that they have an assistant to whom they can delegate some tasks, but something may be overlooked or short-changed by having one person fill both positions.  A good exercise would be to make a list of all of the responsibilities or tasks which fall on the shoulders of an athletic administrator.  This means including the smallest, daily items to the major, visionary projects.  Include absolutely anything and everything.

Whether you use a legal pad or your laptop, you will find that your list will be rather large and wide-ranging.  Furthermore, instead of simply listing scheduling, break it down and include all things that you schedule.  For example, you schedule games, officials, buses – or transportation to games and possible off-campus practice sessions, game security, meetings – pre-season parent and coaches, booster and others.  Break down and do this for all other responsibilities and your list will be extensive.

In like fashion, coaches are totally engrossed – and they should be – in their sport.  This means planning and conducting practice sessions and guiding their team during games.  Scouting opponents, preparing game plans, inventorying uniforms and equipment, helping athletes with their college recruiting and many other tasks that  are part of the job.  Just like athletic administrators, coaches are extremely busy.  There is no way that one person can do justice to both positions.

The following two or three scenarios may help you to sort through this dilemma.

As a head coach, you may be in the middle of a practice session.  You get a message that there is problem, perhaps a bus didn’t show up for another team, there has been a serious injury at another venue or equipment has malfunctioned.  As the athletic administrator, this is your responsibility.  Do you turn practice over to an assistant and go attend to the emergency?  And this may occur frequently.  Are you adequately handling either responsibility?

If you send an assistant to handle the emergency with the other sport and you stay with the team to continue with practice, does the person who is going in your place have the necessary experience and knowledge to adequately handle it?  Remember, there is no time to provide explicit instruction, answer questions or provide advice.  This means that an emergency with another team isn’t being properly addressed.

Regardless of the sport that you may coach, you will not be able to attend other contests on the day that you have games.  This means that you will not be able to observe the other coaches which is a critical piece in the evaluation process.  Even if they play on days in which you don’t have a game, you have practice sessions to conduct.  Are you able to fairly judge what these coaches do well and what areas may be in need of improvement?  For sports that are played in other seasons, there would be less of a problem.  In-season, however, you may be severely compromised.

When a parent also approaches you with a concern or complaint dealing with one of the other sports, you will not have first-hand information from watching practice sessions or games.  How can you objectively support your coach?  While it may not be impossible, by not being able to observe them, you will be limited.  Is this fair to the other coaches in your program?

While it may not be true, there may be a perception that you may favor the sport that you coach.  This would mean financial support, improved facilities and promotional efforts.  How do go about dispelling this possible misconception, because it may very well exist with dual-position individuals?

There is hardly an athletic administrator who has enough time to do everything that should be done during the day.  How can a person in a dual-position effectively handle all of the details even if one is able to delegate?  The honest answer is that you can’t.

With the extensive complexity of both positions – athletic administration and coaching, it takes one’s complete focus, time and energy.  Choose one or the other so that no one gets short-changed.

 

David Hoch retired in 2010 after a 41-year career as a high school athletic director and coach. In 2009, Dr. Hoch was honored as the Eastern District Athletic Director of the Year by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. He was also presented with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Distinguished Service Award, and in 2000 he was named the Maryland State Athletic Director Association’s Athletic Director of the Year. Dr. Hoch has authored over 460 professional articles and made more than 70 presentations around the country. He welcomes comments and questions and can be reached at: [email protected]

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