Fostering Relationships With the Coaches on the Staff: Getting What You Need to Get Done


The coaches on a staff are like any other group in an office, school or place of work; they all have unique personalities and talents that can be used to make an efficient working unit. You may not like an individual, others may grate on you, some know too much, and others don’t know enough, but, like any family, you need to have them work for you to thrive and win football games. We are constantly fostering relationships that seem to work, and a big reason is the way our head coach approaches his assistants. It may sound like we have a ton of assistants, but we only have a total of 7 coaches on the entire staff, including two at the freshman level.

Bill Carpluk, the head coach at Mendham High (NJ), allows his assistants to take ownership of a certain aspect of the game.  Sometimes he assigns it, other times he will allow his assistants to throw in a wrinkle that they are excited about, or have a better way of teaching. He has a vision, and doesn’t allow the vision to be compromised, but is flexible in its application. It is easy to understand the three big assignments, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, and special teams coordinator. We also have a JV/Frosh O-Coordinator, JV/Frosh D-Coordinator, and a JV /Frosh Head Coach like most programs, but small nuances that the rest of the staff can own for themselves make for a happy crew who have their own thing. Most importantly, he gives his assistants the right to be part of the game plans and he listens to all suggestions, not just casting them aside.

A great example would be our special teams coordinator who wanted to apply the rugby punt when he was hired for the job. Even though it worried the old timers, Bill let him implement it and we used it as a change-up last year. It was a good change-up that the old timers (like me) felt more comfortable with as the year went on.

Some of the other assignments that Bill has delegated are not exactly conventional such as the pass game line coordinator assigned to our assistant line coach. This person is assigned to all pass blocking techniques and schemes in the pass game. He is responsible for weekly looks and change-ups. Bill also has a scouting coordinator. We play our home games on Saturday, so we get to scout games on Friday night. If we play on Friday, then we will scout on Saturday afternoon. This job is given to the assistant freshman coach. They are in charge of making sure we film it, scout it and put together the reports. He is in charge and even though he is a freshman coach, he assigns people to games that we are to scout and, when there is a dispute, he has the final say backed up by Bill. That is his weekly job. We also have a person in charge of equipment both daily and game day. They assign people to bring it out and back. Each assignment is theirs, and gives possession to the person in charge. It is also their responsibility to get it done however they can.

I think, most importantly, we spend time together off the field. I have talked my top two assistants on defense into golfing. There’s nothing better than a cigar and a cart on the golf course. It takes around 4 hours to play (if we are lucky) and we spend most of the time driving the cart. We hit the ball about 20 minutes of that time. During the rest of the time, we are talking about the defense, personnel, schemes and the general health of our defense. I’ve even gotten Bill to play sometimes. If golf is not your thing, maybe its fishing or hunting but something has to be common ground. Talking is the best way to come up with solutions.

You spend so much time with the staff that you need to socialize with them as well. I try to have people at my house as much as possible, including wives (only in the off-season) and try to have friendships develop between the wives and kids. It helps to have the families involved in this as well. I have a great porch and a lot of thinking and talking gets done on that porch. We, as a staff at Mendham, center on food. Food makes us happy. So, add food and we can get almost anything hashed out.

On Monday night, our scouting report and game planning evening, we order food from the local restaurant. Our head freshman coach is assigned to order it and pick it up. (Our assistant freshman coach has scouting report duties). We are so superstitious about this that, if we win, we don’t allow the coaches to change their order.  We will also head out after a win to a place that wives and families can go to after game. Anyone involved in that game, including the cameraman, cheerleading advisers, AD, basketball coaches, baseball coaches, the band director and teachers are invited out with us.

We again, like food. So we center our activities on eating. On Friday or Saturday nights, when we scout, we will have a specific place that we go to eat for a specific venue. After a run-through for the game or the next morning after a game, we will meet for dinner/lunch before the scouting report. It is a great way to talk through what is going to happen or what did happen. We will talk about small things like the coin flip for example. With the ease of film now, this has become a lost social event for the staff.  I think it is still important to have these scouting outings.

In the pre-season, we have a Chinese food night and watch pre-season pro football at someone’s house. This allows us to relax before the pressure of the season comes onto us.  We usually do this after doubles start and are able to assess our personnel and any changes we need to make.

I know a lot of this is what you are doing, but it is important to foster a relationship among the staff. They will perform better, less back biting will occur, and a lot less water cooler mentality will happen.  I hope I have given you some ideas about fostering relationships on your staff.