Part-Time Coaches Written By Charlie Dobbins, Head Coach, William Peace University
Our profession still has many part-time coaches — both head and assistant — that balance two lives while contributing to the game. I know that personally, having spent 15 years as a part-time coach.
There is a major disconnect between the people at the top (college and university administrators) and part-time coaches. Most of the time, athletic directors understand the commitment and loyalty generated by their part-time staff. Many of us serve on committees with the NFCA and NCAA.
Turnover is huge, though. Many schools have great young coaches, but lose them to another program or to a more stable profession.
It amazes me that with the visibility given to an athletic team and the coach being the face of the program and main recruiter of athletes to the program, that they don’t put more emphasis on developing and keeping coaching talent.
Each coach has to evaluate if they can thrive in a part-time situation. Understand what it is — a part-time job, for low pay and little or no benefits.
Most of these coaches fall into two categories. Either they are young and just out of college, possibly just having finished a playing career, or they are older retired or semi-retired individuals who have passion and knowledge they want to share.
The difference is that this is a first job for the younger coach, who is looking to put their time in and move to the next challenge, while the older coach hopefully has the experience and knowledge to move the program forward.
Balancing Work and Life
I look at this a little different than most. I believe our professional lives bleed into our personal lives. I have learned to accept the fact that the lines that once separated work and home are a thing of the past. Developing a work-life integration plan instead of work-life balance has helped me generate a more “normal” life.
I don’t feel guilty answering emails, phone calls, etc., away from the workplace. Obviously, this is not the norm, and employers and spouses have to be willing to allow and encourage this blending of our personal and work lives.
My situation is unique in that I am self-employed in my full-time jobs, as a manufacturers rep for several specialty building products and as a majority partner in a 22,000-square-foot sports training center located in the Triangle area of North Carolina. I work out of my home office with my building products company and my wife runs the training center during the day. I spend time in the training center in the evenings as needed.
We’ve been able to rethink the way we have organized our lives. We know that January through May will be very challenging, with the training center at full capacity and me in the middle of a full NCAA softball schedule, as well as servicing my building product customers. We have learned to accept this as a part of life and plan accordingly.
My situation works for me. I don’t try to live two lives; one that is personal and one that is professional. Trying to achieve balance is impossible and will lead to stress and frustration. Mustard Seed mission founder Lillian Dickson once said, “Life is like a coin. You can spend it any way you wish, but you only spend it once.”
Being part-time coaches shouldn’t stop us from being active on committees. But it takes commitment and focus. You have to want to do this, embrace it as an honor that your peers trust you with the task.
It amazes me that we don’t have more coaches that want to be involved. This also helps with recruiting. I have been able to expand my recruiting footprint through the networking that serving on a national committee provides.
I am currently a member of the NCAA Division III Softball Committee, representing the Atlantic region, and have previously served on NFCA Division III committees. Each of these experiences has allowed me to connect with people on the same level and higher.
I have met people with more experience, who have been able to mentor me over the years, while also dealing with coaches that are on par with me, with whom I can share ideas and experiences that help keep the right mindset and stay on track. I always look for the smartest person in the room. If I’m the smartest person in that room, I look for another room.
So how do you become the best part-time coach you can be?
Be open on scheduling all aspects while staying inside NCAA rules. Work with your athletes within their schedules, especially with skill-specific focus.
Don’t focus on what you can’t provide, focus on what you can provide. Turn the practice field into a learning laboratory. Use outside resources to enhance learning opportunities.
Involve and empower your coaches and athletes to find ways to improve. In the beginning, assure participation and voice by assigning roles and responsibilities to each member. As the team progresses, the coach gradually shifts the role of leader/organizer to the individual athletes and becomes a participant along with the other coaches. Effective part-time coaches share leadership with others so that they truly are building and empowering their staff and athletes to be the best they can be.
Tips To Avoid Coaching Burnout
Remember to keep it fun, not just for the athletes, also the coaches.
Remember why you got involved in the first place and try and rekindle that fire.
Don’t forget your sense of humor.
Understand clearly what you have personal control of and don’t sweat the rest.
Continue to set goals for your team, but don’t forget to also set goals for yourself.
Make these goals achievable and something that you have control over.
While win-loss records are part of the environment, focus your coaching performance in other areas, such as strategizing, teaching skills and creating a motivating environment.
Surround yourself with those who sustain and bring out the best in you.
Avoid those that make you feel week, insecure or anxious.
Share your feelings and experiences with others that you trust.
In the long run, you have a decision to make. Does this career choice offer you a path to your life goal? Remember the Dickson quote.
”Life is like a coin. You can spend it any way you wish, but you only spend it once.”
Spend it wisely!