I just returned from a long weekend of racing. Our men’s team raced in Tennessee while our women’s team raced in New Jersey. We loaded our men’s equipment on another team’s trailer on Wednesday morning after practice. We loaded our women’s equipment on our own trailer on Wednesday afternoon. I left for NJ Thursday morning with the trailer and arrived late Friday afternoon. Both teams left very early Friday morning to fly to their respective races, each with an assistant coach leading the charge. Each team raced. Some crews won. Both teams returned late Sunday night while I returned with the trailer early Monday evening.
As an assistant coach, I was amazing. The reason I was an amazing assistant coach is because I was always trying to think ahead and take things off my head coach’s plate. The more I could do for him (all my head coaches were him’s), the more I could free him up to make the team better.
The most difficult lesson learned as a head coach is to delegate. For me, that has meant remembering that my assistant coaches won’t always do things the same way I would do them, but that doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. There are certainly some non-negotiables and some of those won’t be figured out until something goes wrong. Case in point, if you are a coach, don’t be the first one in your group on the airplane in case one of your athletes gets stopped by the gate agent for an oversized backpack and is threatened to be removed from the flight.
Even as an amazing assistant coach I made mistakes. That’s how I learned. Allow your assistant coaches the room to make mistakes so they can learn. I hired my assistant coaches because they filled at least one of my shortcomings. We complement each other (and yes, sometimes we compliment each other). Give them the freedom to make choices. They won’t always choose the same as you, but you can use those choices as a conversation point as you develop your assistant coaches, and maybe they develop you a little as well. Very few mistakes are without solutions.