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I am an executive recruiter by day and High School Varsity Head Coach by afternoon.  I rub elbows with top level executives nationwide in the retail world.  I coach and speak to executives about their professional experience and how to effectively communicate their skill sets and successes in order to make them the best candidate for the job they are interviewing for.  I have coached hundreds of professionals, critiquing their resumes, improving their interview style, preparing them with potential questions and rehearsing answers.  I am a master interview preparer but when it came to preparing myself to interview for a Girls Varsity Lacrosse Head Coach role – I was terrified.  Scared stiff, actually.

I counseled with my boss, college teammates, fellow High School Varsity Coaches and college coach friends and acquaintances regarding strategy and preparation.  I took all of their advice and combined it with my own knowledge of executive recruiting to answer all of my questions.  The result: I got the job.

Q: How does one prepare for a Head Coach interview?

Prepare a coaching book, ideally a 3 ring binder including:

-Detailed practice plans with objectives and coaching notes, draw out your drills.

-Drawn out offensive and defensive strategies

-Offensive plays drawn out

-Goals and game plan for the season including: County / State Championship, highest GPA, implement a study hall for student athletes, create a relationship with teachers to ensure grade accountability, community service project to promote teamwork off the field.

-Letters of Recommendation

-Professional resume including ALL coaching experience

Talk to your friends who are coaches and players, pick their brains, talk to parents of student athletes you have coached – ask them what concerns they have for you coaching, they will have some and stress that you want to hear them to overcome them.  Create a coaching philosophy and write it down.

Q: What is the Athletic Director looking for?

An accountable, responsible, assertive individual, who is confident, articulate, strategic, plays by the rules and values sportsmanship.  Always speak and think in the best interest of the school.  Read the school’s mission statement and be sure your coaching philosophy is in alignment with that.  The AD wants strong student-athletes and he wants a coach who will be there long-term, not one season.

Q: Who will I be going up against?

You may be going up against another Varsity Head Coach, the JV Coach, the Assistant Varsity Head Coach or a parent.  Whichever the case, do your homework on the other candidates and cater your strengths to eclipse their weaknesses.  Think strategically and be careful to NOT mention their names.  Any advertisement is good advertisement; do not waste your precious time in front of the panel by addressing your competition.  Take the high road and focus on yourself.

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We have all won championships and played in tournaments, received #1 medals, ribbons, and trophies; however,  if you had the choice to go against the #2 or #3 team to decide the title, who would you choose?  In some sports, the way that playoffs are structured is as follows:

First round:

#1 vs. #12, #2 vs. #11, #3 vs #10, #4 vs #9, #5 vs #8, #6 vs #7

Based on the winners of those games, #1 seed plays the winner of the #6 vs #7 game.  Usually teams aim to go into playoffs being seeded #1 so that you are guaranteed an “easier” game to face off against the lowest seeded team.  This is an earned position, the #1 team has performed well all season to dominate the field and have a stronger chance of advancing.  Of course we have all witnessed the upsets in March Madness where the #15 team takes out the #2 seed at which time the debate arises, should the #1 seed play the #2 or #15 team to decide the true “Champion?”

In May 2009, our #1 seeded HS Varsity Girls’ Lacrosse team went up against the #2 seeded High School team in the county.  The #2 team was clipping at our heels all season and the regular season games were tied 1- 1, they beat us away and we beat them at home.  It was an incredible match up of talent and will and a cross town rivalry.  The CIF playoffs culminated in a Championship game of #1 vs #2, the winner would truly have earned the CIF title this year.  Our #1 team squeezed out a 6-5 win at the end of a game riddled with checks, interceptions, incredible saves, perfectly placed shots and some of the best girls lacrosse the fans, the Head Coach and I had every seen.  It was an incredible sense of accomplishment and pride for the girls, it was a true championship and they felt they had beaten the team who challenged them and pushed them the most.  I don’t think the 2009 CIF victory would have been as sweet against any other team, both teams have a great deal of respect for one another, they pushed each other to play beyond their normal capabilities and stretch their limits.

It’s important for coaches to teach their players, and for parents to teach their kids, that in order to BE the best you must BEAT the best. It’s a lesson that applies throughout life.  In academics, in business, in any area in which your goal is be the “best.”  Push and motivate yourself and your team to continuously improve your skill level, your game, and consistently challenge yourself to compete against the very best competition the field has to offer.  You may lose at first but you learn lessons to improve and better prepare for the next time.

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As a high school varsity coach, we make a point at the pre-season meeting to set the tone with parents regarding how, when, and why to address the coaches and which topics we are willing to discuss.  This way, it is clear to the athletes and their parents. We are setting the standard for communication before the season begins and we work to manage their expectations in order to prevent headaches later.  We state clearly that at the varsity level we will discuss playing time, practice times, areas of improvement, and time off requests with athletes directly and NEVER with parents!

At the varsity level it is time for student athletes to learn how to manage their time, communicate and articulate their thoughts directly to the coach, without the crutch of their parents. We want our athletes to cultivate their relationship with us (coaches) without the help of their parents.  When this precedent is not set, the coach’s job becomes much too large.  Their job is to coach, not to handle an athlete’s social calendar or to counsel a parent regarding their child’s playing time.  Parents have nothing to do with playing time; everything an athlete must do to increase playing time is 100% up to them, which is why any questions/concerns should be between the athlete and the coach.

girlslaxAthletes can approach either the Assistant Coach or the Head Coach directly. The Assistant Coach is able to gauge whether or not the topic at hand is worth including the Head Coach.  Typically the matter can be handled by the Assistant without distracting the Head Coach, this is part of the Assistant’s job – to handle any extraneous concerns.  If an athlete has a question, it is appropriate to address the coach before or after practice or send an email to schedule a time to discuss one on one or over the phone.  A discussion should never occur via email or text – it should only be used to schedule a time to talk.

That being said, I strongly encourage parents to introduce themselves to the coaches early on in the season, ask the coaches if they need any assistance or help with scorekeeping, management, ordering jerseys, pictures, team dinners, etc.  Recognize when the coach does something you like and encourage other parents to do the same, this makes it much easier to address the coach later on.  Positive reinforcement is not only appreciated by athletes but by coaches as well!

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