By Kirby Whitacre
It’s easy for coaches to make mistakes off the field when they’re new to the profession. But you can nip any potential problems in the bud by developing a comprehensive coaches' handbook.
Getting all the coaches on your staff to follow the same policies and procedures can be difficult. One great way to accomplish the task is the development of a comprehensive coaches’ handbook. This book should clearly spell out the expectations of coaches, help them understand rules and policies, and provide a proactive training tool.
I have had the opportunity to be involved in the creation of coaches’ handbooks for several schools. Usually, I start by forming a committee of coaches to help me develop the book. We start by reviewing other schools’ books, and with their permission, borrow ideas and content. Then we make it pertinent to our school and community.
Asking coaches to help create the handbook is a great way to get their advice. I’ve found it works well to include a few older, experienced coaches who have seen a myriad of problems in their careers. And I also include a few younger coaches because they have a better understanding of newer problem areas, such as Internet usage. They are also often more attuned to the current issues that kids and parents are dealing with.
Having coaches on this committee also helps ensure the buy-in of all coaches. It makes the handbook a document they have helped to create, rather than something handed down from administration.
Upon completion of the document, we give all coaches and administrators an opportunity to provide input. After the final edit, we are sure to get an okay from the superintendent and board of education.
As we construct the book, we imagine it being used to orient a new coach to the school and are sure to detail all the pertinent information. Here are the areas that I feel are most important to include:
• The general policies of the school
• The philosophy of the school in regard to athletics
• A profile of the demographics of the school
• A list of the governing bodies and associations for the school’s athletic program
• The program objectives
• Coaching job descriptions
• Procedures/Policies/Protocol for:
·Paperwork: accounting procedures, receipt book forms, state tournament entries, insurance forms, etc.
·Student eligibility: actual grade, age, and behavior requirements
·Medical treatment and injury prevention: the policies and procedures of your athletic trainers and team doctors as well as use of the athletic training room
·Student health insurance: corporation policy, costs, and procedures for filing a claim
·Record keeping: equipment inventory, stats, archival records, attendance, etc.
·Media relations: expectations for dealing with the media and info about releasing sensitive info as well as who is the spokesperson for the corporation
·Fundraising: working with boosters, and financial and budgeting procedures
·Chain of command, including a hierarchy chart
·Professional memberships and clinics available to coaches
·Athletic code of behavior
·Expected behavior of coaches on and off the job
·Coaching evaluations, with actual samples
·Parent communication policy
·Avoiding undue influence and recruiting: state association as well as corporation rules
·Reporting child abuse and molestation: state law passages and exact procedure
·Facility usage: Who has priority?
·Equipment inventory rules
·Purchasing policies and procedures
• Information on risk management:
·Facility and equipment safety: What has to be routinely checked and reported?
·Weather guidelines: How cold is too cold or how hot is too hot to be outside?
·Injury guidelines: Who is in charge of return to play?
·Travel rules and policies
·Supervision rules and policies
·Weightroom guidelines: the rules of use, priority of teams, etc.
·Pool guidelines: safety, supervision, etc.
·Skin diseases: preventative procedures
• Emergency medical information for both athletes and coaches
• Sample forms and checklists
To read an article by Kirby Whiteacre about reacting to coaches' mistakes that appears in the April/May issue of Athletic Management, check out: The Right Reaction.
Kirby Whitacre is Director of Athletics for the South Bend Community School Corporation, which includes four high schools and 10 intermediate centers, and has also served at Mishawaka and Zionsville High Schools, all in Indiana. He has written numerous articles and been a guest speaker at state, multi-state, national, and international conferences on sports issues. In 2007, he published his first book, Buddhism, A Westerner’s Compendium, reflecting his interest in pursuits beyond athletics. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
I've written an "athletic manual" for a public school where I served as an athletic director. It contained what you listed in your article &:
-coaches' job description
The manual proved very valuable; it was bound in a notebook where each year information was updated. This system worked very well...the manual was used at the "first coaches' meeting" of each school year and throughout the year I could send forms, etc. to the coaches to add or delete to their manual.
I wanted to create a manual that would be beneficial to the staff; it proved to be just that.
Enjoyed your article...I guess I was right on the mark.
- Angie Wishert
Health & P.E. District Coordinator