AGC #022 - How to use multiple coaches

3 ways to ensure you're not all coaching the same thing

I was once asked by a coaching friend to come watch their team’s game from the sideline and tell them what I noticed.

One thing stood out above everything else: all the coaches were doing the same thing.

And it mostly involved screaming.

If you’re lucky enough to have more than one coach at your session or game, you should differentiate the roles.

Failure to do so means you’re robbing your players of opportunities to learn and grow, and not getting the most from your limited time together.

Here are 3 ways to make the best use of multiple coaches:

1 - Big Picture, Little Details

In this setup, one coach is responsible for the “Big Picture” of the session, while the other focuses on “Little Details”.

The Big Picture coach will typically facilitate group discussions, explain the exercises, and is responsible for time management and the overall execution of the session.

A standard “big picture” coaching moment

The Little Details coach has less overall responsibility, which frees them up to do a lot more coaching of individuals - especially around technique - and impacts their learning more subtly.

For example, if the sport is soccer and the session is about goalscoring, the Big Picture coach might give an overview of what concepts are important for the group to make and take chances.

The Little Details coach might help one individual struggling to finish with their left foot, or another who can’t quite time their runs into the box.

There are endless ways you could use this framework.

A favorite of mine is for the Little Details coach to intensively coach and pour into just four players in each session, but change who they are every day until they’ve reached everyone on the team.

It’s also worth noting that the head coach doesn’t always have to be the Big Picture coach.

Getting an assistant to lead the session shifts gears for all involved and potentially stretches them, while freeing the head coach up to look more in-depth at whatever is needed on the day.

Below is a cool example of Little Details coaching from Dave Wright of Player Development Project:

2 - Good Cop, Bad Cop

This one is exactly what it sounds like, with two or more coaches being given different roles in how they address both the group and individuals.

The Good Cop focuses on offering praise, motivation, and support where necessary, while the Bad Cop provides constructive criticism and challenge.

Skilled coaches do a combination of these anyway, but splitting them up ensures a balanced approach.

It can also be a fun way for coaches whose personalities are normally “glass half full” to pick holes in what’s going on, and for the cynics to have to adopt a sunnier disposition!

This doesn’t mean the Bad Cop has the license to be mean or inappropriate, more that they are solely looking for moments to intervene in a way that invites to make improvements and changes.

3 - Four Corner Coaches

Many sporting organizations have a variation of the “four corner” model - you can get a solid overview from the English Football Association here.

The model encourages coaches to consider how their players are developing across four areas:

  • Social

  • Physical

  • Psychological

  • Technical/Tactical

Naturally, all of these are interlinked and integrated, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t separate your coaching to hit different corners in different ways at different times.

For example, making one coach responsible solely for looking out for the technical and tactical elements - which are traditionally where most coaches place their focus - would free another coach to pay more attention to what’s going on socially and psychologically within the group.

It might be watching out for how certain players who are struggling to connect on the field are interacting with each other. Perhaps it’s observing who is handling challenges well and responding positively, or who is going sullen and internal or getting snippy with their teammates.

Either way, you’re leaving big gains and important coaching moments on the table if you’re only paying attention to the technical and tactical aspects.

That’s it - three ways to use multiple coaches. If you don’t already, I hope those of you who coach can apply these models in your sessions!

Whenever you’re ready, here are a few ways I can help you:

1. Efficient Practice Design: My multi-step system for creating practice plans that will flow smoothly, stretch your players appropriately, and save coaches of all team sports dozens of hours a year, on and off the field.

2. Premium Practice Planner:  A Notion template to help sports coaches plan, deliver and review their sessions with maximum efficiency - then smartly archive everything.

3. Coach’s Dozen: An ebook of 12 small-sided games with diagrams and animations to help you train goalscoring in field hockey, co-authored with Mark Egner.