Interviewing for Your First Coaching Job?
Notice: This article was written by Kevin Reilly and Steve Jordan, Coach's
Notebook. Email the author at email@example.com.
I had the pleasure of interviewing for a head coaching job. I thought I would share the
experience with you and offer some suggestions. Perhaps I should not be giving advice as I did
not get the job, but I did learn a lot. Maybe you will be more successful. The last part of
the article shows my responses if you're interested. The interview was oral, so my responses
here are made with 20-20 hindsight... more like this is what I wish I said!
- Men, dress nicely to show respect for the job and the people taking the time to interview you.
Slacks, coat and tie should be appropriate. Ladies ... you know better than me.
- Speak clearly and personably. Look everyone in the eye and be conversational.
If you're nervous, that's normal. Take your time. It will really help if you're prepared.
Try to anticipate some questions that may be asked and have solid answers ready.
- Remember to put the kids first. Sure, you are interviewing for your job, but the whole
point is to help students. If that is your motive, it will show through. If you are worried about
money, your win/loss record, your history as a player... that will show through, too.
- Don't be afraid to deviate from the script if you sense an important issue. Perhaps they are
looking for someone who is bold and willing to share opinions.
- Do not denigrate the other candidates or the previous coach. You will appear negative and mean.
This is an important job that needs a positive person.
- Ask the chief interviewer what he/she is looking for in a successful candidate.
- If you don't get the job, don't doubt yourself. There may have been a wide range of characteristics
that were considered. Maybe the things you're best at weren't the most important for this
particular position. Maybe the other candidates are very good, too.
- If unsuccessful, be graceful. Don't bad mouth the new coach, the process or the administration.
If you still want to be a part of the program, try to help in a different way.
LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL
||Head Boys Basketball Coach
||September 22, 2000
- Briefly describe your coaching experiences at various competitive levels with High School age athletes.
- Describe experiences that you have had supervising coaches. What criteria would you use to judge the merits of assistant coaches?
- Describe your coaching strategies with respect to practice and competition.
- What criteria would you use to select student athletes into team levels such as Varsity,
Junior Varsity, and C Team? How will you communicate the criteria to students and parents before tryouts? How will you
communicate the results to the students and parents, especially students that are cut from the tryouts?
- If you were selected as the Head Boys Basketball Coach, how would you arrange coaching/practice time between the various levels of student athletes?
- How often will you have parent/team meetings and will your practice sessions be open to them and others.
- How would you handle multiple coaching instructions from assistants, parents, and others, if they were different from you own?
- What additional team rules and expectations will you have beyond Anchorage School District rules and ASAA Rules? How will these rules be communicated to students and parents?
- Describe discipline matters that you have had to handle during your role as a coach.
- Describe how you will fund raise to support the Boys Basketball program? How will you include parents, booster club, and students?
- How would you handle criticism from parents, students, fans, community members?
- Student safety is of primary importance in all sports. What safety issues are you aware of with respect to this basketball and what do you believe your role will be in ensuring student safety?
- Why would you be the best candidate for this position?
- Will your schedule be flexible enough to maintain practices between 2:30pm until 8:OOpm?
- Will your schedule be flexible enough to be present for all practices and competitions for the entire season, including the Region and State Meets?
My Answers (Your answers will differ!)
- I am in my third year of coaching 9-10th graders as a volunteer coach for the High School
C Team. I also assist with the Junior Varsity players. I am in my 12th year of coaching players
(from 4th grade to 12th grade) in the YMCA and other youth leagues as a mean of preparing them to play in high
school competition. I have also coached several high school aged baseball teams.
- I have 20 years of formal supervisory experience working in the petroleum industry. I have been
trained to manage large projects, supervise adults teams in company operations and administer budgetary
and personnel duties. Managing assistant coaches will be similar to my work experience with adults. I will measure
assistant coaches on their ability to teach fundamental skills, promote good team morale, employ
full participation of all players, foster good sportsmanship and developing team skills in which
all members of the group work together to create and achieve something better than their
- Practice is the classroom; the game is the test. We learn what we need to improve from the games.
Record keeping is essential. From the records - shot charts and videotapes - players will
learn the value of their decisions on the floor. In practice, we will learn to perform necessary
skills to win and develop the understanding behind our strategies so there is no confusion in
purpose in competition. While practices are planned and structured well in advance, flexibility
is important to make adjustments as the team develops.
- I would plan to retain 36 players in the program. There may be circumstances to consider an
extra player (a 13th team member) in extenuating situations, but 12 per team is the ideal number to
provide adequate playing time and have sufficient reserves for injury or sickness. The varsity is for
the most experienced and talented players. In a talent rich environment like our high school, each year
should have a new crop of seniors that have grown up through the program and are prepared for
their year of leadership. Some juniors may be experienced and talented enough for varsity competition,
but I adamantly oppose placing freshmen on the varsity team, and would only consider a sophomore in the
most extraordinary cases. There is great value in allowing talented underclassmen grow up together,
learning to work together, being successful together ... instead of sitting on the varsity bench
for a couple years.
It will be tough selling this approach to the talented kids and their parents,
but in a school with championship potential, people need to accept the long term value of growing
through the program. Expecting to be a varsity star for 4 years is small school mentality. Players
should take great pride in being a member of the C team or JV team. If they cannot, then how can
they learn the depth of sacrifice needed to create a championship program? Players cut from the
program should be told where they fell short, encouraged to improve and try out again next year. Such
players are welcome in the spring and fall youth leagues.
- C team members must practice right after school due to the difficulty in arranging
transportation. JV players can go after school or evening. Varsity teams should have the evening slots
as most of the kids can drive themselves. Consideration should be given to coaches working outside
the school for evening practice times.
- Once the teams are selected, a meeting with all the parents is crucial. In that meeting, the head
coach must describe many things: coaching philosophy, discipline, expectations of behavior and performance,
schedules, trip plans, etc. In addition, parents must be recruited to assist with the many supportive
activities needed for a viable basketball program: fundraising, statistics, videotaping, publicity,
web presence, trip planning, chaperones, booster club, etc.
At the end of the season,
time and effort should be put into an awards/recognition banquet as well as a huge thank you to
In between those two events, though, it would be wise to have one or two
mid-season meetings, either on a program wide basis or at least on a per team basis, so that
the coaches can review progress and answer questions from parents.
Parents should be welcome
to attend practices as spectators. There are no secrets to hide. Parents may get a better understanding
of what the team objectives are. Such knowledge would make the games much more interesting. Further,
the parents could better exercise their role of reinforcing the coaching direction rather than
second guessing the coach at home. Further, I encourage parental input, even on game strategy. Sometimes,
parents have wonderfully insightful things to say. Why miss out on that?
- While I like to build teams through consensus, once we establish direction, everyone needs
to support that direction. I would build consensus for the program direction with my coaches, then
expect their complete support. I would describe our direction to parents, listen to their concerns
if any, then expect their complete support. Lastly, the players will be expected to learn the
direction under the guidance of the coaches and the support of the parents. The idea is to have
one team, one direction. The team includes players, coaches, parents and administration.
Coaches are expected to have differing viewpoints. Discussion and debate should be encouraged. But
once the consensus is established, everyone is 100% committed to making that direction succeed.
Parents, players, or even coaches that cannot support the direction through their teaching and
comments clearly do not want to be part of the team.
- Additional team rules should be minimal. I like "Respect yourself, your team and your opponents
and do nothing to harm that respect". It is so much more encompassing than a laundry list of
do this and don't do that. Its all about respect for one another.
- There is one thing that all players value. It can be the most effective motivator. That thing is
playing time. Players who are disrespectful should lose playing time privileges. The amount of
time should correspond with the degree of seriousness of the situation. When I have had disruptive
players in practice, I excuse them. They can watch quietly, or go home. If the instance is
bad enough, a player may sit out a game. If the player cannot conform after this level of
discipline, the parents may be consulted. If the parents are "on the team", then they will
help bring the player around. If they are not "on the team", they will side with the player. That's
why it is so important to have the scope of the team enlarged to its bigger family. Discipline must
be perceived as fair to all members. If "star" players receive preferential treatment, team
morale will collapse and teamwork objectives will be severely compromised.
- It takes a lot of committed people to raise funds. I propose a parent led committee that
will stump for funds, organize fund raisers and supervise students who are performing fund
raising services. The head coach should be involved, but not as the chair. The committee needs
a responsible treasurer to record transactions. If the coach holds the check book, the monies
will be suspect. Disputes over money have led to many coaches' downfall.
- Criticism comes with the job. However, if the coach is successful building consensus and
enlisting parents as team members, there will be few to criticize. People don't criticize
programs they are trying make successful. Further, with everyone working, this adage holds
true: "You can't rock the boat if you're too busy rowing!" A coach that communicates with the
parents will diffuse much criticism. If the parents have a chance to express concerns,
chances are their needs will be met. Its when they do not understand what is happening or feel
they have no voice that the criticisms get out of hand.
- Safety is major concern for any program. Players should be taught proper skills and techniques
to avoid injury. Conditioning in practices should be not be overdone to the point where
players are getting hurt. This is especially true early in the season when muscles are
tight and sore. Conditioning is critical to a competitive program, but it can be destructive
if overdone. The playing environment must be free of obstacles and clean of debris. The
players can devote a few minutes each day to policing the area and sweeping the floor.
- Why am I the best candidate for this position? This answer should come from heart of
every applicant and should be very personal and individually expressed. For me, my best
attributes are drawing energy and ideas from people around me, committing fully to team goals and
depending upon teaching sound fundamental skills and building character to achieve success. I
believe that some players are more gifted than others, but if they are weak in character or
are unskilled in the sport, then success will not be realized - only failed expectations.
I like to help basketball players learn the sport from the ground up, understanding the
purpose of their actions, learning to make advantageous decisions, accepting the consequences
of calculated risks and accepting responsibility for their actions, favorable or not. I want
to coach a team of respectful people, people who enjoy one another's company and who think
positively about their school and community. I want people to look at our team and think -
those kids have class - those kids have poise. Ultimately, I want people to wish their kids
could be in our program more than any other. This is the kind of basketball program I want
to work for. If I can't be the best candidate, then it is my hope these values will be
promoted at this high school.
- Coaches who work regular jobs may have a tough time meeting a 2:30PM practice time. If this
is a problem, speak up. Don't put yourself in a position where you are responsible for
kids and you can't show up.
- Why coach if you can't attend tournaments or travel? A necessary question, I guess.
Making it to the Sidelines: Landing a Job in Coaching
contributed by Kevin Reilly
In a highly competitive job market, preparation, patience and a positive
attitude all play a role in obtaining a coaching position at the high school or
Nowadays, a college degree is a necessity for almost every line of work, and
coaching is no different. So hit the books and get yourself a degree. In
particular, majors such as physical education, secondary education or a minor in
coaching preparation are a common ground for successful coaches.
A graduate degree is often necessary at the college level and won't hurt at
the scholastic level. While in grad school, pursuing an opportunity to work in
the athletic program as a graduate-assistant coach is one of the most effective
things you can do in chasing your dream. While acquiring a master's degree at
Springfield College I was fortunate to coach junior varsity basketball under Dr.
Ed Bilik (who is now the rules interpreter for the NCAA).
Some other things that can help you in your pursuit of a coaching job is
experience as a player, being a team manager of your college team, studying the
x's and o's of your particular sport, and most importantly, summer camp work.
After college, I spent every summer traveling the northeastern United States
and got the opportunity to learn from such coaches as PJ Carlesimo, Rick Pitino,
Don Nelson, Jeff Van Gundy and even some lesser-known coaches as Brian Hammel
(now head coach of Northern Illinois) and Gordon Chiesa (Assistant Coach, Utah
You can learn from everyone, pick coaches brains and develop your style and
philosophy. Networking and getting to meet people in the coaching profession can
help you immensely. The old adage is often true "It's who you know not what
you know that can help you."
Have confidence in your abilities and stick to your philosophy. Be prepared
for different situations on and off the court or field. Some coaches have stated
that they were "born" to coach. Don't let them fool you. It takes a
lot of work.
I remember working a basketball camp with Jeff Van Gundy when he was a high
school coach and less than 10 years later he was the head coach of the N.Y.
Knicks, How did he get there? By networking, studying the game, and most
importantly, working his tail off.
Who knows? Perhaps what happened to him can happen to you.