Five Tips for Hiring (and Keeping) Great Coaches
When Cat Dailey Minyard started the Northeast Volleyball Club in 2018, she focused on hiring “a pretty tremendous staff—a lot of former professional players and some college coaches, coaches that [she] knew could take the players to the next level.” That strategy, which Minyard described at our recent NextUp Volleyball Summit, was clearly a smart one; Northeast is thriving, even through the pandemic. But if it seems obvious, it isn’t necessarily easy to implement. Exactly how do you find the right coaches for your organization, and how can you keep them once you’ve hired them? Here’s some advice from Minyard and her peers:
1. Begin your hiring process before you start soliciting résumés.
“Tie everything back to your culture,” said Neal Shenoy, CEO of Begin, an early-learning company, in his opening keynote at the NextUp Volleyball Summit. He means look for coaches who display the kinds of traits and skills that align with your mission and values. Using culture as a hiring north star will ensure that all of your employees are marching in the same direction and conducting themselves according to the same playbook. Before kicking off your hiring process, be sure to establish your core mission and values so you know what culture cues to look out for in potential candidates. For example, Brennan Dean, the director of Southern California’s WAVE Volleyball Club, looks for “passion, integrity and intelligence” in the interview process, and that in turn has helped him find all the great coaches and directors he needs to run a successful club.
2. Hire people in the present who will help you hire in the future.
When you hire, you’re not just filling roles; you’re building a pipeline. The best pipelines are always growing new branches, which is why WAVE’s Brennan Dean looks for natural networkers who “can reach different pockets of the world that I don’t intertwine with as much.” Metro Lacrosse’s Hilary Dougherty nurtures her club’s alumni network, sending congratulatory emails and featuring them on social media, because former players are a reliable, quality pool of future coaches (they already know the game) and they are often connected to other former players that are interested in pursuing coaching roles as well. (Dougherty herself grew up playing for the club.)
3. Go deep during interviews.
While the right hire can do wonders for your organization, the inverse, unfortunately, is also true. Protecting against that negative outcome means taking the time to get to know a candidate. Dean does this by asking himself if he could survive a long road trip with a potential hire. Shenoy’s team finishes up its hiring process with a “simulation” that entails asking a candidate to solve a problem or create a program, which, for a coaching position, might involve designing a first practice. “It’s not about right or wrong,” explained Shenoy. “It’s about the effort they put in, the creativity, the amount of care while communicating.” This is another way to find out if they will align with your team culture, since how they practice will be how they play.
4. Set yourself—and your hires—up for success.
Lesle Gallimore, the former longtime head coach of the University of Washington women’s soccer team and the first commissioner of Girls Academy League, said her staff was able to take the new league from zero to 1,200 games during the pandemic because they streamlined as many organizational tasks as possible––and that included the onboarding of new employees. Simple and constant communication, clearly articulated expectations and standardized procedures and practices allowed everyone from directors to coaches to “hit the ground running.” Long-term, this operational success means happier staff members and, consequently, higher retention rates.
5. Invest in your coaches so they’ll feel invested in you.
Stats about the training of coaches are pretty bleak. One, from the National Alliance for Youth Sports, puts the percentage of youth sports coaches who have received any kind of training or professional development at a paltry 5-10%. Another, from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, suggests only 36% have been taught coaching methods as simple as motivational techniques. After going through the work to hire the right people, you owe it to them (and the kids) to give coaches the tools and professional development they need to succeed. And, doing so will certainly help with both coach and customer retention. Studies have found that the quality of a child’s youth sports experience depends in large part on the environment created by the coach and LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report found that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in helping them learn. Clearly, investing in your coaches is an investment in your business.
For more tips on hiring and retaining coaches and to find more resources that can help you run your youth sports organization, visit our NextUp Resources Hub.