Coach's Corner: Sam Knopik 7/6

Sam Knopik

By Sam Knopik
Posted: July 6, 2010 - 1:59 PM

The Coach’s Corner is a place where several area coaches will give their views on the state of coaching at the high school level.

The most effective high school football programs have plans that involve their coaches coaching as much as possible. Duties of football coaches can stray extremely far from simply running a pursuit drill or developing a practice script.

Attendance needs to be taken; practice supplies need to be transported and stored; film towers need to be assembled, manned and the subsequent film edited; practice fields need to be set-up; practice periods need to be timed; equipment needs to be sanitized on a regular basis; and so on, and so on.

Most high school football programs employ student managers to address these everyday needs to varying degrees. Roles and duties of these managers are diverse and tend to conform to the specific needs and circumstances of each program. Many times coaches may find themselves using injured players or students looking for Physical Education credits. While this is understandable it potentially creates major learning curves each season as new students rotate into these important roles.

It is recommended that coaches develop a working plan for team managers that meet several objectives. First, members of the football team are equals. Players do not understand the necessity of having managers other than providing them with cold water at practices. It is the head coach’s job to model inclusiveness and demonstrates the fact that team managers are just as vital to your team’s success as your starting linebacker.

Second, a written plan should be developed that assists managers with identifying what their responsibilities include and instructions on how to complete those duties. Most significantly, a football program who values the benefits of a strong team manager must work diligently to recruit, reward and retain good kids.

Establishing the Position

A team manager is usually doing what others consider “grunt work.” With that in mind it is human nature to look at those roles as second class citizens. We see this unfortunate side of our behavior time and time again throughout history and across world cultures.

Therefore it is a head coach’s duty to education and the development of his own players to work at establishing the equality of team membership and the respect for those in manager roles. Steps can be taken early and often to reinforce this concept and what the coach will find is a team that respects behind the scenes work and a manager who becomes as loyal to the team as any all-American alumni.

  • The manager must be warned of the potential stigma of the position and taught that the great equalizer is work. The manager must be prepared to work as hard as the players, which includes daily attendance and promptness.

  • The head coach should begin each season introducing the team to the manager, who sits with the team in team meetings and takes a knee with the team on the practice field. The coach should emphasize that the manager is there to work for the team as a whole and is not to be used by players who forgot something in the locker room. This is the time the coach needs to make it plain that the manager is a team member. Players will listen and comprehend. From that point on it will be up to the manager to earn the status and respect of the team through their work ethic.

  • The assistant coaching staff should be prepared to give the managers responsibility within the framework of the entire practice plan. The worst scenario is for the manager to have nothing to do once the practice begins. While the duties of the manager are pre- and post-practice intensive the players will only see what happens between the whistles.

  • In many cases the team manager will develop a strong working relationship with your team trainer. The team trainer and the head coach should be on the same page regarding the duties of the manager so as not to confuse the manager regarding their identity.

  • In order to develop the team member identity it is imperative that the manager reports to meetings with the team, participates in group discussions, and votes for team captains and post-season honors. We have found that this not only reinforces to the rest of the players that the manager is one of them but it invests the manager to the success and legacy of each team.

Creating a Roadmap

The true effectiveness of a team manager lies in the ability to execute duties otherwise completed by the coaching staff. It is this ability that amplifies your staff’s ability to do what you hired them to do: coach!

Realistically, a sophomore will have no clue how, let alone what jobs need to be done each and every day. In the best of scenarios a program will have a veteran manager that can train-up younger managers. However, this is not always the case. A coaching staff should take the time prior to the season to walk through the procedures with managers. This should include inflating footballs properly to adjusting chinstraps. While the manager will not master the trade in one walk-through it is a start and will give them familiarity with your equipment room and your staff.

We have also found that developing a Manager’s Handbook has given the newbie a resource to refer to and checklists to follow. The handbook should continuously be updated as the needs of your program change. For example, if a manager was to film practice and edit the tape any change in video editing platforms would need to be adjusted in your manual.

Making sure the managers are trained, informed and a part of the team will make everyone’s job easier and make the managers be the vital part of a football team that they need to be.

Sam Knopik is the head football coach at Pembroke Hill High School.