Time Well Spent

Author: Jim Schmutz, ASEP Executive Director


Coaches often talk about how much time they spend on the job. But do coaches really know? How many hours a week are dedicated to practice? How long does it take to write a practice plan? How much time is spent reviewing film? How much time does it take to monitor academic progress? How much time is occupied with communication to and from coaches, athletes, parents, and administrators? And the list goes on.

It is well documented that throughout their careers, Super Bowl Champion coaches Dick Vermeil and Joe Gibbs slept at their offices during the season. Not surprisingly, Vermeil burned out and retired from coaching the Philadelphia Eagles in 1982. When he returned 15 years later to coach the St. Louis Rams, he delegated more responsibilities to assistant coaches and ultimately won the 1999 Super Bowl. For today’s high school and youth sport coaches the prevailing question is, How can you get the most out of the time that you have committed to coaching?

Scholastic and youth sport coaches on average have 2 to 4 hours on any given day to focus on their coaching duties, which translates into 14 to 28 hours per week. Effectively and efficiently managing time is an important key to the success of any coach. In his book Successful Coaching, Rainer Martens offers a number of tips related to managing, the most valuable of which is weekly planning.

Here are seven steps that you can take to make that weekly planning process work for you:

1. Identify how much time you can dedicate to coaching each week.
2. Allocate time to key activity areas such as:
• Practice Game/Competition Planning
• Practice sessions and games/competitions
• Post Game/Competition Assessment
• Athlete communication – team meetings,
practice/competition schedule, other updates, encouragement,
• Coach communication – coach meetings, practice/competition responsibilities etc.
• Administrator / Parent communication – schedule updates, academic progress, individual updates
• Team civic functions – team fund raiser, team volunteer commitment, etc.
• Non-sport functions – team dinners following competition, senior night recognition program etc.
3. Prioritize weekly objectives by activity and create a detailed task list.
4. Determine what tasks must be done, by when they need to be completed, how much time is needed for each and identify the person best equipped to complete the task.
5. Block time to complete priority tasks for the week. If there is not enough time to complete them all re-assess the priorities and place the least important tasks from the list aside to be completed only if time permits.
6. Create a document that can be used as a template to record weekly plans and easily shared with others.
7. Assign tasks that can be delegated. Give your assistants more responsibilities and assign essential non-coach tasks to parents or other volunteers.

Like athletes, coaches are always looking for an edge to make their athletes and teams better. Your ability to define time blocks for specific work can lead to a disciplined approach that provides a valuable edge in preparing for and conducting practices, communicating with athletes, coaches and parents, and preparing for competitions among other things. Coaches who incorporate specific objectives and time parameters as part of their approach to writing weekly plans find it easier to delegate responsibilities because they can easily articulate what they want done and when they want it completed.

Especially for youth sport coaches who have no one to delegate tasks to, this approach helps make case for creating support group by clearly defining the long list of what needs to be done. If you don’t have assistants and/or parents to delegate to, use this as an opportunity to recruit volunteers to help. Volunteers respond favorably when the scope of their job is clearly articulated. This enhances the ability to delegate with confidence which leads to accomplishing more in a finite time period. One coach who takes on responsibility for achieving all the defined objectives within the same timeframe may succeed but like Coach Vermeil faces the real possibility of burnout.

Leading in this manner also engenders a sense of trust and commitment among athletes, other coaches and parents to support the plan. Ultimately this commitment to weekly planning is time well spent in providing athletes with an efficient, effective, and enjoyable means for achieving individual and program goals. Let me know what you think and share any thoughts or success stories that you have on effective time blocking and weekly planning. You can reach me at jamess@hkusa.com.