The Power of a Coaches Cohort

This past year as Athletic Administrators in Minnesota, we were invited to be a part of an InSideOut Initiative “AD Cohort” focused on personal and professional growth as well as to learn practical strategies to implement at our own schools. The only stipulation we had was to commit to our own communities that we were willing to take a “deeper dive” with our coaches into the five-step pathway.

For many, this may seem like just one more thing on your plate that we don’t have time for. I would argue it isn’t one more thing on the plate, but it actually is the plate, or better yet, the purpose for why we got into education-based athletics. If we expect our coaches to make space in the culture for this important work with student-athletes, then we, too, must model this behavior.

We are all limited in the number of hours we have in the day and can commit to our jobs so when trying to “find the time,” I started with the major obstacles: Finding a time that works for the majority, coming up with someone to assist with the preparation and facilitation and finally utilizing existing meeting times differently. A simple survey of the availability of our coaching staff made it clear there was no single time that would work for all. The best for us seemed to be early mornings before school. We also looked at utilizing our teacher staff development days over the lunch hour to try and accommodate a few others who had frequent early morning conflicts. We then shared the idea and concept with our entire coaching staff (both head assistant coaches) and asked for any interested volunteers who wanted to take a “deeper dive” into examining the ideas of the InSideOut Initiative. We had a great response from interested coaches who were looking for an opportunity for discussions with coaches from other sports within our building. We were focused simply on the “early adopters” in this first trial run and were thrilled so many coaches were interested in “jumping in” along with us.

One of the keys to any successful meeting is preparation. As an Athletic Administrator and Assistant Principal, I often feel as though during the day I am going from one meeting to the next. As a result, I often get behind and my preparation suffers.  In order to guarantee that would not happen in this important work I reached out to a former coach from our building who I knew would help me make sure that would not happen. She was recently retired, passionate about the work of the InSideOut Initiative and a transformational coach. She made sure we were well organized and well prepared to facilitate the conversation each month on a variety of topics related to becoming a better transformational leader.

The monthly cohorts were great conversations. The topics and lessons provided by the InSideOut Initiative served as a great guideline for us to begin our work together each month. As we met to prepare, we really focused not on what to present, but how we could best facilitate the conversation. The only challenge we ran into each month was coaches wanting to stay and continue the conversation, but many had to get to the first hour to teach their students! This was one meeting each month that was truly energizing and something to look forward to rather than dread.

As great as the meetings have been, we still have many coaches unable to attend. One of the ways to keep the message alive for all coaches has been to revise the way we use our time together at our all coaches meetings. Instead of getting together with an agenda that used to be filled with nuts and bolts we know instead utilize the time to focus on transformational coaching and leave the management details for email as much as possible. Part of reclaiming the space in the culture for education-based athletics starts with reclaiming the space within the meetings where we control the agenda.

I can’t encourage Athletic Administrators enough to just take the risk and “jump into the deep end” by starting your own Coaches Cohort. The statewide AD Cohort and building-wide Coaches Cohort have been two of the most professionally rewarding initiatives of my entire career.