No matter what segment of life we are talking about, a clear hierarchy of leadership is pretty important to the overall success of that segment.

It’s true in families, in businesses and organizations, in churches and in sports.

As part of that, it is critical that everyone understands their role, accepts that role and executes it to the best of their abilities.

As leadership oversees the operation of their unit, they might be inclined to reassess performance and reassign roles. Sometimes that is based on merit, and sometimes it’s based on the strengths and weaknesses of each individual and the needs of the unit.

Here’s an example: Mom enjoys mowing the yard. Traditionally that’s been Dad’s job, but Mom enjoys the time outside (and away from the kids). So, Mom is the official “Lawn Maintenance Manager. (I like fun titles).

In high school sports, the hierarchy begins with the athletic director and his staff, and then on to the head coaches of each sport.

The head coach instructs his under-coaches on what he wants his program to be—everything from what schemes he wants them to implement to what the players and coaches wear to road games.

A head coach may give his under-coaches a certain level of freedom to make choices within their structure system. Ultimately, though, the head coach of the varsity team makes the final call, because the program bears their name.

Programs that are successful are free of coaches who go rogue. They are led by under-coaches who see eye-to-eye with the head coach. Even when they don’t, they follow the lead of their leader without hint of dissension.

So what does that really mean?

It means your junior varsity, freshman, middle school and elementary coaches should have one basic goal for every season: player development.

That’s it. Nothing else.

I don’t care how big your school corporation is. I don’t care about the history of your school in this sport.

It’s “player development”, or you are doing it wrong.

And, while I understand there are players who seem fast-tracked to be higher quality, the coach must be in the business of developing all of their players.


Because under-coaches are training people whose bodies are still growing and developing. They are still maturing. They are still on the journey to figure out who they are and what is important to them.

Example: An eighth grade basketball coach enters a season and identifies his starting five and which seven players he/she will spend the most time and effort in developing. One of those seven is only playing because his parents are making him, two others will focus on another sport, two others just don’t love basketball that much, and another has serious attitude issues. That leaves one player left of the seven they put their time and effort into. But, the eighth and ninth players have growth spurts in the summer after eighth grade and love the sport. The coach showed them little attention from the start, and those players read the handwriting on the wall and stop playing.

Talent wasted.

The defining characteristic here is flexibility. Sure, a coach probably knows who their best players are going to be at the beginning of the season. But are they willing to adjust on the fly? Are they willing to put their pride in their pocket and admit their previous assessments were wrong?

What if a player thrives on how this coach handles them and takes off? What happens if a player underperforms?   

Flexibility is key.

Bottom line: Show me an under-coach who can tell you what their win-loss record is or how many championships they have won, and I will show you a coach who is failing in their mission. Show me a coach who knows how many of their players have made it to the varsity level, and I will show you someone whose motivation is right on track.