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Must Have Tools for Your Coaching or Athletic Administrator’s Toolbox

Our Must Have Tools for Your Coaching or Athletic Administrators Toolbox

This article is a follow up for athletic director and coaches of all sports on our post for basketball coaches:
Ten Must have coaching tools for 2023 and beyond…

These takeaways from the Educational AD Podcast are posted with the permission of Podcast Host Jake Von Scherrer.

The majority of guests are Athletic Directors, but our takeaways are all essential qualities for coaches to practice and develop as well.

If you are interested in learning more about the podcast or contacting Jake if you have an interest in possibly being a guest on the show, you can contact Jake on his Twitter Account:

Each episode is also posted on the Educational AD YouTube Channel

These note are a compilation of several episodes and the replies from the guests to the following question from Jake:

“You are sending out a brand new athletic director on their first job.  I am only going to let you put a couple of tools in their toolbox.  What would they be?”  

Team Building Tips Educational AD Podcast

Mike Blackburn, Executive Director of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association



“I am not sure that I had these at the top of my list when starting in the profession, but now mine are…

  1. Develop a strong philosophical foundation four yourself–all of your decisions, your vision for your program, your relationships, your communication falls back on a foundation.  The number one item that we build in to that foundation is ethics.  Your philosophical foundation assists you when you have to make a decision or know where you’re headed on a certain aspect of your program.

  2. These are pretty basic, but essential: Work ethic and organizational skills.  Ads are called on to solve problems and resolve issues.  We do that, acclimate the decision and then move on to the next one and the next one….  The skill of keeping “Your nose to the grindstone” is key.You may feel that your organized, but once you get into this profession, you realize that you have a foundation that will grow over time.

  3. You probably don’t have this at the beginning of your career is finding your balance.  Athletic Administration is not a profession that provides life balance.  There are major demands on your time and you work tremendously long hours compared to other roles in a school system.   Make the effort to find what works for your spouse and your family.  It won’t be the same for everyone.

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Phil Rison, Associate Executive Director of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association

  1. Integrity–Yes is Yes and No is No.  Alan Simpson said “If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”

  2. Hire quality people.  It can reduce the number of things that you have to worry about.

Volume 3 Episode #45 The Educational AD Pocast 
Amy Elliott, Athletic Director Kentucky Country Day in Louisville, KY


Amy spent 17 years as the Associate Athletic Director at Country Day and is in her first year as AD

  1. You have to use social media to your advantage to promote your program and inform your stakeholders.  Regardless of what we think about it, an athletic department social media presence is important to athletes and parents.

  2. When you are a teacher and a coach, you have rapport with the students.  When you are an AD, you have to be intentional about creating relationships and trust with the student/athletes.

    One way to do that is to create a student athlete leadership team.  The coaches choose 2 or 3 athletes from each team each season (fall, winter, and spring) to meet with during that season.  The group helps Amy get a better pulse for what is going on within the athletic department. 

    Topics for discussion at the SALT meetings are How are things going?  What is your dream?  If you could have whatever you wanted, what would it be? What would you change?  What can I do to help support them and make them feel heard?  Sometimes I can help, sometimes I can’t but I want to hear it. 

  3. How do we help athletes to be tough with all of the social and emotional challenges that today’s youth experience?  To me the best way to develop grit, the hard work, the never die attitude is that they have to respect you and you have to have a strong rapport to ask that much of them.

    It is hard to set a high expectation for athletes to give their best at all times and to not give up without a good rapport.  You have to walk your talk as a coach and give everything that you have as a coach or an Athletic Director to the student-athletes.  I need to be tough in times of adversity in both personal and professional lives.

    You must model for the athletes that life is not easy and it’s ok to express feelings.  It’s ok to come talk to me and let me listen if I can help.  You won’t be able to get an elite performance from athletes if they don’t feel confident, respected, and loved, that you have their back, and that you do understand that maybe they need a practice off, or if they are overwhelmed by their academic load, or that something is going on at home.

    We have to do a much better job of teaching them how to take care of themselves.  You have to make sure that you make time for yourself (that applies to student athletes, coaches, and Athletic Directors) because you will not be able to perform if you are not taking care of yourself.  Taking care of yourself could be exercising, meditating, reading, or a number of other things.

Volume 3 Episode #31 The Educational AD Podcast
Dr. Iyhia McMichael, Girls AD/Head Softball Coach at Emerson H.S. McKinney, TX


  1. “Coaching and Athletic Administration is all about relationships.”

  2.  “Finding a balance between coaching kids to be tough while being aware of social and emotional challenges Define everything.  Athletes give a definition.  Coach gives a definition and they meet in the middle.  It helps that the athletes have a say in it.  Defining the vocabulary and having a shared definition of what those words mean such as grit, toughness, mentally strong.”

  3. “High schools can’t afford a sports psychologist to help with athletes mental strain.  Coach McMicheal has asked the school counselor to come in once a week and do some mental training with the softball team as a group to allow them to have some kind of release.  In order to create a safe space for the athletes, Coach McMichael is not in the room and the counselor does not share with Coach what the discussion was.”

  4. “We need to teach athletes that it is ok to be anxious, frustrated, and to have thoughts that don’t need to be suppressed and help them discover tools to make them better in the moment and in pressure situations. As the counseling program has grown, she has the players fill out a questionnaire about some of their individual stressors.  Coach compiles a list of the most common ones and presents it to the counselor for weekly topics to help them on the field.”

  5. “When there are shared expectations, the players will use the common language and police themselves and the accountability is on them.”


Volume 3 Episode #42 The Educational AD Podcast

Brandie Taylor Head Girls Basketball Coach Western High School (Davie, FL)


  1. Shorten or eliminate your postgame speech (Win or Lose). This often is more of a download than a speech. Quite often a coach speaks during this time from emotion and says things that we might regret.

    Take some time to step back and let your emotions subside.  Watch the game video, take a look at the stats, and get a better picture of what really did occur in the game.  Don’t “hold the kids hostage” after the game.  Most of the time, the players aren’t listening anyway.

  2. Develop a support system with a mentor, a solid coaching staff, and a network.

  3. Be aware of your system.  Develop your road map with your culture, your non-negotiables, and your core values.  You will refer to this blueprint when you get frustrated, tired, or lonely.  It is something that you will refer back to on a daily basis.

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David Smola
Athletic Director, Cathedral Catholic High School, San Diego, CA
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Central Heights HS, TX
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Athletic Director, Monroeville High School, OH

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