Getting the Club Job You Want and Succeeding at It
by Guy Edson
Transcript from the 2010 ASCA World Clinic
Good morning, welcome. Last year I did a talk on turns, there were 300 people in the room, is it something I said? I’d like to introduce myself, my name is Guy Edson, I work for the American Swimming Coaches Association, I’d like to present myself with a speaker gift, self, here’s a gift, thank you. Here’s the most important thing I want you to know about me in regards to this talk, I answer the phone dozens of times a day and most of the calls are from the people you work for. Okay, not from you, although you’re welcome to call, but I get calls from employers that some are looking for coaches, some are unfortunately asking me how to fire their coach, I say “Well that’s not really a part of my job description and I don’t really want to help you fire your coach, I’d rather help you keep your coach.” But that’s what I want you to know about me, I’ve been running ASCA’s Job Service for about 22 years and over that time I’ve picked up a few things and listening to employers and listening to coaches and just doing independent study on this whole idea of how you find a job, how you keep it and how you succeed at it. So that’s what we’re going to talk about, because we’re small, please raise your hand, ask a question and I’ll be more and glad to try to answer it. The title is pretty interesting actually John gave me the title and I kind of picked the words apart, how to find the club job you want and succeeding at it, that’s really three different topics, the last part succeeding at it could be a full day course, but, so we’ll try to cram that into about a half hour. So three parts, how to find a job and how to find a job you want, okay not just a job that’s out there, but the job you truly want, that’s very, very important and we’ll spend a little bit of time on that and then succeeding at it, and I’m going to change the order a little bit, I want to talk about the club job that you want.
First rule, no begging, and in today’s economy we have a lot of that going on, we have employers begging for coaches and we have coaches begging for jobs, and what happens when you have two beggars? You make all sorts of compromises, you hear things that don’t set quite right with you but “ah it’s okay, we’ll let it go, we’ll deal with it later.” And then that later comes up sooner than later, and it happens on both sides. This process of finding the job you want that matches you with the proper employer is very, very important, it’s not something that we want to skip through in a hurry because we need employment, I understand the importance of having a job and having income and so on. But coaching is usually not the kind of profession where you can just go across town and get a new job, it usually involves what, moving across the country, there’s a lot at stake, so it’s important to be picky. And by the way I tell the same thing to employers, I tell employers “Don’t be in a hurry to” everyone says “We got to have a coach on the deck by September one,” no you don’t, you don’t want to hire the wrong person. And what I say to you is you don’t want to be in the wrong job, so that’s the first rule. It’s important for you to spend some time thinking about the kind of job you want, working for a board is very different than working for a city or working for a coach, there are advantages and disadvantages to each of those. Working for a board takes us a special attitude on the part of the coach, there is a phrase or a process that I talk about that sits pretty uncomfortably with coaches when I first talk about it, it’s called servant-partner-leader.
And with most board run jobs, you begin as a servant of the board and that’s a phrase we’re not often too comfortable with. I’m going to come back and address that in a little bit, but those are three things to look at, you see a job posted in Job Service, or you hear about a job, understand who the employer is and what the consequences are for working with that type of employer. Next thing is what’s your career plan? Is apprenticeship important to you? I have a lot of young coaches who call me up, they want to be head coaches right out of the box, and I try to discourage them from doing that, actually I try to send them to programs like Swim Mac or Mission Viejo or I think one of the best places for a young coach to be is with a big program, so that you can learn from the other coaches that are there, there’s nothing wrong with having mentors and being an apprentice, I was an assistant coach for seven years before I became a head coach, and when I look back on time, those are my formative years of coaching and very, very important to my future career. Is there anything wrong with being an assistant coach, or let’s call it head age group coach, or even a head coach of the developmental program versus being the head coach? Well no, it depends on you, it depends on what you want to do and it depends on where that fits in your career plan.
We have too many head coaches who in my opinion who haven’t put in enough time working with their novice kids, and don’t really understand what’s going on down there. And then we have other head coaches who really are experts at coaching novice kids but don’t touch them, you know that’s another issue but something to think about. Do you want to work for a big club or a small club? And if it’s a small club, you want to look at what their resources are, in USA swimming we have 2800 clubs approximately, and nearly half of those clubs are fifty swimmers or less. And when you look at coach turnaround it’s greatest with those small clubs, part of the reason is that hiring coaches is, if they’re able to hire a fulltime coach, it’s minimal and the pay is very, very low. Is there anything wrong with working with a small club? No, not if that’s part of your career plan, one thing I can promise you about working with a small club is often times, not your relationships, the amount of contact that you have with your parents tends to be greater than it is with a larger club, they tend to be more involved in the day to day running of the organization and the reason is probably because they’ve never had a coach who put in the time to be involved in the day to day. Working with a small club can be more difficult than working with a large club in some respects.
Okay, my recommendation is that it’s better to be an assistant coach in a larger club than it is to be a head coach of a small club when you’re first getting started. Okay, you have protections built in for you, you can learn from your head coaches and other staffs, when I say protections, I’m thinking about myself, I’m thinking about the number of times I probably could have been fired when I worked for a John as an age group coach back in the ‘70s. So that protection was helpful and Tim stop smiling back there, Tim was part of our staff as well. Are you interesting in elite level swimming or something less? And that may seem like a strange question but not really, I like to consider myself a career age group coach, I love coaching age group kids and I don’t really feel the need to have to work with senior elite swimmers. Sometimes I think coaches feel that pressure that you have to move in that direction, no you don’t. Okay what do you want to do, what’s your love and what’s your passion? Yes you can be a career age group coach if that’s where your interest lie.
And then finally what are your lifestyle desires? I know when you’re younger you tend maybe not to care so much about that ‘cause you just want to get the job, but as you get older, it becomes increasingly more important. Okay do you have a significant other, or you’re married, do you have children and so on and so forth, those things are often times responsible for driving a coach out of coaching to find the “real job” with a real a salary and real benefits and all those other real things we talk about. And it’s too bad because we have some very, very talented and good coaches that would love to stay in coaching, so you have to look at your lifestyle when you’re considering a job. What salary do you need and can this club support that salary? Before I was married and mobile, just about every job I took was for less money than the previous job, it sounds crazy right? And the thing is when I did that, I knew there was a future, I didn’t mind taking a cut in salary because I saw the potential there, but the risk was low, that was my lifestyle. Then you’re married, you have children and mortgage, car payments, you’re trying to save for the child’s college education, life changes, not willing to take a job for less salary anymore, okay not willing to make that kind of lifestyle change.
So that’s looking at it financially, do you want to live in a big city or a little city? Is that important to you? Do you want to live in the northeast, south or west, is that important to you? Okay when sometimes when coaches call and they tell me they’re looking for a job and, you know I ask them “Are you married, are you mobile, do you care what part of the country you live in?” There’s always a pause on the phone, like “What kind of question is that?” No really, do you care? ‘Cause those are things to think about, and often times we don’t and then we end up in a part of the world that maybe we rather we were somewhere else. Okay, part two, how to find. ASCAs Job Service is out there, have any of you looked at our web page, I hope it’s helpful for you, it’s wide open to the world which is a selling point to employers by the way, there was a time when you had to pay to be part of that site, there was a time when you had to be a member to get to that site, but it’s wide open and that’s there really to improve the attractiveness to the employers. I wrote down here “read the ad” and I’m going to just sort of leave that there and let you think about it for a second, I want to come back and talk about it a little bit later. Read between the lines, is a little bit different than the first one but what are they looking for? So often as you read the ad, you can tell sort of why they want a new coach, okay and the kind of language that they use there.
With rated head coach positions, let me tell you about the position evaluation, it’s something that John and I developed early ‘90s I believe and the purpose of it was to try to come up with an objective measurement of the quality of the job that’s being offered to the coach. It’s self scoring as the employer fills it out, they see the score, so yes they could cheat on it of they wanted to but we’ve found that in the first two divisions, there’s three categories, they do a pretty honest job, the first category is compensation and benefits, the second category is stability, it’s the third area, coaches areas of responsibility and authority where we find some clubs may tend to fudge on that a little bit. One of the questions is, is the coach the CEO of the organization? And employers happy to choose ‘yes’ worth an extra five points there, but is the coach truly the CEO of the organization, does the coach have the ability to hire and fire staff? That’s a huge question, and a lot of employers are kind of reluctant to answer that, sometimes they leave it blank and then I have to call them back. But the position evaluation is there as a guide, okay nothing more, it’s not a promise, it’s not a contract it’s just a guide.
The best part of the position evaluation is it gives you a basis from which to ask questions. There was a time right up until about three weeks ago, where the only way you could get a position evaluation was to email me or call me and ask me to send it to you, and I would only send it to ASCA members. And I’m sorry to report this but so few people asked for it, isn’t that amazing, I mean if you’re applying for a job, you have to have that in your hand, you have to read it, you have to understand what this club is saying about the position you’re being offered, there are a lot of questions on a position evaluation that are not answered in their ad, and it saddens me that so few coaches ask for that. And I started doing something recently and I may change my mind on it but it’s there now, I actually have converted the position evaluations to PDFs and I’ve put them right online and all you need to do now is just click on it and download it and there is, you don’t even have to contact me anymore for it. Now by doing it I lose a sense of how many people are interested in it and for that reason, maybe I’ll go back to the old fashion way, but my job has been pretty busy lately and this has just taken one less thing off my plate to do, so it was for me, I’m sorry it was my convenience to do that but at any rate it’s there, if you’re looking for a rated head coach position, you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to take that, download that, it’s going to tell you what kinds of questions to ask them.
Where else to look, well many of the LSCs have their own websites where they’re looking for coaches and those are free, in USA Swim Forum has a place where employers can place ads and then finally networking, it’s having a list of coaches you call on a regular basis asking them if they know what’s going on in the area, do you know anything that’s coming up, anything that’s open? Okay and make a habit of just calling those people on a regular basis to see if something is there, especially if it’s a part of the country that you really want to go to and coach at. You have to ask yourself why isn’t a job posted on ASCAs Job Service? And it’s a good question because believe it or not some clubs think that $200 is too much money to pay for running an ad for a coach, is that a kind of club you want to work for? That are not willing to invest $200 into an ad that every one in the world can read? So I find that troubling whenever I run into a club that box at paying the $200, that’s an absolute bargain for what they get on that website. Alright, let’s talk about learning about the job, don’t hesitate to contact the previous coach, if you don’t know who it is, call me I’ll try to figure it out, in this electronic age, unfortunately too many things are done strictly by email, about 80% of the jobs that are in Job service are done strictly by email and never even talk to a human being, now those are primarily the assistant coach jobs, but the head coach jobs that are in there, I always make a point of calling the employer and asking this very simple question, “What happened to you coach? I want to know, did leave under good circumstances, leave under bad circumstances?”
And the reason why I want to know is because I’m glad to report that often times you’ll call me and ask me “What’s going on?” and least I have some basis to move from there. Frequently I’ll contact the previous coach and in some cases the previous coach contacts me first to tell me “Don’t let anybody take this job.” Well I have never reported that back because frankly what doesn’t work for one person often times can work really well for you, there’s really good coaches out there that run into difficulties in certain jobs. And there’s really good clubs out there that run into difficulties with certain coaches, it’s just a bad marriage. Okay and as you know frequently in marriages, you have two really fine people, it’s just a mismatch and we have that in clubs, frequently, and sometimes you may hear that a certain coach was fired and there was all these problems and so and so forth and that may scare you away, but don’t let it scare you away too quickly, look deeply into it, it may have simply just been a mismatch. There’s all sorts of reasons why coaches get fired and we’re going to talk about those in a few moments. Talk to other area coaches, they certainly will have an opinion about that team you’re interested in.
Look at their webpage, frankly I’m disappointed in some team’s web pages, because I love coaches, I love looking at what it says about coaches and often times, it’s hard to find the coaches of the club, you’re the front lines, okay, you’re the driving force of this organization and you need to be front and center on that webpage, it needs to be easy to find you, and there needs to be a very nice biography of you and how much you love kids and how much you welcome them and what you can offer to them and so on, that needs to be on your webpage. But when you’re looking for a job, look at the club’s webpage, how well organized is it? One of the interesting things about web pages is the people who design your page, whether it’s done internally or whether you ask someone else to do it, there are certain things that we sort of take for granted and forget about like where is the pool? Does your website tell the public where your pool is? Think about it, you just assume everybody knows because you think the only people looking at your web page are your people, other people look at your webpage.
People moving into town looking for a new team, they’re on your webpage, no information about the coaches, no information about where the pool is physically located. My recommendation clubs is that you have basically two front pages, one for your membership and one for people looking and then you have to put yourself in a position as someone looking and what are they looking for on that webpage? Basic stuff, where are you? Who are you? Something to think about and as you look for jobs you look at a club’s website and it gives you a sense of how well organized that they are. Another thing is to look at USA swimming’s virtual club championship, you look at it on the USA swimming website, it’ll give you a sense of how strong that team is and their LSC and then call me and sometimes I’m sorry I might not be able to give you much information, the very least I can give are contact people that you can call in the area. One of the nice things about coming to the World Clinic and posting all the ads up there on the bulletin boards is, I sure get my share of people coming up to me and saying, “You should know about that job, I collect a lot of information here,” and if you are ever in a position where you’re leaving a job, you’re welcomed to call me and by the way, one of the things I will ask you is are you will to talk to other coaches? I only know what I know and I try to know very little. What I mean by that is I don’t want to be involved in opinions and rumors and gossip and I want to know facts and what I’d like to do is refer people to those who know facts.
Okay, so anyway call me and I’ll be more than happy to share whatever I think I know with you and then pass you on to other contacts. Learn about the area, in my mind it’s just as important as the job. There’s all sorts of resources on the internet. The internet is such a fantastic tool now for moving and looking to other areas. Google earth, real estate websites, they obviously they want to sell you houses but they give all sorts of ideas about cost of living and what you can except to find there in terms of housing. Look at the official city websites; look at tourism websites, chamber commerce and so on. You know the routine okay, but when you’re interested in finding a job on another part of the country, you need to go way beyond what’s in that ad that the club has put there. Alright, moving on, talking about applying for the position. First of all read the ad, what are they asking for? Two things that they’re asking for, they’re asking you to send them certain kinds of information, read that carefully and the other reason for reading the ad is what kind of coach are they looking for? Some of the ads are terribly brief, one of the advantages of job services you can essentially put in an unlimited ad in there and recently I’ve started putting links to PDF files where someone can download the entire job description if the club is willing to share, so read the ad, that’s the purpose.
Recently, we advertised for an office employ at ASCA and we ran an ad in Career Builder cost us $485, 200 bucks for an ad job service is pretty cheap, 485 dollars, ran a Career Builder, I got 230 some applications, all by email. Do you know that less than 50 came with a cover letter? And of the 50 only three of the cover letters mentioned the American Swimming Coaches Association. 47 of the cover letters were generic, these people applying for this job just click, send the resume, send the cover letter. Generic resume, generic cover letter the 50 people send one. Do you know what I did with the 180 or so that came in without a cover letter? Delete. I didn’t even look at them. If you’re applying for a job at ASCA read the ad, if you can’t follow a simple instruction, how can we hire you for a detail oriented job? Read the ad. Find out what they’re asking for, some clubs are asking for statements of philosophy, pretty interesting. A good exercise for you as well and I hear back from employers and they get a range of things that come back to them. They get one of the best that I heard I asked them to send it to me, they didn’t with something down on a yellow pad in pencil, that was hard to read, telling you the truth and others they’ve received have been essentially a book of information sort of all thrown together like the coaches went through the desk and collected everything they had typed up and stuffed in the three ring binder and mailed it off to him with no organization, no flow to it, so two extremes there, the ones that they enjoy reading are the ones that run one or two pages typed, lots of white space, easy to read sums it up in a hurry. Let’s talk about cover letters very briefly.
A number of years ago Tim Welsh did a very good presentation on writing cover letters and resumes and I have that in my, I have an email send directory on my computer with of attachments, documents that I frequently send and if you email me, I will send you Tim’s presentation. It’s very, very good on resumes and cover letters. The purpose of a cover letter but I’m going to cover that briefly here by the way but nowhere near the detail that Tim did a number of years ago. The purpose of the cover letter is to introduce yourself to the club and to highlight a few things about yourself that you want them to know. It’s not to reiterate your resume. The cover letter needs to be specific to the job you’re applying for; you need to show then in your cover letter that you’re interested in this specific job. Avoid overuse clichés. In the corporate world, resumes and cover letters apparently are scanned by machines that look for certain key phrases and if you go to certain websites, they will tell you what key phrases to include in your cover letters and resumes. Don’t you dare look at any of those websites. Please ignore that information. Swimming clubs are not large corporations, they’re not scanning your resumes, they are human beings and it would be rare indeed if any of them even works for an HR Department somewhere.
They’re regular people, you’re sending a resume and a cover letter to a regular person in most cases, put yourself on the other end, what are they reading? When you write something in your cover letter like, “I’m the perfect person for this position,” that is read as garbage. Avoid those kinds of things. The extent of the cover letter is brief, it’s a one pager and with one and a half or one point one five line spacing I think that’s an option on Windows Word but keep it short and to the point. The resume is a tough one for swimming coaches. One of the things that’s wonderful about us is how proud we are of our achievements and of the kids we’ve coached and teams we’ve coached and how do you cram all that into a one page resume? Answer is you can’t and you shouldn’t. I read the resume once of an Olympic coach and it was 30 pages long because it took that many pages until all the swimmers that this coach had coached of, of some importance but the purpose of the resume is to give them an overview of you, not to tell them your life story and you can think of your last job and you can think of all the things you’re responsible for in that job and it could take paragraphs to explain all that. They need the bottom line, okay what’s the bottom line? How big was the team? And what level were they swimming at? I was a head coach of a team of 150 swimmers who consistently scored in the top three at our local J.O.’s and then top ten at sectionals, period.
That’s good enough, okay. That’s good enough. Now one of the things I recommend is, if you feel compelled to do it you can add an addendum to the résumé which is entitled ‘list of coaching accomplishments.’ If you really want to do that go for it then go ahead and list every top 16 swimmer, every J.O. qualifier, every whatever you want to do but it’s kind of an addendum it’s there they don’t have to really look at it. What they want to focus on is the résumé, one page, lots of white space. Make sure it’s customized, for the job, what does that mean? It means you’ve read the ad, it means you have a sense of what you want to do. The first thing in a résumé in my opinion should be labeled immediate career objective and in one sentence you should explain to them what you are looking for and it should match exactly who they’re looking for, okay? And then the second item that might be career objective, long term career objective. Let them know where you’re going and does that match with what they’re looking for. If your long term career objective is to be a college coach somewhere and you are applying for a club job, they’re like why? Résumé goes to the bottom of the pile. The closer you can tailor your résumé to that job the better off you’re going to be.
So there is no such thing in my opinion as a generic résumé that you just start sending out there and hoping that somebody bites on it. Same thing, with résumés also avoid using overused clichés and use real language right to the point. Okay, with travel costs being as they are and the fact that clubs rarely have a budgeted item for interviewing new coaches, the phone interview is quite popular and it’s important to think about a phone interview before you become involved in one. Have with you your résumé, because they may ask you questions about it, so have it right there so you know what they’re talking about. Have a notepad and a pen so you have something to write on. What do you want to write? During the phone interview, questions may come to you or thoughts may come to you, things that you want to remember so you want to be able to write them down. Take some time to list your own strengths and weaknesses because frequently those questions come up in an interviewee and on a phone interviewee you don’t want to be stumbling, you don’t want to be stumbling in a personal interview either obviously but if you take some time to write those things out in advance, okay, then that can help you in your interview process. Think carefully about weaknesses because some people ask that in interview process but have a follow-up. I know that when people ask me for my greatest strength I’d say “being well organized” and they’d say “your greatest weakness” and I’d say “being well organized” and then I would be able to follow up and explain why I thought sometimes that was a weakness.
Take the call in a private and closed room, no distractions, it’s preferable to use a landline that may cost some money for a long distance call but you don’t want to lose the signal on your cell phone, the other advantages of landline is that, well you can do with cell phones too I’m sorry but I recommend using a headset so your hands are free. The ability to have hands free when you’re talking makes you more comfortable. Those gestures that you’re using while you’re on the phone translates into your voice. No food, no gum, have water for your a dry throat and it, and you will get a dry throat and sip it away from the phone receiver, people on the other end don’t want to think you’re eating, okay, while you’re on the phone. Try to get everyone’s first and last names, so you know who you’re talking to, introductions are very important, especially if it…I’m sorry, assuming it’s a conference type call where you have more than one person on the phone. Make sure you get all the names. They need to see your posture. How does that happen on the phone? They hear it in your voice, okay, and for them to see your posture you actually have to have posture so if you do a phone interview I recommend sitting on the edge of your chair as you would in a real interview, sitting upright, you may even consider standing up because it changes your tone, it adds a little bit of energy to your voice, speak very clearly, no sarcasm and no jokes. You don’t know their sense of humor; you don’t know what they consider to be funny. I read something once, I try to read quite a lot about interviews and the whole job service process and I read something once that was kind of scary.
There are people out there in the corporate world who will bait you. They will try to get you to say something sarcastic to test you, to find out what your feelings are on something and every once in a while who knows, maybe one of those professional HR people are on the board of, are on the interview board for a swim club you’re applying. So it’s best just to stay away from that, don’t try to be funny, let hem lead the way. Humble confidence, sounds like an oxymoron, humble confidence is when they see in you a coach ability, don’t you guys love coachable kids? What’s a coachable swimmer? Someone who listens to you, right? Someone who’s willing to try the things that you recommend, that’s coach ability. Boards like to hire coachable people there’s a humility there that’s required but at the same time they’re looking for a sort of confidence so they may ask you a question like well, “what do you feel about morning work outs during the school year for 12and unders?” Are you ready to answer that question? And maybe you have strong feelings about it. Maybe say “well, absolutely not there’s no way I’d ever allow a 12 and under to go to a morning work out” and what you don’t know is the person who’s asking you this question, their child’s been coming to morning work outs as an 11 year old for the last year and maybe it’s the Katie Hoff, the next Katie Hoff and you don’t know this. And so you give an absolute answer and there you are, okay, time to look for the next job.
A better way to answer the question is, more along the lines of “well, that’s a good question, in my previous position we did not have 12 and unders coming to morning work outs because” and then you explain yourself and you can say I’m aware that in some other clubs they do, do that, I’m open to listen to that possibility, okay? So you leave yourself open, you express yourself, you express your opinion but you let them know that you’re open on that. It’s important to express long term ambitions, why? No club wants to hire you for a year or even two years, at the least they want you there, at least three or four years, why? Because they don’t like hiring new coaches all the time. They want stability; they want to see stability in you. So you want to talk in those kinds of terms. Never express guilt or regrets from the past, be a victor and not a victim. Some one may say “well why did you leave the last program?” Don’t give them the story, tell them it was time for you to move on, tell them you had ambitions to move to a larger club, more advanced club, whatever, make sure your answer matches what they’re looking for. Answer questions directly give the bottom line first.
Don’t you love listening to politicians? Completely incapable of answering the question, okay and does anybody in this room enjoy that? I don’t think so. You’re in the interview give them the bottom line first then go back and give them the details. Try; avoid interrupting the flow with questions save them for the end, okay? They may have a list of questions they want to go down through and ask you so try not to interrupt that if possible. Make sure at the end you thank everyone and follow up with a thank you note or at least an email. Now, if you have the opportunity to be involved in a personal interview it’s the same rules, business casual or above attire. It’s never a mistake to overdress for an interview. Someone once told me it was interesting tactic to find out what team colors wear and so you, I wear team colors to an interview, I always thought that was pretty interesting, a subtle thing to do. Make sure your hands are warm. Handshakes, don’t underestimate the power of a handshake. You may be involved in a situation that’s quite informal, you show up and they have refreshments and drinks and you’re glad to accept that nice ice old coke in your right hand and then the next thing you know somebody walks in that’s a little bit late, you want to shake their hand and there you are with a wet cold hand.
There’s actually an etiquette so to speak, where when you are involved in those events, you learn how to hold your drinks in your left hand, believe it or not. Keep that right hand warm and dry for those handshakes. Your body language is extremely important, that you’re facing people when you’re talking to them, you’re not staring at them, you look away as though you’re thinking, not as though you look away thoughtfully and then back again with them, again humble confidence. Last thing; take your contract with you, right? Know what you want in a contract before you go to the interview. Some interviews go very fast, our coaches’ call back and they say I can’t believe that they wanted to do the interview, they wanted to do the contract right there and I wasn’t ready. Man if they want to hire you and that they may be willing to say let’s talk and again maybe they’re begging and you have to be very careful about that, but take your contract with you. What should be in a contract? We’re going to talk about that in just a moment , I have some contract information that I may allow regularly and if you send me an email I’ll be more than happy to send you a copy of contract information. Okay let’s talk about contract, contract is no guarantee, none whatsoever. Contracts can be easily broken, is it legal to break a certain contract?
Maybe not depending on the language but what you are you going to do? Maybe you can sue them, meanwhile you’re without work and you’re stuck there, you need to move on with your life, sometimes it’s best just to get out of town. So it’s not an absolute guarantee but it is important, okay so I do recommend a contract. I recommend you write it first there’s an interesting rule of thumb, the person who writes it first gets what they want. Don’t allow them to hand you a contract, if they do, pull yours out of your pocket and say “I’ve already done a lot of thinking about this, you know, here’s what I would like” put theirs back on the table. A contract, what is a contract? Okay it offers authorities and compensations in exchange for responsibilities and performance, it’s just an agreement it’s that simple. Here’s what the club is asking you to do and in return for doing that they pay you and give you certain authorities. I review contracts for coaches they are not legal reviews, I always recommend you have an attorney look at the contract, I don’ t know state law, don’t even pretend to but when I look at a contract, I look for certain things that need to be in there that have more to do with relationship issues and responsibilities and there are certain things I look for not to be in a contract and when you send me a contract, most often it’s easy for me to call you back to go through that rather than email back to you.
Attorney will give you the legal advice you need especially in terms of causes for termination, how a contract is terminated, okay. Critical contract components, the coach controls what? Meet events and meet schedule, it needs to be in a contract, it is fundamental to what you do as a coach. You control relays; you have the authority to create the relay that’s in the best interest of the team. I like that phrase ‘best interest of the team’ that doesn’t say the fastest four kids. You determine work out groups, period; nobody gets involved in work out groups except you. That’s totally your authority and your responsibility. You control assistant coaches, you hire them, that’s called an authority but, you also train them and you supervise them that’s called the responsibility, you need both, authority and responsibility. You design season and work out designs of course. The next item is rarely in a contract. When I say rarely, here is what I mean by rarely, never. I have never ever in a contract read that the coach reports to the president of the Board of Directors. Contracts are very, very vague on this. A contract leaves open the possibility that you answer to every person on the board. No you can’t work for 11 people, especially when four of them are whackos. You answer to one person, it’s called chain of command. The chain of command begins with your assistant coaches, flows through you to the president of the board and from the president to the board.
The reverse direction is people on the board, request things of the board president who then request it of you and if it needs to go further down the line it goes down to the assistant coaches. There is no direct communication between your board and your assistant coaches unless it’s about their own child of course. But if it’s club business, no way and your assistant coaches need to understand this and when they hear, when a board member is approaching an assistant coach about a club issue, the assistant coach needs to be informed and to know how to respond to this by simply saying please take that to the board president…Very important, chain of command is huge in any organization especially in a swim team. Termination clauses, a contractor can be terminated at any time without cause is not a contract and yet it’s very common. That’s a one line sentence; it says this contract can be terminated at any time without cause. You know what that means? It means they can get rid of you on two seconds notice. Do you want to work under those conditions? Absolutely not, many states are called an ‘at will state’ that means the employer can terminate you at anytime without cause. However, a contract changes that, now in an ‘at will state’ an employer still can cut and still can terminate you at any time but the contract makes it a little difficult or at least uncomfortable for the employer to do that because the contract may say something like, ‘the employer may terminate the contract at any time without cause, with the remaining salary left in the contract’ okay? It’s going to hurt the employer to let you go, financially.
Now, what should that number be, should it be 30 days, 60 days, the remainder of the contract that’s negotiable and obviously the higher the number the better negotiator you are, and the more comfortable you can be, but those are very negotiable items and I can give you some personal assistance on that if you want to talk to me privately about it or call me afterwards but look for that line in there and that line needs to have a couple follow-up lines to at that describe what the causes of termination are. The best contracts will say that this contract can be terminated upon majority approval of the membership, those are the best. That means you really have to screw up big time. That means the majority of the swim team wants you out of town and you know what? If they want you out of time you should leave but, and then at a slightly less stable contract may say, the majority of the board but it needs to be clear, it needs to say that if three quarters of the full board of directors, votes to terminate the contract, that’s the end. It shouldn’t say something simply like ‘the board’ ‘cause what is ‘the board?’ Sometimes the board is three people because the other eight are on vacation, it happens, so the more clear it is, the better off for you. Okay, part three, seven minutes to talk about part three and actually part three is the subject of a full day course that Bob and Tim and I could really spend a lot of time on, so I want to give you the big points here, okay? We’re really talking about how to improve your stay ability.
That’s the ability to keep your job more than three years, that’s my definition. Typical scenario, 18 months of honeymoon period then 18 months to get fired. I see it happen pretty regularly. Things start out cruising, why? Because you had two beggars, you and the club, one begging for a job, one begging for a coach. You put up with things, you make compromises and then…I don’t have that written in here, but there’s that old expression ‘familiarity breeds contempt.’ And often times folks, I hope it’s none of you in this room, but many coaches are very, very guilty of that. Take certain liberties, “Oh I don’t really need to tell the board about that, I’m just going to do it.” Well the board gets offended, didn’t like the fact that you did that. And then you run into trouble. I’m going to skip some things here because I want to get to some important things. That last line pride can degrade any relationship, that’s related to familiarity breeds contempt.
Critical first steps, when you get a job, actually before you take that job, part of your interview, when you’re asking them questions, is to ask them whether they have a long range planning process in place. Maybe the answer is yes. If the answer is no, is you want to ask them can we engage in this immediately. That involves you, key members of your staff and the board, okay. And this is where you set your program and competitive goals that sets the direction of the organization. Another critical step is daily contact with your board president. I remember working for John, and this went far beyond the first days on the job. This went on everyday of the employment. John called and spoke with the board president every single day. Sometimes the conversation was 10 seconds long, sometimes it would go on for half hour but maintaining that contact is extremely important to you keeping your job and then obviously greeting the parents. They want to know who you are. They want to know how much you care for kids. They want to know how professional you are. Are you a grown up? Are you personable? Those are key issues to mums and dads. Do they care about how you train their kids? A few will and a few may know more than you do, because they’re reading all the same stuff and they have their own ideas, and maybe some of them were college swimmers or whatever. And so those are special people that I’m going to talk about just a moment here.
Second critical step is, if you’re the head coach, be the head coach. Be the person who steps up and takes responsibility. You’re responsible for all training groups even if you can’t physically be there. I had a job in Minnesota for a while and we had two different locations. Once every two weeks, I arranged to have assistant coaches run my senior workout and I would go to the other location so I could be there and watch. Be the head coach. Sometimes it’s the ambition of the head-coach to work with fewer and fewer kids, sort of off in a corner. Well who are those fewer and fewer kids? They’re 17, 18 years old, they drive, which means you don’t see their mums and dads anymore. There you are, you’re just having your happy little time with your little crew of senior kids and you lose touch with the rest of the team. When you lose touch with the rest of the team that’s the beginning of end of your job, believe it or not. What goes wrong? Most often it’s a series of things that go bump in the night, going back to the idea of you taking certain liberties without asking permission. But it’s made worse by poor communication skills, pride, lack of previously secured support, I want to talk about that for just a second. And then beneath the surface difficulty handling judgments to your judgment calls. Folks, in swimming, 98% of what we do is judgment.
It’s opinion, there’s no absolute rights or wrongs about it. There is no absolute right or wrong about whether a 12 year old goes to morning workouts or not. It’s an opinion and your opinions may rub…counter to certain parents’ opinions, or worse yet to opinions on the board and so what? You’re challenged. How do you manage yourself when you’re challenged? That’s more important than the challenge itself because the challenge will always be there. I just want to toss that out for you to think about, we obviously don’t have the time to talk about that. Sometimes poor coaching, sometimes slow or no growth, either professionally, the best boards out there look for you to grow professionally as well as the team growing. Okay, sources of conflict. The top five technical issues the board gets involved with; team structure and grouping of swimmers, that’s why it’s in your contract folks. Meet schedule, that’s why it’s in your contract. Amount over quality of stroke teaching or perception of it not being done, common complaint that I hear from mums and dads, are you doing stroke work? I’m not talking about little corrections between and the five seconds between the set of ten 100s. I’m talking about the kind of thing where you’re actually teaching stroke. Parents are looking for that. Meet entries, again part of your contract, relay swimmers part of your contract. Here’s a top five non technical issues the board finds problem with; communication, okay? I hear it all the time from people you work with. Excuse me I’m going to, skip ahead to something here.
You’ve got three basic parent types out there. And you have those who love you to death, they’ll do anything for you, they’re your greatest supporters. At the other extreme, you have those who know how to coach and you don’t. They know what’s best for their child and you don’t. You’re not doing the right thing and they know what it is. Then in the middle, are a group of parents who sort of at like that last group but they’re convertible. One of the funny things I like to do in a presentation about parents is begin with a slide on muscle fiber types. If slow twitch, endurance fibers, and fast twitch A’s and fast twitch B’s, fast twitch B’s are what? Convertible, how are they convertible? Physiology class 101. How do you convert…? Yes,
Okay, the answer is through training, right? And it’s bottom line. And there are parents out there that on first appearance can seem to be difficult and how do we take care of them? We train them. We educate them, we work with them. And sometimes they end up being our best supporters but on first glance sometimes they seem a little rough around the edges and hard to deal with. If you want to be successful in your job you have to be successful in mums and dads. You need to form partnerships with parents. A partnership with parents says we are in this for the best things, for the best of your child, we are in this. Too often we tend to separate the child from the parent and that’s a mistake, that’s the beginning of the end. These children are the precious offspring of human beings out there who care about their kids. And as coaches, we have a responsibility to them. When you notice something wrong, or if you notice an issue with a swimmer, too often we ignore mum and dad. We just try to figure it out on our own or maybe work with the swimmer depending on their age. But you know when you go to mum and dad in a quiet humble approach and say, “I’ve noticed that Aaron seems to be dragging himself in the practice lately, can you give me some insight on that?” And hear the kind of responses you can get, “Thank you for asking. Yes. We have some issues.”
When you get that response from a mum or dad, you have a partnership and you’ve just done something that’s going to increase your stability with that team. I’ll come back to that point. Another reply might be, “No. We’re not aware of any problems, thank you for bringing it up. We’ll look into it.” And then the third response might be, “Well obviously you’re not doing anything to motivate her here in this workout.” So there is a parent out there that puts it all on you and takes no responsibility for themselves. Those are the kind you have to protect yourself from. And what I want to end up with today is talking about how you protect yourself, how you gain support. Number one rule is, never assume you have support. Never assume you have support, know you have support. How do you know that? Because you talk to mums and dads on a regular basis, because you form partnerships with parents, you want to build the biggest support base you have. And some of you are saying, “I just want to coach.” Folks this is part of the coaching. It’s part of it. That little novice team that works out in that remote location that you can never get to, your job is to call their parents, “Hi, this is coach Edson, I’m the head coach. I’m calling to find out how your boy is doing on the swim team over at Pine Islands swim club or Pine Island location.”
And often times your reply is, “Oh things are fine. Thanks so much for calling.” Or once in a while you get a complaint which it’s then your job to handle. But when that phone conversation is over what’s the parent left thinking? You are in charge. You are the head coach. Most parents in the club will listen to board, and when the board is out to get you because you’ve not handled questions to your judgment very well or you’ve gone a little too free with familiarity breeds contempt and snapped a few times and they’re get looking for ways to get rid of you, these parents out there, what Nixon called the silent majority, they’ll just go with the board. But if you take the time and effort to build partnership with parents, let them know that you are the head coach, they will support you. Sometimes coaches come to me and they say, “Well, I’m going to lose my job, the board’s going to fire me.” And my first question is, do you want your job? And if the answer is yes, then I’ll go through a routine with this coach on the phone and I’ll tell you how to keep your job. It’s called rallying the troops. It’s getting that support that’s out there. In some cases it’s too late. Sometimes we can do it. It takes work folks. Coaching goes way beyond the pool-deck. It’s building that support. How can you be successful on your job? It goes beyond the coaching and it comes down to you building partnerships with mums and dads. That’s the most important thing I can tell you at the end of this presentation.