Durango High School student athletes consistently look to their coaches and teachers as role models and for guidance. However, it is not typically taken into account how much assistant coaches impact student athletes and how they must handle the difficulties the jobs pose.
Almost every team at DHS has one or more assistant coaches who are as important to the team as the head coaches or even the athletes themselves. The roles of assistant coaches may be somewhat different from the head coach, however it is just as significant to the success of the team.
“The assistant coach’s role is to help new swimmers with technique and form, help bring the team together, and contribute to the productivity of the team,” said Sr. Kylie Behn.
Kylie is a participant of the swim and dive team. Her assistant coach, Brooke Kniffin, helps with not only the swim team but also the dive team.
So. Lilly Tichi, who runs cross country, nordic skies in the winter, and plays golf in the spring, is grateful for the multiple assistant coaches she has gotten to know and how they have supported the team.
“They make it easier for us to get our feelings out instead of going straight to the head coach. Especially with a large team they make it more manageable, making sure athletes are on the right track, and meeting their goals,” said Tichi.
Sometimes it can be intimidating to be upfront with a head coach, but that it is much easier to relate and talk to an assistant coach. The assistant coaches can help to translate the issues an individual athlete may be having to the coach in a way that can be constructive for the whole team.
“They are an extension of you. You can’t see it all, you don’t know it all, so having another person’s input is always a plus,” said Coach Alan Batiste, DHS health teacher and head coach of boys basketball.
He says that it helps out to have someone who shares your devotion to the team bring new ideas and opinions to the table and that it can really motivate the team. Batiste explains how quality assistant coaches can create a new depth to the coach-athlete relationships by interacting with athletes in different ways.
Assistant coaches, however, are hard to find in Durango and often have more they have to focus on such as family, another job, and their personal lives. For example, Alice Baker, assistant coach on the cross country team, has a full time job at a public relations agency. She says that though coaching is one of her biggest passions, it’s necessary to have balance between coaching and her job.
“Sometimes it feels like there’s not enough hours in the day but I’m lucky that my job is supportive of coaching,” said Baker.
She says that she often needs to adjust her schedule and prioritize one over the other and that its especially important to be flexible.
Brett Wilson, a past coach and a current spanish teacher at DHS emphasized his love for coaching high school students and views it as part of his calling as a teacher.
“I loved seeing how kids bonded and grew together sometimes profoundly in a short amount of time,” said Wilson.
However, the coaching season was extremely busy and it became more challenging to be a supportive to the team and his own family at the same time.
“I just didn’t sleep as much during season because the amount of tasks didn’t really go down while in season so I spent a lot more time away from home,” said Wilson.
He gave a perspective on how the amount he had to accomplish was a heavy load when balancing family, work, and coaching. Nonetheless, he put dedication into each, as many assistant coaches must do.
Batiste explains that devotion is one of the key qualities he looks for in assistant coaches.
“They’ve got to fit into the team’s family. One of the biggest things are being straightforward and 100% devoted to the kids,” said Batiste.
Despite these challenges, assistant coaches manage to create a lasting impact on student athletes and their level of care should be appreciated.
“They are going out of their way to be there for us, and they make it fun,” said Tichi.