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Interview Questions for Hiring Coaches within Education-Based Athletics

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA on April 09, 2018 hst Print

During the interview process for hiring coaches, there are several basic questions that have commonly and routinely been used. The athletic administrator, for example, wants to determine the candidate’s philosophy of coaching, piece together his or her relevant experience with respect to teaching skills and strategy, and hopefully ascertain aspects such as dependability, integrity and work ethic.

For a coach to be part of an education-based athletics program, however, there is much more that the athletic administrator needs to determine. The administrator should be looking for individuals who embrace and will operate within this philosophical concept. This means putting the growth and development of young people in front of winning – although coaches should still prepare and strive to win – and above their own goals and aspirations.

To fully vet and gain an understanding of whether candidates are suited to work within an education-based program, questions should be created that will provide real insight into this major objective. Beyond teaching skills and strategies, schools want individuals who are positive, caring, supportive, enthusiastic and nurturing. The following questions should help to get started.

  • Why do you want to coach? And more specifically ask, why do you want to coach at our high school? This answer can be very revealing. There should be some mention of the rewards of helping young people. If it focuses on, “I’m here to create a winning culture,” you may want to look to another candidate. By including your school into the question, you can also determine how much, if anything, that the candidate understands about your situation, the uniqueness of your students and the expectations of the school and community.
  • Do not ask, “Do you think sportsmanship is important?” Even the most dense coach will know enough to say “yes.” Instead, ask this person to provide an example of how he or she handled a problem with a previous team with respect to sportsmanship and what corrective steps were taken to ensure that it would not re-occur.
  • Be specific and ask what role athletics plays in the lives of the athletes and in your school setting? An extension of this question would be, “How does playing on your team enhance the educational experience of your players?” While preparing and striving is part of athletics, you should probably also insert, “Where does winning fit into this educational equation?”
  • Ask candidates to share a few examples of teachable moments that they have used with their teams. By asking for specific illustrations, you should discover if the candidate understands this educational approach for dealing with concerns, situations and problems. You want to know if this coach can help athletes learn lessons and solutions related to real issues and occurrences that surround them.
  • Pose this straightforward question: “How do you promote and encourage your athletes to make a commitment to academic success?” If an athlete needs extra help in a particular subject, for example, how would the candidate encourage the student-athlete to meet with his or her teacher and would the candidate allow the athlete to report late to practice in order to get this tutoring? Other than the simple words of an answer, you want to determine what specific steps a candidate has taken to address this expectation.
  • Ask the candidate to share a little bit about the last community service project in which his or her team participated. As a continuation to this line of inquiry, ask what his or her players gained by taking part in the project? The answer should provide good insight as to whether the interviewee understands aspects and components of education-based athletics.
  • Try to ascertain what type of role model the candidate would be for your school’s athletes, fans and community. You might start with, “What qualities do you bring to the position that are worthy of being emulated by your student- athletes?” And definitely follow-up with, “How do you know that your athletes gained something positive from playing on a team that you coached? Other than an answer that centers on learning how to win, you are looking for examples that players did gain leadership skills, respect, perseverance and a host of other lifelong qualities that are associated with education-based athletics.

Considering a school’s setting, it will take time and a concerted effort to create, tweak and tailor questions that will provide answers with insight and depth. The athletic administrator may also have to develop additional ones to cover the specific aspects of his or her program and school. However, these steps are necessary in order to uncover a candidate who is a good fit for a school’s education- based program.