Characteristics of a Good Coaching Staff

Great programs have great coaching staffs.  Recruiting, game planning, scouting and player development are often seen as the responsibility of the head coach only.  In fact, good coaching staffs are built so that those duties can be shared and utilized to get maximum results.

The head coach of any collegiate sports program is the face of that team, and are responsible and accountable for the results of that program.  What is overlooked by many is the effort and expertise of the entire coaching staff. Rarely do the assistant coaches have to answer questions but they do have a lasting effect on the players and team.

In making coaching staff hires, a head coach must consider the following characteristics.

Loyalty:  An assistant coach must be loyal to the head coach and to the program.  A good assistant will never be a “yes” person only. However, they will support the final decisions of the head coach both internally with players and other coaches and externally with fans, parents, boosters and media.  This is an absolute must for assistant coaches.

Dedication: Every coach should display an ability to work at a high level of energy on a daily basis. Work equals success.  There are no shortcuts. The coach should have a focus on the job at hand and the success of the athletes in the program in everything they do.  Assistant coaches should “look for work,” not just do what is asked.

Knowledge:  The coach must have knowledge of the sport in which they are working.  Knowledge of the skills, strategies and rules of the sport. It is also important to understand the psychology involved in leading young men and women.  With compliance concerns in college, these coaches should be aware of recruiting rules and requirements. Knowledge often comes from playing experience and coaching experience.

Niche:  What does the assistant bring to the program? Is it an expertise on offense or defense?  Is it experience? Is it recruiting or player development? Maybe an alumnus of the university?

Do they fit into the budget?

Indiana University has made some recent coaching changes.  Each new head coach has had to complete their staffs. Let’s take a look at these staffs and the roles they fill.


(quotes from Indiana University press releases)

Indiana Wrestling

Head Coach:             Angel Escobedo

Associate Head Coach:     Mike Dixon

Assistant Coach :          Isaac Jordan


Coach Escobedo on Mike Dixon.

I’m excited to bring Mike Dixon on staff, as he was an instrumental part of the rise of Old Dominion Wrestling and brought in many top-25 recruiting classes,” Escobedo said. “As an alumnus, his passion and commitment to see Indiana Wrestling at the top is unwavering. I know he is excited to have a big impact on taking this program to new heights. My staff and I are eager to foster success in this program.”

Looks like Coach Dixon’s expertise is recruiting and his dedication to Indiana University as an alumnus.


Coach Escobedo on Isaac Jordan:

“When I was looking for an assistant coach, I wanted a high level wrestler with outstanding integrity and character. Isaac brings all those attributes to the program and will be a great mentor for our athletes to look up to."

Loyalty and dedication seem to be a huge part of Coach Jordan’s resume.


Indiana Volleyball

Head Coach:            Steve Aird

Assistant Coach:        Daniel Gwitt

Assistant Coach:        Krista Vansant

Director of Operations        Logan Grenley

Volunteer Asst. Coach:    Rachel Ferguson

Coach Gwitt has spent the last eight years running a club program in Southern California.  It seems like he is outstanding at player development and will be an asset in recruiting.

Coach Aird on Krista Vansant:

"Her career speaks for itself and now she will turn her attention to training, recruiting and mentoring.  She has a deep desire to help players grow as people and reach their full potential as athletes. She understands the game at a very high level and I am excited to work with her.  Our goal is to transform this program into one of the nation's elite and Krista is built for that challenge."

Knowledge gained from playing days will be an asset for Coach Vansant.  She will also help by mentoring the players. It is always good to have someone on staff for which the players can relate.


Indiana Baseball

Head Coach                 Jeff Mercer

Pitching Coach            Justin Parker

Recruiting Coordinator        Dan Held

Volunteer Asst.            Casey Dykes

Director of player development     Scott Rolen

The recent hire of Jeff Mercer to lead the Indiana baseball program has been an exciting time.  Watching him complete his staff has been fun.

Justin Parker is an upcoming young pitching coach who has demonstrated he can lead a pitching staff.  Coach Mercer is comfortable with Coach Parker and trusts him with the pitching staff.

Coach Mercer on Justin Parker

"Justin and I played together in college, then were assistants together for several years, it's been very gratifying to see him become one of the best pitching coaches in the country,” said head coach Jeff Mercer. “Indiana University baseball is better in every way with Justin joining the organization. He is an incredible asset to our entire program, not just our pitching staff."


Dan Held will be a strong voice on the recruiting trail with his experience in running the Indiana Bulls, a traveling baseball program.  Recruiting the Midwest is vital for remaining competitive in the BIG TEN.

Coach Mercer on Dan Held

“He hired me for my first coaching job with the Indiana Bulls directly after college. Working with him over the years it became obvious he'd make a terrific recruiting coordinator. His experiences in professional baseball as a player and coach will translate well to our player development processes. His many relationships with high school and summer coaches will make for a smooth transition into leading our recruiting efforts."


Scott Rolen is a big time hire.  This hire gives the program a boost simply by name recognition.

Coach Mercer on Scott Rolen

"I couldn't be more excited to add Scott Rolen to our staff," said Mercer. "The impact Scott will have on the student athletes in our baseball program will be unique among college programs. The value for the staff and players, gaining knowledge daily from someone with such a historic career and who truly values the growth of young people, is special."


Each of these hires has some component of loyalty, dedication, knowledge or niche. These new coaching staffs seem to be good, however, they must do the job well.  Simply hiring coaches for the right reasons does not guarantee success. Part of the job of the head coach as leader of the program is to evaluate his/her coaching staff and hold them accountable.  If changes are needed then they must be made. Any head coach is only as good as the entirety of their staff. A great head coach with a poor staff will not be successful, and neither will a poor head coach with a great staff.  In order to succeed a program must have both a great head coach and great assistants.

Two high profile sports are in their second year with new head coaches. In men’s basketball, Archie Miller is off to a great start.  His staff is working hard and working together to make Indiana Basketball the program we all want. Coach Allen and the football program has a hard working staff, albeit a much bigger staff, and is also working toward making Indiana football a consistent winner.

All fans should become knowledgeable of all the staff members of the programs you follow.  Watch these men and women work on game days and practice if at all possible. Look for the contributions of these hard working coaches. It is appropriate for fans to be critical but it is also appropriate to support your Indiana coaching staffs.

Written By:  Brian Tonsoni --  July 19, 2018