Nebraska Coach Explains How to Delegate to Assistants

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor


A coaching staff certainly doesn’t have to agree on everything, but according to Brownell-Talbot School (Neb.) coach Mike Mancuso, it has to present a unified front to the team.

Mancuso says the most important quality to foster within a coaching staff is trust. If the head coach trusts his assistants to spread his message, he can delegate more responsibility.

“It’s just like we teach our kids,” Mancuso said. “In the real world, you don’t have to like everyone you work with, but you have to be able to work with them.”

Just as a head coach is expected to delegate responsibility to his assistants, his subordinates are expected to concede final decision-making to the head coach. Mancuso allows his assistants to speak their minds behind closed doors – in preseason installation meetings, while watching film in-season, or during pre-practice coaches’ meetings – but when it comes to the practice field or game situations, the head coach’s word is final.

“If you’re the head coach of a program, your philosophy needs to be implemented,” Mancuso said. “There can’t be a battle for control between the head coach and the assistants.”

That doesn’t mean assistant coaches don’t have any say. Mancuso’s area of expertise is the offensive side of the ball, so he allows his defensive coordinator to have autonomous play-calling responsibilities.

“I trust that he’s watched more film of the opposing team’s offense than I have,” Mancuso said. “I trust him to pick up the other team’s tendencies.”

A head coach can’t be in multiple places on the practice field at the same time, so he must also delegate organizational responsibilities to his assistants. In order to make the most of practice time each day, Mancuso meets with his staff for 15 minutes to outline expectations.

“I’ll start the meeting by saying, ‘Here’s what we want to accomplish today,’” Mancuso said. “We’ll have certain things we want to install. When we break up position groups, they’ll know what to do. We don’t want to rush the details, but we have to make the most of the time we have.”


1 Playbook design. Give assistant coaches an opportunity to help design offensive and defensive plays each spring. Be clear that once the playbook is set, there is to be no further discussion.

2 Practice schedule. Meet as a staff to discuss the practice plan each day. Listen to ideas, and place trust in coaches to organize their respective position groups.

3 Game-planning. A head coach won’t have the time to watch as much film as all of his assistants combined. Give assistants the forum to voice their opinions about that week’s matchup.

4 Play-calling. So many things go into head coaching on game day, including monitoring the clock, timeouts, injuries and communication with players and assistants. Share the play-calling duties with the coordinators whenever possible.


Mancuso has drafted an essay on his coaching philosophy, which includes these thoughts:

“In order for a head coach to do things properly, he must have complete control of all team decisions, unless he delegates that authority to another individual. He should have final say on all decisions that affect the team, individual players and the coaching staff. At the same time, it is my belief that a head coach should trust and value the opinions of his assistant coaches. The head coach needs to have the ability to actually listen to his assistant coaches’ opinions, and avoid just giving them lip service.”

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Dan Guttenplan is FNF Coaches senior managing editor. Do you have a thought about this article you would like to share? Send him an email at, tweet us @fnfcoaches or share it on the Coaches Chat Board.