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Going from Head Coach to Assistant

Making the transition to becoming an assistant coach after being at the helm of a program requires a special kind of personality.  

Don Holland has all the attributes to make the adjustment as seamless as possible, as he’s already been a valuable asset to the Marianna (Florida) High School staff in his first season. 

Holland is well-respected in the travel softball world for the five teams he owns and has coached that compete in the USSA. When Marianna head coach Scott Wiggins offered Holland the position this offseason, it was a perfect match.

With four Marianna players already familiar with Holland through travel ball, the transition to the next seat over has been smooth. Holland doesn’t feel a lot of friction in terms of coaching philosophy because he and Wiggins share a lot of the same beliefs. Serving under a head coach with a similar system can ease the transition.

“The only thing different other than the play calls on the diamond is the fact that I don’t have to have all of those responsibilities,” Holland said. “I get to do all of the exciting stuff like coaching. I don’t have to worry about the financial parts or dealing with the field maintenance. I just get the chance to coach now and I’m enjoying it very much.”

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Holland believes that to be an assistant, you must have some kind of strong connection with the head coach.

“That’s a must,” Holland said. “When you’re at the top as the leader and you have your assistant coaches with you 100 percent of the way it’s very important. When you have that unity between coaches, it just bleeds into the players. Kids feed off that coaching. When the coaches can be on the same page and the assistant coach can give the material in the way that the head coach puts it and they can see it in your attitude how you believe in it, it bleeds into the kids. It makes them more comfortable when you’re doing the play-calling aspect of the game.”

Players do sometimes interact differently with the assistant coaching staff than with the head coach. Holland works to establish his own relationship with the players still respectful of the head coach.

“I have a great relationship with the girls,” Holland said. “Maybe they ask me something they wouldn’t ask the head coach. It’s kind of funny, you know? Most times players like to go to the assistant coach before they go to the head coach. I don’t know why, but it’s always like that. It’s like that in men’s sports too. For some reason, players have that relationship with that one coach that they want to go to them first.”

Beyond that, coaching is coaching, whether you’re the boss or an assistant. Holland brings his same enthusiasm and energy to his job as an assistant that he did as a head coach. That means making sure players are working hard in practice just the same as they would in a game. 

Instilling that attitude is a job he takes very seriously.

“Everything you do, give 110 percent,” Holland said. “Whether it’s coaching, watching film, or scouting I’m giving 110 percent. Even when you’re down and don’t feel like doing it, give that 110 percent. As a coach, I try to give that enthusiasm, energy, and try to be very positive. The girls always respond to that. If you’re positive and energetic and give 110 percent, that’s what these girls are going to give you back. If you go out there yelling and moping and bad attitude, they won’t want to be there.”

From GameChanger and Rolando Rosa.

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