Ken Dollaske joined the Upper Hand pod to talk about his work as Head Varsity Noblesville High School Coach. Coach Dollaske is in his second year as the Head Varsity Coach. He is a High School physics teacher and has spent the last 8 years coaching and teaching at the high school level in both Illinois and Indiana.
You can read an overview of the interview with Coach Dollaske, listen or watch the podcast below for the full interview.
Q. From working with C-Team to JV, and then at a Varsity level all while reffing, how has that impacted your coaching style and what challenges have you faced.
A. So definitely coaching the lower level programs one of my philosophies is that sometimes your best coaches should be at the lowest levels because that is where the most education takes place. So not to say that I was the best coach at the time but I just think that, you know, that it is always better to have those coaches at that level. So when I got that JV roll, I really took it as an education time frame for those kids because I know that by the time those kids get to Varsity they have already, I won’t say perfected their skills, but they definitely have done it for a long period of time. And so there isn’t as much, um, technical coaching going on. At that point, it is more tactical and just making sure you have the right kids on the field at the time. So at the lower levels, I think some of the challenges is creating practice sessions that really hone in on the technical skills that you are trying to work on. And even going into lower levels for the club coaches that are out there, that are doing U12, U10, U8’s when the kids are just getting started. I think that is where the challenging aspect really comes in is understanding the tactical aspects of the game aren’t really going to come to fruition until you hone and master those basic skills of just passing, dribbling, understanding basic defensive or offensive positioning around the field.
So I think in volunteering at those positions, even at a young age when I was given those opportunities to do it as a 21, 22-year-old, I think that really opened my eyes to realize that there is way more to coach than what formation am I putting out on the field and do I have the proper people, proper personnel out on the field. It definitely goes into that you are trying to hone those skills and get them to the place they need to be so then they can get to that next level.
]Q. I would love to understand, from your experience the amount of time that it takes prepping outside of practice, that the players are not involved with, and game planning from someone who came in to take over a program like Noblesville Soccer.
A. When I first came to Noblesville, and I started that volunteer process, I was given the reigns to the C-Team. It was understanding the philosophy of the varsity coach was to make sure that I could fit within the principles and philosophy of what he had come up with. “…” I picked his brain almost every single day. After every single practice, we probably stayed there probably 45 to an hour after each practice ended…just standing by our cars, just talking about anything. Anything that happened at practice, anything we could do for the next practice. It was always a time for reflection, so I think that was the biggest aspect of it, it wasn’t necessarily watching video, it was just going through our minds, just simple things in practice that maybe other coaches didn’t pick up on. So having those conversations and having that open line of communication, especially across from Varsity, JV, all the way down to C-Team. “…”
So now that I am the Varsity coach, I am still doing the same thing. I decided if the old varsity coach had these kinds of check-ins every single day after practice then we need to continue those. Once a week what I am trying to implement is a little bit more in depth, so there is a little more structure so we can have a plan to it. That’s kind of my plan for year two. Its great have those impromptu conversations but I think that just making sure these are check-in times so that the JV Gold and JV Black Coach know that this is an opportunity on a Monday or a Tuesday to let’s check in, let’s figure out where do we go for the next week.
Q. How are you keeping your high school athletes accountable during the offseason or summer months?
A. Going into year two, its definitely a whole lot better than going into year one. We are trying to implement a couple system in place to try and get that accountability. So one of the things, and this was actually brought to me by my JV Goal coach, and I thought it was a great idea. He is a Carmel lacrosse coach as well, so kind of coaches a couple different sports, but what he did at Carmel, but part of coach is taking an idea and saying that works lets go ahead and use it, its the same thing with the teaching world, if something works, don’t break it just keep on using it, just give the credit. “..” So we call it Battalions where we have senior captains and then they assigned a group of 3 or 4 kids, to get them to get to the conditioning levels that we want them. Each week they are going to run on their own and they are going to count their mileage on how much they run and then Battalions will average out their mileage and the bottom 6 or 7 Battalions will probably have some additional conditioning at our training when we get to that point. So not only is it, its basically 2 folds, it’s helping with our conditioning, but its also helping with making our Seniors take leadership, get to know the incoming freshman “…” Because usually, if you are going to allow high schoolers to be high schoolers, then the freshman are going to stay in their clique and the seniors are going to stay in their clique and now by making them mesh together right from the start from day one. “…” So that’s one thing we are doing another thing that I am trying to implement, is communication. Communication is key, whether I am communicating with the players or I am communicating with parents, but one thing I decided to implement this year was that, parents are great and I tell all my athletes that their parents are wonderful people, but I don’t want to talk to the parents sometimes. I would rather talk to the kids. I want the kids to take ownership over this. “…” I want you guys to hold yourselves accountable. If you have training on Thursday and you don’t know what time it is, email me, or go to the website. Do whatever you need to do to kind of push yourself to kind of hitting that higher level.
Q. What advice would you have for any of our listeners who are aspiring coaches, or coaches who are just starting out.
A. A. Get your name out there. B. No job is too small. Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer whether it’s at the high school or whether it’s at a club that you want to participate in, just make sure whatever you can to do to help the program, go ahead and do it. “…” So start small volunteer and then maybe that will allow you to go to professional development sessions and then you can start coaching. I think that’s the way to jump in. Don’t take anything for granted, nothing is too small because you have to start somewhere. It was me asking my old high school coach,’hey can you give me a chance’.