Creative staffing the Cajun Way

Don't plug a square peg into a round hole

This column was originally published at TopCoachPodcast.com


by Jack Warren, AthleticOps.com editor

I recently had the chance to visit with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Director of Baseball Operations, Chris Domingue. Chris’ title is just a bit misleading – at least as we often understand those with similarly titled roles. Chris has two primary duties for the Rajun Cajuns. The highest profile, and that taking up most of his time, is his role as academic advisor. He also acts as camp coordinator.

Now, none of this is terribly unusual. You’ll find staff members at most organizations and schools that serve in these roles. What is unusual is how he came to fill these roles and how this fits in with the other aspects of his life. You see, Coach Domingue has been a firefighter his entire adult life. He also flunked out of college the first time through and approached it again in his 30’s with two kids and a wife at home. After an academic refresh, Chris attacked his academics this second time through and completed it with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

Once through with college, Coach Domingue, who had been around baseball most of his life, wanted to get involved with a college program, preferably the hometown Rajun Cajuns. Through a couple of fortuitous meetings, he found out that Lafayette needed someone for academics. Knowing that he couldn’t accommodate another full time gig in his schedule, the only question he asked of head coach Tony Robichaux was, “Do I have to be at every practice and game?” The answer was an emphatic no and the rest is history.

ULL head coach Tony Robichaux identified a need in his program. The academics weren’t anywhere near where he wanted them to be. He also didn’t have the resources to add another full time position. Enter Chris Domingue, a guy who was looking to contribute, but who already had a full time job and family responsibilities. Some programs or organizations would have written him off because of perceived inflexibility and taken a candidate with lesser aptitude and desire.

Too often I’ve seen programs force a square peg into a round hole only because they found a candidate who was available. Or they chose from among a group of candidates that was assembled via a very narrow list of criteria. In the consulting I do with teams and organizations, I often encourage them to look at different ways to approach staffing needs. Far too often coaches (and athletic directors) will look to the “standard way” of doing things just because they’re always done that way. If you live in a community of 40,000, I’m guessing you’ve got at least 20 individuals who have a desire to help out with an organization like yours and another 20+ who are extremely qualified to perform some aspect of what you’re trying to achieve. A great percentage of the latter group probably doesn’t even know that opportunities are available and would jump at a chance if they knew about it.

So what I’m telling you here is to break the mold. Like Coach Robichaux, think about what your needs are. Then think about how you can creatively fill these needs. Don’t rely on methods that barely work for pedestrian organizations with unremarkable customer service. Set yourself apart. Think about how you can do things differently. Don’t worry about creating a little extra work for yourself in keeping your staff and schedule organized. Believe me, just like Louisiana-Lafayette, it’ll pay big dividends on the back side.


Jack is the owner of Cornbelt Sports, the parent company of Top Coach and AthleticOps.com. He is available to speak to your team or at your next conference, meeting, banquet, or fundraiser. He also is a career coach and consultant, focusing in the areas of athletic coaching and organizational efficiency. You can get more information at his professional services site, JackWWarren.com.

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