I have received a couple emails lately from people looking to get into skill development training and coaching, looking for advice "for a young coach." I laugh every time I see one of these because by them stating they are young it makes me feel like I am old.
While I never think of myself as someone who has made it--my road is always under construction--I looked back on what I have done and have received some pretty good advice from others over the past 8 years.
Second to None Work Ethic
Forrest Larson told me, "Be the hardest worker at every camp you are at." Sweat with the kids, play defense and be exhausted at the end of the day. There would have been no way I could have slept in the bunks at Honesdale with some crazy kids from Jersey and New York when I was at Five-Star if I wasn't absolutely beat.
I learned my work ethic from parents and grandfather, but being around Forrest Larson and Dave MacArthur took this to a completely different level. Sometimes you never know what you are capable of or what hard work really means until someone pushes you until you almost black out--multiple times!
Be an Energy Guy
It might not be your personality. It's not really mine, until I get on the floor--it is what I LOVE. Whether it is or not, choose to be energetic and enthusiastic.
Work Different Types of Camps
Do some that you get to do a lot of game coaching, but also where you get a chance to teach. I worked at Five-Star, which was 50-60 percent game coaching and 40 percent station work where you get to teach.
I do think you need a mixture of what you learn, but if you are able to coach a team in the winter and get experience that way--learn how to TEACH in the offseason.
If you want to be a manager or student assistant at a college I'd highly suggest working as many of their camps this summer as possible. Even if it's on a volunteer basis. You will have to prove to them that you want to be and deserve to be a part of their program.
Study the Game and Yourself
In the fall or spring try to go watch individual instruction at a college near you. DVR or record games to see how to attack ball screens, how a player changes his speeds, how to read screens or angles defenders take to recover on dribble penetration.
Make a goal of reading at least one book per month on personal development and putting the relevant thoughts and ideas into action. I try to read 2-3 books a month, almost all on personal development or developing our business. You have to be a first-class learner.
Undivided Attention to your Players
As for individual instruction, Ganon Baker says "Treat each player you work with as if they are the only player you train." In a camp environment, Forrest Larson asks, "Are you doing everything you possibly can do help these kids get better?"
Spend Your Own Money
When in college, I was on the road all summer and worked for pennies at most camps. I've spent my own money to go watch Syracuse work out, see the Knicks practice and also watch the Nike Lebron James Skills Academy. You have to make sacrifices -- both physically and financially. I can't tell you how many times I slept in my car driving to and from camps.
My freshman year in college when I realized I wanted to coach college basketball. I was always asking other coaches what I needed to do to get a job. The answer I always heard was, "you need to network."
I remember sitting down at the Syracuse men's basketball office with associate head coach Bernie Fine and he asked, "If you were a head coach looking for assistants, would you go through a stack of resumes or just get in touch with people you already know?" To me, the answer was obvious. I'm going to just start talking to people I already know and know what they are good at to start building my staff.
Even after everyone told me I needed to keep in touch with everyone I met, I didn't really know how. I always felt I would be bothering them or they would know I was calling or emailing for the sake of staying in touch. Last summer at the LeBron James Skills Academy there was a coach's chalk talk and ESPN analyst and former college coach Fran Fraschilla brought up probably the best technique for networking I have heard. Maybe it's a no-brainer to everyone else, but I wish I would have heard it 10 years ago.
He suggested that we ask for advice. Call someone up and ask them for advice in a certain area that you know they are good at. People always love to give advice and you won't look like you are "staying in touch" just in case you need them to recommend you for something. You can never have enough friends!
Build Your Brand
Everything about you, your email, your voicemail greeting, your work ethic, how you treat your parents, coaches and teachers tells everyone else who you are as a person--what you value and what you represent.
After quite a bit of thought these are the nine things I came up with that I think have helped me get where I am. Like I said before, I know I have not arrived--and if I feel that way it will be time for me to do something else, but hopefully you can take something from this post no matter what level you are coaching at. Some of it only applies to basketball, but you can use your imagination and you'll see how most of these things are needed to be successful in anything that you do.