Developing Yourself as a Coach

by Coach Czes (as appeared in TimeOut Magazine’s 2011 Convention Issue http://bit.ly/ht3zdz)

This year’s Final Four marks the 10-year anniversary of an epiphany in my coaching journey.  I was attending the NABC Convention at the Final Four as a young college assistant eager to make my mark.  I had been in coaching for all of about 5 years, so naturally I knew EVERYTHING I needed to know about the profession!  Between clinics I stopped in a TV lounge and watched an interview with Coach John Wooden in which he said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”  Those words struck a chord in my brain and resonated throughout my body.  Here was a man, who I was certain had forgotten more about basketball and coaching than I knew, talking about how he continued to learn and develop as a coach. 

At the very next clinic I sat behind a man with a binder full of notes that looked like it was about to bust at the seams.  He was feverishly writing throughout the entire clinic, hanging on every word uttered by the speaker.  As I walked out of the clinic, I glanced back to see that it was Coach Don Meyer still sitting there finishing up his note taking.  I was floored.  I had just witnessed two of the greatest legends in our profession in action, and they were concerned with learning more about the game!

 I am eternally grateful to have had this experience so early in my career, but it is never too late to get started!  Here are five great ways to work on developing yourself as a coach no matter how experienced you are:

  1. Get involved with a Coaching Association
    The NABC, WBCA, NHSBCA and many states have Basketball Coaches’ Associations that unite coaches and provide excellent resources for coaching development.  The NABC’s Professional Development Series Clinic at the Men’s Final Four is a great example of the opportunities provided to members of these Associations.  In addition to great resources, the networking opportunities are endless.  Sign up, get involved, and reap the benefits!
  2. Get organized
    Develop a system that works for you.  You will be amazed at how quickly you can accumulate great information, and you will want to have a way to organize it so you can find what you need quickly and easily.  The computer is a fantastic tool for organizing coaching resources.  I use the Fast Model suite of products (FastDraw, FastScout, and FastPractice) to organize everything from plays drawn on the back of a napkin to scouting reports and practice plans.  It allows me to keep everything in one place and retrieve what I need with just a couple of clicks.  It is also a great idea to invest in a scanner so you can add hard copies of resources to your electronic library for easy reference.  Having a system in place before the information starts rolling in will allow you to stay organized and save you valuable time in the long run.
  3. Find a mentor/ be a mentor
    Whether you are just starting your career or have been in the game for years, mentorship is invaluable to coaches.  I have been blessed with several great mentors who I owe a great deal to.  They have provided me with ideas and insights while allowing me to develop my own philosophy.  Having a resource to go to outside your program who can lend an objective opinion is a great way to gain perspective.   Being a mentor is a great way to give back to the game, and helps you continue your development by making you reflect and think through the advice you offer.
  4. Attend clinics
    With the massive amount of information available on the Internet these days; it seems that clinic attendance drops more and more every year.  Avoid this trap!  While the information that is out there is good and very convenient, there is no substitute for being in a gym with fellow coaches trading ideas and philosophies.  If you get one idea from a clinic that you can use with your team, it makes it worth the price of admission.  Many times the ideas you get come from other clinic attendees as much as from the speakers themselves.
  5. Work summer camps
    Target several summer camps in your area, or plan a trip to visit camps in other parts of the country.  Working a camp is a great way to work on your teaching methods, learn from others about different ways of teaching the game, and be exposed to different types of players.  In addition, the down time spent with other coaches at the camp is a great time to learn and to build relationships with your colleagues.

We are in a profession that allows us to have a profound impact on the lives of those who play for us, and the best teachers have the greatest impact.  In order to be a great teacher it helps to be a great learner.  Continuing to learn about the game and methods of teaching it from other coaches will make you a better coach and allow you to be more effective in reaching your players.

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