Over the past two seasons, I have received several messages from aspiring coaches currently working for college programs as a student-manager asking for advice on how to stick out amongst their peers and take that next step in their career. I’ve shared with them, and hope to share with as many as I can, key points I learned as a manager and since then on what can help someone take that next step. For those who may not be talented enough to play at a high level of college basketball but still want that experience of big time ball, managing is a great option. It is also a great way of getting started in the coaching profession and athletics, because you truly start from the ground up and have many tasks that are critical to a program’s success. Here are a few key points to being a successful student-manager:
Be seen, not heard.
Your job is to make the coaching staff’s lives easier. It is not to make game plan suggestions, it is not to try to recruit, and it is not to be buddies with the players. Be seen but not heard. Be grateful for your opportunity and use that to learn as much about the game and be as hands on behind the scenes as possible. You will gain respect by coming to work everyday and working hard with your mouth shut.
Remember you don’t know anything. Pay 100% attention at all times.
I remember going into my first day at Kansas saying to myself “I know a little bit about the game and will learn a lot here.” That could not have been any further from the truth. Within the first 5 minutes of our first practice I recognized that I knew nothing, should never again consider trying to give off an impression that I know more than I do, and just needed to shut up and listen. And I learned a lot more than a lot in my time there. One of our coaches told me, and reminds me every time I talk to him, “Remember you don’t know anything.” I think that’s a great quote to keep your mind in the present and locked in during practice, as it forces you to pay attention so you can stay focused and learn all you can that day. The most successful coaches/players are those who know that they don’t know.
If you are not in class, get in the basketball office.
If you want to gain the respect of your coaching staff, your effort needs to go beyond the 2-3 hours a day at practice. After my first season as a manager, I was searching for ways to be more involved with the program. What I began to do, as long as I didn’t have anything school related that had to be done, was come into the office as much as possible during the day. It isn’t until you start to come around the office that you realize just how much work has to be done to keep an elite program going.And there is ALWAYS more work to be done. I would everyday ask our video coordinator what I could help him with. Some day’s tasks would be very basic, but as time went on and I built up trust I got to work on some very cool projects. And most importantly, got to learn basketball video technology. You need to get in the office and learn the video technology. You need to learn how to use Synergy, SportsTec, etc. Managers that can be trusted to capture and code games/practices can be an incredible asset for programs and can make the rest of the staff’s lives a lot easier.
I also think one of the most beneficial things you can do for your career is to try to help out your assistant coaches with whatever they may need. Ask them throughout the day if there is anything you can help them with. Workouts, mail outs, recruiting research, etc. Most days they’ll probably tell you no, but the fact that you continue to show that you want to learn will go a long way. Remember, these are the guys who are going to help you with finding your next job. They are the ones potential employers are going to call. And one day one of these guys may become a head coach, and they are going to need someone that they are familiar with and can trust.
Keep notes on everything.
This has been one of the best things I’ve done. Every practice or workout I have gone into at Kansas and now Cincinnati, I say to myself: “Today, I am going to take one thing away from here that will help me win a game in the future.” Truth is, I usually end up with 3-5 things a day. Whether it is a way to defend a certain action, a new drill, or just a quote from your coach that you think is meaningful, write it down somewhere. These notes will help make life easier in the future. Also, keep track of situations and how your coaches handle them. Would you do the same thing or do it differently? Why? In your mind, always think like a head coach. Also, there is no reason why you should not have the ENTIRE offensive and defensive playbook memorized. Do not ever say you want to coach if you do not even know what is going on with your own team.
As a manager, you will meet many different people outside the immediate family of your program. NBA scouts, high school coaches, other college coaches may come through your own team’s practices. Take time before and after practice to get to know these people. One of these people may potentially have a job for you one day or a player you will want to recruit. After meeting someone, follow up right away. A quick text or email within hours of meeting someone will keep you fresh in their minds.
After initially meeting a new contact, it is very important to genuinely network from here on out. This is something I have struggled with in the past but have gotten much better with. Sending a text every few months saying nothing but “Hope all is well!” is a waste of everyone’s time. People will appreciate it much more if when you reach out to them your message has something to do with how their team is doing, how their family is doing, or an idea you may want to discuss. Be sure to show that you actually have done your research and are reaching out as a friend; not just someone who is trying to use them to their own benefit.
Also, take the time to write people. Handwritten letters are the most sincere and serious form of communication and a great way to stick out.
Next Play Mentality
You hear coaches tell players all the time “next play.” Having a “next play” mentality is a great to keep players focused on the present and not to worry about past mistakes. The same mindset can be very beneficial to a student-manager. There will be a time you get yelled at, throw a bad pass, forget something, or make some kind of mistake. It is very important to not dwell on mistakes and to move on to the next thing. Don’t let one bad moment turn into two.
If you have anything else you think should be added to this list, feel free to tweet me @CoachGregUC or email me at greg.youncofski@ .