College students get spring break for vacation. College basketball coaches get the Final Four.
However, for eight coaching staffs the men’s and women’s Final Fours really are business trips. If you have a goal of reaching the game’s pinnacle event on the bench and not at the bar down the street, you need to take the trip seriously and treat it as a business opportunity as well.
Personally, I have attended eight Final Fours, six as a fan and two as a coach (Shout out to my uncle Kevin Lehman who allowed me to tag along to my first one when I was 16). They truly are amazing events with an electric atmosphere as a city becomes the center of the basketball universe for a weekend. If you are a coach and have never been before, make plans to do so. It is an investment in yourself and your career.
The best way to describe the weekend is a fast-paced. There will be a lot of walking and talking. Going in with a plan will allow you to get the most out of it as a professional development experience. Young coaches should focus on two major areas that will help coaches advance their careers: increasing knowledge of the game, and developing relationships with others in the game. The Final Four offers huge potential to grow in both departments.
Before you go, have a short pitch about yourself, your background, your career interests and goals. People will want to help you grow, both by helping you obtain knowledge of the game and connecting you with others, but they can only do so if they know what you are looking for. Take the time to really think about this.
The NABC/WBCA websites have the complete schedule of events going on. Look for activities related to your career interests and goals. Some things to consider beforehand:
– What level do you ultimately want to coach at?
– What type of connections do you hope to make?
– What are you wishing to learn to advance your career?
– Are you interested in learning more about basketball technology (cough* FastModel *cough)?
There is something for every type of coach or basketball personnel. Attend at least one seminar or clinic a day and take notes.
The NABC Marketplace/WBCA Courtside Expo give coaches a chance to check out resources on the business side of basketball. Companies offering everything from uniforms and shooting machines to video and travel services and much more will give you a look at products to help your program.
Open practices of the Final Four teams will be available to the public. Advice here: pick two teams and watch parts of each. You don’t need to see all four, they won’t be doing a whole heck of a lot, but worth checking out. Another free event is the Reese’s College All-Star Game on Friday evening where you will have a chance to see 20 seniors play a pickup game. Stay for a half, but your time is better spent networking.
It’s a fast-paced environment and you will need to keep your energy up. Invite a new connection to grab a bite at a restaurant to relax and get off your feet for a bit. Research area restaurants before you get to the Final Four. Yelp and Open Table are apps you should be familiar with.”
In between these activities, work the lobby. It’s an inside joke to any Final Four veteran, because it’s where everyone hangs out. Each city will designate a host hotel, and this is where a lot of networking action takes place, as well as some good people/coach-watching. Find this location and scoop the loop a few times each day. You never know who you may run into. But remember, you are not here to get autographs, you are a colleague.
Anyone in coaching knows it is a business of relationships and that everyone is connected in some way. It’s just a matter of degrees of separation. The best advice for networking is be genuine in your interactions. Offer to help someone before
asking for a favor. Play a game called Who Can Collect More Business Cards. You will leave with a stack, but the important part is not quantity, it’s quality. Take time at the end of each day to make notes to help keep track of everyone you met. This will come in handy when you return home.
Following up with your new contacts is important if you want to sincerely develop a connection. (As someone who’s current job came from a Final Four introduction, know that this process works.)
General tips and words of wisdom compiled by the FastModel Sports staff:
- Never Eat Alone – Find someone to share a meal with
- Make sure your business cards have Cell/Email/Twitter
- Dress for the job you want, not the job you have
- Use Twitter to link up with other coaches
- Download the NABC/WBCA app to plan your schedule
- Pick a drink and stick to it
- Hydrate with H20 as well
- Carry phone charger/alternate battery source
- Wear comfy shoes
The days will go fast and all of a sudden it’s time to head home. Use the information you gained and people you met to help you in the offseason. It takes hard work, a strong network, patience and a little luck if you want to end up attending a Final Four in a different role someday.
by Robbie Lehman, Account Manager, FastModel Sports
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