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Coaching with Passion—and Sacrifice

While there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to coaching at the high school level, every coach often wonders if the advice they receive from peers, mentors, and friends is the right advice to take to heart.

That’s why young coaches looking to move up the ranks should consider advice from those who have been there themselves. Tom Kelsey, former collegiate basketball coach, surveyed numerous coaches at the college and professional levels for this very wisdom in an article on CoachTube.

From the perspective of Joe Dean, a former longtime coach and Athletic Director at Birmingham-Southern College, it all starts with passion—and continues with sacrifice. “Your passion NEEDS to be helping young men/women grow as a person. If that is not the reason you are coaching, then your run in this business will be short,” Dean tells Coachtube. “Moreover, you need to sacrifice. You can’t just rise to the top of the coaching ranks without having to sacrifice quite a bit. Sometimes it’s time, money, relationships… What are you willing to sacrifice?”

According to Dean, there are four questions all high school coaches should ask themselves to assist them in defining their passion and willingness to sacrifice:

  1. “Do you have a passion and love for the game?”

  2. “Are you able to to be [a] great teacher (and listener) to individuals, not just a collective whole?”

  3. “Are you willing to sacrifice?”

  4. “Are you a moral and ethical person?”

In fact, passion and sacrifice is how Keith Askins, who is currently in his 29th year with the NBA’s Miami Heat and serves as Director of College and Pro Scouting and the Assistant General Manager of the G-League Sioux Falls Skyforce. “I’m a pretty good story when it comes to this topic. I didn’t play college basketball and was a self-starter in the business,” Askins tells Coachtube. “Work hard. People will see your hard work and appreciate it.”

The most important lesson Askins has learned along the way is the importance of knowing the right people. “Network, network, network,” says Askins. “Work the camp circuit. Camps are a great way to meet coaches in a comfortable environment. Attend clinics and learn as much as you can.”

Seconding that notion is Steve Prohm, Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Iowa State University, who urges young coaches to understand the value of networking. “Develop a network of friends and associates that will promote you to others,” Prohm tells Coachtube. “If you want opportunities to present themselves, get out there and meet people and show them what a Stud you are.”

Prohm suggests that one of the best ways to go about this is to work directly with the coaches you aspire to work for or with. “One of the best ways to position yourself to college coaches is working their summer camp. Great camp workers impress coaches and are hired more frequently because of it,” says Prohm. “Go visit with coaches in the summer and talk X’s and O’s.”

According to Prohm, young coaches can even prove their worth by starting their own coaching clinic, the ultimate display of “leadership and organization.” “It doesn’t matter how small, it shows initiative and giving back to the game,” he says. “[And] make the rounds at HS State tournaments, SEC tournament, Final Four, AAU tournaments, etc.”

To really stand out from the pack, Erik Konkol, Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Lousiana Tech University, thinks young coaches should get specific with their philosophy. “I think the number one piece of advice I would give them is to develop a skill set or a specific skill that can allow them to add value to the staff immediately,” Konkol tells Coachtube. “Whether that’s being good with video, operations, player development, scouting, being knowledgeable about recruiting and knowing players.... Some are going to have more experience/knowledge in these areas than others, but if they want to gain entry into the profession [and] last and advance in the profession… Then focus on acquiring and developing skills that can help you be a difference maker for a program.

“To truly do so, you must have an insatiable work ethic, a keen attention to detail and a desire for continual improvement/learning,” Konkol continues.
While great advice can be hard to come by, Joe Esposito, Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach at the University of Memphis, reminds high school coaches to not overthink it. “Best advice I was ever given—make yourself invaluable to the person you work for,” Esposito tells Coachtube. “Be able to do or handle things in every part of a program, so you always have a job regardless of level.”

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