I received one of those phone calls the other day. You know, it was one of those calls where someone was asking for money. We all get them. This one was from my undergraduate alma mater, Indiana University. On the other end was your typical work-study student trying to earn some money to pay for his business school education. I tried to hear him out but I was a little put off because I had just made a financial contribution in the spring. However, I did perk up when the senior-to-be asked me for advice on how he could be successful in his upcoming career.


I gave the B-School (that’s what we call it at IU) student some of my thoughts and when we finished the conversation I realized that the four pieces of advice I gave him are transferrable to the coaching profession, as well. Here are my four pieces of advice for young, or any, coaches:

1. Get started early. – If you already know what career path you want to take when you are in college (or high school, for that matter), take advantage of it. Be proactice about finding experiences to enhance your career resume and volunteer as much as you can in your field. I realized the summer after my freshman year at IU that I wanted to coach basketball. I thought it would be a good idea to apply to be a basketball manager under Bob Knight and his staff. The competition for those managerial positions were so fierce that I would have better served to have applied entering my freshman year as I did not earn a position.

2. Read! No, read a lot! – Learning about successful people, whether they be in coaching or other walks of life, and from other leadership experts are so important to your own personal development. Finding out about the characteristics that make people successful and transferring those qualities to mesh with your own values can also formalize your development. I try to read a book every two weeks. If I didn’t have two small children, it would probably be one book every week. Your career is a life-long learning process.

3. Find a Mentor. – You need at least one person in your professional life that can show you the ropes. It would be ideal if you worked under him or her and was able to be with that person on a daily basis where you could learn a great deal of technical knowledge. I was fortunate to have found one. My first year coaching boys’ high school basketball at Roger Bacon High School in Cincinnati, I coached under the late Bill Brewer. I learned more in that year of coaching about basketball under “Brew” than I have in all the other years I have coached combined. His systematic principles matched mine well and I was able to take those experiences and parlay them into my own philosophies as a head coach. It’s also good to have personal mentors, such as someone to guide you with professional, personal, and spiritual goals.

4. Be available. – When you are young and just starting your career, take advantage of the time you have to gain experiences and learn as much as you can in your chosen field. Use that time to also develop relationships. Learn from other professionals and take advantage of educational opportunities. If and when you have a family you will have to learn to balance your time between your career and your family. Do as much as you can in the time that you have. Before I was married at the age of 28, I had completed nearly two master’s degrees. While I still take advantage of many learning opportunities, I am sure glad I got most of that coursework out of the way before I had a family.

Question: What other pieces of advice would you give young coaches?


2 thoughts on “MY ADVICE FOR YOUNG (or any) COACHES

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