How NOT To Break Into College Coaching

college arenaThe title of today’s article was very much intended to have some shock value and on the surface it might seem to be coming from a cynical angle.   Meanness really isn’t what I want to convey here.  Rather, I’d simply like to point out the counter-productive behavior, which I’ve been observing for over 40 years when it comes to coaches trying to break into college coaching.

I’d guess on the low side that over the years I’ve heard 300 coaches express a “strong” interest on coaching at the college level.  Perhaps 90% or more of that group failed to act on that desire in even the most rudimentary way.  So, the response on my part isn’t as much cynicism as it is incredulity.

First, let me say to anyone really interested that you must totally understand the Catch 22 of “You can’t get a college job unless you already have one.”  Some may ask, “Is that really fair?”  The short answer is, “It doesn’t matter.”  The folks who are doing the hiring are entitled to ask for the credentials of their choice.

Among the reasons for not pursuing entry levels positions at any college level on the part of high school coaches are the following:

  • Reluctance to move to a different locale.
  • Reluctance to take a salary/benefit cut.
  • Reluctance to leave a good program or a good team.

Are these good reasons?  Of course they are but there are those who will sacrifice all of these factors to break into coaching at higher levels.  As unlikely as it may seem to many, there are individuals who will coach for free or next to nothing to accomplish their long-range goals.  Keep in mind that the longer one waits, the more one gets locked into the reasons not to make a move.

Whichever choice one makes on whether to move, take a salary cut or leave a good situation, there is yet another list of non-life style blunders committed by many coaches, who profess to be interested in the college level.   

The area that is most egregious when it comes to inexplicable behavior by many centers around lack of networking.  The cliché “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know,” isn’t foolproof.  But underestimating the validity of this premise is very common.  For those who find the concept of networking unpalatable for some reason, that’s certainly a choice.  But, in doing so, one also has to understand that the odds get reduced with this choice.  Fewer contacts equates to fewer opportunities.

For those inclined, networking opportunities abound and are only limited by one’s creativity.  For instance, do you:

*Attend college practices at all levels-not just DI?  Interact when you do?

*Attend NBA practices?  NBA coaches and college coaches often go back and forth between these two levels?

*Attend local, regional and national clinics?  Interact when you do?

*Work summer camps on college campuses as well as independently run camps.?

*Conduct summer camps and clinics yourself and invite college coaches as speakers?

*Attend your players’ summer travel games during live recruiting periods when college coaches are in attendance?  Interact when you do?

*Conduct open gyms where college coaches can watch your players during live periods?

*Communicate with college coaches about comp ticket opportunities for your team to attend games.

*Say hello or introduce yourself to college coaches if you see them at other high school games?

*Network with the best and brightest HS coaches in your area?  They might get college opportunities themselves one day.  

The next thing that gets in the way of making a move to the next level is ego.  Many coaches either do not apply for positions out of fear of being rejected or because they believe that their coaching expertise is greater than many who have jobs at higher levels.  In the first case, the only advice I can offer is reminding hesitant coaches of “no risk/no reward”.  As for the coach who believes himself to be above the fray, maybe he is exactly where he is supposed to be.

The last flaw I’ve seen over the years from many is the lack of expressing their intent.  For whatever reasons, they don’t put themselves “out there”.  So no one knows of their interest, especially the folks who could conceivably hire them.

If one truly is interested in jumping from high school coaching to college coaching, one should declare intent, network like crazy, be aggressive but not a nuisance, continue to develop one’s craft and, if possible, distinguish oneself outside  of X and O’s and stay humble, keeping in mind that it’s a very competitive marketplace.  But also keep in mind that the qualified individual who declares his intention and stays the course has a better chance than his counterpart.


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