This article was written by University of St. Thomas (MN) assistant coach Josh Rodenbiker.
Coaching is a wonderful profession, but it also can be a challenging one. Getting a start in the profession is not always easy, so making a great first impression is critical. Young assistant coaches are not entitled to anything and must earn it day in and day out.
I am constantly learning new things and plan on continuing to do so for decades to come. At a young age, I have been fortunate to work with and learn from many great people and have managed to pick up a few things that I believe can help young coaches who are working to make a career in basketball. These points apply on a wider scale to assistants of all ages and in all roles.
Simply put, these are the M.A.I.N. things for young assistants to live by.
Make Your Boss’ Job Easier
In 2013, in my first meeting as a student assistant coach at St. Thomas, our head coach, John Tauer, offered this advice: “If you want to be successful in this position, the most important question you can ask daily is, ‘how can I help?’” I will never forget Coach Tauer’s words, and I believe that every member of a coaching staff should ask that question on a regular basis.
Our job as assistants is to help the head coach in whatever way we can. Frequently asking, “how can I help?” is a great start. Head coaches have a number of different jobs to do and taking just one thing off his or her plate each day can be very helpful. Assistant coaches ought to do a little more so that the head coach can focus on what is really important in running his/her program.
Bottom line is, be the kind of assistant you would like to have if you were a head coach.
What can you to improve on something that the program already does? What can you do for the program that has never been done before?
If a young assistant is only doing the bare minimum or if he/she is not doing their work well, chances are they will not be around in coaching very long. When you are just getting your feet wet in coaching, it is of the utmost important that you find different ways to add value to the program that you are a part of.
A great way to start is simply asking the head coach and the other assistants what they would find helpful.
- Make a series of video edits that the head coach did not ask for but would find useful.
- Stay late after practice and rebound for a player.
- Chart a specific statistic during games.
It does not have to be anything fancy or extraordinary, but the more you can do to add value to the program, the more invaluable you become as an assistant. ADD VALUE.
All great coaches are perpetually curious about coaching. They seek wisdom and set out to continuously develop. Northern State legendary coach, Don Meyer, once said, “Get a little better every day and you’ve got something good going on.”
Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is a must read. In it she notes the difference between a Growth Mindset and a Fixed Mindset.
Someone with a Growth Mindset believes that ability can be developed, while a person with a Fixed Mindset believes ability is static. A person with a Growth Mindset thinks it is all about learning, and lives accordingly. They embrace challenges and see effort as the path to mastery.
One of the special things about coaching is that so many people are willing and excited to share ideas. There is an incredible amount of resources that you can take advantage of, including but not limited to clinics, blogs, websites, books, and visiting practices.
In a sense, it can be overwhelming just to think about all the knowledge out there to gather as a young coach. But, that is also the beauty of coaching, you will always have the opportunity to learn something new.
No Task is Too Small
In team sports, it is never about just you, but especially as a new assistant you cannot bring an ego to work. You must be willing to help the group in whatever way possible.
- Get the basketballs out.
- Set the clock up.
- Clean the floor.
For me at St. Thomas, amongst other things, it means I am responsible for doing laundry for our team at Christmas time while other staffers in the athletic facility are on holiday.
You might not always like the work, but it is your job to get it done well. Just like every role is important for your players, every task the staff is responsible for is important. Everything ought to be done with great attention to detail.
The more you can do the mundane work with a smile on your face, the more positivity you spread in the program. No task is too small!
In living out the M.A.I.N. things, you are helping the program compete at a championship level, placing the group above yourself, and constantly developing your skill set as a coach.
Enjoy your journey in coaching!