Last season was my first as a coach. I’m not sure I can quantify how much I learned last year. On the court, off the court, and completely unrelated to basketball…I was educated. Based on the first two weeks of season so far, it is quite obvious that I still have lots to learn. This is great. It would be quite concerning to master it in a year. In fact, if that were the case, I would probably quit coaching…no challenge if you have nothing to learn. As season begins to ramp up, I am looking back (and looking ahead) on 5 things that I want to improve on this year. These are in no particular order, except the order they came to my head.
- Recruiting: I’ve mentioned before how much I struggled with recruiting my first year. This is something I hope to never completely master. As times change, there are always new techniques and new ideas to learn in terms of best relating to adolescents. Specifically, I would like to improve my interpersonal skills when we have recruits on campus. Sometimes, I think visits would go better if I just stayed in the other office. I’d like to not feel like that anymore. I want to make a positive impact for each visit and I want Coach to trust that I can do it. Additionally, I want to get more of my recruits on campus. Last year, I had 0 (yes, zero) recruits on campus. This year, I have had 1 that I watched, contacted, and got to visit. There’s another I watched play last year and really liked that we had on campus. And I have another recruit coming next month. So I am getting better, 300% better. But not good enough.
- In-Game Decisions: Most superficially, this applies to our 7-game JV schedule that we will play. I am the head coach (ok, only coach) on the sidelines for these 7 games. As the season progressed last year, I learned more techniques and started to get a better feel for things. Watching the rest of our coaching staff, speaking with other coaches, and attending the WBCA convention has helped me continue to improve in this area over the off-season. However, we know that results, not improvement, get the prize. This also applies to our varsity schedule. I am fortunate enough to work with a head coach that values the input of her staff. I want to provide better input in-game and do better about understanding the things that we need to focus on most in order to win.
- Communication: There are a lot of times, not only in basketball-related activities, that I fail to communicate clearly. I can write so much more clearly than I can speak. Writing allows me to articulate my thoughts. Unfortunately, I can’t write everything I need to tell Coach. One part of communication that I want to pay extra attention to is my use of terminology. I want to maintain the common terminology that is established in the office and speak clearly. I also do a poor job with eye contact and speaking clearly. I know this makes it hard for other people to understand and respect what I am saying. When Coach calls me in to her office to go over a scout or a practice plan, I want to do better at communicating my thoughts and ideas with her. I don’t want to lose my words. I want to prove that I have done my homework and am well-prepared for the upcoming game. I know I will never be the world’s best in this area. Actually, being in the 50th percentile might be a good goal for me. I know I have intelligent and unique ideas and thoughts in my head. Autism can make it hard to spit it out, especially when I am overwhelmed by my senses.
- Working With The Team: This is similar to communicating but it focuses more on being able to work with the young women on our team. I get so many blank stares when I am trying to explain things, put in a play, or make adjustments based on a scout. I know I can be hard to understand and that I get especially flustered in the gym where there is so much sensory stimulation. I always ask the players, “Do you understand?” after I finish instructions. I’m not sure this helps or ever eliminates any questions, but it makes me feel a little better. I want to be open with the players and let them know that it is ok to not understand me and it is more than ok to ask questions. I can never tell if they understand or not unless they make it perfectly clear. World’s worst mind reader right here. I want to work with the team on a more straightforward basis and help them to understand and apply what I am teaching them.
- Trusting Myself: I know that I have a unique skill set in my ability to see the game. This seems to be especially useful when I breakdown game film, whether our own or our opponents’. Last year, I would watch the same game film three or four times before a game, just to double check and triple check my work. I love spending my time doing this, but I think I could use my time more efficiently by trusting myself and allowing myself to move on. I could watch film every hour for the week leading up to the game and still not trust myself to get what I need off there. I know I am good at this. I need to trust myself and let myself get more done instead of perseverating on a singular thought. Perseveration is something I struggle with in many aspects of my life. Many autistic people do.
This list is obviously not all-inclusive. There are an infinite number of things I need to improve on as a young coach. I hope I never run out of things to improve on. That being said, I believe it is important to focus on just a few things that can make the biggest difference. By focusing on these five things, I know I can be a better graduate assistant and help our program more than I could previously.
What are the things that you are focusing on this season? Remember that focusing on everything often gets nothing done. I like to refer to the 80/20 rule…80% of your output will come from 20% of your input. Identify those inputs that can account for the most of your results.