Player To Coach Transition Part I

I was given the opportunity to get my feet wet in the coaching ranks after getting asked to come work as a Graduate Assistant for the Drake women’s basketball program. During my transition from player to coach, there were a lot of observations, patience, and learning throughout the successful year we had. Despite winning our regular season and conference tournament, there were some tough lessons that I had to accept and embrace. Below I write Part I of a list of things that I believe can help anyone transition from player to coach. These are things I wish I knew that would have helped my transition be much smoother but I couldn’t be more thankful it happened or I wouldn’t be able to grow like I did throughout the year.

  1. It is WAY easier to be a player than a coach 
    • A ton of things happen in those offices that players have no idea get done. It made me appreciate my former coaches so much more. For example, during season there are plenty of times we had an early practice. 7:15 comes and goes. By 9:15 we are done. And guess what… your day as a coach is just getting started. Yes, players still have class, study table and much more but once they are done with that they get to go home and do whatever that may be. Players step across the lines and get to play the game they love. The amount of stress on coaches can be overwhelming especially in this society where wins and losses is what head coaches are measured by.  Coaches go recruiting, have multiple meetings throughout the day, and don’t get me started on watching film after games until 1-2am. Coaching is not easy and I do my best inform those who want to get into coaching. Being in the office is something I had to get used to and I am still working on it!
  2. Every coach has a different formula for success and the way they run things (style of play/system etc). 
    • Just because it doesn’t align with what you would do does not make it wrong. My time at Washington and my time here at Drake could not be more different. Not just from me being a player in one and a coach in the other, but those I dealt with every day. The coaches could not be more opposite yet they both found a ton of success in how they run their respected programs. There isn’t one formula for success and I am grateful to see that difference at my first stop as a coach.
  3. Your mentors, former teammates, and those you were around often will have a big influence on who you are and how you approach every day. 
    • I literally catch myself every day either using terminology my coaches used during my time in college, how I approach certain situations, how I see the current players I work with now and more. All of that makes you who you are as a coach. My advice would be to not change your identity. Be you but keep learning. The number of things you can learn from different coaches’ overtime will help mold you into who you are and how you might run things when you’re a head coach. You will start picking up on some things that you like and even things you don’t like. Make sure you write everything down so you don’t forget and use it to keep growing. 
  4. Have a support system in place to help share/bounce off ideas 
    • It’s good to have genuine relationships built in the basketball profession that you can bounce ideas from and talk to. I’m very fortunate to have a group of coaches I trust that I can talk to about basketball, opponents, things in practice, how I can better assist my boss, and just life. I do not know if I would have gotten through my first year without this circle and their knowledge. They told me things to look for, things to do and not do, etc.  Make sure to also let them know how much you appreciate them for their wisdom. You’ll be surprised how much more they will want to help you. 
  5. Communication is key 
    • Miscommunication is inevitable. Do your best to minimize it. I believe that communication, or the lack thereof, is the reason so many, if not every problem in this world arises. Being able to communicate as much as you can helps in so many ways. While I do think that there are some things your boss doesn’t need to know to lessen their stress, I do think making sure your boss and coworkers on the same page majority of the time is crucial to not only success off the court but on the court, as well. Communication is something that should be worked on every day and be very intentional. 
  6. You will NOT like every decision your Head Coach makes… That’s OK
    • You’re going to have your own thoughts and opinions. It’s called being human. However, know your boundaries and understand you aren’t the leader of the program. The Head Coach makes the ultimate decision. All you need to worry about is giving your input when asked and leaving it at that. Don’t work yourself up for stuff you can’t control. 
  7. Always accept every opportunity to learn and grow 
    • This profession is constantly growing and evolving and making sure you keep up with it is important. Starting out, there’s so much thrown at you it can be overwhelming. Finds ways to stay on course and get ahead of the curve. Read, listen to podcasts, attend coaching clinics if you can, subscribe to newsletters, whatever it may be, learn ways to better yourself and the program you’re a part of. One thing I love to do is attend our men’s basketball teams’ practices. Seeing how different coaches interact with their players, plays they run, ways they teach etc. Find ways to grow every day, you’ll be thankful you did. 
  8. Find what drives you and makes you passionate about coaching. (Make a list) 
    • If you’re in it for the money you won’t last… That dough doesn’t come for a while. Honestly, when I got to Des Moines, I lived by myself which meant more money for rent and it sucked. I ended up becoming an Uber driver just to pay the bills. Things weren’t easy but one thing never changed; my passion for the game. I knew coaching and wanting to help women reach their goals on and off the court was what I wanted to do for a very long time. It isn’t always easy, but finding your purpose in the work you do is what will keep you going.