My experience as a graduate assistant is a little different than most. Many GA’s start out after their playing careers have ended, or they were student manager’s who have worked their way up. That wasn’t the case for me. After college, I began to teach and coach high school ball for about 10 years, always with an eye on progressing to the college level. I was fortunate enough to receive that opportunity when I accepted a GA position working for Bruce Weber and Kansas State Men’s Basketball for the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 seasons. Coach Weber, along with Coach Lowery, Coach Brooks, Coach Frazier and Coach Korn were unbelievable in that they created an environment of collaboration as opposed to subordination – they always made it a point to make it feel like I was working with them instead of for them.
Everyone’s professional journey is not the same, and there certainly aren’t any roadmaps when it comes to moving up in college coaching. Being a graduate assistant was very much like my experience as a high school coach – in order to really flourish, you must be able to wear many hats. From assisting with scouting reports, to working out players, to analyzing film, it is imperative that you do what you can to take as much work off of the assistants’ plates and make sure that you build a high level of trust with your staff. The more you can be trusted, the more responsibility you will be given, and that really is the ultimate compliment in this profession. Here are some things that I learned along the way that may ultimately help you in your journey.
1. Being Invaluable is Invaluable – what are the things that aren’t being done or that can be improved that you feel could help enhance the program? Social media presence, recruiting materials, analytics, etc.
2. Know What’s Going On – each morning, have a conversation, whether it’s a long conversation or in passing, with coaches and support staff about what’s going on with them and what tasks they are working on. These are great opportunities to help everyone get things done around the office.
3. Be Trendy – familiarize yourself with what’s going on in basketball on all levels: what are successful teams doing? What are they running? Use Synergy and send your coaches cutups of plays that you think may work, statistics and analytics that help explain the success of different plays/players/programs/trends. It doesn’t matter that your coach may not even glance at the stuff you send them – remember, they have A LOT on their plate, but at least they know you are locked in to helping them and the program be successful.
4. Build MEANINGFUL Relationships! – as a GA, you are an extension of the coaching staff. Most GA’s reading this are young guys, closer in age to the players than to the coaches. You want to build unbreakable bonds, but don’t mistake building relationships with being unprofessional! Never miss an opportunity to promote the culture of the program.
5. Be Involved – recruiting visits are a great time to get to know not only recruits and their families, but your current players, staffs and their families as well. Being a great X’s and O’s guy is great, but being a great PEOPLE person is what will set you apart.
Aaron Proctor is an assistant coach at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith. His experience includes time as a Graduate Assistant at Kansas State as well as head coaching stints at Reagan HS, Alvin HS and North Forest HS in Houson, TX.
Aaron Proctor on Twitter: @CoachPSince83
One thought on “CREATING VALUE by Aaron Proctor”
Hey Coach Proctor!
You story is inspiring to me!
Let me start by saying, your story sounds alot like where I am beginning.
Perhaps I should go back a bit, you were probably one of the most encouraging coaches I had at Bellaire HS, when you decided to help take over/help the track program my senior year. My name is Adrienne Avillanoza. You weren’t just our coach but a real coach, preaching we were students, people and growing young adults, along with being athletes, “Student Athletes”, student coming 1st.
Well, that brings me to why I decided to write/comment after reading your story.
I started my coaching experience by just volunteering with a few of my old coaches, a few summer track teams. My coaches taught me a lot a just watching and listening and remembering how they’d coached me in the past, made me even more inspired to continue being involved in the sport i loved with all my heart, my first TRUE LOVE, TRACK!
My fiance’ and I had to moved to Las Vegas two almost 3 years ago after both of us graduated, for his job. I also found a really great job there being an Online Health Advocate with a great company, being able to put my Bachelors Degree and Minor to use, that being Kinesiology and Nutrition.
But I still had the urge to coach. So, I decided to send out to all the local high schools to see if I could coach high school track. As, you mentioned, there is no true road map to coaching, especially not for track and getting to the collegiate level. I was a afraid to go the high school level because I was only 24/25 ish and still looked like I could be in high school, also afraid that I would earn their respect because what, I was only 7-10 year difference between us. Which after reading your article that is about the difference in age you were to us! But you are right, “The more you can be trusted, the more responsibility you will be given, and that really is the ultimate compliment in this profession”. I was given the chance to help coach a team, by a wonderful head coach. The 1st season he gave that responsibility to two of us, the 2nd season the other did not return and I was responsible for all Sprints and Mid Distances 100m-800m, even alot of the asked my opinion on the longer distances 1200m-1600m, Relays and All.
I earned these young adults respect, coached them to success, and used alot of those same values you taught us.
We made it to state both years all four of my relays with one of my girls relays being the 3rd in the state, and another being ranked in the top 5. A few other very impressive stats as well.
The coaching team we had was phenomenal at this school.
I no longer live in Las Vegas and sadly had to leave this amazing team of athletes and coaches, and plan on finding a team in my new city, San Antonio TX.
I just had to respond though, because I have been following you for a while and have seen your accomplishments and its very inspiring. I too want to get the chance to coach collegiate level one day. Hearing your story helps reassure I am doing what can do to continue to grow and be successful. Ive always wondered how you move up so quickly and just being able to hear that there is no true roadmap, that it is persistent, dedication, a true passion and hardwork that will get me where you are, is encouraging!
The points you mentioned were all aspects you used while coaching the track team for that brief time, and I picked those up and incorporate them, in my own, into my coaching of Track.
Thank you for teaching me your skills in my High School years, because I’ve carried your coaching skills, and some other very inspiring coaches skills with me in my coaching career.
Your experiences and adventures continue to be inspiring and motivational.
Please if you have more advice, I’d love to continue to learn. You have and will continue to be a true mentor and advisor.
Thank you for sharing your story, I one day hope to be able to do the same!
Adrienne Avillanoza [now know as Coach A]
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