Being a head coach at a small college is very difficult. You will have to wear many different hats because you may or may not have an assistant coach. You most certainly will have extra duties as assigned, and you may even be considered part-time. You cannot be above doing laundry, ordering food, booking hotels, holding the pad during practice, collecting receipts, attending staff and department meetings, fundraising, or maybe even setting up cameras for other sports home events… The list goes on and on! My philosophy on all of this is if I’m not doing it, somebody else will. At the end of the day, I am a NJCAA Division 1 Head Women’s Basketball Coach.
In my circumstance, I am very fortunate to be full time. I do have many extra duties that keep piling up due to circumstances beyond my control. On top of that, I do not have the luxury of having an assistant coach. The most asked question during our road games is where is your assistant? It is always the same answer… “You’re looking at him.” I have learned to become very friendly with everyone working the scorer’s table because I often check with them about timeouts and player’s personal foul count; it is all part of the process.
The most comical part about being a lone wolf coaching against some of the best junior colleges in the country is halftime. I find myself sitting alone on our team’s bench, the players have left to go back to the locker room, stats are given to me, and without fail, I get asked how many copies I would like. One should do it! After glancing over the stats, I make my way back to our team’s locker room. No matter where you play, you will always cross paths with the opposing coaches. Most of the time, it is a small huddle of 2-3 coaches discussing stats, but some places, it is up to 5-6 coaches. I always wonder what they are thinking as I make my way past…
So how do I effectively manage in-game situations? I ask my players questions during timeouts and halftime to check for understanding, how many fouls do you have, what’s the time and score, how many fouls does the opposing player have, etc. Simple questions like that make sure they are engaged and tuned in. Halftime is key for me to make adjustments on both sides of the basketball but it is also a place to give players the floor to speak on what they are seeing on the court. It is very beneficial to have a cohesive team that are willing to communicate effectively.
The beauty of basketball is there is always something to learn. From experience, from players, from other coaches, there is always sometime to take away from the situation. One of the most recent lessons I have learned took place this season. At the start of the 4th quarter on the road, one of our players and a player from the opposing get into a verbal exchange. The two quickly become face-to-face with neither player backing down. As the head coach, your duty is to get your player out of there as quick as possible to deescalate the situation. My first instinct was just that, I was quickly on the court walking my player back to the bench, and calming her down. Upon further review, two of our players calmly walked onto the court to tell our player to chill out. But, according to the rule book, we ended up having 3 players serve a 2-game suspension; one for an A.1 violent behavior as they shoved each other before walking away, and two players for rule A.1.C leaving the bench while a fight might break out.
The lesson was learned. If you have an assistant coach, make sure they control the bench during altercations. In hindsight, I should have made sure the bench was calm and sitting before I walked onto the court. Our program now knows we will avoid these circumstances at all costs, and if push comes to shove, just sit down!
Another huge factor in college basketball is recruiting. We do not have a large budget to spend on recruiting. I cannot afford to attend many of the AAU tournaments put on during the summer. I cannot afford to fly any students in for a visits. Two ways I maximize our recruiting is by 1) making great contacts with high school and AAU coaches and 2) using our team’s social media pages. It is very rare to recruit somebody in this day and age without a social media account. I follow anyone I come across with basketball in their header! I engage with them, and likewise many of them comment or message our team’s athletics post back. That is the base, then we go from there. The best part about it is it cost our program $0. We cannot use a budget as an excuse. We work to find a way to get the job done.
To wrap things up, we all have good days and bad days at our job. Make sure the good days outweigh the bad. There is no task too big or too small for you to not give 100%. Be aware as a coach that you will have many tasks at hand, but you need to have enough savvy to prioritize the most important. Lastly, you have to value practice. Making the most of your practice time is huge; this is the best part of my day. Being the leader of our team, this is my platform to share my knowledge and love of the game, spending time with our student-athletes, and making them better on the court. There is not a better feeling than being on a team!
How to wear many hats effectively as coach?
- Prioritize tasks
- No job is too big or too small
- Be willing to learn
- Communicate! Make contacts!
- Value practice time
If you do not have an assistant, everything can still get done. You can still make an impact on your program. You just need to be more creative.
Cam Levett is the Head Women’s Basketball Coach at Northwest College in Powell, WY. He is a clinician with Midwest Elite Basketball. To have coaches such as Coach Levett come to your gym to work with your program, check out our Satellite Camps.