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What’s it like making the jump to being a head coach? In this episode of the podcast I had the opportunity to chat with first time head coach, Jack Nelson. Taking over the Central Wyoming College program this fall was a dream of Coach Nelson’s and one he had planned for since becoming a college coach. As is all things in athletics, it was a process for him making it to his first head coaching job. Spending 10 years as an assistant coach at the NCAA D2 and NAIA level has allowed Nelson to apprentice under four different head coaches. Grooming his own style from the good, bad and indifferent, has laid the foundation for his own coaching philosophy.
This interview with Coach Nelson was a chance to speak with a coaching buddy who has had a similar career arc to myself. Seeing him get his chance to lead his own program is something I am very proud of. His outlook on coaching junior college basketball is one that I admire and feel his athletes will be prepared to make the jump to the four year level. The most important lessons I gained from my chat with Jack, is his perspective on being a dad.
There are plenty of highlights from this episode and I hope everyone who listens enjoys:
- Lessons from his first couple assistant jobs: Learning from the good and bad
- “Every experience shapes what you do on a daily basis.”
- Develop your plan. Understand your plan. Execute your plan.
- 4 Year Experience: Using his experience to instill 4 year mindset
- Turning rigorous structure into new “Normal”
- “Think you are ready, but you really aren’t.” How becoming a head coach is like becoming a new parent.
- Relationships with mentors
- Balancing parenting with coaching
- Staying disconnected around the family
- CWC Program
About Coach Nelson
Coach Jack Nelson (@Jack_Nelson1983), is the head men’s basketball coach at Central Wyoming College (CWC) in Riverton, WY. Jack took over the Rustler program in the fall of 2016 after spending the previous 10 seasons as an assistant coach. Taking over the CWC program is the first opportunity for Jack to lead his own program. Coach Nelson first got into college coaching to become a head coach. The process of getting to that point took time and a plan.
Coach Nelson’s coaching career started in 2007 at Saint Mary’s University. This position was short lived for only one season before taking a new position at the University of Sioux Falls. This is where Jack really got the coaching bug. Working under head coach Chris Johnson, Jack was able to learn about the triangle offense, be the head coach for the junior varsity program and coach in 3 NAIA National Tournaments. After his success at Sioux Falls, Jack made a one year jump to Bellevue University in Bellevue, NE. Being a powerhouse NAIA program, the year at Bellevue gave Nelson the chance to recruit junior college kids from across the country. On court success, networking development and a hunger for more, led Nelson to his next position at NCAA Division II, Minot State.
During Nelson’s 4 years at Minot State he was instrumental in helping turn the program around. It all started with expanding his recruiting network. “The challenge of recruiting to tough places, whether it be Minot, ND or Riverton, WY, is you don’t have a local base to tap into. Expanding my recruiting network was the way for me to bring in the talent.” This mindset led Minot to their first winning season since they joined the NCAA. It is also the same recruiting Jack will be utilizing at the helm of the CWC program.
As the season unfolds, Nelson has been learning all about what the role of being a head coach entails. Being more efficient with his time is vital now that he has media obligations, serves as an academic advisor to his guys and balances being a dad to two young kids. Trusting his plan, leaning on advice from his mentors and having a rock solid “coaches wife” at home, makes the transition easier but by no means is a cure all for the lessons he is learning each day.
References and Links
Central Wyoming College-Men’s Basketball
Chris Johnson-University of Sioux Falls, Head Coach MBB
Minot State University-Men’s Basketball
Jamie Stevens-Montana State University Billings, Head Coach MBB