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