Preparing for a Head Coaching Position

Whether you are an assistant preparing to become a head coach or interested in moving to your next level as a head coach, a little bit of preparation goes a long way. Preparing for a head coaching position involves many areas of development. To fuel your thoughts on preparing for a head coaching position I asked newly retired head coach Larry Shyatt to share his thoughts.

Get more insights from Larry Shyatt’s lifetime in coaching here:

The Basketball Podcast: EP96 Larry Shyatt

Coach Shyatt has been in college coaching since 1973 and has been a head coach at Clemson University and the University of Wyoming. He has worked with some of the best minds in basketball and for my money is one of the best defensive coaches in basketball. Here are his thoughts on what you should do to prepare for a head coaching position:   

When preparing for a head coaching position, make certain you don’t overlook some valuable areas:

  1. Study the game and know your ball. Your players will always want to be certain that you understand everything you are teaching and preparing them for each day. Find a mentor to bounce ideas off.
  2. Force yourself to coach a team, either during scrimmages or practice time if permitted, or occasionally at camps. A head coaches position presents a different perspective and requires a different focus than sitting on the bench as an assistant coach, balancing and dealing with refs, substitutions, offensive and defensive stats, and time outs…
  3. Speak at as many events, luncheons, clinic groups, university functions, camps and/or clinics as possible.
  4. Learn to talk directly and honestly to players, parents, and colleagues…both when things are going well and during difficult times. Communication needs constant listening to those around you as well.
  5. Be mindful that the people you work with daily (administration, support, staff) may have an effect on your future. Your relationships that you develop may come back to you ten-fold.
  6. Focus on managing your time and becoming efficient in staff meetings, phone conversations, and daily tasks.
  7. Constantly strive to work at your weaknesses, or areas that you are least comfortable. Your staff down the road should complement these needs.
  8. As often as possible, start to daily prepare notes regarding staff meetings, individual workouts, practices, along with new drills & ideas to offer your coworkers or head coach. This will give you a sense of what each day as a head coach may be like down the road.
  9. Keep a notebook in as many different program aspects as possible.
  10. Constantly ask and seek more ways to improve with a passion…Be an energy giver, rather than an energy zapper.

The following areas are ALL vital to learn and gain experience in as you grow in the profession.  All of us are naturally more comfortable and qualified in some more than others. However, you must find ways (without it affecting your efficiency in your current role) to become more prepared for operating program in the future.

Head Basketball Coach Growth

Additional Suggestions and Advice

  1. Never be certain that your philosophy at the moment is the absolute, only right way…be respectful and flexible enough to ask yourself the same that you demand of your players…to constantly study and analyze how I can improve.
  2. Take a prideful interest in understanding the rules and always ask your compliance department when there is any doubt as to how to proceed.
  3. Remember and respect the many different individuals who you work with and take no one for granted.
  4. Voice your opinions and stance when asked by your co-workers in a meeting setting.  However, be careful and avoid personal comments to others regarding your basketball family outside those private times.
  5. Do not let your ego or vanity negatively affect your performance.  You represent yourself, family, and your program at all times. Coaches are integral parts of each program, but not irreplaceable.
  6. Your reputation grows and follows you as each day passes, so work harder at being a good person.
  7. Make certain that you discuss problem areas rather than put them off or bury them. All successful groups need open dialogue and a servant’s mentality for the program.
  8. As a rule of thumb, character is a priority when evaluating prospects. No program needs to add problems, but everyone can utilize another good player who possesses high character.  Close games are often decided by teamwork and character, whereas run-away games usually indicate superior talent.
  9. Not every prospect will select your program.  Leaving families with a positive feeling about yourself and your program is essential. Try not to discredit or demean anyone, regardless of their position in the process.
  10. Constantly force yourself to think “outside the box” and creatively when approaching recruiting, the game, and everyday assignments.
  11. Lastly, but certainly not least…Balance your life, and make certain if the quantity of time is not there with your family, there is quality time. You may need to sacrifice other pleasures that you have enjoyed in the past to make certain that the people who you love the most, and who love you the most, remain paramount.
  12. Two great books that may have a terrific effect on how you approach your life on/off the court:

Larry Shyatt's Book Recommendations

Get a complete set of defensive thoughts & drills for practice from a 2015 clinic here – Larry Shyatt’s Defensive Thoughts & Drills for Practice

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