To All The First-Year Assistant Coaches

By Lily Carpenter, Assistant Coach, Skidmore College, @skidmorewlax

When I was back home for the holiday season, I was asked multiple times “how do you like coaching?” I caught myself replying without hesitation: “It’s the best job in the world!” It really made me reflect on my first year as an assistant coach (I am now in my second) and all the highs and lows I experienced. But more than anything, I felt like I had learned. I want to share some of the most important lessons I learned with all of the first-year assistants out there.

Photo courtesy of the author
                         Photo courtesy of the author

Your time is valuable, both in and out of the office. Find new and different ways to manage your time – you were just a student-athlete like… a second ago, so you definitely still have those skills! Cut yourself some slack when a task is taking longer than you thought it would, or you don’t get the result you want on the first try; most of this is new to you. Trial-and-error can be one of the best ways to learn how to be efficient. But most importantly, don’t wear yourself out. Do something for yourself once a day! Chances are you live in a totally new and unfamiliar place: go for a run, explore the area, and make new friends.

Channel your youth in a positive way! You have a lot of energy and you can probably relate to your players in most situations. Continue to stay genuine. You’re allowed to be yourself in front of them while still remaining professional and approachable. Your boss will probably ask you to do something fitting for a ‘young person’ – i.e. social media, etc., and you will probably be good at it. I think our generation, for the most part, is pretty creative. Use your creativity! You might find a way to do something your boss has never even thought of – just make sure it’s the outcome they are looking for when you do it (because one of your #1 priorities is to be an accessible resource for your head coach). Being young is awesome and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you embrace it, those around you will come to respect your energy.

Surround yourself with great humans. You should never be afraid to sit with the cool kids! Make some new assistant friends. I am sure you have a few already, who you may have played with, but don’t be afraid to branch out. Try to connect with a group that does the same thing as you every day, not to mention they can be great resources (shout out to my young professionals in the game). Get to know some of the old pros too! They know A LOT, and from my experience they are the ones that appreciate young energy the most. Coaching is about forming meaningful relationships, and I think that extends beyond your administration, staff and players but also into the community of coaching. Seasoned pros love to share what they’ve got with you, they’ve been through it all and they are great resources.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. That last section brings me to this: everyone and anyone, can be a resource. You were a player not so long ago but this is a whole new game, literally. You don’t know some processes yet and that’s okay. Coaches are allowed to be coached too. Someone might show you a quicker way. Grow your resource tree.

Work as many camps as you can. Not only is it a great way to form positive relationships with recruits and pump your brand, but it’s also a great way to learn new perspectives on the game. I have learned so many different ways to coach the game just by working stations at camps. You’ve only worked for one other person in your coaching career. Camps are your chance to expand on what you’ve got. The beauty of it is that you don’t have to agree with it all, just listen and see if it might be something that works for you and your team. Camps are also great networking opportunities. Act appropriately and be a good ambassador. If you find that you really enjoyed working with another coach at camp, shoot them an email after to thank them! It could lead to opportunities later in your career.

Be patient. I remember the first game our team lost when I was a first-year assistant. I was amped up. “WHAT CAN WE DO TO FIX THIS RIGHT NOW???” I can actually see myself freaking out about it. First off – cool your jets. Your boss will probably respond to your crazed exclamation with something along the lines of: “it’s a process” and they couldn’t be more right (shout out to my girl, head coach Elizabeth Ghilardi). Listen, and I mean really listen, to what your boss has to say. It’s a process for everyone. Take it one day at a time with your team. But the same goes for you, it’s a process. Don’t rush it. Embrace that you don’t know everything. Make the process fun and enjoyable and think of it as a challenge when things become difficult. You’ll get there. I guarantee when you get back to the office after a summer of recruiting you will feel like you’re moving a mile a minute. You will be that much more familiar with your tools, resources, players, and the rest of your staff. I definitely still have to remind myself of this every day.


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