Attended my first ever Final Four this past weekend in Atlanta and can’t say that I was disappointed. Every coach will always tell you that one of the best ways to make connections, that you may not have the opportunity to do elsewhere, is at the Final Four. After my experience, I would be lying to you if I were to tell you that weren’t true. Now, there seems to be a few different ways to go about making those connections:
- Pursue: Could be like that agent from all those documentaries that sat outside the hotels waiting for the coach to come out of the hotel just to give them your 2 minute pitch on how you will become the next Shaka Smart for them at their program. This route is not something that I would recommend because for a lot of these coaches it is their time to catch up with old friends and/or look to fill vacancies on their own staff. The last thing they are thinking about is the number of GA vacancies for the upcoming year. That being said, each coach is different. Some coaches may see your reluctance to adhere to personal space as a sense of devotion and may just take a chance on you. And for any aspiring coach we are all thinking, “Just need the foot in the door.”
- Beer-Muscles: The Final Four is in no doubt a party. Whether you are there for the show as a fan/student or to network, the Final Four will show you a good time for the weekend. For some, it is not easy letting your guard down or initiating a conversation to a complete stranger in the hopes that it spawn a professional relationship for the future. Fortunately, for the more introverted individual the Final Four provides confidence-boosting beverages that will within time make the fear of conversation seem less daunting. To your benefit, you will typically not be the outcast if you find yourself with a drink, however, it is in your best interest not to be remembered more for the tab that you picked up than that of the conversations that you held.
- Inner-Network: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Not really that, but really do not discount anyone that you may potentially meet because you have no idea where or what the future may hold for them. The majority of coaches attending the Final Four festivities go down with their staff, or with the intentions of meeting up with a group of coaching friends. Doing this is a great way to utilize each other when meeting other coaches. There are no numbers behind this, but I would venture to say this is the more traditional route to making connections while at the Final Four. It is all about who you know, now just go to the Final Four with a friend that knows more people than you do and you’re guaranteed the head coaching job at Duke within a year.
- VIP: There will be hosted events all throughout the weekend between coach’s charity luncheons to social events for rising coaches. If your name is on the list to go to these type of events typically you do not have to worry about utilizing the first 3 approaches to networking.
Overall, the experience was well worth the trip. I had the opportunity to meet with a lot of bright young coaches and staff from both sides of the country and at every level. One tip, especially if you are going somewhere you know will have a lot of coaches, GA’s, or DOBO’s is to bring business cards. It is good to be able to have something tangible for someone to hold onto rather than having to get the number in your phone in the middle of conversation, or worse, having to remember something for later. I was also told that word to the wise is after you make those connections, be sure to follow up with them via e-mail or phone. I would be remiss if I did not mention that the majority of the networking that took place for me was at the Rising Coaches Elite Social. For all those that couldn’t make it this year, see you in Dallas!