Written by Scott Bauman
Vicariously, I have marveled from the peers of mine that are so well-connected. How do they get to know so many people? Are they really that close that it could be one phone call away to get inside information on a job, or even better, land the job? From my experiences, it is somewhere in between. Keep in mind, networking isn’t simply for the next job, though often associated. Replace job with any other critical aspect of coaching – recruiting, hiring staff, or consultation. – it plays a pivotal role in the growth of our careers.
Coaching is undoubtedly a relationship-driven industry. And younger coaches will often be amazed early in their careers how interconnected our paths really are.
Networking is not limited to coaching circles.
Some of the hardest working people (often undervalued) come from support staff. If you think that the value of relationships with administration, athletics office, and peripheral personnel won’t have a possible impact on your career; consider, these are likely the people to have the strongest relationships with selection committees or will likely rise themselves to be in positions of power.
Networking is Comparable to Building Brand Equity
Not to create my own definition for it, let’s use Investopedia:
“Brand equity refers to a value premium that a company generates from a product with a recognizable name when compared to a generic equivalent. Companies can create brand equity for their products by making them memorable, easily recognizable, and superior in quality and reliability.”
Think of those 3 qualities that derive brand equity: memorable – easily recognizable – superior in quality and reliability. Now, apply that to those closest to you within your own network. Do you find that those that you entrust the most often to be the most reliable? Are those relationships the most memorable amongst other coaches with whom you have met?
Your actions/interactions create brand equity. Networking can supplement the competency of the service which you can provide – coaching (not mutually exclusive with teaching and leading). Developing relationships takes time, but can prove to be advantageous (specific to coaching) if done appropriately.
- It is advantageous to have friends in positions of power or influence when it comes to future job opportunities.
- It is advantageous to have meaningful coaching relationships with peers from a mentoring standpoint.
- It is advantageous to have connections that could help with recruiting efforts.
- It is advantageous to have support in operations to become more efficient with administrative tasks.
- It is advantageous to work with community leaders to garner investment surrounding the program.
When it comes to networking there are two schools of thought:
Subtle, but significant differences in my opinion. The value of connections can be considered a means to an end or more symbiotic in nature. Networking should not be comparable to Facebook (insert more updated social media platform here), simply accumulating contacts of WHO YOU KNOW as an indication of a popularity contest. While there is an argument to be made that the more people that you meet, the more chances for cultivating meaningful relationships. The aim of networking should be authenticity. Remember, relationships are an opportunity to gain brand equity that leaves a lasting impression that will recognize WHO KNOWS YOU for superior quality and reliability. If the objective is quantity over quality, ask yourself how will this reflect your brand.
Best Forums to Network
Striking a conversation with coaches can take place anywhere. And with the rapid evolution of social media, it seems far easier to connect, follow, or pick the brain of colleagues today than it has been in the past. For a more direct approach here are some of the most common forums to meet other coaches:
- Final Four – I don’t care what level you coach this should be a pilgrimage for anyone in the industry. There is not another event comparable to the Final Four that brings out more coaches (from all levels) at a centralized location accommodating for clinics, socials, and interviewing opportunities. Not to mention that the beverages tend to be flowing during this weekend-a-palooza that makes everyone all the more approachable. Just be sure to send a follow-up email when you return home, in case they don’t quite remember the interaction as well as you did.
- Working Camps – Nothing forms a stronger bond with other coaches than collaborating how to entertain fledgling youth basketball players for 8 hours at a time during summer camps. Really, it has been my experience that working camps have proven a great opportunity to get to know staffs from all over the country. There are some restrictions to this if you work at the collegiate level, so based on the position that you have on staff could depend if you are eligible to work. For coaches just getting started this is a great way to get your foot in the door and interact with a lot of other people in similar positions.
- Regular Season – Outside of former teammates, some of the strongest professional relationships will come from frequent interactions with opposing staff members throughout the course of a given season. As head coaches at any level, there are enough meetings or conference calls that take place where pleasantries can be exchanged. After competing against coaches year after year you barriers start to break down. Conversations start with the commonality of institutional challenges or familiar gripes about officials that lead to getting to know them on a personal level. There is no judgment here though, we know that with some coaches that friendship just never comes to fruition.
- Other (Social Media, Coaching Clinics, AAU Events)