A year removed from the game felt like a decade. The decision to take a season off wasn’t easy and was more impactful than anticipated from a professional standpoint. After our family has found a bit more stability with all the new changes; it is exciting to return to the sidelines as an assistant coach at the collegiate level again!

DURING TIME OFF

There were a few things that became apparent rather quickly:

  1. Identity conflict
  2. Completely different work schedule
  3. Sense of disconnect to the coaching community

There are a lot of positive social media proclamations advocating for the separation of athlete or occupation as the encapsulation of our identity. From my perspective, this was the most difficult adjustment, and to be honest, still continues to be a challenge. There aren’t too many career paths that start from adolescence into adulthood. As many athletes are aware, investing in sports grows from a hobby to a passion and then into a lifestyle. It was difficult to accept stepping away from that ecosystem.

Time passes by differently without workouts, practices, or games on the schedule. Traditional business hours have not been a part of my life for the majority of my professional career.

With the weekends off, there were a couple attempts to figure out a way to stay involved. Tried to go to a couple practices nearby, but felt more like an alum or booster getting only a brief glimpse behind the curtain. A couple opportunities to help out emerged, the first at a local high school as Varsity Assistant on a volunteer basis. The other opportunity was with a regional NCAA Division-III program as the full-time top assistant. Neither worked out or felt right from a timing standpoint.

So, the sensation of being the kid in the training room started to sink in for the ’21-’22 season. The first few weeks of Fall definitely felt abnormal with the realization that I wouldn’t be part of a basketball program for the first time in over 20 years.

RETURNING TO COACHING

Stepping away leaves a vulnerability of not receiving an invitation back.

After ten seasons of coaching, one lesson learned was the challenge of finding a coaching opportunity with flexibility and financial stability. Fortunately, I’ve found a job that stretches office hours to “getting the job done,” which has allowed me to co-exist as an Assistant Coach with an NAIA Division II college program in Kentucky.

Midway University Prospect Camp in August

Writing a Season Off The Sidelines brought up the following questions upon returning to coaching:

  • Can I come back after taking a break? Yes
  • Will I lose contact with connections and coaches? Geographical +/-
  • What will I spend my time on that has otherwise been consumed by hoops? Family
  • Does it hinder my development as a professional? TBD . . .

There were definitely some pre-season jitters about finding my voice and cultivating relationships with a new group of student-athletes. My approach tends to lean on the observational side, as opposed to injecting my presence. The objective is to see how players respond situationally to gauge leadership qualities, work ethic, and other behavioral qualities. My energy has never been very intense in nature but hopefully deemed as intentional.

It will be different being back as an assistant, however my time as a head coach provides a ton of perspective for prioritizing system support and reinforcing program standards. To this point, I’ve felt really good so far being in the position of leading and working with the Head Coach on program plans. After being at the high school level the previous 5 seasons recruiting will be an adjustment; here are some of the first steps I took in that direction:

  1. Compiled a list of every head coach in the state
  2. Sent an introductory e-mail
  3. Q & A with HC on processes & philosophy
  4. Taken notes of typical questions from prospective student-athletes
  5. Any available time getting out to open gyms to connect

The 1st day of actual practices starts Tuesday and the feeling of being back in a gym is unmatched. My time away was necessary for our family. The time back with basketball is a privilege. I look forward to continuing to share the next chapter of this coaching journey and the learning opportunities that come with it!

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