FEATURE ARTICLE: The Power of Networking By John Colan (Coaches Inc.)

My name is John Colan. I am an agent at Coaches Inc. and have been working with Men’s basketball coaches for the last four years since earning my law degree at the University of Virginia. Our company is devoted to guiding coaches throughout all aspects of their career so that they can reach their full potential professionally. A big thanks to HoopDirt.com for the platform to share some things I’ve learned about the coaching business to this point in my career.

The Power of Networking

One question I’m often asked when talking to potential clients falls along the lines of “I’m worried that you may eventually have too many clients, what benefit is it to me for you to represent other coaches?” Initially, I had a lot of trouble answering this question because I had yet to realize the benefits to clients of access to a large group of other coaches. Not only can they meet and stay in touch with coaches in a genuine fashion, it goes one step further. My connections with more coaches have led to interaction with administrators at different schools, which in turn has led to the chance for coaches to talk with those administrators they would not otherwise have had the opportunity to get to know. “Networking” is a buzzword thrown around a lot in the coaching world, but I think it is very important to better define effective networking and describe some methods and strategies which I have found to be successful

Take 30 minutes a day for you
It is so easy to get completely and totally immersed in the job at hand, and I would never tell a coach to primarily focus on anything outside of doing the best job they can in the current job they have. Absolutely one of the best ways to advance in your career is through winning, and hard work leads to winning. But, especially as an assistant coach, the job you do is only half the battle. The people you know absolutely make a difference as well. So every day, take 30 minutes to focus on yourself, professionally. This can mean writing a few notes to people you have met recently, making a call to a coach you haven’t spoken with in too long, reaching out to an administrator who can run you through a mock interview or hand out some career advice. Whatever it is, getting in a habit of taking out that 30 minutes a day adds up very quickly, and will be well worth the time and effort.

Help someone else to help yourself
The most successful networkers I have met are not the ones who constantly and exclusively reach out to people who they believe can help them. I find that the most successful networkers are those who not only try to figure out people who can help advance their career, but also try to figure out how they can help others who might be lower on the coaching totem pole. Every coach takes a step back in his career at some point, and if you haven’t yet you probably just haven’t been coaching for long enough. If you have built relationships throughout every level of coaching, not only will you have more connections to rely on, but people will know that you have genuinely tried to help others and will be much more willing to stick their neck out for you. And who knows, that graduate assistant you take time to get to know may just be the next young rising star in coaching, and one day he might just be offering you a job.

Quality over quantity
Networking is not just about collecting as many phone numbers as possible. Having a large number of connections is great, but if none of them think of you as a close friend, or someone they truly respect and know as a great coach in the business, then those connections are all but worthless. One of the things I really try hard to do is facilitate constant interaction between our clients in person and through phone calls and emails, so that they do get to know each other beyond the typical surface level coaching interactions. Meeting people on the recruiting trail, at the Final Four, or through a phone call is great, but keeping in touch with them regularly and getting to know them on a deeper level is most vital.

Diversify your portfolio
Networking does not just mean meeting and keeping in touch with other coaches. That is definitely helpful, but becoming close with administrators at your school and other schools can be just as effective in creating the next great opportunity in your career. Administrators are just like coaches in that they talk with each other constantly, and making a great impression on one can actually mean making a great impression on several. As you progress in your career and think that your next move might be Division I head coach, getting to know the decision makers at search firms can also provide more opportunities for consideration. I have even seen coaches benefit from networking with donors, boosters, and other businessmen who may eventually have something to say about who gets hired at a school down the road. Always try to make a great impression on whoever you are talking to or meeting, you never know who they know.

Overall, my advice to coaches is to take every opportunity offered to you to network in a meaningful way. So whether that is through events specifically created to emphasize networking (Villa 7, Coaches Inc. Institute, Final Four), or through any other opportunities afforded to you by agents, administrators at your school, or other coaches, take a moment to look out for yourself. Coaches spend night and day worrying about scouting, recruiting, game planning, and grades; so networking has a tendency to fall off the back of the to-do list. You may not see dividends immediately, but if you set up enough dominoes for yourself by creating connections on various levels in the industry, eventually one domino will fall which will help you progress in your career.