By Joe Haefner
Here is another email conversation with Don Kelbick & an aspiring women’s college coach. These tips are extremely useful to anybody trying to become a college basketball coach.
I am in the military. When I get out I want to coach women college basketball. I wonder what I need to do to get prepared, what degree does coaching fall under and any advice that I need to know to get started with coaching?
Your email was forwarded to me by Breakthroughbasketball.com. I write many article for them and I have coached on the college and professional level for over 25 years. I hope I can help you.
In regard to degree requirements, it depends on what level you want to coach. At the Div. I level, just having a degree is enough. As you move down in level, the subject matter becomes more important. As you move down (Div. II, Div.III, NAIA), many schools look for a Master’s degree as well.
If this seems backward to you it is because of this reason, at Div. I level, they hire coaches. They have the resources to support an autonomous department. At lower levels, the athletic department is often integrated with other departments. For that reason, many (but not all) coaches on those levels have to teach as well. Also at those levels, it is very rare, if ever, that that there are full-time assistant positions that do not include teaching. Many departments are integrated with a Phys.
Ed/Recreation/Education Depts. Some are through Student Services. There are no hard and fast rules and each school is different. A lot of it depends on where their funding comes from. I would recommend that at least one of your degrees be in Education. Whether it is Phys. Ed. or somewhere else is up to you but most teaching areas tend to lean that way.
At sub-Div I levels, it is not uncommon for positions to be part time or coach multiple sports. Especially at the Div. III level you see a Head Coach and an Assistant in another. You will also see things like Sports Information or Facilities Manager or Intramural Director as an added responsibility. Again, this is based in finances. Many positions are part time, volunteer or Graduate Assistant (a great option if you want to get a Master’s Degree).
It is most important to know that coaching is very much a contact based, not knowledge based, profession. Even at the highest levels this is true.
I had a friend who is an NBA coach say to me “Nowhere on an NBA job description is the word competence.” It is who you know, not what you know that gets you jobs. Of course there are things you can do where you can gain contacts and knowledge. The best place is to work at summer basketball camps. Camps sponsored by Universities or “exposure groups” such as Eastern Invitational or 5-Star are the best way to go. They get the most knowledgeable and best connected coaches. Go to national clinics, such as Nike Clinics, and use them as educational and networking opportunities. You can volunteer as a coach or administrator at a basketball program near you. The biggest “surprise” for coaches new to college coaching are the administrative and ever-present recruiting responsibilities. The higher level you go, the less the job is about basketball. Academic and eligibility responsibilities are present every day.
Lastly, understand that it will take time and might be extremely frustrating as you try to establish yourself. There are a finite number schools and only a small percentage of jobs open each year. It is kind of like the Mafia, someone in front of you has to die for you to move up. You can use www.NCAA.org as a resource for job openings. You also have to understand that the political climate for males coaching in women’s sports is not really positive right now. There is a need for female role models to be in front of women and I am not sure that I disagree with that. That is not to say that it doesn’t happen, but it can be an obstacle.
I hope this gives you some insight. Don’t get discouraged, just keep pluggin.