Monday, July 28, 2008

Always in class: Learning from other coaches

I read with interest this story about a program in the UK where coaches from other sports are welcomed into the "inner sanctum" of one of the world's best rugby teams -- the All-Blacks in New Zealand-- to observe and exchange ideas.

[Some of the All-Blacks players are pictured above.]

"By tapping into such a rich vein of knowledge and experience as will be available to them during this week, they can only improve as coaches. This won’t be the sort of trip where they’ll be on the sidelines observing how people work, this will be a real opportunity for them to get inside the heads of top coaches and to discuss different aspects of the game and coaching."

If there's one thing I've enjoyed about not having a full-time job this past year (other than having lots of time to spend with my kids) it's having the opportunity to learn from other coaches.

Last season, I spent five days at the University of Kansas studying Coach Self's techniques with his staff. I spent another week with Coach Eustachy and his staff at Southern Miss, then four days at Western Illinois with Coach Derek Thomas.

I watched shoot-arounds with Arizona State with Coach Sendek, attended several of Coach Randy Bennett's practices at St. Mary's, and almost a game a night in the Bay area either at Cal, Stanford, St. Mary's, or USF .

But it wasn't just college teams. I met with high school teams all over Northern California, talking with their coaches and observing their practices.

Every stop was like a new classroom as I had the chance to learn from each group of coaches. There wasn't a single time that I didn't walk away with something valuable -- a nugget that I could apply down the line.

And that's in addition to all of the phone conversations I've had every day with other coaches from the D-League to the NFL to colleges from Seton Hall to Santa Clara.

Since I've been in coaching my entire life, I don't know how it is in other professions -- marketing, accounting, whatever -- but for me, one of the best things about coaching is sharing -- exchanging information, discussing what's worked and what hasn't, etc. It's the social aspect of coaching that makes it unique and it's one reason guys who leave coaching often come back.