There is infinite access to information available on social media, podcasts, email, phone conferences and the Internet in general. I like and access all of these avenues to improve my knowledge base. I still prefer face to face networking to all of these options though. Here’s why:
Networking Has Long and Short Term Benefits
I hope I never need to move out of where I’m coaching now. If in twenty years I still coach where I coach now, it means that I am happy and “they” are happy with me. If my hopes do not pan out, it will be good to have a back-up plan. Stealing information from a tweet or podcast is not going to find your next coaching stop. Meeting with someone and showing that you are interested in growing on the job will. The person you drink coffee with might not be the one that is hiring eventually, but he or she might know someone who is.
In the shorter term, scouting reports (both about your team and the one you will face next) are more likely to be provided. Additionally follow up ideas from coaches are more likely. When you have reached the point in the season where ideas feel stale and you need to tweak something, these are the people most likely to invite you to come watch a practice.
Finding Solutions to Your Questions
A lion enjoys the hunt, but I don’t. I just like having the food on the plate. Asking someone questions that are pertinent to what you need is the fastest way to fix your problems. I do not need sets that end with a lob. None of the players that I coach can dunk. Setting ball screens in a five-out offense is something I’d like to know more about.
Getting the right people to answer the questions.
When I ask questions, I typically want to draw out the strengths of that person or program. Villanova is revered for the footwork of every player in their system. When I went to their practice last fall I asked assistant coach Mike Nardi about footwork and he responded with details I could see, hear, and reflect on. More simply than traveling to Philadelphia to see Villanova practice, coaches are accessible locally. Seeing teams in games and practices allows me to see what they do well that I don’t. The easy part is then asking them about it.
Narrowing the Purpose of Your Inquiry
People will give you more thoughtful responses when they have arranged to fit you into their schedule and are physically present. Sometimes more thoughtful responses come in email, but detail that requires images or demonstration is left out. If I were to comment on a tweet someone sent out, their responses will be limited to 280 characters. I want to know more.
Eliminating Potential Distractions
How many times have you set out to do one thing on your device, but then lose track of what your original goal immediately? Even in phone conversations, it is likely the voice on the other end is multi-tasking. If you are networking face to face, there is no temptation to get side tracked. It also is significantly more memorable. Sending emails, consuming media and phone conversations are routine daily tasks. More often than not I have met coaches on their terms and they speak with their own unique energy. The original nature of these conversations make it easier to retain the information that I obtained well into the future.
As I preach on face to face networking, I am currently in the midst of an email blitz to learn more from coaches. The convenience of being able to meet people on mutually agreeable terms is a challenge, and email has its advantages. If you are reading this and want to meet to discuss hoops with me do not hesitate to reach out.