For The Love: Long Hours and Thankless Work
Coaching is a tricky business. We look at Coach Cal or Bill Self and some of the big name guys and think they have 'The Life'. To some degree that's true. But they all started their careers somewhere obscure far away from the spotlight. Erik Spoelstra, Head Coach of the Miami Heat, started his career as the team's video coordinator in the mid 90's. He worked there for two years before officially joining the coaching staff as an assistant. Oregon Ducks Coach Dana Altman began his career at Southeast Community College in small-town Nebraska long before his Final Four appearance. South Carolina's Frank Martin was a high school coach for 15 years and an assistant at the collegiate level for 7 years before finally accepting a head coaching job. Mark Few of Gonzaga started off as a graduate assistant (G.A.) with Gonzaga in 1989. The grind is real!
Success at most any level can be rooted in humble beginnings. In sports, there are far more people that desire employment in any given sports field than there are jobs available. So you must show and prove with the work that you do. The G.A. never gets an interview, they rarely get shout outs. It's an internship, a means to an end. You just simply won't last if you don't love it.
Today we speak with Daulton Speckhart, manager for the University of Missouri men's basketball team. Daulton is currently working with MoKan Basketball as a 16u EYBL assistant. Speckhart is an aspiring coach and his love for the game shows in his work ethic. The guy never waits for orders; he goes and does what needs to be done. He goes to bed last and is up before everyone doing everything from evaluating film to washing practice gear. He never does a press conference or gets interviewed by the media. It's a process. His professionalism is second to none. We ask Daulton about the behind the scenes work that goes into being an assistant.
Inspire: Daulton, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Tell us about how your day typically goes at the University of Missouri.
Daulton Speckhart: As a manager at the University of Missouri your schedule for the day can change very quickly but an average day looks like this: Wake up, get your own workout in before class and check in with the graduate assistant in the group message to see what has to be done for the day. Then, on a common day you will head to class sometimes swinging by to pick up a player who may have a class close to you or around the same time. After a class or two in the morning usually done around 10 or 11 you will head to the arena to do some film break down, cut up the film of upcoming teams, possible recruits, or even clip apart a practice from the day before. Also, during this time there will be players wanting to get skill development work in or just extra shots up with an assistant. If you're not doing film you could be down on the floor rebounding, passing, or playing defense for players putting in extra work. After getting this done grab your bag and head back to one more class before practice at about 2:30. (Somewhere in that gap you look to grab food). When you're finally done with class, it's time for practice which lasts from 2:30-5ish for players, which means 1:45-6 for managers. Players at this level always want to take the extra shots before and after practice and you are required to be there for rebounding and passing because those extra 150 shots before or after practice make a difference in a game.
During the practice, what are we doing? It is a very wide array of duties, there will be two guys up top, one running the camera and one clipping apart (making video clips of) practice so that each drill and players shot is categorized accordingly. This may seem very “extra” but immediately after practice the coaches can take a look at practice without any down time, at the same time they can watch just a specific drill by simply clicking that drill title. The same goes for players, let's say a guy doesn’t feel he shot the ball well or was not closing out well on a specific guy. He can meet with a coach and categorize video by name or category only watching those clips. The rest of the managers down on the floor are constantly rebounding, passing, playing defense, and bringing water and towels to those guys who just finished putting in some work. Post practice you finally get some free time to go home get a good meal in and start some homework (managers are still students). Any given evening you can expect to receive a text from a player needing a ride to the arena to go get some late night work in the gym. It's your job to rebound and pass to these guys who are committed to being better players; you play a small part in that process. At last you go home shower up maybe finish some homework or get to lie down and watch ESPN as late as midnight; a long day of work.
Inspire: There's no exact blueprint for your role. You have to show your commitment by your work ethic. How do you stand out and show your value?
Daulton Speckhart: Anyone who knows a team manager knows that it obviously is not a glorious way to break into the business, its thankless work. All players believe they grind it out each day because they are sore or they are out of breath. Little do they know and realize that these guys behind them holding towels and Gatorade bottles spending countless hours a day for about $180 a month would gladly take that physical wear and tear and then some if given the God given talent these players are given. Being a manager isn't as challenging physically but the hours are long and the job is mentally challenging for little to no money. The best way to show your value is by your work. Show up early, leave late. Know the plays and where players should be and show coaches your intellect in film sessions. Every coach has a style. Are you a motivator, a scout, an x's and o's guy or an evaluator? This is your chance to show who you are and over TIME, you will be rewarded for that value.
Inspire: You operate in the gray area between players and coaches. How does that work to your advantage?
Daulton Speckhart: One of the last roles of a manager is to be a mediator between the players and the coaches. This is a much overlooked aspect by the players because you are still a college student; you are still about their age so they befriend you because of the amount of time you spend together. They share with you and they trust you so when they have problems or aren’t feeling well you hear about it. This relationship in turn with the relationship with the assistant coaches allows you to express personal problems a player may be having to a coach to explain the way they are acting in practice. It allows the coach to give you advice on what to tell players and how they should handle the situation without the player knowing it came from a coach. It also allows you to tell coaches what the players feel like they are struggling with and so they can get a feel for their confidence level without the player feeling like he has revealed a weakness to a coach. This was no doubt one of my favorite parts of the job.
Inspire Basketball Camps aims to educate and empower kids through the game of basketball. But we don't simply talk basketball, we teach the game. Our inaugural camp in August is the NIKE Boys Basketball Camp at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri. The 5 day event offers a glimpse into what it takes to be a college athlete. Our drills are designed to not only teach, but also push students to their physical and mental limit so they can learn to push past the point of exhaustion. We offer classroom sessions where we touch on topics such as; "The Qualities of a Leader", "Social Media Etiquette" and "Basketball Lifer" info sessions that speak to different aspects of life and basketball.