Proving himself as a standout athlete for Austin Peay, Coach Wierzba got his start in the coaching world as a Graduate Assistant for his alma mater, then was the Director of Operations at the University of Evansville. He then transitioned to the women’s side as the Director of Operations at Maryland, where he was a part of two NCAA Elite Eight appearances and an ACC championship. He then spent three seasons at Mercer University as an Assistant Coach, followed by a year at Indiana State University. He now enters his second year at Indiana University.
Transitioning from Player to Coach
Coach Wierzba had the fortunate experience of playing for coaches who taught him how to do things the right way. Having a coach as both a mentor and role-model helped shape him into the coach he is today. Being a former player, he can empathize what it’s like to be some of the same situations that his athletes face on and off of the court. He can tell when they’ve been worn down and when they need to be pushed. His philosophy is that players need to be pushed to the line of adversity. There’s a difference between being tired and being unable to go any further. “A lot of teams just stop when they’re tired.” Knowing that line and how far your team can go is what often separates good from great.
To-do list for Graduate Assistants:
- Do as much as you can, but do what you do, really well. Don’t spread yourself too thin to the point where you’re not doing anything really well.
- Ask your assistants for things to do and go to them with project ideas.
- Try to anticipate things that will need to be done and get started on them.
- Before you get to campus, or early on, try and learn what the coach’s expectations are. What time does staff come into the office? What is the appropriate attire? What are the expectations of the staff? There are many unwritten rules of being a GA or DOBO or even an assistant that your head coach isn’t necessarily going to tell you but will expect of you.
- Appreciate your responsibilities! Typing up schedules, organizing lists, and entering data may be boring, but it’s so helpful to the coaches.
“When you do a really good job at what you do, the people you work with are going to notice and speak highly of you.”
Building Relationships with Other Coaches
Coach Wierzba has been noted by other coaches as someone who is great at connecting and keeping in touch with other coaches. His extensive network is a direct outcome of the effort and genuine care he puts into building relationships with the people he meets. He advises others to do the small things when looking to connect. Any time you meet a coach, it doesn’t take much to write a short note or email saying that it was great to meet them and you appreciate their time. On the recruiting trail is where you’ll meet a lot of coaches. You will spend time watching games with them and getting to know them.
Some coaches you will naturally become closer to. For them, make sure to communicate more frequently. Sending a text or letter every once in a while can make all the difference! If you notice on Twitter that they just hit a 200th win milestone or just won a close game, send them a text or give them a call. Always be sure to stay in touch with your direct network while growing your extended network.