Coach Leah Foster was a four-year letter winner at the Division II St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. She got her start in the coaching world as a Graduate Assistant at Texas State University and from there she spent two years at Dartmouth and three years at Houston. She then transitioned to Loyola and is now an Assistant/Recruiting Coordinator at the University of Tulsa. She has had been fortunate to be a part of three championship programs, one at St. Edward’s, Texas State and the other at Dartmouth, as well she has had former players continue on to play professionally and graduate into successful careers.
Prepare for the job you want, before you get there.
Long before Coach Foster landed her first position in the coaching world as a Graduate Assistant, she was preparing for her future. Growing up and as a player she always took in from the people around her. Surrounded by championship behavior, she spent time with her uncle who was previously the head coach at Northwestern University, learning what it was like to be a part of successful programs. “I tried to gain knowledge from every experience.” She kept notebooks filled with observations of things to do with guards, offensive and defensive philosophies, the hiring process, and everything in between.
Know yourself and know your strengths:
When we asked Coach Foster about her strengths she replied with “I’ll always value someone else’s knowledge over my own.” Throughout her life she has made great relationships because she truly values those connections. While she is always learning from others, she also knows who she is, what she’s good at, and areas she seeks to further develop.
“Have a foundation of who you are and what you want to do”
Over the past three years Coach Foster has sought out opportunities to develop her “on court” skills. She has gone to the final four, clinics, and other practices to learn and find ways to integrate what she observes into her own workouts. She also stated that “I never want to be seen as someone who can only recruit.” She’s gone far beyond this and excelled in all areas from player development to scouting. When it comes to scouting she was kind enough to share her strategies for success:
- Ask your coaches what they like to know, before you do your scout.
- Look at the scouts that were done in previous years to get a feel for what the coaches expect.
- Find out how your players learn best. Coach Foster has been with programs where the players learn from 20+ page scouts to ones that need no more than four pages total.
- Know the player tendencies. When she’s watching film she’ll look for how many times a player comes off of specific screens and other “go-to” moves. “At the end of the day, especially with a short turnaround time between games, even if a kid doesn’t know what the opponent is running, they need to know the player tendencies.”
- Try to spot progressions. If a team is a motion team, runs continuities, or set plays, there will be different tendencies in each system.
- Watch one thing at a time. For her, she watches all of the offense then all of the defense, then the player tendencies.
An Ivy League Experience
Coach Foster has coached at a variety of programs, including an Assistant position at Dartmouth for three years. The combination of athletics and academics in the Ivy League really gives student-athletes the opportunity to get a great education and win championships. The different traditions of the Ivy League and the amount of success players are able to acquire is simply amazing and a great experience and something I was very fortunate to be a part of.
Extra tips for aspiring/new coaches:
- Have a plan when you come into the office. Write down when you need to do, notes you want to write to people, who you need to call, recruits you need to touch base with. Make a plan, complete it, and then make a new one.
- Be creative! Your staff will value new ideas. Coaches may say yes or no to them, but by bringing ideas they know you’re interested.
- Value your head coach. Although Coach Foster has never been a head coach, she anticipates that it must be a very stressful position being in charge of so many people. Try to make his or her life easier.
- If you are a Graduate Assistant or support staff member always help out where you can. Coaches love it when you take something off their plate. She stated how appreciative coaches are when you volunteer to design a mail out or enter data.
- Build relationships. Meet people, learn from them, and develop those relationships.
“Don’t change your coaching goals because of the school or division you played at. None of that matters. If you want to do something, do it. Hold on to that.”