The New Coach: Ryan Gensler
Assistant Coach at Dayton
Did you just land a new coaching position? The Coaching Assist had the opportunity to speak with Ryan Gensler, new assistant coach at The University of Dayton, who shared his insight on how to hit the ground running when joining a new program!
Gensler’s most recent stint was at the University of Florida, where he was named the Co-National Basketball Video Coordinator of the Year by the Collegiate Sports Video Association Executive Board (CSVA). Prior to that he was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Loyola-Maryland and an assistant coach at St. Bonaventure where he helped take the Bonnie squad to the Sweet 16.
The Shoes You’re Filling…
It is important to be sensitive to the fact that the players on your team and prospective student-athletes had a relationship, good or bad, with the prior coach. Your job as a new coach is not to fill those exact shoes, but to take advantage of the opportunity to develop new relationships. One strategy to help ease this transition, especially with recruits, is to let them guide the conversation. Gensler suggests asking questions such as, “what have you enjoyed most about your experience with the school and/or coaches in this recruiting process?” This can help you build off of what they already know and what they’ve experienced. It can also help you be less repetitive.
At Dayton, the staff frequently sends a group email with a synopsis of their calls and what they covered, so that they avoid repetitiveness and they can build off of prior conversations. NBA playoffs are typically on television during the hiring time, so that can be a great conversation starter; engage with them on what they see and what you see! Gensler enjoys getting to know his players and learning about their expectations. He asks them what their expectations are as a player and lets them know that it is his job to ensure that that happens.
Fill the Gaps
Most head coaches, when hiring their staffs, aim to have a balance in staff dynamics, having strengths in different areas. Most of the time the needs of the program are discussed during the interview process, but if they weren’t, it’s imperative to ask those questions upon arrival. Gensler advised that new coaches can add a lot of value by pitching a hand in areas that are not thriving or by embracing tasks that the other coaches are not enjoying. It’s critical to be ready to jump right into whatever is needed, whether it be filling a recruiting coordinator role or working with a position that you haven’t spent much time with before.
Many new coaches, including Gensler, have to jump right into camp on their first few weeks on the job, simply due to the timing of the hiring season. This can be an awkward time, with recruits, parents, and high school coaches (if it’s a team camp), not knowing who you are yet. Gensler suggests, “take the attitude of a manager and know that many hands will make light work.” Try and connect with whoever is running the camp and help with whatever is needed: setting up water, running a clock, reffing, etc. Helping with these logistical jobs can help alleviate the stress because you now have a purpose.
If it’s a team camp, having business cards on hand to give to coaches that you meet can be helpful. This will allow you to better reach out to the coaches later. Reaching out to the high school coaches of your current players is also a great way to start building relationships, as they are already connected to your program. Be mindful of who your head coach is interacting with as well as the conversations he or she is having. This can help you follow up with the coaches your coach has already talked to. Lastly, introduce yourself to as many people as possible! They will likely not know who you are, so it is important that you let them know you are the new coach!
One of the trickiest things when it comes to recruiting is understanding which level is suitable for your new program and the fit your head coach is looking for. Be sure to ask your staff about a rating system or you may even need to generate one. The more information you know, the better. Gensler has learned that one of the biggest things is to learn to trust your eye though. It’s not unreasonable to ask your coach questions like:
- If we spot a kid with great size, but not so great quickness, is that going to work for us?
- What skill set do our post players need to have?
- Do we need a point guard that can distribute or do we need a scorer?
Some coaches want “best available” and others want specifics things like “good feet.” Ask these questions before you go out! If your staff has the availability to construct or review their depth chart, it can be incredibly helpful in learning what you are looking for.
Start With The Basics – Nail Down the Logistics
When prepping for those first few days on the job, there are a long list of logistical questions that new coaches might have. No one wants to bombard others with questions, but Gensler assured that “it’s not inappropriate to ask what to dress in.” Additionally, asking “generally speaking, what time are you in the office on a typical day?” can help you transition smoothly. Every staff is different. Some are sticklers about a pre-9am start, some are more rigid in the dress-code, and others are far more relaxed. It is also helpful to ask about the nuts and bolts such as any personal paperwork you need to fill out, insurance, and learning how to get reimbursed before you hit the road recruiting. The last thing you want is a huge bill in the midst of your move to a new city and having no idea of how to get reimbursed.
Learn As You Go
As Gensler reflected back on his first couple of jobs, he could point out many situations where he had to adjust on the fly. Early on, he remembers cold calling coaches and getting discouraged with the lack of responses. He quickly learned to understand the ebbs and flows of the calendar. For example, in the summertime AAU coaches are probably getting slammed and are less likely to be able to respond. During the winter, high school coaches are much more busy. Sometimes the tournament books list an assistant coach’s contact information and those coaches might not have many people calling them. They are great people to reach out to, develop relationships with, and can help you get in contact with players as well.
At this point in his career, it would be a rare site to see Gensler without his notebook on him. Over the years Gensler has found it helpful to keep a notebook of all of his calls. While recruiting databases are also helpful for logging information on these calls, he likes the convenience during a meeting of quickly referencing his notebook. He also likes to track in a notebook his checklists and reflections on workouts. He’ll mark drills or workouts and cite what went well and what adjustments he would like to make next time.
Follow Coach Gensler on Twitter @RyanGensler !