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Professional Development

Lessons from Long Island Nets Coach Will Weaver’s Journey to the NBA G League

A successful career is crafted through a long journey of hard work and dedication. Just ask NBA G League coach Will Weaver of the Long Island Nets. 

Jarrod Barnes

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The Long Island Nets of the NBA G League have started the season on fire, and no one could be more pleased than Will Weaver, the team’s newly appointed head coach.

After spending time with the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, Weaver was given an opportunity to lead a young organization in its third season of existence. Owning the role of head coach is no small feat; it’s an honor few can claim and even fewer can keep. But Weaver’s non-traditional path that began in Austin, Texas as a middle school basketball coach and teacher has allowed him to succeed despite the odds.

Interested in a career in the NBA G League? Weaver offered us three key lessons from his journey.  

Don’t Let Your Title Stop You

After graduating from the University of Texas in just three years, Weaver began his coaching career at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, a private school in Austin. During that time, Weaver volunteered to work camps for the Texas Longhorns men’s basketball program and built relationships with the staff.

“I became obsessed with basketball and learning the game,” stated Weaver, who focused on being the best he possibly could be, even if it meant coaching young fifth- and sixth-grade players.

However, Weaver’s consistency would eventually lead to a graduate assistant position with Texas. Four years and a few promotions later, he was then named an assistant coach at Sam Houston StateWeaver’s drive continued to grow following his stint in collegiate basketball, as he would then transition to Philadelphia in pursuit of working in the NBA.

“I knew I wanted to be around the best. I visited about 75 or 100 practices of the Philadelphia 76ers and began to do advance scouting and build relationships.”

Weaver went on to write reports for Sam Hinkie, who, at the time, was the storied franchise’s general manager. He didn’t allow his current title determine his work ethic or level of execution; he let his preparation reflect the role he aspired to be in.

Become a Master Observer

Becoming a head coach doesn’t happen overnight, nor does learning all the nuances of basketball. “The size and scope of the game can feel massive,” claimed Weaver. “People coaching professionals are the best who do it.”

We tend to admire those who grind their way to the top, but often neglect the learning curve that takes place in order to get there. After landing a role with the 76ers, Weaver asked himself the question, ‘Who does something unique and outside the status quo?’

SEE MORE: Inside Life as an NBA Video Coordinator

This caused him to approach Brett Brown, now head coach of the 76ers, and inquired about the Australian Men’s National Basketball Team, which had been known to take an innovative approach to the game. Weaver’s curiosity would open the door for him to join the club as a coach — and at the time, the only foreigner.

“There is a real collective appreciation for good basketball that exists across all levels,” stated Weaver, who is still part of the team today and hopes to make a run for a gold medal in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Start Now

Following his time with the 76ers, Weaver joined the Brooklyn Nets as a special assistant to head coach Kenny Atkinson in 2016, and, in July of 2018, was named the head coach of the Long Island Nets. Weaver’s development continues to grow, as does the competitive nature of professional basketball.

“The quality of people in the sport is growing. It’s hard to understand how good they are,” stated Weaver.

SEE MORE: How Katy Winge Blazed Her Way to an Analyst Position with the Denver Nuggets

Caris LeVert, one of Weaver’s former players with the Brooklyn Nets, shared his perspective on coach’s mentality, stating, “I remember his scouting reports were always very, very in-depth and very detailed, and if you ask a question, he has the answer right away… I did a workout with him one time, all left-handed, and I was pretty exhausted afterward, probably more mentally than physically.”

Looking to begin your career in basketball, specifically? Weaver had some wise words.

“Don’t wait. People underestimate the different avenues to break in. Start a Twitter account and share interesting ideas on it. Publishing content and putting things out there that scales allows for people to see your work,” he said.

Adding value and building relationships have been a consistent theme throughout Weaver’s career, but he cautions young professionals to “make it reciprocal.” In other words, be sure to give before you ask.

With the expansion of new teams, the NBA G League will continue to foster more opportunity and increasing talent.

“This is a very interesting brand opportunity for NBA teams. We’re under the wing of the Brooklyn Nets, and the same thing can happen in other markets,” stated Weaver. “The leadership in the G League is massively sophisticated and innovative; it’s arguably the most innovative league in the world.”

From volunteer to now head coach, Weaver demonstrates the value of persistence, patience, and perspective along his journey in sports.

Who knows, the next volunteer opportunity could lead to your career in the NBA.

Jarrod Barnes has served in athletics administration at Clemson University and is also a former Defensive Back's coach at Ohio State University, where he worked directly with coach Urban Meyer and Greg Schiano. Jarrod was a two-year letterman and first ever Ohio State football player to pursue a Ph.D. while on the active roster. Jarrod currently resides in Charlotte, NC and works with Rise Sports Advisors, a brand management firm for professional athletes and also runs Prime U, a talent & leadership training company for collegiate student-athletes and young professionals. Jarrod has been widely recognized by Who’s Who Magazine, ESPN, Fox Sports and The Big Ten Network as a top up-and-coming young professional. Jarrod can be reached at Jarrod@frntofficesport.com

Professional Development

Inside The Huddle: Group Expectations with Michael Taylor

After ten years on the business side of pro basketball, Michael Taylor has learned how valuable persistence and personal branding are in ticket sales.

Front Office Sports

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In the buildup to Front Office Sports’ Ticketing Huddle at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on May 10, we’re introducing you to the huddle leaders who will be lending their expertise to the conversation.

Today, meet Michael Taylor: Director of Team Marketing & Business Operations at the National Basketball Association (NBA). Taylor will be one of the leaders of the huddle “Squad Goals: The Evolution of Group Expectations.”

Taylor played basketball at West Virginia State University, where he graduated in 2004 with a degree in business administration and management. After playing basketball in Europe for a few years, pursuing a career on the business side of basketball simply made sense. It’s also proved to be a natural fit. For example, during his time in Detroit with Palace Sports and Entertainment, the group sales department jumped from 29th in revenue leaguewide to fifth in just over three years.

READ MORE: Inside The Huddle: Premium Sales with Naimah German

Now, with over a decade in the NBA, Taylor takes great pride in the people he has been able to develop.

“I look at some of the people that I’ve been able to work with and have hired and are thriving in the industry and moving on to different leadership positions, and that is probably the thing I’m most proud of,” he says. “The people and the development pieces are where I like to focus my time.”

The biggest mistake that Taylor sees young reps making in their early years is not having a short memory.

“In this business you have to be able to take the bad days…the days where you make a hundred calls and 50 people hang up on you and you leave 50 voicemails and no one returns,” he says. “You have to be able to maintain the same enthusiasm, the same confidence on that next call. And then, on the flip side, you have a day where maybe you made that big sale. Do you then slack off? Do you get complacent? Do you not focus on your fundamentals anymore because you’re starting to see some success? Don’t focus on what happened yesterday, whether it was good or bad, but approach each day as a chance to be great.”

READ MORE: Inside The Huddle: Group Expectations With Josh Feinberg

Taylor’s other piece of advice to young professionals just beginning their career in ticket sales is to constantly be maintaining their reputation online and in real life.

“It’s never too early to think of yourself as a brand,” he say. “The things that you do now, you’re building your reputation before you even realize it. The sports world is small. When you think about applying for internships or applying for jobs, your reputation is what speaks before you even get into the room. Everything that they do either adds to their brand, or it takes away from it.”

Meet Michael and hear more of his thoughts on the current ticketing space at the Front Office Sports Ticketing Huddle at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, CA on May 10. For tickets and additional info, click here.

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Professional Development

Inside The Huddle: Premium Sales with Naimah German

German will lend her expertise on premium sales at the Front Office Sports Ticketing Huddle at the Oakland Coliseum on May 10.

Front Office Sports

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In the buildup to Front Office Sports’ Ticketing Huddle at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on May 10, we’re introducing you to the huddle leaders who will be lending their expertise to the conversation.

Today, meet Naimah German: Premium Sales Consultant with Legends at the Las Vegas Stadium (the future home of the Raiders). German will be one of the leaders of the huddle “The Experience Economy: Navigating Shifting Premium Sales Demands.”

READ MORE: Inside The Huddle: Group Expectations With Josh Feinberg

German made the move to Nevada in January of 2018 ahead of the Raiders moving to and playing their first season in Las Vegas in 2020. In the months since, German and the rest of the organization have had their hands full in the best possible way.

“It has been a whirlwind to have that many people on the waitlist,” she says, “but we were all committed from the very beginning, and we are making adjustments as we go along. So it’s been a lot of learning as we go through that process of checks and balances and communicating with one another.”

Prior to arriving in Las Vegas, German graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2007 and worked in insurance and advertising sales for a number of years before completing her master’s degree through Northeastern University in 2014. German’s breakthrough, and what she describes as one of her proudest professional accomplishments, came in 2015 when she landed a Membership Development Associate role with the Miami Dolphins.

“That was the most rigorous process to get a job that I’ve ever been through,” German says, reflecting on the experience. “I did two separate phone interviews and then I had to fly myself out to Miami. But I knew that if I went down there, I was going to come back with the job. They had a hundred of us participate in a sales combine, and we competed for a job over the course of that whole weekend. They accepted nine people into that inside sales class and I was one of the nine.”

German then joined the Legends crew in 2016 as a Premium Sales Consultant with the Atlanta Falcons, where she stayed for about a year and a half before moving on to her current role in Las Vegas. With her experience on the premium side, German has learned that the ability to build strong relationships with clients go a long way.

“Ask questions and you will be able to build a relationship with someone and know why they want what they want,” she says. “Everyone wants the top-notch experience, so being able to identify potential problems early in the process is going to help alleviate any potential frustration.”

In her experience, German notices that many young sports professionals can define themselves by their work. While careers are important, she urges everyone to maintain a balance. 

READ MORE: Inside The Huddle: Selling A New Team With Ted Glick

“Don’t let the job take over your identity,” she says. “Sometimes people forget who they are with all their motivations and ambitions and what they want to do. Knowing you are more than what you do is a much healthier attitude to have in this business.”

Throughout her career, German has not lost sight of how sports can be a force for good. This is the primary reason she wanted to pursue a career in the industry, and why she continues down this path today.

“Sports is something that brings people together,” she says. “I always come back to that. When you’re at a game, we’re all one. We’re united.”

Meet Naimah and hear more of your thoughts on the current ticketing space at the Front Office Sports Ticketing Huddle at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, CA on May 10. For tickets and additional info, click here.

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Professional Development

Why Athlete Retirement Transitions Can Be So Devastating

Sports psychologist Scott Goldman discusses the struggles athletes can face in retirement from their professional and amateur careers.

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Ben Hartsock was thinking ahead to avoid difficulties following retirement.

Following a 10-year NFL career, the tight end jumped right into a career as an agent. For Hartsock, it was better than taking time to figure his life out after the structure and rigidity of an NFL career.

“There’s really two schools of thought, and there’s the school of thought you need something waiting when you’re done because idle time is the devil’s playground,” said Hartsock, who ended up realizing agent life wasn’t right after two years and is now pursuing broadcasting.

“Had I not jumped right into working, I wouldn’t have been able to handle it. I could have downward spiraled.” 

Professional athletes, no matter the sport, leave a life of structure and must transition to a life of relative normalcy. More athletes today are thinking about it, but no matter how well-prepared the transition, it can still cause hiccups, Hartsock said. After 20 years of playing football, Hartsock said it’s almost like being institutionalized.

“I don’t know what other industry or business has a similar experience,” he said. “The shelf life of an athlete is limited in a way I can’t think any other profession is. Think about going to high school getting great marks, going to college and excelling, and after five or 10 years of being the best surgeon in the world, they take it away from you. That’s hard.”

READ MORE: As Retirement Nears, Yankees Star CC Sabathia Experiments With ESPN Deal

Athlete struggles following their athletic career’s end is not an easy topic to address, said Scott Goldman, the president-elect of the Association of Applied Sport Psychology. Goldman is a sports psychologist who’s worked for 20 years with collegiate and professional athletes.

Much of the conversation in post-career struggles revolve around professionals, but Goldman said it’s also a serious issue among collegiate athletes as well, as 90 percent don’t go professional. While many sports don’t have a clear path to the pros, Goldman said those that do — like basketball and football — can make inflate aspirations.

Goldman said he’s happy that leagues, like the NFL, are working intently to help create programs and guide players through their career and after to help ease the pain.

When Goldman works with an athlete struggling post-career, he said he likes to follow the Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief. Leaving an all-or-nothing career, like professional athletics, can leave athletes in a similar depression as losing a loved one.

“For some of them, it’s as much a shift in identity as dealing with a tragic loss,” Goldman said. “Most of these athletes get up at 6 a.m. and their day is largely accounted for and scheduled. It can be really intense when they leave.”

Goldman said he believes more potential employers are realizing that while athletes mostly don’t have lengthy business resumes, the commitment and dedication to their careers and being successful can often easily translate to the business world.

Often times, careers ended because of injuries are worse because they’re sudden. For careers like Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki, players get a goodbye tour and can ease into their retirement through a grief-like path.

Beyond the personal-identity struggle, Goldman said athletes also often struggle with their financials following retirement. The general public has a perception of multimillionaire contracts, and while some athletes are set for life, those contracts are in reality few and far between. More common are the sub-million dollar contracts with athletes averaging less than three years as a professional athlete. Add on trying to ensure that money and whatever post-retirement career the athlete ends up pursuing to obligations, and the stress can be high.

READ MORE: Missy Franklin Opens Up About Retirement and Life After Swimming

“It’s amazing the demand of the million dollar athlete,” Goldman said.

Former athletes balancing a dwindling bank account with their lack of direction can experience a perfect storm for emotional troubles. That’s where people like Goldman and companies like Priority Sports, Hartsock’s former agency, and its Preparing for Life After the NFL, or P.L.A.N., come in. 

Leaving a professional sports career often doesn’t have a ceremonial ending like other transitions in high school to college; college to the working world; or even a long TV series finale. Goldman said he doesn’t often like to use cliches, but can’t avoid one in this situation.

“It’s more of a transition than a severance,” Goldman said. “When you exit one room, you enter another space. Sometimes we focus on what we’re leaving and other times, it’s what we’re entering.

“It’s important to accept what we leave, and see what’s coming next and find meaning.”

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