(English) A coach’s mentor may understand basketball or may be someone who has never even seen a game. However, if the relationship is to work there will be a high degree of trust and respect between a coach and their mentor.

A mentor can be of assistance in many different situations, for example where a coach:

  • lacks self-confidence (e.g. losing a series of games, being sacked or having conflict with a player);
  • may be unsure of how to deal with a situation (e.g. discipline of a player, choosing whether or not to accept a job);
  • may be unaware of how they should act or what role they need to perform (e.g. starting a new role or at a new club);
  • needs guidance on how to act or behave (e.g. curbing abuse toward referees) and may or may not be aware of how they are currently viewed;
  • is unaware of matters of ethics or etiquette (e.g. whether or not to continue with pressure defence once a significant lead is established);
  • would benefit from technical instruction or development.

In some of these situations, the coach may have a question that they wish to discuss and can raise that specifically with a mentor. At other times (e.g. where the coach’s behaviour is at issue) it may be that the mentor makes the coach aware that their behaviour may need to improve.

A mentor may be formally appointed (e.g. when a coach is first appointed to a national team they may be assisted by a former national team coach) or may simply be someone within the coach’s network that the coach is comfortable talking with.

However a mentor is found, to get the most out of the relationship the coach should:

  • keep in contact with their mentor regularly, not just when they need to discuss something. Having regular contact builds the personal relationship;
  • listen to the mentor – remember that a mentor is not someone that will always agree with you – and be prepared to try something different or to view a situation differently;
  • acknowledge and thank mentors;
  •  not expect the mentor to solve all problems – ultimately, it is for the coach to make their own decisions. Similarly, the coach should not blame a mentor if something goes wrong. The coach must take responsibility for what they do and any consequences that follow;
  • be honest and open;
  • ask about them – take the time to learn about the mentor’s experience as this not only builds the personal relationship but may help the coach to see other areas for their own development;
  • be prepared to ask for help. There are often people that can help or provide a useful perspective to situations that the coach is grappling with, although they may not offer help until asked. They may not be able to help but may be able to introduce the coach to someone else who can;
  • not abuse the relationship. A mentor may be willing to assist a coach but may not want to have other of the coach’s colleagues contact them. A coach should not then share the mentor’s details unless the mentor agrees for them to do so.

Many mentor relationships are informal and can come about simply through sharing information and experiences and this can often be done at clinics or conferences or simply by attending practices of other teams within their own club. The more open a coach is to working with other coaches, the stronger will be their network of mentors.