Focus on the Whole Coach - by Adam Ginsburg
This past year, at an Athletic Department meeting I was attending while coaching at NYU, our athletic director mentioned a development opportunity and asked for staff members to email with interest. Immediately after the meeting I did, and I was told that details would follow. As it turns out, the development opportunity was the Coaching the Whole Athlete program.
Fast forward a few months later (prior to the workshops beginning), our basketball program was undergoing a very unexpected transition but I was able to participate in the course. At the time, I was unsure of what was next for me, so doing a deep dive into this course provided a very reflective opportunity for me.
You see, my work history and experience in college basketball provided me many highs and also many lows. And what I found very interesting within the course was the title itself, “Coaching the Whole Athlete.” I write this to point out that as coaches, yes we need to focus on the athletes, but we really need to be introspective first and know who we are as a person and a coach before we are fully able to coach others. And to understand that this is a continual process.
This thinking had me evaluating myself as a person, husband, father, son, brother and coach. My family and I had just moved after living in Massachusetts for 20 years and I was now surprisingly going to have to find another job. This was not new to me within college basketball as I had been part of staff changes at two other institutions (Towson University, as a newly married 25 year old and at UMass as a 41 year old father of two with a third child on the way).
For so long, my identity had been shaped through being a College Basketball Coach within Division I programs. Now, I had moved to a Division III institution but saw, here too, there could be sudden change. Again, this provided a reflection opportunity for me and it let me see clearly how much I had evolved and grown over the past 5 years.
Previously I let my health go. Each season I was gaining weight because my sole focus was being the best I could be at my job. I would needlessly leave my house at 6am or earlier. My mission was to complete as much of my daily work before anyone else would arrive in the office. I also was using work as an excuse to not be present in my home. My wife and I had two young kids at this time and we had decided she was going to stay home. Which is a whole other topic. Being the care provider for your children (Newborn and 3 and with no family around) by yourself is exhausting. It’s wonderful in theory but actually doing it is exhausting.
With my job being our sole source of income, I built up the pressure in my mind and added stress to our home. My mindset was if I get in early and work tirelessly I will be able to provide for my family. But in the end of my coaching stint at UMass, we still got fired. And this left me confused and broken. And who was there to support me and our family emotionally as well as financially- my wife.
But this is not a victim or sad story. The firing from UMass, while very personal and challenging for me, was an awakening. It enabled me to see a much clearer picture in the areas of my life that I had been neglecting. This was a very hard time for me because coaching college basketball was really all I knew or thought I could do. Through professional rejection I was able to gain insight into what was important to me and parts of my life that I needed to work on. The time away from college basketball opened my eyes to there being more to my existence.
Slowly but surely I felt myself understanding that whatever opportunity I wanted to pursue or received interest in had to work not only for me but my family both financially and geographically. This led me to a high school in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Initially, I was very frustrated because I felt like I was a failure no longer coaching in college. But each day started to get better than the previous day. And I found great joy in having a work balance that enabled me to have my night and weekends free. I enjoyed being able to be a part of family plans. In addition, I was using my time differently- my 45 minute commuting drives enabled me to listen to speakers or podcasts on important topics to my own development. I had 90 minutes a day where my car became my own personal development tool permitting me to focus on growth areas for me. I would not take or make phone calls (outside of my family) during this time.
This process for me has been ongoing over the last 5 years. So fast forward to my surprise ending to my coaching stint at NYU and I was a completely different person. I now felt equipped to pursue other opportunities that were a fit for me personally and professionally and immediately did so. Within a month I had multiple interviews and ended up landing on my feet at a private school where I’m currently teaching and coaching.
I share this to say that we all have a personal responsibility to work on our own development. I encourage you to find people in your life who will help you see the whole picture of who YOU can be. In college coaching I found that it is easy to jump into a work project or a recruiting call and forget about other critical areas. I strongly encourage others within coaching to make sure you focus on the “whole coach” so you can be the best for your athletes and families.
Adam is beginning his 24th season across different levels in the world of coaching basketball. He has served as an Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach at several Division I institutions including: Towson University (1999 - 2001), Northeastern University (2001 - 2005), The University of Massachusetts (2005 - 2017) and Iona College (2017 - 2018). In addition, he also spent one season at Division III member New York University during the 2021 - 2022 season. He has been a part of multiple coaching staffs and teams that advanced to compete in Post Season play (NCAA Tournament participant in 2014 and 2018 as well as 4 NIT’s).
Adam also has been a Head Coach at the secondary school level at Hopkins Academy in Hadley, Massachusetts from 2018 - 2021 where his team captured league titles in both 2020 and 2021. Adam was named Division IV Western Massachusetts Coach of the Year and his team earned the prestigious Jack Leaman Sportsmanship Award voted on by the District Officials in 2020. Adam also has experienced success in international competition as he was named the Maccabi USA Head Youth Boys Basketball Coach in the 2017 Maccabi Games that took place in Israel (Team earned a Gold Medal).
While the competitive success across different levels has been great experience, Adam has found that his work in supporting personal development within teams has been most rewarding. Over the last ten years, beginning at The University of Massachusetts, while working with a sport psychologist, Adam has seen more individuals and teams develop because they were able to put individual growth plans into action. These individualized plans, which focus on specific skills, have become a cornerstone in both Adam’s personal and professional life.
Currently, Adam, his wife Beth and their three children (Matthew 18, Lexi 14 and Briella 5) reside in New Jersey. Adam was recently appointed as the Head Boy’s Basketball Coach and Physical Education Instructor at Joel Braverman High School in Brooklyn, NY within the Yeshiva of Flatbush school community.
In his time outside of coaching Adam enjoys spending time with his family traveling and participating in outdoor activities. Adam also enjoys reading as well as listening to music and podcasts.