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Ryan McGonagle is heading into his first season as the Head Boys’ Basketball Coach at East Canton High School in the state of Ohio. McGonagle’s first Head Coaching job came at Lake Center Christian from 2017 – 2020.
Ryan has experience as a Boys’ Varsity Assistant Coach at Canton GlenOak and St. Thomas Aquinas. He also served one season as the Head JV Coach at GlenOak.
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Take note of some lessons for young coaches in this episode with Ryan McGonagle, Head Boys’ Basketball Coach at East Canton High School in the state of Ohio.
What We Discuss with Ryan McGonagle
- “People just naturally connect more with the adversity than they do with success.”
- His tough upbringing with a father and two brothers that were involved with drugs and alcohol
- How his JV coach in high school influenced his life during those difficult times
- “Connect before you lead.”
- Attending Eastern Ohio Basketball Camp
- Bringing a pickup player dinner so he could get into a game
- How he developed an improvement plan as a player
- His first scholastic coaching job at St. Thomas Aquinas
- Identifying his strengths and weaknesses early in his career
- Being intentional about his development as a coach
- Hire good people for your staff who are willing to be led
- “Are we going to be able to beat the best teams on our schedule playing this way?”
- The delicate balance between freedom and structure in offensive basketball
- Defining clearly what you want to be great at
- Practice planning methodology
- Evaluating a program before you even interview for the job
- The need to recruit your own players and sell them on being a part of your program
- Making basketball attractive to potential players
- Gear and social media
- How he ran a 3 on 3 tournament to raise money for his program at East Canton
- Working with parents and consistent communication
- Five keys to developing a a great youth program
- Chasing the best version of yourself
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THANKS, RYAN MCGONAGLE
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TRANSCRIPT FOR RYAN MCGONAGLE – EAST CANTON (OH) HIGH SCHOOL BOYS’ BASKETBALL HEAD COACH – EPISODE 522
[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here with my co-host, Jason Sunkle and tonight we are pleased to welcome the boys head varsity basketball coach at East Canton High School here in the state of Ohio Ryan McGonagle to the Hoop Heads Pod, Ryan. Welcome.
Ryan McGonagle: Appreciate you having me.
Absolutely. We are excited to have you on be able to talk to you a little bit about the things that you’ve been able to do in your career. You’ve been at a few different places in a few different positions as a young guy. So I want to get your perspective on the coaching profession at the high school level.
Let’s start out though, by going back in time to when you were a kid, tell us a little bit about how you got into the game of basketball when you were young.
Ryan McGonagle: [00:00:39] Sure. I grew up in Ohio. I played my high school basketball at Tuskegee Valley high school. During those formative years of my life, I faced a lot of hardship and adversity.
And I think it’s that adversity during those years that that’s allowed me to connect with people at a really high level of my professional career. I think [00:01:00] a lot of people just naturally connect more with the adversity than they do with success. And that’s how I got started playing bass. For me, basketball was a coping mechanism.
It was a tool to help me deal with the negative circumstances going on in my life. Basketball was my therapy. And as a coach, I think sports are therapy for a lot of high school athletes. So like I mentioned, I played my high school basketball at Tuskegee valley high school. If I can be transparent, I was an average high school basketball player.
I do think from a basketball standpoint, I was the most skilled player on my team. But I was also the most underdeveloped player physically on my team. And I think it’s that combination that made me into an average high school basketball player.
Mike Klinzing: [00:01:47] You mentioned some of the adversity that you went through as a kid.
What are some of the things that you can share with our audience that you had to overcome and what did basketball help you to deal with? Anything you can shed some light on for us?
[00:02:00] Ryan McGonagle: [00:02:00] Yeah, sure. So. My dad growing up, my father growing up, wasn’t really involved heavily in my life. He was involved with drugs and alcohol.
Both of my brothers were also involved with drugs and alcohol. They’re both high school dropouts. Both are convicted felons been in and out of jail. So basketball for me, at least at first, at the beginning stages was a way for me to not get influenced by those things and to kind of get away from those things.
And then I fell in love with the game.
Mike Klinzing: [00:02:36] I’m always fascinated when people grow up in an environment, like, it sounds like you did where obviously you were surrounded by people who are making choices, right. You didn’t really want to get involved with how do you, or what do you attribute your ability to not get involved in that world?
Because we know when you’re surrounded by that all the time, and that’s what you’re [00:03:00] seeing. How did you, what was your mentality? Like, how did you avoid that besides kind of diving into the game of basketball, but just, what do you think about it in terms of your mentality allowed you to stay away from that scene?
Ryan McGonagle: [00:03:14] I, I just think, you know, and not just as a basketball player, but as a student, as a teacher, as a coach, I I’ve been pretty disciplined and I’ve always had a pretty good head on my shoulders. And, you know, I think most people know right from wrong. And, you know, I think the discipline people just make those choices on a consistent basis.
So I think just being disciplined in my daily life,
Mike Klinzing: [00:03:39] Did you have an adult that looked out for you during that period of your.
Ryan McGonagle: [00:03:44] Yeah. Yeah, I did. And it’s actually one of the reasons I wanted to get into coaching, you know, so I played for a lot of different coaches throughout my playing career. And one of the things that I realized was the difference between a transactional coach [00:04:00] and a transformational coach in my head JV coach at Tuskegee Valley high school, when I was a sophomore, what was a transformational coach?
And he had an impact on me as an athlete on the basketball court. But he also had an impact on me in the classroom. And he had an impact on my daily life. And it’s really one of the main reasons I wanted to get into coaching.
Mike Klinzing: [00:04:23] How did he do that? In other words, how did he build that relationship with you to the point where he could have that kind of influence?
Because I think that’s one of the things that. When you think about what coaching is all about, it’s about developing and building those relationships, and then being able to have the impact that you’re describing to help a kid like yourself, to be able to overcome some circumstances that maybe had he not been there, that you might not have been able to overcome.
So what are some things you remember from that time in your life that made you trust him and made him want to pour into you to be able to help you to get through that [00:05:00] tough period of your life?
Ryan McGonagle: [00:05:02] I really think it it’s two things in the, these are two things that, you know, I try to do as a coach and as a teacher and as a leader, number one has personality.
He had a personality that people just attach themselves to a dynamic personality that it was easy to relate to. And, and some of that is just natural. And then I think the second thing is he was just intentional about developing a relationship. You know, I heard on a podcast one time that, you know, as coaches, it’s our job to connect before we lead.
And he did that on a daily basis, you know, every day before practice started, he asked me things that were unrelated to basketball. And I think because of that, you know, I wanted to bring the best version of myself to practice every day.
Mike Klinzing: [00:05:52] Absolutely. It makes a ton of sense. When you think about the investment that a coach makes an a player?
I think it’s very [00:06:00] easy for players to see whether or not the coach really, truly cares about them as a human being and not just as a basketball player. And I can think about the different coaches that I played with played for throughout my career. And then I think about myself as a coach and different coaches that I’ve coached with.
And it quickly becomes very clear, which of those coaches care and invest in their players. And then as we know, when you care and invest in your players, then you have, have an opportunity to coach them harder and probably get more out of them. Yeah. As basketball players. When you think back to your time as a high school basketball player, what’s a memory that stands out for you when you think back on your high school career.
And this could be the actual game highlight that. Yeah. You remember, or it could just be something in the locker room. Just what stands out to you when you think about your high school basketball.
Ryan McGonagle: [00:06:53] I think one of the things that, that stands out to me the most is in a lot of [00:07:00] Eastern Ohio athletes or former athletes will relate to this is going to Eastern Ohio basketball camp, which is Huggins basketball camp.
It’s a three-day basketball camp. It’s outside without officials where you play games all day. And there’s a lot of people that talk about it and they talk about it in a negative light, but me, you know, somebody that loves basketball. That was one of my favorite things I get to go outside and just play basketball all day.
So I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that camp, but that’s a memory of mine in something that, you know, I want to take my team. I
Mike Klinzing: [00:07:38] absolutely have heard of it. I did not attend it. I’ve never been, wait, wait, wait, wait. Why are you calling me? I attended a camp that you did not attend. You attended that camp.
I did. All right. Well, let’s hear your memories of it. I want to hear it. I want to hear this. I was not aware of this. I know. I know the camp I’ve heard isn’t there. Isn’t there like a barn. Oh, there’s a barn. There’s a barn. I’ve heard. I’ve heard. I’ve heard the [00:08:00] stories. Let me just, when I was there,
Ryan McGonagle: [00:08:06] I don’t think that I’ve ever felt like my soul has left my body after playing outside in 85 degree heat. Like I did that one day. Oh my God. It was so fantastic though. I’m like, it really, really was awesome. I really enjoyed it. The barn was off some, just the atmosphere. And when you saw Bob just come out, I was, it was like amazing just to see him there.
Jason Sunkle: [00:08:22] And this was before he had like the beard big beard and everything, but it was just an awesome experience. I really liked it.
Mike Klinzing: [00:08:28] There you go. The thing that I think is interesting is. When you talk about outdoor basketball, and it depends on the era of player coach that you’re talking about, but I spent so much time Ryan as a kid, either playing outdoors on my driveway or just playing up at the local rec park or going and drive into another playground or other courts somewhere in some other city and kids today just don’t they don’t do that in the same way.
And so you think about going to Eastern Ohio [00:09:00] basketball camp and you’re playing outside. And I think about my experiences when I went to basketball camp at five star, I went once before my senior year, and that was held Robert Morris university. Coreopsis Pennsylvania outside on converted tennis courts.
Chain-link fence all around some of the best players in the country. Went there and were there when I was there, I think the week that I went to camp, Billy Owens, who ended up going to Syracuse, he was the number three pick in the NBA draft. He was the big name guy that was there. And so he got to go for free, but he had to serve milk and other things that the, and then he had to clean up after in the cafeteria.
But anyway, it’s amazing that we think back to that era, that some of the best players in the country used to go and play outdoors on converted tennis courts. And now you think about these kids that are flying all over the place. Jason, I just talked last night on our NBA podcast about overtime, [00:10:00] elite and kids that are junior side.
For million dollar contracts with these startup little organizations that are trying to just shift the way that players prepare for the NBA. But the bottom line here is that the outdoor basketball and the fact that that’s one of your favorite memories to me, that’s great to hear because I think some of my favorite memories in the game, I always say at are, I have as many memories from pickup basketball, outdoors as I do from my actual playing career as a high school and college player.
So that’s refreshing to hear you to hear you say that. Do you have a memory from that? Do you ever remember from camp that stands out.
Ryan McGonagle: [00:10:35] Not, not specifically from camp, but you know, related to outdoor basketball. It’s what I did every single day growing up. It’s what people in my town did. And funny story there was, I lived next to an elementary school.
And I was there every day. Like I said, it w it started as my therapy. It started as a coping mechanism for me. And I remember as a sixth grader, [00:11:00] The, the adults, when it led me on the court and I would bag, I thought I was good enough. I would bag to get on the court. So, so one day an adult, his name was Andy.
He said, he said, I tell you what, you go home, eat dinner, and you bring me back. What you had for dinner. We’ll let you play. So I went home, I told my mom, I brought him back a cheeseburger and fries. And from that day on, I w I was allowed to play. And I learned so much just as a competitor as somebody that wanted to win.
And I think that is lost in basketball culture nowadays.
Mike Klinzing: [00:11:38] It is. And I think that’s one of the things that I’ve said numerous times, that I feel like kids today. And I think about my own kids, that in so many ways, they miss out on that opportunity to play with adults and play with people that are of different ages and different backgrounds, because they’re always playing with kids their own age and an AAU tournament with a coach and with their [00:12:00] parents sitting in the stands.
And this is kind of a rant that I go on every single time, this topic it comes up. But I do think that there’s so much to be learned from pickup basketball, playing outside and having to shoot with the wind and sometimes with the rain. And if you’re on your driveway, the snow, and you just don’t see that nearly as much.
I’m sure there are kids out there that are doing some of those things, but if you want to find a good outdoor pickup game, I’m not sure where those, I’m not sure where those are anymore. And that was kind of the lifeblood of me as a player. You had an opportunity after high school, even though you described yourself as an average high school player, you did have an opportunity to go and participate in some college basketball.
Can you talk a little bit about how that came to be and then dive into what that experience was like for you at the branch campus in Tuscarawas county of Kent state?
Ryan McGonagle: [00:12:54] Sure. Yeah. So after high school, you know, I, I’ve known since really since seventh grade [00:13:00] that I wanted to coach and be a PE teacher.
And after high school, I decided to go to Kent State Tuscarawas. Just from a financial standpoint, it’s a lot cheaper. And when I got there, I was convinced to try out for the basketball team and it was after high school that I ended up, I guess, maturing and developing physically. And I was able, I obviously, I said I was a pretty skilled player.
And really my sophomore year there, I had a ton of success as an individual player. I think my sophomore year I averaged 19 points, a game seven assists the game five rebounds per game. I scored 44 points in a tournament game. I shot 34 free throws in the game. And I think my success individually correlated directly with my work ethic.
And I think we’ve all heard as coaches that there’s no substitute for hard work, but that sophomore year at Kent state was the year I dedicated myself most [00:14:00] to basketball. And I think because of that, that’s when I had the most success on the basketball.
Mike Klinzing: [00:14:05] What did that look like when you say you dedicated yourself?
What, in terms of workouts, in terms of out on the court, in terms of playing, just what, what did that summer look like for you as a basketball player?
Ryan McGonagle: [00:14:18] Sure. I think, you know, I I’ve said. Since I’ve been young, I’ve played basketball pretty much every day. And I think that when I went to Kent state Tuscarawas, I wanted it to transition into something better, something bigger.
And I think I still played as much basketball, but I was more intentional in my workouts and where I went into a workout with a plan and I knew what I was going to get better at. I knew what I wanted to improve on. So I think it’s an intentionality thing rather than, you know, just spending a bunch of time there.
Mike Klinzing: [00:14:54] How did you figure out what kind of drills and what different things that you wanted to work [00:15:00] on? Were you talking with your coaches? Were you looking at video online? Were you reading books? How were you going about putting together what you’re working. Look like, or were you just kind of improv, improvising?
Ryan McGonagle: [00:15:13] I think it was a combination of all of those things, but I think the most transformational thing for me as a player was my college coach brought in a PGC instructor. His name was David White. He was connected with PGC in some capacity. And he came into one of our practices and asked me, what are the things that you want to improve on?
And, you know, I told him and he really just came up with a plan for me that I followed. And I think that I’ve lost them as a player because
Mike Klinzing: [00:15:48] it’s amazing sometimes how somebody from the outside or a coach can kind of observe and look and people who have experienced and say, Here’s the things that if you want to work on this and get better, here’s some [00:16:00] ideas of how you can do that.
And there’s so many, it’s one of the things that’s so great about basketball right now is that there’s so many great resources. If you’re a player or you’re a coach and you want to get better at what you do, there’s so many different ways to improve your knowledge of the game and improve the way you go about doing things.
Because everybody, as you know, in the basketball world is really willing to share. What they know. And I think that’s been one of the advantages of the way that technology and the internet and everything that goes along with that has sort of transformed coaching in that there really aren’t very many secrets anymore.
And so, because it’s hard to keep things secret, everybody has kind of gone the opposite way and leaned into, Hey, I’ll share that with you. Hey, I’m ha I’m happy to show you what we do or I’m happy to share with you. You’re our player development trails. And I think that just makes the game itself a whole lot better.
So as your career, as a player is starting to wind down. [00:17:00] Explain to me your plan for getting into coaching. Just talk a little bit about that first job search and how you went about that, what it was like for you. And then we can talk about your first job as a varsity assistant coach.
Ryan McGonagle: [00:17:15] Sure. Juniors and senior year of college, I was coaching in an AAU team.
And we played in, we played in mostly local tournaments, but we had a ton of success. We won, I think the one year we won nine out of the 11 teams and I with it, and I knew that I wanted to coach, I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to coach. And then I got my first teaching position in college.
He went Ohio Elmira academy on west 99th in Cleveland, Ohio. And I got a phone call one day from Matt Hackenberg, who was the head coach at St. Thomas Aquinas. And he said that he’s kind of seeing what I’ve been doing in the AAU circuit. And he offered me a position to be a varsity assistant at St.
Thomas. So I took that [00:18:00] position and it’s kind of funny because that year I taught in Cleveland. I lived in Stowe and I coached at St. Thomas, which is in Lewisville, Ohio. So every day I was driving from snow to Cleveland, which is about 50 minutes. And then from Cleveland to St. Thomas is an hour and 15 minutes.
And then from St. Thomas back to this though is 50 minutes. So I got into coaching then, and I’ve kinda worked my way up since then.
Mike Klinzing: [00:18:31] I hope your car had good gas mileage.
Ryan McGonagle: [00:18:33] It was at that time I was driving a beater. So I’m blessed that it made it down, so it made it right?
Mike Klinzing: [00:18:40] It made it. There you go.
All right. So that first coaching experience at the Scholastic level, obviously you had some experience coaching at the AAU level, that first experience as a farce, the assistant at the Scholastic level, what do you remember about it in terms of what you took to naturally? Was there some part [00:19:00] of. Coaching that came easy to you.
And then on the other side of that, was there something that maybe was more difficult or didn’t come as naturally than what you had anticipated? So what came kind of easy to you and what was maybe a little bit more difficult?
Ryan McGonagle: [00:19:16] Yeah, I think the, the thing that came most natural to me was the leadership part of coaching.
No, I think my personality and my background has allowed me to just influence young people. And that’s something that I’ve kind of already have had a natural ability to do. So from a leadership aspect, just pouring into kids and influence some kids. I think that came natural to me, partly because of my background.
Partly because my personality and then the second thing, I think one of the things my first year as a coach, as a high school coach at St. Thomas Aquinas was, I was just trying to learn. As much about the game of basketball as possible, as much about the game in [00:20:00] terms of the tactical side, the systems and strategy side.
So I remember every day I would go to the scores table and turn over the practice plan and write notes on the back, the back of the practice plan to try to retain as much information as possible. So, yeah, so I think the leadership part came naturally. And I think, you know, especially that first year, I was trying to learn as much as possible from a strategy standpoint.
Mike Klinzing: [00:20:23] So besides learning from your head coach and the program at St. Thomas Aquinas that you were actually in, did you do some other things to build your knowledge and to work on that aspect of the game and become better at the tactical side of it? Were you watching clinics on YouTube? Were you watching film?
Just describe what the process was beyond just the practice.
Ryan McGonagle: [00:20:48] Yeah. You know, going back to my playing career, I think my playing career taught me a lot of things that have helped me be successful as a teacher, as a coach, as a [00:21:00] leader of young people. And I think one of those things is I think my playing career taught me how to have an appetite for growth.
As a player, I think that I became obsessed with improvement in the more that I improved, the more self-motivated I became to work on my game. And I think that growth mindset has tremendously impacted my coaching career. And I think we know all know people out there that are know-it-alls. But since I’ve been into coaching, I’ve been somebody that’s wanting to be a learn at all in, since I’ve started coaching I’ve consistently poured into my development as a coach. And I’ve been obsessed with, you know, becoming a better coach than I was yesterday. And I did, I’ve done that in a variety of ways. Reading books, going to coaching clinics, listening to podcasts. I’ve been to PGC a couple of times, so I’ve done it in a variety of ways.
But that’s something since I’ve started coaching, I’ve been really intentional about [00:22:00] my development as a coach. And I think that’s allowed me to have success early on in my career.
Mike Klinzing: [00:22:07] When you think about your three different stops as an assistant coach in a program, what in your mind makes for. A good assistant.
So when you think about, and we’ll talk about a little bit here, you put it together, your staff at two different places that you’ve been, but just as you think about what makes a good assistant coach, what are some of the characteristics or things that you would try to be if you were an assistant at this point or things that you would look for in one of your assistants that you were hiring as a head coach?
Ryan McGonagle: [00:22:44] Sure. So I guess to answer that question, I, I think the first thing that I look for or would try to be as an assistant coach and what I look for when, you know, we’re hiring a staff is I try to pick good people. I try to [00:23:00] pick people that are going to be a daily model of character for our kids. I try to pick people that got a passion for the game of basketball.
Try to pick people that have a passion to lead kids. So I think number one, I think I just am very intentional about hiring good people. And then I guess, number two, something that I look for. When hiring assistant coaches is, are they willing to, excuse me, are they willing to be led? So one of the things that I try to do as a head coach is I try to align our coaching staff so that we’re all on the same page.
And I think for that to be successful, our assistant coaches have to be willing to be led. And I think thirdly and this is something that I’ve tried to do as an assistant coach at each of my stops and something that I look for in my assistant coaches is somebody that is [00:24:00] willing to take on any task and do it at an elite level.
And that’s one thing that I model as a head coach, but it’s also one thing that I look for coaches.
Mike Klinzing: [00:24:12] I think those are some really good qualities that you just described. And when I think it’s always interesting, when you have someone who has. An assistant coach and a head coach at different places with different programs, with different coaches.
Because I think that gives you a real perspective on the different ways that coaches do things and the different things that they look for. And you start to figure out what you value in a member of your staff. And I think the other thing that probably happens as you get exposed to a variety of different coaches, is you start to think about and figure out what’s your coaching philosophy.
What’s the way that in an ideal world, you would want your teams to [00:25:00] play. So when you start thinking about your offensive philosophy or your defensive philosophy, where are you in terms of putting that together, where you can articulate it, whether it’s to your staff or to your place. How long did it take you to develop that?
And what does that look like? Could you share with us kind of what your authentic and defensive philosophies are? Obviously it could depend upon your personnel, but where are you in that vein?
Ryan McGonagle: [00:25:29] Are you talking about my, my coaching philosophy in general, or specifically from an offensive and defensive
Mike Klinzing: [00:25:37] let’s dive into let’s dive into the X’s and O’s side of it a little bit.
And then we can come back to maybe the overarching philosophy. When we talk about building a program, which I want to talk to you about, because obviously you’ve had an opportunity to be a head coach in two different places, but let’s dive into figuring out how you want to play. When do you feel like you had a handle on here’s kind of how we [00:26:00] want to play offensively or here’s how I want my teams to play defensively.
When did you get a handle on that? And then what does it look like to.
Ryan McGonagle: [00:26:07] Sure. You know, so a couple of things that I try to think out, think about when, you know, I guess designing a style of play. I think, you know, number one, are we going to be able to beat the best teams on our schedule playing this way?
And I think number two, and I think this is something that we’ve done a great job at each of my stops is do we balance freedom and structure? I, I want our teams to play with enough freedom that our athletes are gonna take ownership over the way that they play. But also I want there to be enough structure there so that we can manage the game as, as coaches.
So for instance, when I was at Lake Center Christian, We poured into skill development. We had a very skilled [00:27:00] team and we were, we ran a four hour break and try to flow right into dribble drive, which is a free flowing style of play. And then defensively, we were a pack line team where we really pressured the ball, sat and gaps.
Try to keep teams out of the paint and here at East Canton, you know, like you said, it depends a little bit on the personnel that you have. And I think the great coaches adapt to that. We’ll play a little bit different here. W we have some size here, so we’ll probably play a little bit slower. We’ll try to play a little bit more out of the post.
So we try to design our style of play to beat the best teams in our league and on our schedule, we try to balance freedom and structure. But also I think we tried to adapt to the personnel that we have.
Mike Klinzing: [00:27:49] How does that translate to the practice for someone you’re putting together a practice plan, and you’re trying to maximize what your individual players can get [00:28:00] out of a particular practice, and you’re trying to maximize what your team can get out of it.
How do you design your practice to provide players with that balance between structure and freedom? What does that look like?
Ryan McGonagle: [00:28:12] Sure. So when we designed our practices and what we will do here at East Canton is I think the first thing we defined, the things that we wanted to be great at as a team, you know, and I think we all know that if you try to be great at everything you end up good at nothing.
So we try to narrow that focus and define the things that we wanted to be great at. So when I was at the last time, I was a head coach and led practices. When I was at lake center, Christian, we wanted to be great at our motion offense. We wanted to be great at our half court defense. We wanted to be a great rebounding team and we wanted to be the most skilled team.
So we defined those things that we wanted to be great at. And then we made them present in every [00:29:00] single practice.
Mike Klinzing: [00:29:02] I think, by doing that and making it a consistent message, especially for your players, when they know whether they look at the practice plan or they start to anticipate what’s coming and they know that every day we’re going to work on those four things.
And those four things are important to our coach. I think you tend to get better results than when you, as you said, when you’re trying to do a million things. I remember I’ve told this story a couple of times on the podcast, but I remember my very first time. As a coach where I had finished my college playing career, I had been a JV assistant, but I was kind of a volunteer and just showing up, I didn’t really plan the practices.
And I kind of think I might not have even been at every practice cause I was just volunteering. And then the following year, I got a head JV coaching position. And I remember going in there, my first practice and it was just me and 12 kids. [00:30:00] And the very first drill I did after five minutes. In my own head.
I was like, I have no idea what I’m going to do here because there’s like a million things, things that I want to fix. And this is just a five minute drill that we just started. And I remember that being completely overwhelming. Right? Eventually you obviously have to figure it out. You have to narrow it down.
You have to say, we can’t, as you said, be great at everything. So we have to pick out and figure out what our focus is and then really attack those things and make those, the strength that we hope to make them. And I think that it’s important. As you said, to get your fliers on board, you have to get your staff on board.
And once you do that, then you can become really intentional about the way you design your practices when you’re putting together your practice plan. And now we’re breaking it down, just let’s say day by day. So today’s a Wednesday during the season. You just played the night before. You’re trying to plan what your practice is going to look like.
[00:31:00] How, where, when do you sit down and write your practice plan? What is the process of writing a practice plan look like for you?
Ryan McGonagle: [00:31:06] Sure. So, so I guess first let me say this because you know, I kind of talked about the things that we wanted to be great at it. I think it’s also important to. Note that we did those things in variety.
It’s not kids coming in and working on the same exact drills every single day. It’s our athletes coming in and working on the same things in a different way, if that makes sense. Makes total sense. Yeah. And then I, I guess to answer your question, the practice planning process I try to get all of our coaches practice plans by Sunday night.
So they kind of have an understanding of what their role is going to be in practice. And obviously you know, those are tentative practices and, you know, we adjust those [00:32:00] practices based on the things that we need to work on from the prior day or the prior game. But you know, we try to get our coaches.
Practices by Sunday. But right now we’re kind of in that planning process, you know, we’re, we’re planning our practices and how we’re going to install things. And when we’re going to install things, I guess, so that the learning takes place at the highest level.
Mike Klinzing: [00:32:25] is that done through co collaboration with your staff?
Is that you putting it together and then reaching out to the staff for feedback? What does that part of the process look like? Is it working on it together initially, or is it you putting it together and then sharing with them and then having the discussion?
Ryan McGonagle: [00:32:44] So it’s a little bit of a combination of both.
So right now one of our varsity assistant coaches was also my head junior varsity coach, and one of our varsity assistants at lake center, Christian. So he’s over here at [00:33:00] east. With us. And he’s somebody that I trust and he’s somebody that I’ve been able to delegate a lot of responsibility to he’s somebody that’s taken in complete ownership of, or over our programs.
He’s somebody that is, is made a part of the decision-making process. So right now he, he is a part of that planning process with me. But our other coaches are new, so they’re not and I guess once trust is built, we’ll kind of delegate responsibility to each of those coaches. So I guess it’s a combination of both.
Mike Klinzing: [00:33:35] Makes sense. All right. Let’s talk about this because this is now your second program, then. You’ve taken over and you come in as an outsider and neither time were you promoted from a varsity assistant or a JV coach to being the head coach. So you’re coming into a brand new program. How do you evaluate [00:34:00] and figure out where the program is before you start to figure out what it is that you need to do?
So what’s your evaluation process, your first week on the job? What are you doing to sort of figure out what the state of the program is in the current moment? So then you can begin to figure out what you want to do next.
Ryan McGonagle: [00:34:21] Well, I’ll tell you this. I think that evaluation process, at least for me, in each of my stops as a head coach was done prior to accepting the position I, you know, I think that I’ve been really intentional about understanding the state of east camp basketball.
And I caught a lot of people and talk to a lot of people prior to even accepting the position. So I think that process was done before I got the job. And I think, secondly, I think it’s, I think it’s just talking to people that have been involved with the program.
Mike Klinzing: [00:34:57] So is that players is that parents is [00:35:00] that teachers is that previous coaches who are, who are those conversations with and what are those conversations look and sound like?
Ryan McGonagle: [00:35:07] I think I was very transparent throughout the interview process and I had an honest conversation with the administrators about the state of the program. And, and also the previous coach. I had an honest conversation with him about the state of the program. Just kind of asking, you know, what are some of the things that east can basketball has struggled with in the past and what are some things that we can do coming in here to change, be a change agent for those things?
So I, I would say it’s a combination of all of those things.
Mike Klinzing: [00:35:41] Once you make that evaluation. So let’s get specific with East Canton. What were some of the things that you learned, and then once you learned those things, how did you put together your plan in order to make sure that whatever problems existed or whatever things needed [00:36:00] to be improved upon would be improved upon?
Ryan McGonagle: [00:36:03] Sure. I guess what I’ve learned. Right now about east Canton basketball. And prior to accepting the position is no East Canton basketball ball in its current state. Isn’t moving. Ready. You know, I think our program right now, how it needs a lot of re renovation and TLC to become the program that it’s capable of becoming.
And when we first got in the program, I think the very first thing we did, you know, obviously recruiting is a hot topic in high school sports. And I think there’s a lot of coaches out there that try to recruit athletes from other schools. And I don’t think there’s enough coaches out there that are intentional about recruiting their own athletes.
So when we first got in here, I think that was a big emphasis of ours was we wanted to recruit our athletes. We wanted to. Communicate with the basketball players that haven’t been playing for whatever reason [00:37:00] that should be playing. And then I guess, make east Canton basketball attractive, attractive enough to where they would want to play.
Mike Klinzing: [00:37:10] What does that look like? What’s that process? How do you sell kids on your program? Is that individual meetings? Is that, what are you telling them that, Hey, if you stick around, if you want to be a part of this, it’s going to become special. What is it that you’re selling?
Ryan McGonagle: [00:37:27] Yeah. I, you know, I think as leaders, it’s part of our job to communicate our vision and our values and get people to follow those things.
And I think it’s called leadership because of the ability to get people, to buy in and follow what you’re doing. And I think a big part of my ability to influence is my personality and my ability to connect with young people. And I think that I have a dynamic personality that young people it’s patched themselves too.
Partly because of my playing experience, partly because [00:38:00] of my adverse background. And then we’ve really tried to make basketball attractive in a variety of a variety of ways. A couple of those ways would be through gear. You know, we’ve tried to promote our program and brand our program so that kids would want to play basketball.
I think we’re, we’re pretty big and intentional on social media where we promote our athletes in east Canton basketball in a positive way. So I guess those are just some things we’ve done since we got in here in may to try to make basketball attractive.
Mike Klinzing: [00:38:36] Yeah. I think those are two big ones to kids.
It’s easy sometimes as an adult too. Maybe forget how important that gear is to kids. I would say that when you’re, I’m 51 years old and I still, I still like gear, but I also, sometimes you look and you’re passing out uniforms and I’ve coached all my kids at a young age and your past not uniforms. And you’re [00:39:00] just like, or it’s just a t-shirt for a rec league and they all have numbers on the back and you’re just given the ones and then they start fighting over certain numbers.
And you forget sometimes how important that little stuff is and just how it makes you feel when you put on that uniform, where you put on that sweatshirt, or you put on something that says east can’t in high school basketball, and that it means something to those kids. And I think that’s a really important thing that sometimes.
We forget about as adults. I think that’s really a good thing. When you talk about that and then social media, obviously all different coaches have different philosophies in terms of how they use it. I think the best coaches out there are figuring out that it’s a way to a communicate with players. The it’s a way to communicate with the community and the outside world, all the great things that are happening within your program.
And then you said it earlier, that it’s also a great way [00:40:00] as a coach to be able to gain more knowledge, to learn, and also to share with the coaching community, which you see so many people online, like we talked about earlier, just coaches, so willing to share through social media. And I think the fact that you’re jumping on board with both of those things is really critical.
What is your summer look like from a planning standpoint? Obviously the state of Ohio, the rules were. Far more relaxed in terms of the amount of contact time that you were able to have with your players, then you would have been able to in the past, which I’m sure as a new coach was a huge advantage to be able to get your guys into the gym and be able to have more contact time with them.
So just tell us a little bit about how you put together your summer program this year and how you feel that’s going to lead into what you’re hoping to accomplish this fall and on into the season in the winter.
Ryan McGonagle: [00:40:53] Yeah. You know, I think a lot of coaches when they first get hired in a new position, you know, the [00:41:00] tendency is, is to sign up for as many leads as possible, as many camps as possible to take your teams to as many shootouts as possible.
I think we were a little bit more purposeful in that, you know, we, we don’t have, are we coming in here? We didn’t have a style of play yet. So it, to me, it does us. No good. To go to a shootout and play against other teams on June 1st, when our kids don’t even have an understanding of how we want to play or what we want to do.
But we did our kids with a ton of opportunities, not only in the weight room but from a skill development standpoint in an open gym standpoint and we try to bring out, we try to bring in outside people, into our open gyms for a couple reasons. Number one, we try to showcase our facilities and get people in our school.
Number two, I think it gives our kids an opportunity to play against better competition with no [00:42:00] costs. And then I think the third thing that we did this summer, which was great and kind of as a fundraiser and as a way to get people into our gym and as an opportunity for our kids to play was, you know, we did hold a three on three tournament which we got over 20 teams.
We had almost 30 sponsors from the community sponsor the event. So overall it was just a great summer. We gave our kids a bunch of opportunities to improve on a skill development standpoint, but from a strength and conditioning standpoint. And then obviously you’ve said the, the rules, aren’t, we’re a little bit more, more relaxed in that there wasn’t the 10 day rule.
So we, we had several practices where we were implementing our style of play and in installing, I guess, how we want to play.
Mike Klinzing: [00:42:49] I don’t want to go back to the three on three, because I think that’s a great idea. And when I’m talking about things that we could pull out for coaches in our audience, How did you go [00:43:00] about organizing that three on three tournament?
How do you get 30 sponsors? What’s the process look like for putting that together for a coach out there who might want to do that? Something similar for his or her program?
Ryan McGonagle: [00:43:11] Yeah, so I think the, I think the biggest thing is promoting the event and then promoting the event at the right time. So we months before we started promoting the event in a variety of way, in a variety of ways, like I said, we’re pretty present on social media.
We were able to get the event in the newspaper and newsletters. So we tried to promote the event as much as possible. And then, you know, I reached out to a lot of people that I’m connected through the game of basketball about coming to the event. So we had a great turnout. Our gym was packed with people, not only playing, but watching as well.
And then the sponsorship. Kind of came as an idea of when I met with the treasurer, our account balance, [00:44:00] wasn’t what we would want it to be. So we had to think of a way to, as you know, you know, the best programs do raise funds. We had to think of a way to make some money in. So we reached out to a bunch of community businesses and people in the community about sponsoring the event.
And we asked for $100 to get there that got their name on t-shirts. We had an event banner. We recognize them on social media and we’ll also announce them at our home opener on November 26. And I kind of delegated responsibility to our assistant coaches as far as sponsorships. You know, we asked each of our assistant coaches to get five sponsorships.
And we ended up, we ended up with close to 30.
Mike Klinzing: [00:44:45] That’s awesome that you got so much community support and especially coming right out of the gate to be able to do that. I’m sure that’s exciting. I know one of the things that is going to be important and is going to be fun, hopefully, and fingers crossed that we’re going [00:45:00] to have a more normal season in terms of being able to have fans in the stands.
And I think the ability of the high school coach to reach out to whether it’s community businesses in this case, or just people in the community to be able to get some people in the stands to watch you play to me, that’s so important. Do you have any other thoughts besides the sponsorship with the three on three, any other ways that you’re planning to reach out to the community or get involved in the community, get your program involved, to be able to, again, just garner more support for what you’re trying to build there.
Ryan McGonagle: [00:45:39] Yeah. So yeah, we definitely try to recruit the community and get the community involved in what we’re doing. And I think the biggest. Thing that coaches can do in my opinion, is just be present at community events. So football games, cross country meets fundraisers open house. So where are those [00:46:00] fundraisers are a nice way to incorporate the community?
I think the best community support is garnered from being present at community events.
Mike Klinzing: [00:46:11] When you’re at a community event, how do you make yourself visible? And I know that that’s something there’s always this. I think coaches sometimes have. The vision of what they want to do when they’re at a community event, they want to make themselves available, but not too available, if that makes sense, where you want to connect with people in the community.
But sometimes coaches are hesitant. It’s sort of the same way when we talk about engaging parents, which we can get to in a second. But when you think about getting out, out into the community, what does that look like? Are you trying to figure out, and you’ve mentioned doing research before you got the job, are you trying to find out who are some of the key and important people in the program, whether that’s parents, whether that’s staff, whether that’s administration, whether that’s somebody [00:47:00] that’s involved with the youth basketball program, how do you go about finding out who those people are and making sure that you can connect with them when you’re out at these types of community events?
Ryan McGonagle: [00:47:07] Yeah. I think it’s, you know, one, one of the things that we’ve been able to do is just have open communication with our administration. So I think it’s just asking them. Those administrators who are people that we need to connect with. And then second, I had the opportunity to speak at our rotary club meeting.
And there was a lot of those people at events. So that was just a great way to kind of get a better understanding of who are, who, who the people are that we need to reach out to.
Mike Klinzing: [00:47:42] All right. Let’s shift gears to parents. How do you engage the parents of your players in your program in such a way that you get them on board?
You get them buying in, you get them to be advocates for your program instead of setting it up where you [00:48:00] may end up having an adversarial relationship with parents. What’s your process for making sure that you engage the parents in a positive way? Sure.
Ryan McGonagle: [00:48:10] I think number one, I think there’s in coaching.
There’s such a. Negative perception when it comes to parents. And I think the first thing is it’s important for us as coaches to avoid that negative perception when dealing with parents. And I think that it’s important for us to go into each interaction with parents with a positive mentality and an open mind.
And then number two, I think it’s important just like. We want to build relationships and connect with our kids. I think we want to build relationships with our parents too. You know, through my experience in leading programs, I’ve found that parents can be an asset to our basketball program. I think parents can help move the mission of our program forward.
And I think by developing relationships with parents, [00:49:00] we’re gaining support of the parents. And I think parents can add value to our program in several different roles, whether it’s volunteer roles, whether it’s team feeds, whether it’s booster clubs, whether it’s working team events. But I think also with that, I think it’s important to set expectations with parents and hold them accountable to those expectations.
And I, I would say lastly, when, in regards to gaining support from parents, I think it’s extremely important to. Provide consistent communication. So we communicate in a variety of ways through a weekly email, we’re starting a newsletter through social media. And one of the things that we try to do is we try to over communicate with parents and I think that will help gain some parents support.
Mike Klinzing: [00:49:52] Absolutely. I think that proactive communication and making sure that parents are always aware of what’s happening within your [00:50:00] program, that goes a long way towards setting a positive tone for any type of interaction that you’re eventually going to have with parents. So it’s kind of like a, you know, as a teacher that if the first time parent of a student hears from you is when the child’s gotten in trouble in class or has done their work.
If that’s the first time they hear from you, that conversation is going to be a lot tougher than if you’ve already established that relationship. And I think coaching it’s the same thing. You want to be proactive. You want to have those conversations. At the very beginning, get on the same page so that if there is ever a situation where a disagreement arises or there’s a situation that you have to handle, that you’ve already built a relationship, just like you want to build those relationships with players.
It’s the same thing with parents. You want to build that relationship so that if you do run into a tough stretch, you have that previous relationship that you can fall back on and it makes things easier. Moving forward. Let’s talk a little bit about it. [00:51:00] Sure. Go ahead.
Ryan McGonagle: [00:51:01] I think it’s a lot easier to be honest and transparent when a relationship is there
Mike Klinzing: [00:51:07] no question and it’s received a lot better too.
If you don’t have a good relationship with someone, you may be telling them the truth, which may be a difficult truth that they don’t want to hear. And if you don’t have a good relationship with them, you can be guaranteed that they’re not going to take that in the right way, but if you have a previous relationship and you’ve built that, and now you have to have that tough conversation, you have to tell them a tough truth.
That’s going to go over a lot better. It may not be, they may not be happy to hear it, but they’re going to be a lot more likely to accept it and internalize it and figure out what they have to do to make that particular situation better. If you have that previous relationship. So talking about building relationships, I think one of the most important things.
As a high school coach is. And you talked about it earlier, when you said recruiting your own players. And I would take that down, not only recruiting your own players, you as the high school, varsity [00:52:00] coach recruiting and making sure that you’re keeping your kids who were in grades nine through 12 part of your program, but how do you look at developing a youth program?
Obviously you’ve only been at east Canton since the spring. So you haven’t really had an opportunity to dive into that too deeply, as far as actually putting into practice. But what’s your theory on how to build a good youth program. If you were trying to give advice to someone who was a varsity coach that wants to build a good youth program, what are some of the things you’re thinking about it?
Ryan McGonagle: [00:52:33] Sure. I think when, when developing. A youth program. There’s really five things that I’ve tried to do. And we’ve tried to do intentionally. I think that number one, we’ve tried to streamline every level of our program. So we’ve tried to streamline our concept’s core values, standards, standards, vision, style of play [00:53:00] down throughout each level of the program.
I think number two is we try to connect with every level of the program. You know, I think me as the varsity head coach, it’s important to be present at every level of the program. But I also think it’s important for all of our coaches and our players to have a presence at each level of the program.
So number one, I would say streamlined throughout each level. Number two, I would say connect with every level of the program. Number three, I think it’s important to. Communicate with every level of the program. So we want to make our youth program K to six, our middle school program, seven and eight, and our high school program, nine to 12, a part of all of our communications, whether it’s social media, newsletters weekly emails.
We want our program to be, I guess, one program and not two separate programs. So I try to communicate with every level of the program. And with that, I also would say [00:54:00] we try to promote every level of the program. You know, we want to build an excitement in getting kids to want to play for east Canton basketball.
So we try to promote each level of the program. And then I think lastly, and I think this is an important one where I want to be present in, you know, have a presence at every level. I do think it’s important to have. A youth program director, somebody that can handle, I guess, the logistical aspect of building a youth program, whether it’s ordering jerseys, collecting money.
And I’ve done that as a head varsity coach. And what I found was when I found the right person to do it, I was a better varsity coach because of it.
Mike Klinzing: [00:54:42] Yeah, absolutely. I think that that’s something that if you can find someone who’s in that for the right reasons and really wants to help the program and is organized, I think that can take a lot off of the varsity coach has played in at the same time.
I think I love what you said about being [00:55:00] present at every level of the program. I think that’s so critical for young kids who are a part of that. Your youth feeder system, to be able to see you there, whether that’s showing up at a practice, whether that’s showing up at their games, whether that’s getting to know them by name or getting to know those parents and building those relationships early so that those kids have an idea that they eventually want to aspire.
To be a part of your program at the high school level. So often we see that disconnect between the youth program and the high school program. And I think it’s really difficult to build sustainable success when the varsity coach doesn’t have at least a hand in what goes on in the youth program. And as you said, is visible in that program.
To me, that’s just, it’s a critical thing that any coach out there who’s taken over as a varsity coach for the first time, I think building your youth program, I would put that at, or very near the top of the list of things that I think are [00:56:00] really important if you’re interested in having long-term success.
Now, if it’s a job that you think you’re only going to be at for two or three years, well, yeah, you may not invest in the second or third graders, but if you think you’re going to be there for any length of time, I think putting that investment into the youth program is a great place to spend your time.
Before we wrap up Ryan, I want to ask you one more final two-part question. And the first part of it is when you look ahead and you haven’t coached a game yet at east Canton, but when you look ahead to this season, what do you see as the biggest challenge ahead of you? And then number two, when you think about the opportunity that you have there, what gives you the biggest joy about what you’re getting to do day in and day out as the head coach at he can’t in high school?
Ryan McGonagle: [00:56:50] Sir. Could you repeat that one more time?
Mike Klinzing: [00:56:51] Sure, absolutely. So what is your biggest challenge that you see ahead in the coming year? And then what’s your [00:57:00] biggest joy from being the head coach at east Canton high school,
Ryan McGonagle: [00:57:04] sir? So I think the, the biggest challenge. For me personally is I teach in another district.
So I teach in Plain local and I’m the head coach at East Canton. And I’m very excited about both of those things. And I think that I pour into both of those things equally. But that can present some different challenges just in terms of scheduling and trying to be at the right things. So where, where I’m grateful for that.
I do think it’s going to present some challenges, but I do have experience doing that when I was the head varsity basketball coach at lake center, Christian, I was a PE teacher in the plain local school district. I’m still where it’s going to present some challenges. I think that I have the experiences to work through them.
And the second part of that question was what, what do I think my biggest joy is going to be. I think [00:58:00] the, the biggest joy is just going to be the, the everyday process coming in and trying to chase the best version of myself, trying to chase the best version of our team. I think the process of maximizing our potential as a team and maximizing the potential of each individual student athlete maximizing the potential of our coaches.
So I would say the biggest joy would just be the everyday process of being a basketball coach.
Mike Klinzing: [00:58:30] Great answer, I love it. I think it speaks to the theme of what you talked about throughout this entire episode, before we go, Ryan, I want to give you a chance to share how people can reach out to you, share your emails, social media, how they can find out more about your program.
And then after you do that, I’ll jump back in and wrap things up.
Ryan McGonagle: [00:58:49] Sure. So, so our email, we have a program email. You can reach out to us firstname.lastname@example.org. And then we are [00:59:00] active on all social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and each of those handles is email@example.com.
And then my personal Instagram is coachM_hoops.
Mike Klinzing: [00:59:18] Awesome. Ryan, anybody out there who listened to the episode, you want to reach out to Ryan and talk some basketball. He’s always open Ryan. We cannot thank you enough for taking the time out of your schedule tonight, to jump out with us that a lot of great things that you were able to share with us.
I know you’re looking forward to your first season as the head coach at East Canton. It’s going to be an exciting year. Hopefully there’ll be a normal year with some fans in the stands. You’ll be able to get some of those community members and students out to watch your game. And it’s going to be fun to watch and see how you’re able to build the program there and to everyone out there.
Thanks for listening. And we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.