Primesport NABC Next Generation is an interview series with assistant coaches and support staff from across the country, highlighting their career experiences and future goals. Today's feature is Juniata assistant Jacob Fleegle.
What inspired you to become a coach?
“I had two main inspirations to become a coach as my playing career went on. The first being my dad. He coached me in AAU from 7th grade all the way through high school. He created his AAU organization, Mountain Cat Basketball Club, to give myself and others in the area the chance to play at a high level and get recruited. The organization is still going and finishing up year 12 of teams. My second inspiration was my college coach, Mark Christner, at Waynesburg University. Coach Christner taught me a lot about the game at the college level and I fell in love with the experience of preparing, competing, and growing at this level.”
What experiences – both personal and professional – have shaped you most to this point in your career?
“From a coaching standpoint, having the opportunity to work at a liberal arts institution (Waynesburg University and now Juniata College) as well as a high academic, technological based institution (Carnegie Mellon University) has shown me a wide variety of experiences, especially in recruiting. Also, when I was a GA at Waynesburg University, I was selected to attend the NCAA Emerging Leaders Seminar in Indianapolis. The seminar taught me a lot about effectively working in an athletic department and all of the various nuances of it.”
What’s the biggest advice you’d give to a first-year coach?
“The biggest advice that was given to me in my first year or two was ‘network, network, network.’ I personally think it is important to take that one step further. It is important to network, but also just as important to be yourself and be authentic in that process. You can’t force relationships and relationships don’t happen overnight. They take time, but in the coaching profession, real authentic relationships go a long way.”
Why is developing mentor relationships so important for coaches?
“Developing mentor relationships is important so that you can establish a select group of coaches who have your best interest at heart and can help guide you and lead you toward your ultimate goals. I have had the opportunity to work for great head coaches (Mark Christner, Tony Wingen, and now Greg Curley) who have believed in me and given me opportunities to not only grow, but also make some mistakes along the way. Finding your small circle who can help you grow in your knowledge of the game and keep moving forward towards goals is very important as a young coach.”
What impact do you hope to have on your student-athletes away from the basketball court?
“My personal philosophy is based on two things: communication and relationships. Both are essential, regardless of what field you enter. Basketball offers a platform to build relationships with student-athletes that are lifelong, well past their playing days. I want them to understand that they have someone in their corner moving forward, regardless of where they may find themselves.”
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
“The most rewarding part of my job is working with student-athletes as high school students and seeing the growth they make over the years to ultimately graduating from college and taking the next step, whether that be a job or further education. There are so many working parts in that process, so to be able to be a small part of it is extremely rewarding to me.”
What career goals do you have for your future, and how do you plan to achieve them?
“Ultimately, my goal down the road is to be a Division III head coach. The Division III philosophy of what being a student-athlete means is one that I wholeheartedly believe in. My playing career and my coaching stops to this point have only continued to reinforce that goal for me.”