When Rising Coaches was founded in 2010, the organization wanted to establish a legacy that extended beyond the confines of its inner workings. In the last 10 years, Rising Coaches has taken the most pride in the work its members have accomplished.

This emphasis has created a culture where Rising Coaches’ membership base of over 1,300+ finds purpose in the midst of a taxing profession.

“Everyone is looking to rise in one way or another from where they are,” said Rising Coaches Diversity, Equity & Inclusion VP Brian Burton. “Rising Coaches is a phenomenal community to be able to do that. It’s a light within the industry because the industry is tough. It’s a challenging, hard profession.  You can beat yourself up - compare yourself to others every day.  To have light, to have hope, and be able to connect is a great opportunity for anyone in this profession.

“It’s a place you can go to create genuine relationships,” Burton added “So much of our business is transactional. It’s a super transformative organization. I love that because it aligns with my mission of who I am.”

Every member should be able to take something away from Rising Coaches. With the loads of content, networking opportunities, and different scheduled events to choose from, there’s the right outlet for everyone to find what they need.

Image.01Former women’s basketball player, now the Rising Coaches Director of Operations and Membership Services, Erin Sinnott believes Rising Coaches offer something different for every personality type. “Someone that is more outgoing and comfortable to talk about themselves and their career experiences has access to numerous platforms.  We also do Member Spotlights to help get to know everyone within the association, but also get each person’s story out. It shows that we value Rising Coaches members.

“On the flip side, you have “Coach to Coach” because some people want that one-on-one time. They want to practice networking, practice reaching out and saying the right thing. They want to have the ability to not feel pressured in being in front of a Zoom audience or being interviewed by Adam for a member spotlight.

Sinnott said some members know they want to be a great assistant and they watch everything done by assistant coaches or read every blog written.  “There’s a number of platforms and things to use with whatever they’re comfortable with as well as it being that safe space to really step out. We’re all there for the same reason essentially.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has even given coaches and members of Rising Coaches more time and opportunities to improve their craft through everything that’s available in the organization. St. Francis De Sales High School head coach Travis Lewis has seen this to be true in his time as a member with Rising Coaches. 

“For me at this point, I’ve been on the rat wheel trying to find the right position for me, it’s the professional development aspect of it,” Lewis said. “The down time during COVID has actually helped it a lot. Even when we had on-site things going on, they were very beneficial from a professional development. It’s a melting pot of categories and things that you can learn from, regardless of what role you have or what position you are working in.”

What’s the biggest benefit that Rising Coaches provides to its members? If you asked a room full of members, a lot of hands would shoot up, with a lot of different answers.  But a common theme circulates throughout those involved: the community aspect of the organization they love.

“It’s the community-based feeling of being able to associate with people who like what you do to the same degree,” said Fleming College Interim Head Coach Menelik Fernandes. “There’s so many people I’ve met who want to get better. I’ll have a conversation with anyone who wants to get better regardless of where either one of us are in our careers. You never know when you’re going to get a new idea. Obviously, you start to speak about life things. A lot of people on Rising Coaches have met my daughter in a Zoom call and that’s remarkable to me. I think the biggest element is being able to share and learn from people who love this as much as I do.”

Rising Coaches co-founder and CEO Adam Gordon has often said that you get out of the organization what you put in. It’s led to lifelong friendships and connections for those who go all in.

“Every time you go to a Rising Coaches event you come away with two or three friends that you didn’t have before,” said Windy City Bulls Assistant Coach Ben Sanders. “I’ve got a group text going with a handful of guys who are brilliant coaches and sometimes we just clown around about what’s going on in the NBA and sometimes it’s, ‘Hey, did you see what they ran here?’ or ‘Do you think this style of play works?’ I think the relationships lead to deeper conversations than just chiming in on a Zoom with your camera off. You can get out of it really what you want, but you have to be willing to use Rising Coaches as a resource.”

It’s those friendships from Rising Coaches that can be called upon when it’s needed the most.

image7Earlier this year Chicago State Assistant Coach Tommy Strine was in his own battle with COVID-19.  It got bad enough he had to be hospitalized.  Strine ran off a long list of names and noted there wasn’t a day that went by without someone from Rising Coaches checking up on him to see how he was coming along.

“One of the things that I think I’ve learned more in this pandemic is just how I have so many people who I know and respect and are part of my basketball family now that I’ve never met face-to-face,” Strine said. “Those guys checked in on me, not because they wanted or needed something, but because they really cared. I think that’s been so valuable to me.

“At the end of the day, those people don’t care if I coach basketball or if I’m a janitor, they’re genuine friends who care about me as a person, care about my family, and I’ve made so many friends through the Rising Coaches. Guys that I really, really respect and hopefully once this pandemic is over meeting in person one day as well.  Just being able to chop it up with them on a very, very micro level where I don’t have to talk about x’s and o’s. I can talk about what’s going on in the world. That for sure is the most important thing that I’ve gained from Rising Coaches is just lifelong friends that it doesn’t matter if it’s basketball or something else, they’ll be with me forever.”

There’s so much negativity in the world around us today. The pandemic has sapped the regular way of living from everyone and created a new normal. It’s created anxiety, uncertainty, and doubt in nearly every person we come across. 

“I’m not someone who does well with not working and not feeling like part of society,” Fernandes said. “This community quite literally saves me. It makes me feel part of something again where I can contribute and help people. It makes me feel like I can learn from people. There’s a real sense of belonging, so I guess that’s the biggest takeaway. There’s a real sense of community and sense of belonging and sense of working with peers.

“It’s all things that give me comfort. They make me feel normal again, so to speak.”

Simply put, Rising Coaches and the entire community of members is doing its part to balance the scales and create positive change and purpose moving forward.

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