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 Liberty assistant coach Vic Sfera.
What led you to pursue a career in college basketball administration?
“Due to a number of factors in my life I got a late start playing organized basketball. Once I did, I had several coaches who poured into my life and ultimately led me on a path that I would not have been able to achieve on my own. I quickly realized that these coaches had the platform to change my life, as well as countless other players, through the game of basketball. Once I got to a certain point in my playing career I realized that the next best thing to playing was coaching and I could get a head start on that passion of mine at a young age. I transferred to Biola University, an NAIA school in Southern California, and became a student-assistant coach under Hall of Fame Coach Dave Holmquist. That was the first step of my college basketball coaching career and I haven’t looked back since. Coaching is a wonderful profession when you can remember your ‘why’ for coaching. As Dr. Billy Graham once said, “one coach will impact more young people in a year than the average person does in a lifetime.” I am blessed to be able to coach the young people that I do and strive to put my best foot forward each day for them.”
As a young professional in the industry, what key decisions and experiences helped get you where you are today?
“Getting an early start on my coaching career while I was still a student in college was definitely a plus. I was also blessed to be around some great head coaches and assistant coaches who were willing to show me the way and let me learn by experience.”
What are the most important skills for young professionals in the industry to possess, and which are often overlooked?
“Prior to coming to Liberty, I was on the staff at the University of Virginia under Coach Tony Bennett. At UVA, we had five pillars of our program that embodied who we sought to be as a team and as individuals. Those pillars were humility, passion, unity, servanthood, and thankfulness. I would say all of these apply to a young professional in our industry as well. You have to be extremely passionate about helping young people to put in the time it takes to be really good in this business and to make the sacrifices necessary. You also have to be able to work well with others and serve your team. Maybe most importantly, you have to have a genuine humility about yourself in knowing who you really are (good, bad, and in between) as well as thankfulness for the opportunities you’ve been given. This humility and sense of gratitude are traits that may be overlooked at times but are so key in navigating the coaching waters as a young professional.”
Why is developing mentor relationships so important to young coaches, and who have been your most influential mentors?
“Developing mentors is extremely important. There are other people who have been in my shoes and it would be foolish not to take advantage of the lessons they learned and the wisdom that can be gained from them. My most influential mentor in my coaching career thus far has been Tony Bennett and his staff at Virginia (including Ritchie McKay, Ron Sanchez, and Jason Williford). They helped show me the way to rebuild a program, pour into players lives, and do things the right way. They also allowed me a great amount of freedom to learn by doing and operate in my strengths.”
What professional competencies are you working to develop at this stage of your career?
“Being relatively new in the position of on-court coach, I am working at developing my teaching ability on the floor and skill development. Coaches are teachers and our classroom is generally on the basketball court. Each student learns differently and responds differently. Our goal and challenge is to try to help each student reach their full potential and be as good as they can possibly be, both on the court and off.”
What career goals do you have for your future, and how do you plan to achieve them?
“There was a time in my life where I was extremely intentional and detailed about my professional goals. I could tell you exactly where I wanted to be in five years and what I was doing to get there. While that is a good practice and certainly works for some people, I came to a realization that those things usually placed my mind in the future and not in the present. I was cheating myself and the people around me because I was not fully present where my feet were planted. While it is an on-going process, I feel I am much more intentional now than I was before about being the best version of myself for this day. Do I still have goals and aspirations for the future? Absolutely! But I am much more willing to trust the process and the timing of things now than I was before (and also leave room to be flexible in my plans).”
What is one thing about the profession that you wish you knew earlier in your career?
“Train yourself to keep your attention on the present moment and not get too far ahead of yourself. Don’t chase a position or title so hard that you forget about the things that are most important in life and in your career. Get with a staff that you believe in and trust and learn something new from them each day.”