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Off the Court with Jeff Boals, Head Coach of Ohio University Men’s Basketball

As part of The Hidden Opponent’s (THO) Coaches & Professionals Program, THO caught up with Jeff Boals, Head Coach of Ohio University’s men’s basketball team to discuss maintaining a work-life balance as a coach, his career, the importance of service to the community, and the role he plays as a coach in his student-athletes’ development and well-being. 


Tell us about your coaching career. How did you get into coaching?

I am in year 29 of coaching college basketball, year eight as a head coach. I was a Biology major at Ohio University and graduated in 1995, wanting to become a physical therapist. At the end of my senior year I tore my ACL for the 3rd time, ending my college basketball career 20 games into the season. At the end of the year we lost an assistant coach and my head coach asked if I would be interested in coaching, and I said yes. 

 

What is your “why” behind coaching? Why do you enjoy and continue to coach?

When I first started coaching, I did it because I was 22 years old and didn’t know what else to do with my life. My first job I made $6000 and I loved it. It wasn’t until year four that I realized I wanted to make coaching a profession and understood why I was doing what I was doing. The impact you, as a coach, have on young men in multiple areas is a pretty cool feeling. From recruitment and building a relationship to matriculation into the school you are at you see how they grow from a young man to a man and you realize you had a small influence on that. I love the relationship part and the teaching about life and basketball. Athletics and the business world are parallel. Basketball helps teach you life lessons: time management, teamwork, work ethic, how to communicate, how to deal with adversity, how to deal with prosperity. We use an equation E+R=O every day.  Event + Response = Outcome. Your response to whatever happens will affect what the outcome is. I love what I do, where I do it and who I do it with!


What moments or achievements in your coaching career are you most proud of and why?

A few moments in my coaching career I am most proud of are 1) helping lead our team to the NCAA Tournament and beating Virginia in the Round of 64 and 2) After winning that game the amount of messages I received from former players from every school I coached at realizing the relationship we have to this day.


How do you maintain a healthy work life balance with the busy schedule of a coach?

I am blessed to have a great family. My wife Katie works for Deloitte Consulting, my daughter Sydney is a junior at Florida State and is on the swim team, and my son Chase is a senior in high school and will be attending Ohio University as a walk-on for our team. When I am not coaching I love to spend time with them and watch their sports. Many times while coaching, you fail to take care of yourself. It is important to find an outlet or stress relief and make sure you take time for yourself. I have worked for some great coaches and they taught me and showed me by their actions the importance of taking care of yourself mentally and physically.


Tell us more about Ohio Impact and your involvement.

Ohio Impact started when I saw one of my former players, D”Angelo Russell, at a protest. He wore a t-shirt with his area code 502, and the 0 was a fist. I had the idea to create a t-shirt for my team with an OHIO and the O’s being a fist. I ended up collaborating with a company to making and selling the t-shirts. The proceeds were donated to the Ebony Network Bobcat Scholarship Fund for minorities. We wrote a check for over $25,000. We wanted to make an impact and help others.


How would you describe your coaching philosophy and style?

I feel my style of coaching is servant leadership. I have a growth mindset to help our team get better every day. I am very positive and feel like one of my best traits is to communicate. One of the most important things you can do as a leader is to listen. Humility and empathy are two traits I truly believe in having.


What steps do you take to foster a positive and supportive team environment that promotes student-athlete well-being?

I tell our team that it is okay to not be okay. Both my kids have been through some mental health challenges. As a parent, it is difficult to see your children go through something without being able to help them. My experiences as a parent have helped me with my team.  I encourage communication. I encourage seeking professional help. Young people today have so many distractions, and outside influences that what they are going through on a daily basis on and off the court can be challenging. 


How do you handle pressure and expectations, both personally and for the team?

Personal expectations and pressure come from the many decisions you make on a daily basis that impact everyone associated with your program. I try to make decisions that have the best interest of our program in mind. For our team I try to get them to focus on the process and not necessarily the outcome. We try to get our team to understand it is never as good as it seems and never as bad as it seems.  The character that is built through every experience, good and bad, will shape your character and who you will become. We talk all the time about controlling what you can control; attitude and effort, every day.

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