Zak Boisvert on Creating Value and Building Your Personal Brand

Pickandpop​.net founder and Army men’s bas­ket­ball assis­tant coach shines light on how hard work and cre­at­ing val­ue for oth­ers helped him progress through his career. 

Zak Boisvert on Creating Value and Building Your Personal Brand

Pickandpop​.net founder and Army men’s bas­ket­ball assis­tant coach shines light on how hard work and cre­at­ing val­ue for oth­ers helped him progress through his career. 

Competition for jobs in the coach­ing pro­fes­sion is fierce – which is why cre­at­ing val­ue and build­ing rela­tion­ships is a must for video coor­di­na­tors and ana­lysts aspir­ing to be coaches.

Zak Boisvert, the recent­ly-hired Army men’s bas­ket­ball assis­tant, took this advice to heart ear­ly in his career. Boisvert turned his pas­sion for break­ing down film and coach­ing into a side hus­tle that net­ted him increased recog­ni­tion and a vast net­work of con­tacts in the industry.

Leveling Up & Providing Value

Boisvert’s career began in 2007 when he served as an under­grad­u­ate stu­dent man­ag­er at Fordham University, reg­u­lar­ly bal­anc­ing his school­work and the 50+ hours a week he spent at the bas­ket­ball offices. It didn’t take long for Boisvert to real­ize that in order to break into the coach­ing indus­try, he had to find ways to set him­self apart from his peers – that’s when the let­ters start­ed flowing. 

Boisvert sent count­less let­ters to col­lege coach­es around the coun­try, request­ing advice on how to move up in the coach­ing ranks. Although Boisvert was very detailed in his inquiries and even used Fordham sta­tion­ary for cred­i­bil­i­ty pur­pos­es, he didn’t receive a sin­gle reply.

Undeterred, Boisvert asked him­self an impor­tant ques­tion: How do I cre­ate val­ue for peo­ple who don’t even know me?”

Boisvert start­ed attend­ing as many clin­ics as he could to learn from oth­er coach­es. The clin­ics pro­vid­ed valu­able take­aways he could bring back to Fordham, but he also learned that coach­es who weren’t able to attend would find val­ue in the notes he was tak­ing. Instead of writ­ing let­ters, Boisvert decid­ed to put togeth­er notes and dia­grams, send­ing week­ly let­ters to about 150 coaches.

In addi­tion to build­ing con­tacts with­in the coach­ing com­mu­ni­ty, Boisvert increased his val­ue as a stu­dent man­ag­er by iden­ti­fy­ing work he could take off his own coach­es’ plates, allow­ing the staff to ded­i­cate more time to actu­al coach­ing. He real­ized his niche on the team was div­ing into the film work the staff need­ed com­plet­ed, so he immersed him­self in Sportscode.

With a new tool in his arse­nal, Boisvert began to think about adding val­ue to his rela­tion­ships. To share his new film review process, he start­ed includ­ing DVDs with the notes he sent to coach­es. As the qual­i­ty of his com­mu­ni­ca­tions rose, Boisvert devel­oped a rou­tine of send­ing out 10 let­ters a day and 50 each week.

Boisvert’s per­sis­tence paid off as he picked up a coach­ing job at Iona College under head coach Tim Cluess. The start­ing salary was a hum­bling $5,000 a year, but the expe­ri­ence of mov­ing into an assis­tant coach­ing role and reach­ing the NCAA tour­na­ment was priceless. 

Boisvert lat­er piv­ot­ed his expe­ri­ence to earn coach­ing posi­tions at the University of Maine and most recent­ly Army, but it was anoth­er one of his pas­sion projects that net­ted him the most notoriety.

The Rep Grows Bigger

In September 2012, right before his final sea­son with the Gaels, Boisvert cre­at­ed the PickandPop YouTube page, where he pub­lished his Sportscode edits and coach­ing notes.

Want to know the most effective ways to attack a zone defense? You can find that and more on the PickandPop YouTube channel.

From there, it just kin­da moved,” Boisvert said. Tied to the oth­er chan­nels he cre­at­ed, Boisvert had cre­at­ed a plat­form con­nect­ing the coach­ing com­mu­ni­ty to con­tent they found most valuable.

Pickandpop​.net, an exten­sive library of coach-cen­tric arti­cles rang­ing from Xs and Os to coach­ing moti­va­tion, com­bined with his YouTube and Twitter pages to make Boisvert a rec­og­niz­able fig­ure in the bas­ket­ball coach­ing indus­try. This noto­ri­ety led to speak­ing engage­ments and calls from recruits. 

It’s allowed me to work when I’m not work­ing,” Boisvert said.

Naturally, most of the con­tent on his site is bas­ket­ball-relat­ed – clin­ic notes, break­downs of plays, and news from the NBA and NCAA – but there are occa­sion­al posts cov­er­ing top­ics from oth­er sports. In all of the arti­cles and videos he posts, Boisvert is clear to give cred­it where it’s due – many of the posts link to out­side arti­cles on pop­u­lar sites like ESPN or NBA​.com.

5,000 YouTube sub­scribers, 2 mil­lion YouTube views, 10,000 Twitter fol­low­ers, 60,000 month­ly site views, 5,000 newslet­ter subscribers PickandPop By the Numbers

With coach­es expect­ing qual­i­ty con­tent on a reg­u­lar basis, run­ning a site like PickandPop should be stress­ful. But Boisvert doesn’t con­sid­er it work. His pas­sion for break­ing down film and shar­ing insights with oth­er coach­es makes it an enjoy­able experience.

For me, it’s an hour a day,” said Boisvert. Every sin­gle day I want to send five let­ters and watch an hour of film.”

You may be won­der­ing how Boisvert bal­ances PickandPop with his coach­ing respon­si­bil­i­ties, but he clear­ly under­stands his priorities. 

My job comes first,” he said. When he’s on the clock, it’s all about the team. 

Put in Work, Reap the Rewards

Boisvert’s advice for aspir­ing stu­dent man­agers is straight­for­ward: Look for ways to cre­ate val­ue for oth­ers with­in the profession. 

This indus­try is about build­ing rela­tion­ships,” said Boisvert. How do you build a rela­tion­ship? The best way to do that is to cre­ate value.”

Throughout his career, Boisvert ded­i­cat­ed count­less hours to pro­vid­ing val­ue to his net­work with­out ask­ing for any­thing in return. Patience was cru­cial to his success. 

You nev­er know when the oppor­tu­ni­ty is going to come,” said Boisvert. It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.”

Boisvert and his work edu­cat­ing the coach­ing com­mu­ni­ty was rec­og­nized in this year’s Hudl 100.