Do you consider yourself a team coach or a program builder?
By that I mean do you tend to like to think just one season at a time or to have a longer-term view in mind?
I personally consider myself a program builder. When I say that I mean what I find the most rewarding aspect of coaching is developing players, teams, and organizations over time and progressively moving them forward. The irony of that, though, is from a silverware perspective it could perhaps be said that I’m best in a single “season” role:
- Gold medal coaching the Southeast Boys Scholastic team in the Bay State Games in my first head coach position.
- 3rd place in the regional championships with the Metrowest 16-1 girls in my first year coaching Juniors.
- Reaching Final 8s in my first season with the Exeter University men, which they hadn’t done in anyone’s recent memory.
- Winning the South West Championship with the Devon Ladies after taking over midway through the NVL Division 1 season and leading them to a 7-1 second half record in helping them recover from a 1-7 start.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I think these achievements aren’t worthwhile. In part they reflect my attitude that coaches coach whatever group they have in front of them They also suggest I’m pretty good at getting the most out of the available players.
The thing is, though, what I look back on and remember with the greatest sense of pride and accomplishment are not the above. Instead, top of the list is the Exeter women finishing 3rd at Final 8s, and the club ranking 3rd overall in the UK for volleyball in my second season, building on the foundations laid in my first season. Significantly, that was without any scholarship athletes.
Also on that list is building the RI Blast Juniors club program (now called Blast Volleyball) into the dominant program in my home state, a position it still holds. Not only does the club provide playing and training opportunities for lots of kids beyond high school volleyball, and to give younger kids a chance to play the sport that didn’t exist before, it helped change the whole volleyball culture.
Although it’s not coaching per se, this blog can be put in this category as well. I’m quite proud of how it’s grown and developed and now has a positive impact on volleyball coaches all over the world.
These things have been near the top of my mind recently in considering professional coaching. When I visited German club TV Bühl last preseason they had only one player returning from the prior year’s team. That’s basically starting from scratch. This can be the reality of certain types of clubs. Compare that to BR Volleys where they only had a handful of roster changes and you can see how different things can be from club to club.
I would venture to say that many professional coaches in that environment tend to think more from a season perspective than a program-building one. This is not just a reflection of roster turnover, but also in how they have less responsibility beyond the on-court product than the likes of college coaches in the American system. From that perspective, they are probably more in line with coaches in the US Juniors system, which in comparable to the pros in terms of structure.
Just my impressions. Feel free to share your own feelings.