Experienced, successful coach seeking a job!

Yes, this is a bit shameless, but the site gets thousand of visitors each month – coaches from all different levels and locales. I might as well leverage that. Some visitors may know of job openings I don’t, or ones that will open in the future. Some may actually be looking for a new coach or assistant coach. Heck, someone might be able to give me valuable feedback on how I’m presenting myself as a job candidate.

Basic qualifications: You can see the specifics on my resume/CV, but here are the high points with respect to the qualifications I most often see desired in job postings:

  • Master’s degree
  • NCAA Division I coaching experience
  • Experienced in all aspects of running a Division I program – including recruiting.
  • Position coach for a string of successful setters
  • Head coaching experience (women & men)
  • International coaching experience and contacts
  • Coached championship teams and other high performers
  • Always passed the NCAA recruiting exam and had no rules violation citations
  • Experience running camps and clinics, plus a Juniors program
  • Reputation for professionalism and organizational skills
  • Strong academic commitment

Additional qualifications: Here are some other things about me and my experience which might be of interest/value:

  • USA Volleyball Coaches Accreditation Program (CAP) Level II and Volleyball England Coaching Level 3 certifications
  • Regularly involved in the local volleyball community – often nationally as well.
  • Authored multiple books and published one about US college volleyball.
  • Developed, patented, and marketed a volleyball training device.
  • More than 10 years business, consulting, and entrepreneurial experience
  • Calm, positive coaching demeanor
  • “How can we … ?” approach to challenges, on and off the court
  • Highly analytical (Mensa level intelligence, but I don’t generally tout this)
  • Reputation for teams that continually improve
  • Fairly laid back general personality
  • Always looking to learn and develop as a coach

What I’m targeting: Full-time work as a volleyball coach. I’m not hugely concerned with the competitive level. As long as I know I will contribute meaningfully to a team’s success, development, etc., I’m fine with being either a head or assistant coach.

Salary, geography, and other considerations: I’m single and very flexible with regards to location. My lifestyle is pretty simple and low cost – and I have other sources of income – so no need to worry about high salary demands. My main concern is a good working environment.

If you know of a job I might be a good candidate for, or you have any kind of suggestions or feedback, definitely let me know. You can email me through the contact page or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks,

John

Ideas for new team integration

Welcome to Coaching Volleyball

Most of us volleyball coaches at some point along the way have had to deal with a situation of having a bunch of players on the court who don’t know each other and have never played together before. I have certainly dealt with that in my three seasons coaching at the University of Exeter where annual turnover was better than 50% each year. I also definitely dealt with it back in my days of coaching Juniors volleyball. You get done with try-outs and now you have a group of players that need to be integrated, sometimes very quickly. How do you do that?

One of the sessions at the HP Coaches Clinic was on this subject. Shelton Collier, who’s regular job is as the head coach at Wingate University, but who also coaches at the USA junior national team level, shared some thoughts on how to accelerate the integration process. This is something they deal with frequently because they often have very little time between team selection and their first match – maybe only a handful of training sessions.

One of the ideas Shelton offered as a way to quickly get players working together and communicating on the court is to put them in scramble mode. Basically, that means stressing them in a game-play environment with unpredictable situations and a high tempo. The Scramble Game is an example of this. You can think of it as the volleyball equivalent of throwing someone in to the deep end of the swimming pool. The rapid pace leaves no time for thinking, which tends to break down barriers. Will there be mistakes? Of course. But as the action goes on the players will start to sort things out with each other through communication and understanding.

The other thing Shelton brought up was the use of the “dimmer switch” idea with respect to intensity. This is something from Steve Shenbaum’s presentation at the clinic (which I will get to in a future post). It goes something like this.

Usually, when you have a new group of players together on the court in a game or a drill the intensity level and communication are pretty low. On a 0-10 scale it might be something like a 2-3. The players are quiet and looking at each other to figure out who’s going to play the ball. Shelton was running a mixed group of collegiate players through a drill in his session and that’s about where they were at. After a bit he stopped them, and talked about them being at that 2-3 level, getting them to buy into the idea. He then asked them to try to move that up to a 6. The players immediately increased their intensity and communication. After a bit longer Shelton then asked them to jack it up to a 9. That’s higher than you’d expect to see during training (at least for any sustained period), but it served to show them where they could really take things.

The important aspect to this dimmer switch or intensity scale idea is that Shelton didn’t actually tell the players what to do. He didn’t say “Talk” or “Call the ball” or anything like that. He simply identified the current level and indicated where he wanted it to be. That allowed each player individually to figure out what they needed to do to get their own intensity level to the proper point. This is key because players vary considerably. The dimmer idea allows them to get the the right intensity level in a way that is comfortable for them.

So next time you find yourself with a new bunch of players to start to integrate into a team, think scramble and dimmer switch. You might find both ideas quite useful.

Got any favorite team integration ideas of your own? Leave a comment below to share them.

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – Feb 27, 2015

Volleyball Coaching Log

I had a lot of back-and-forth thinking over applying for a couple of Division III head coach jobs that recently got posted. I think I’ve decided not to go the full-time route at that level, though, since mainly it means having some other job that I wouldn’t normally be too excited about. If I were to end up doing DIII it would be part-time in conjunction with a normal job of my choosing – in which case I could alternatively do high school and/or club coaching. The one potential exception is a combined combined men’s and women’s position, which is definitely something I find appealing at that level. One of the jobs in frame is just such a position, and I’ve applied for it. I’ve enjoyed have that kind of joint role the last couple years at Exeter, especially in the way the two teams have worked together, supported each other, etc. The problem with applying for a men’s related position at this point is that they aren’t likely to hire someone officially until after the season ends, so the process could drag out for a while.

I’ve applied for another head coach job at Division I program in the Northeast. It’s one where a successful coach has moved on to become an assistant at a big conference program. The roster of the program looks like a professional one with the bulk of it being foreign. My guess is the history winning there will attract a bunch of applicants who want an easy path to getting an NCAA tournament appearance on their resume.

I applied for the assistant job at one of the schools where I previously applied to be the head coach. No doubt there are a few others like that which will open up in the weeks ahead as coaches get going in their new jobs.

I put in for a few 2nd assistant positions at mid-level programs in the Midwest. I wasn’t going to go that route because they are essentially a step backwards in terms of my coaching progression and the pay won’t be great, but I ended up changing my mind. They would still get me back into NCAA Division I coaching, and I would be in an area of the country where volleyball has a decent level of respect – unlike the Northeast where I’ve done most of my coaching (never mind England!). I’ve seen the posted salary for one of them. It’s predictably low, but even at that it’s quite a bit higher than what I was getting in my 1st assistant days at Brown. Sad, but true. I have some other side sources of income that will help keep things from being too lean in any case.

Also put in for what is likely a 2nd assistant position at a top conference program. No doubt the list of candidates for that job will be a mile long.

Of the follow-up emails I sent out last week, I got one response basically right away with respect to a head coach job. I’d emailed the Assistant A.D. with oversight over the volleyball program. He responded telling me they would begin reviewing resumes this week. No other communication as yet, though.

On the rejection front there’s the Northern Kentucky assistant job. Didn’t even get a call and the new guy definitely can’t match my qualifications. Could have been other considerations at work, though.

I’ve started slowly trying to put out feelers in the professional volleyball world. They are still largely in-season, though. Germany, for example, just finished the regular season, but will have play-offs running right through April. The CEV Champions League Final 4 takes place the last weekend of March.

Game: 2 vs. 2 with a Player Net

Volleyball Game

Synopsis: This variation on Winners is a small-sided game which can be used when you don’t have a net available, especially for younger and/or more developmental players. Also potentially useful in situations where you have lots of players, but little space.

Age/Skill Level: This game is suitable for all levels.

Requirements: 6 players, 1 balls.

Execution: Start with three teams of 2 players each. One of the team starts as the net. They stand in the middle. The other two teams play out a rally. The loser of the rally swaps places with the “net” team and serves the next point.

Variations:

  • The game could be played for time or until one team won a given number of points.
  • Depending on the amount of space available, you could configure the “court” to be short or narrow or whatever suits your purpose.
  • You could increase the team sizes to 3s, and maybe 4s.
  • Rather than switching on each rally, you could play mini games (say first to 3).

Additional Comments:

  • I saw this diagrammed on a table at breakfast by John Kessel.
  • If there is a rope or string or some other thing that could act as a net, the “net” team can hold that rather than having the rally played out over them.
  • This is something that potentially could be used in a pre-match warm-up when you only have one side of the court.

Potential coaching interview questions

questionman

What am I going to be asked in the interview?

That’s a question which immediately comes to mind once the good news comes in that we’ve somehow made it through the initial screening process and gotten on the short list to be hired for a new coaching job. At least it should!

Here are some of the ones you might get.

  • What would you do if a parent approached you and complained about playing time (or anything else, really)?
  • If it’s a team which has been successful, how do you plan to continue the success?
  • If it’s a team which hasn’t been a contender, how do you plan on turning the program around?
  • What is your coaching philosophy?
  • How do I know you’re not a jerk (or some variation)?
  • What is your biggest challenge is as a coach?
  • How do you deal with players (or parents) who are out of line?
  • Define sportsmanship.
  • How are you going to communicate with your student athletes?
  • What would your typical practice look like?
  • How do you plan to help the school recruit players?
  • How I plan to help athletes get recruited by colleges?
  • Who would you bring in as assistant?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • Why they should hire you over their other applicants?
  • Do you have a season plan? A long-term plan?

Of course, there are different consideration for every job which will tend to bias interview conversations in one direction or another. The more you know about the recent history of the team you’re looking to coach, the person you’ll be working for, etc. the more likely you’ll be able to anticipate the questions and be prepared to offer a good response.

And don’t forget to think about questions to ask them.

What percentage of reps should be good?

slowimage

One of the common themes in the presentations of the USA Women’s National Team coaching staff at the HP Coaches Clinic – and I’m talking not just the senior team, but also the younger squads – was the idea of 2-out-of-3. What they were suggesting is that as coaches we should be aiming to see our players be successful in whatever aspect of the game we’re working on in training two out of every three attempts, on average. I’ll give it a moment to let that sink in and see what kind of immediate reaction that stimulates in your mind. ;-)

Here’s what Karch & Co. meant by this.

They want the team and the players in a constant developmental state. When a player is learning, they are making mistakes. It’s a natural part of the process. If mistakes aren’t being made then the players aren’t pushing beyond their current capabilities. That means either they aren’t taking chances or we as coaches aren’t stressing them properly to move them out of their comfort zone.

Does a 33% failure rate sound high to you? If so, why? Are you the sort of coach who likes to have practices that look good? Lots of clean reps and all that. If so, then realize what you’re probably developing is good practice players and not necessarily good match players, which is something I talked about after a fashion in Going beyond maximizing player contacts.

Personally, I find getting players to accept that making mistakes is part of the process is often the real challenge. This is especially true of younger female athletes. It takes a lot of encouragement to get them over that particular hump. If you can do it, though, their development can really accelerate.

The flip side to the encouragement of making mistakes to when there are too many errors. If you find your team executing properly on fewer than 2 good reps out of every 3 then you need to reconsider what you’re doing. Maybe the players are being overly aggressive (common of young male athletes). Maybe they don’t yet have the level of skill or tactical understanding required for what you’re attempting to do with them. Whatever it is, you need to ease things off a bit to try to get back into that 2-of-3 sweat spot, not just for the sake of skill development but also for their confidence.

That said, I do personally find value in introducing frustration into the mix from time to time. By that I mean having drill or a game, or even a whole practice session, which I know will given the players considerable trouble on one level or another. These tend to be less about individual skill execution and more about team problem-solving (developing solutions as a unit). I use them to give the team the chance to try to learn how to deal with adversity so when they inevitably face it in a match they have the mental toughness to do what needs to be done.

The bottom line is as a coach we need to embrace mistakes and get our players to do the same.

Increasing player reads

volleyball-net

A couple weeks ago I wrote about going beyond maximizing player contacts and the idea of read-plan-execute (RPE). In brief, RPE is what players do any time they play the ball. They read the contact before them, plan a solution, and execute the required skill. One of the issues with block training (simple reps) is that it reduces the read requirement to essentially zero, which is why game-like drills are strongly preferred.

Going game-like makes sure we don’t lose the reading aspect of RPE, but what can we do to maximize our read opportunities? At the HP Coaches Clinic, Julio Velasco talked about watching as training. I’ve talked about this from a coaching perspective (see Tip for Coaching Volleyball: Watch more volleyball!), but the same applies to players. The more they see, the better they will be able to read the game. Karch Kiraly actually took that a little further in showing how players could do simulated reps when they were waiting their turn in line, which connects seeing and doing.

How can we increase reads in game play, though?

The answer is kind of simple. As John Kessell observed during one breakfast discussion at the clinic, you can have the players play 2-touch rather than 3-touch games. All else being equal, doing so increases the over-the-net reads by 50%. There are also some other advantages to mixing 2-touch in as well, as I wrote about a while back in Using 2-touch games to challenge your players.

More “best coach” rankings

coachingvb-twitter

On the back of my discussing a short while back the idea of deciding who are the best volleyball coaches, I recently came across someone’s list of the top coaches in NCAA Division III. That list only includes currently active coaches. There’s a secondary list of those now retired or otherwise no longer coaching in D3.

The first observation I would make about this list is that no criteria was actually included. The author just posted up bio info for a collection of coaches. We therefore don’t know the basis who made it and who didn’t, or why one coach is on the list and another is honorable mention. Nor do we know if the order in which the coaches are presented is actually meant to be a ranking or just a random listing.

Second, to my mind this is probably better titled a most accomplished list. All these coaches have certainly achieved quite a bit in terms of winning, championships, and NCAA tournament participation, but that doesn’t inherently make them the best. They could simply be in a really advantageous competitive situation. As I suggested in my previous post, it doesn’t take a particularly good coach to win when you have the best players.

I’ll use an example from last year’s UK university (BUCS) season to demonstrate my point.

Durham was a team full of former US collegiate and other relatively high caliber players. They did not have a coach – at least not a regular one. Despite that, they won the national championship. On their way to doing so, not only did they pound on virtually everyone who got in their way, they beat the one team with a comparable level of talent in the championship match – a team with multiple coaches!

At any level where a coach has control over the players on their roster recruiting is a major factor in determining their level of success. The Durham case demonstrates that pretty well. I would, therefore, differentiate between good recruiting and good coaching. Think of recruiting as buying the groceries and coaching as cooking the meal, to use an old analogy. An excellent cook will be able to make the best out of whatever ingredients they have at hand.

Of course I mean no slight toward the coaches on this list. They might all be fantastic. And I do like that all the attention from this perspective isn’t just being focused on Division I. For once, though, I would love to see a discussion of coaches who do a great job with lesser talent, fewer resources, etc.

By the way, it’s interesting to note that women dominate the aforementioned rankings. I present that without comment. ;-)

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – Feb 20, 2015

Volleyball Coaching Log

I applied for a Division I head coaching job in the Mid-Atlantic the other day, as well as for a combined men’s and women’s head coaching position at an NAIA school in the central part of the US. Not sure about the fit for either one, but it doesn’t cost anything to submit. Also submitted for a second Mid-Atlantic head coach job at a school where the current coach just took a new position. It looks to be a re-building situation as the team is graduating about a half dozen foreign seniors and basically just has freshmen left.

I finally bit the bullet and applied for a Division III head job near Chicago after dragging my feet for a few days. The “additional” duties thing always gives me pause. Many of the ones I’ve seen up to now have involved teaching duties, but this one did not specify. The school looks to be in prime recruitment territory, which makes it intriguing, especially since recent performance hasn’t been very good.

I also put in for a DI assistant job in the mid-Atlantic area. It was one I didn’t initially go for as the staff is already all-male and it looks likely to be a 2nd Assistant job. It’s a decent geography, though, so I figured what the heck. I doubt anything will come of it, but it’s another chance to get my name out there for potential future benefits. I skipped a Division I assistant job where they wanted Gold Medal Squared knowledge/experience and another where the salary was too low (middle to upper 20s).

Word came down the the other day that the Alaska-Fairbanks coach had been sacked for recruiting violations. That opens up a Division II head job, but not exactly one in a location I’m overly keen to try out.

In terms of rejections, add the Coastal Carolina, and Florida International assistant positions to the pile. No posting of a new hire yet, but I got “…your application is no longer under consideration” emails. The UNC Charlotte and Eastern Michigan head job have been filled.. Likewise with the Albany assistant post. I’ve also heard that they are close to filling another head job I thought I had a really good shot of at least getting a call for, which is annoying.

I did a couple of follow-up emails this week for jobs I’ve recently put in for. We’ll see if they spur any higher level of interest.

I actually had a friend ask if I thought being in England was causing me problems. I’ll admit, it’s something I’ve thought about.