I mentioned on social media last week that I’ve started the process of seeking a move back into full-time volleyball coaching after an eight year hiatus.
Actually, if I’m being technically correct, I wasn’t full-time in my last NCAA coaching position as it was a 2/3 equivalency. That fact was contributory to my absence from coaching for almost six years. I was broke and had to go back into my former profession in the financial markets where I could make a lot more money to get my finances cleaned up.
It took me about five years to finally pay off all my personal debts (and then a couple more for my credit rating to be fully restored). During that time I literally forced myself to stay away from volleyball aside from watching the occasional match on TV for fear it would suck me back in and upset my financial reclamation efforts. Given how quickly the coaching bug got hold of me again in England, that fear was justified!
I’ve timed my plunge back into the full-time coaching market for now based on a couple of factors.
First, my PhD funding will run out in August. I need to be done with my doctoral work by then, which actually means submitting my dissertation at latest in February because there’s up to 3 months from then to my defense (Viva) and potentially up to another 3 months to make corrections before final submission. I have personally been targeting December/January for initial submission, which at this point is looking to be January.
Second, this time of year is when a lot of coaching jobs in the States start opening up because it’s the end of the women’s collegiate season (the Division I championships will conclude next weekend). Now is when contracts are not renewed, coaches resign or retire, etc. Schools are particularly eager to fill head coach vacancies relatively quickly so they have someone in place to recruit and work with the team through the Spring semester.
As I mentioned above, I’m funded through the Summer, so there’s no actual need for me to rush into things. I can be patient from that perspective. In fact, there are really three potential career paths at this point.
With a PhD I can obviously go the academic route. I could also return to the financial industry. Either one of those choices would be quite lucrative, and I have not entirely ruled either out. The reason coaching volleyball tops my list, though, is the lifestyle suits me better. I’m physically fitter and healthier as a coach. And of course I find it very rewarding. I probably won’t make as much money in coaching, but I think my overall situation will be better.
Within coaching there are a couple of ways I could go. The most obvious would be to return to the States and rejoin the collegiate coaching ranks from whence I came. The other would be to enter into the professional volleyball arena, which I gained some nice exposure to back in August (see Three weeks in professional volleyball). I am considering both options, though the European professional season runs until March/April, which isn’t ideal from the perspective of having parallel job searches.
Head vs Assistant Coach
At this point I would say a head coaching job is probably the best option given my experience, how my coaching has matured, and where I’m at in my life generally. To the latter point, I’m no spring chicken. I need to keep in mind my long-term finances at this stage, so I can’t afford a lengthy period of low pay. I don’t live a particularly lavish lifestyle, so I don’t require a large salary from that perspective, but I do need to be able to save toward retirement.
In the US it would be no problem to take over a program as head coach. I spent 7 years in Division I, and during my time at Brown I was involved in all aspects of running the program (which is what happens with a small coaching staff). Every position is different, of course, but I am confident that I have sufficient understanding of how the system works that even after the time away I’ll be able to work effectively in it once again.
I have what I think are realistic expectations in that regard, though. I can’t imagine I’m a strong candidate for a head coach position in one of the big conference schools. I wasn’t an assistant at that level and don’t have NCAA head coaching experience. Not that the postings for those jobs list those credentials, but the candidate pool will certainly reflect it. My prospects are better in the more middling and lower ranks of Division I, or in Division II.
I would rule out the assistant coach route, though. In particular, if I were to move into professional volleyball coaching I would almost certainly have to start as an assistant. I simply don’t know enough about the workings and mechanics of that system at this point to expect to be able to be a good head coach. A couple years of assistant coaching would be required for me to gain that knowledge and experience. In the States, it would be all about the situation. I would have no problem being a long-term assistant in a good location with an enjoyable working environment. In terms of something that was meant to improve my credentials as a potential head coach, however, I would have to confine myself to looking at only upper level positions. A middling or lower level one wouldn’t do much for me, either in terms of my resume or my own development as a coach. Been there, done that.
What am I looking for?
On a certain level there’s a beggars can’t be choosers aspect to my volleyball coaching candidacy at this stage. From a professional perspective, I’m largely an unknown quantity, though my US coaching helps. From an NCAA job perspective, the fact that I’ve been away from that system for a while now doesn’t do me any favors. I’ve been able to get head coaching experience in England, with a good bit of success to boot, but I don’t know how that will be judged. I’ve also made potentially useful international contacts, but that is something which might only matter to a relative few.
From my own perspective, I’d like to end up at a place where I can build something – or help build it if in an assistant role. That means being somewhere the opportunity to work toward success exists. I don’t mind starting at a low point and working from there, so long as I can see how thing could growing and improve over time. I would not be happy in a place where management was happy with the status quo and unsupportive of my trying to elevate things.
I’ve said to friends that I wish the opportunity existed for me to stay and continue working with the Exeter University volleyball program. We’ve already had considerable success, especially when compared to the relative difference in support received by our competition, but there’s plenty more that could be done. I can see so many ways to make it stronger – to make it potentially one of the truly elite programs in the U.K. That is the sort of situation I’d like to find myself in moving forward. Unfortunately, the opportunity for me to stay in Exeter doesn’t exist, so I have to try to find something similar elsewhere.