Archive for Volleyball Coach Development

If you think coaching is easy, you’re probably doing it wrong

Mark Lebedew wrote a post titled How To Become A Coach. In it he shares a story about a former player relatively new to coaching talking about how hard it is to coach. I’ve heard something similar in my own coaching travels at different times. Players often don’t realize the amount of work that goes into good coaching. As a result, when they attempt to make a shift into coaching after they finish playing they get a major shock.

I’ve long been a proponent of players doing some coaching along the way. Many of the college players I’ve coached over the years have coached juniors. The three Americans on the Svedala team I coached professionally in Sweden were coaches for the club’s youth teams. One the one hand, I thinking coaching makes players better. They learn to look at things differently, and that can have a real positive impact on their play. On the other hand, the experience of being a coach helps them appreciate better the sorts of things their own coaches deal with on a regular basis.

Of course, some of the players are better coaches than others. That’s a function – at least in part – of having the types of skills coaching requires. They aren’t the same as those necessary to play volleyball at a high level.

None of them are really good coaches, though, for a couple of simple reasons. One is lack of experience, and the other is lack of education. The latter is Mark’s primary point in his piece. Paraphrasing, he says go to every course, clinic, practice, and match you can; talk to everyone you can and ask lots of questions; and do all the work you have to do, even if you don’t like. And you have to keep doing it. This is something I wholeheartedly endorse, having done just that sort of thing myself, with examples here, here, and here.

It should be noted that education is not enough, though. One of my early Volleyball Coaching Wizards interviews was with Paulo Cunha. For many years he directed coaching education in his native Portugal. Paulo made the comment during our conversation that just getting a certification doesn’t make you a coach. People may think it does, but in some ways it’s just the beginning of the process.

Coaching is a challenge on many levels. If it isn’t, you’re probably not doing it right. To my mind, that’s a big part of what makes it interesting and compelling.

 

Common coaching mistakes

There’s an article on Volleyball Toolbox which lists out eight coaching mistakes. I thought I’d take some time to address them myself. Here’s the list.

  1. Focused on Outcomes (Instead of Learning)
  2. Focused on Being Serious (Instead of Enjoyment)
  3. Tried to Inspire by Demeaning (Instead of Being Demanding)
  4. Took Credit for the Good and Blamed Others for the Bad (Instead of the Opposite)
  5. Did Lots of Talking (Instead of Listening)
  6. Acted Like a General (Instead of a Teacher)
  7. Used Fear as a Motivator (Instead of Love)
  8. Knew it All (Instead of being Humble)

Let me take these mistakes one by one.

Outcome focus

While I agree with the motivation behind #1, there’s a bit of nuance required in the thinking. Yes, there can be a tendency to focus too much on winning and losing as the outcome. We cannot, however, say we are just going to focus on the learning side of things, though. Why? Because the outcomes are – at least partly – why we are training. My point is that what our players are learning needs move them towards the outcome we seek. We are not just teaching them a set of skills.

Too serious

In terms of #2, there is a difference between being serious and being focused. You can have fun and be focused. Practice doesn’t have to be a serious thing. I know I personally prefer a bit of levity. Otherwise, it can be kind of dull. That’s not to say it’s all laughing and joking. It’s about allowing them – and us as coaches – to enjoy themselves. Allowing that while maintaining focus is part of our coaching role.

Demeaning

I think #3 probably doesn’t require much comment. Belittling has no place in coaching in my view. If we cannot get our point across without demeaning our players we have serious short-comings as teachers and leaders.

Credit and blame

There are a couple of factors that can contribute to #4. One is overconfidence – specifically, something referred to as misattribution or self-attribution. That means we think a given positive outcome (e.g. winning) is thanks to our own talent, knowledge, skill, etc. At the same time, we attribute negative outcomes (e.g. losing) to things outside ourselves (refs, players, court conditions, etc.). In other words, we don’t see correctly our contribution to the outcome, and also we fail to realize that sometimes random chance plays a major part.

The other factor in this is Mindset. If we have a fixed mindset, then our view of ourselves and our personal self-worth is closely tied with outcomes. That means we are going to favor things which tend to support that view (we’re a good coach). At the same time, we’re going to tend to discount things which don’t support this view.

Talking too much

Related to #5, I wrote previously in The more you talk, the less they train that especially newer coaches can easily fall into a trap of talking way too much. My main point in that post is that if we’re talking then they aren’t actually practicing. Beyond that, though, we aren’t giving them a chance to figure things out for themselves, which is much more powerful than being told what to do. Further, if all you’re doing is talking then you’re not paying attention to what’s happening. That means you could miss important things.

Playing general

The focus of #6 is on making all the decisions as coach rather than letting the players get on with it themselves. Basically, your trying to control everything. Think of it as micromanaging.

This is something I wrote about in Calling plays from the bench. We have to accept that we cannot dictate everything. Even more, if we make all the decisions we are short-changing the players’ development. In other words, we’re failing as teachers. This might be fine if you’re playing for gold in the Olympics. If you’re coaching a bunch of 14 year-olds, though, it’s a problem.

I should note that good generals know that they need to let those below them just get on with doing what needs to be done without constant oversight and interference.

Fear and intimidation

My thinking for #7 is similar to #3. If you require fear and/or intimidation to motivate your players, you’re failing as a coach. You need to find a better way. Coaching is about convincing – getting players to buy in to your perspective and sense of direction. Legendary coach Julio Velasco spoke about this very thing at the 2015 High Performance Coaches Clinic.

Know it all

One of the common themes from the Volleyball Coaching Wizards interviews is that as young coaches we don’t realize how little we really know. As the saying goes, the older we get, the less we know. This should both make one humble as a coach and motivate an attitude of life-long learning.

Coaching career motivations – ladder climbing vs. maximizing what you have

My friend Ruben Wolochin forwarded me a link to the Forbes article about Western Kentucky head coach Travis Hudson. I’d seen the article floating around, but hadn’t read it yet. I found it really interesting that an Argentine (Ruben) coaching in Germany (for top division team Bühl) forwarded it to me. Of course, the fact that a mainstream site like Forbes is writing about a volleyball coach is quite exciting for our sport.

Maximizing what you have

Ruben made a comment in our conversation related to Hudson’s performance.

Success means getting the best possible from your circumstances.

I agree with him 100%.

We don’t all have great athletes. Nor do we all have high quality facilities, or good support. We have to do the best we can with what we do have. Sometimes that means winning lots of matches and being a champion. Other times, though, the win/loss record doesn’t reflect the real accomplishment.

Perhaps the team I’m most proud to have coached is the 2013-14 Exeter women. Reaching the national semifinals that year was an accomplishment far beyond anything anyone would reasonably have expected. We had no scholarship athletes, but finished above teams with them. It was literally the best season we could possibly have had (the teams above us had FAR superior athletes and resources). We got the absolute most out of ourselves.

The experience of that season at Exeter reinforced in me the need to constantly look for ways to maximize performance and the rewards it can bring. That applies to everything. It’s not just about the on-court performance. Certainly, it seems like Hudson has been able to do that.

Ladder climbing

Flipping things around, my response to Ruben was that Hudson seems to know what’s important to him. The article highlights how he’s had plenty of opportunity to move on to a higher level for probably much more money. That doesn’t motivate him, though. He’s not interested in climbing the ladder, and he’s making plenty of money at Western Kentucky.

When I interviewed Mike Lingenfelter for Volleyball Coaching Wizards we talked at one point about finding your niche. That’s the idea that each of us as coaches should figure out where we best fit in the coaching spectrum. There are a lot of different age groups, competitive levels, and locations. Some suit us better than others.

Hudson’s clearly found what suits him. As a result, his personal satisfaction and sense of reward are extremely high. Going somewhere else would risk reducing that. Why bother?

Now, it’s true that sometimes you have to do the ladder climbing thing to reach where you want to be (I bemoaned the requirement for it at times in a previous post). And for sure some coaches are motivated toward greater prestige, earning more money, or whatever they perceive as the reward(s) of coaching at a higher level. I’m not here to argue what is the right or wrong motivation – only that each coach should understand their own (though we’re pretty bad at understanding what we’ll want or be like in the future).

Hudson said his motivations are, “… to help kids grow, see them graduate and develop them as people.” Do you know your motivation? I wrote about my own in the Why I Coach post.

Looking forward myself

The combination of getting the most from your situation and finding your niche is something I think about quite a bit when I consider my own situation moving forward. I’ve spoken with Ruth Nelson (another of the Wizards I’ve interviewed) on this subject. She was heavily involved in my move to Midwestern State, and we’ve talked career stuff a number of times since then. Motivation is a big part of that.

The thing I often wonder is whether I could do something like Hudson has done. I don’t mean take a team from obscurity to national significance. I actually did that already at Exeter. 😉

What I mean is whether I could become a lifer somewhere. Can I find a place where I’m able to settle and coach until retirement – whenever that might be? My history doesn’t really show much indication of being able to do so.

I honestly think the answer is yes, though. It comes down to the challenge.

Obviously, it is important to live in place I like and to work with good people. Beyond that, however, there needs to be the opportunity to continuously challenge myself and push things forward. And I’m not just talking about the volleyball. Organizing the Midwestern State team trip to Buenos Aires, for example, was a massive challenge that had nothing to do with the on-court work. Not that I don’t care about the team’s performance, because I definitely do. I just need for things to be multi-dimensional.

That’s what I’ll have in mind as I ponder my future career direction.

What you should know before taking an assistant coach position

An up-and-coming coach (I presume) asked the following question.

What are some things you wish you knew or had asked prior to taking your position?

NCAA Division I assistant coaches were the specific target, though most of the response applies across levels.

Your role

For me, the big question that comes to mind is what the head coach sees as my role. Early in my career I was in a position where I was effectively excluded from the practice planning. It was really annoying! I was trying to learn, and here I can’t take part in what I considered a key part of the job. That’s something I would have liked to know ahead of time. Might have made a different decision whether to take the position.

Head coach style/philosophy

I think you also want to try to get as much of a feel as you can with regards to the head coach’s style and philosophy. This can be hard in an interview type situation, or even in a more casual conversation. Ideally, you get to see the coach in action. That’s not always possible, though.

What you’re trying to do is to make sure you and the head coach are basically on the same page in terms of the way things will be run. You are not always going to agree on things. That’s a given. That’s not the same, though, as having completely different perspectives on how things should work. Such a situation will make you miserable.

Off-court duties

This one is especially important for newer coaches. If you haven’t coached in a similar type of environment, you may have no idea what gets done away from the court. There is basically no such thing as the coach who just handle coaching duties – at least not in a paid position. Even juniors club teams have administrative requirements for their staff. That work load gets bigger as you progress up the ranks.

  • What’s the recruiting workload and travel schedule?
  • How much time will you spend covering athlete study hall and tracking their academic performance?
  • Do you have to help with fund raising efforts?
  • Is there any community service or outreach work to be done?
  • Do you have to drive?
  • Who handle’s recording matches and video exchange?

These represent just a few of the things that could be part of the work you do as an assistant coach.

How much longer?

You should also possibly ask about how long the head coach plans to in their position. For some you can probably guess pretty easily. For others, it’s best to at least ask.

Best to at least have some idea what you’re getting yourself into before signing on!

Here’s some additional advice on being a good assistant and some thoughts for a former player coaching their prior teammates.

What does it mean to be an elite coach?

Volleyball Coach

I came across an interesting topic in a coaching group. The original poster asked the following question.

What characteristics or skills do you think are an absolute necessity to be an elite coach or coaching staff?

Sadly, only a handful of people answered the question. Their answers were pretty good ones, though. Here’s a summary list, in no particular order.

  • Always strive to improve
  • Being coachable and humble
  • Trust the process
  • Strive to be your best
  • Communication skills
  • Explain they Why
  • High level understanding of the game
  • Clear objectives
  • Knowledge of your athletes
  • Well-planned practices
  • Being a listener
  • Consistent feedback
  • Creator of a strong, winning culture

I’m going to address the subject of a coaching staff separately. I think it’s a separate discussion. The above list focuses mainly on the individual coach, so I’m going to concentrate on that here.

Here are the things I think are probably key in being an elite coach.

Knowledge of the game

This is a pretty obvious thing for a coach to have, but it’s an area where new coaches can come up short. Many of us – perhaps most – started out as players at some level. Playing the game for sure develops a knowledge of the game, but it’s not the same as that required of a coach. Players tend to focus on parts, while the coach has to be aware of how those parts link together. This sort of thing tends to come primarily from watching a lot of volleyball, but not as a spectator. You have to do it with an analytic eye, watching all the various moving parts.

Up-to-date understanding of training methods

I’m not talking about know the latest drills here (see my post on Fancy New Drill Syndrome). Rather, I’m talking about the science of motor learning. It’s very easy to think you know how it works because it’s intuitive stuff. Really, though, it isn’t. See Going beyond maximizing player contacts for an idea of what I’m talking about here. The point is you need to stay on top of this stuff, not just persist in doing stuff you’ve always done or your coaches before you did.

This applies to stuff like strength and conditioning as well. Things are changing on a fairly steady basis there.

Communication skills

To put it simply, you can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you can’t communicate it to your players, it’s useless.This isn’t just about teaching skills and tactics. It’s also about communicating your vision and getting others to buy in. It’s learning about your players and letting them get to know you as well. As coaches, communication is at the very core of what we do, and you will never become an elite coach without good skills in this area.

Drive

What are you trying to accomplish? Where are you trying to go with your coaching? Your team has its goals, but no doubt you have your own as well. It’s the thing that pushes you to keep moving forward and encourages you to be better, or to make things better.

In the Why I Coach post I shared some of my drive in the “Building something” section. I’m motivated to take a program to a higher level. That isn’t just about winning as that isn’t really in your control. Instead, it’s about reaching new milestones and generally pushing things forward. If I reach a point where I don’t see the potential to keep doing that, then I know it’s probably time for me to move on.

A vision

This is somewhat related to drive above, but is more focused in the present on the current team. In order to lead others you need to know where you’re trying to go. And going to back to another prior section, it needs to be something you can communicate in a way that gets others to have the same vision and to be willing to follow you in that direction.

Organizational skills

This can cover a fairly wide array of things. For some coaches it’s at the level of organizing practices and generally managing the affairs immediately related to the team and players. Think of a club situation where there is someone (or several someones) higher up taking care of the larger administration.

In some coaching roles – a college coach, for example – there’s a lot more to it. There’s a whole lot more overhead. Much of what is handled by a club director, a manager, or a board is on your shoulders. You need to deal with budgets, scheduling, facilities, and interacting and coordinating with any number of on-campus and off-campus constituencies. If you don’t have good organizational skills in that context it can really hamper your on-court efforts.

An unquenchable thirst for knowledge

One of the very clear things to come out of the Volleyball Coaching Wizards interviews we’ve done is that those great coaches all have the mentality of constantly looking to learn and improve. They take every opportunity they can to gain more knowledge and insight.

So those are some of my thoughts on what it takes to be an elite coach. Do you have thoughts of your own? I’d love to hear them. Just leave a comment below.

Why I coach

Why do I coach volleyball?

That’s a question I think about from time to time, especially when pondering my future. All of us should know what motivates us to coach, and to keep coaching. The moment we struggle to come up with a good motivation is probably the signal it’s close to the end, or at least time for a break.

Note, I’m not talking about coaching philosophy (you can see mine here).

So why do I coach? Or probably better stated…

What do I get out of coaching beyond a salary and benefits?

Building something

I am a builder. I like taking things from nothing to something, or from something to something better. It’s a big reason why I took the MSU job. We did it at the University of Exeter when I was there, going from basically an average regional program to one with a national reputation. It’s why I built the biggest Juniors club in my home state of Rhode Island. It was even part of what we did at Dean College, my first college coaching job. I’m motivated to constantly look for ways to make improvements.

This is where I had an issue in my time at Svedala. I wasn’t involved in the management side of the club. I was just the coach. As such, I couldn’t influence the club’s path forward. That grated on me, and no doubt was part of my overall feeling of discontent there.

My time at Svedala may not have gone the way I wanted, but it definitely taught me some things. One of those is that in any coaching job I take moving forward I need to have an influence on things off the court. Just coaching won’t be enough.

Problem solving

I really get into the problem solving aspect of coaching – answering the “How do we …?” questions. In some ways that overlaps with what I just talked about above in terms of building. Here, though, I’m more specifically talking about the immediate situation with the team in the current season.

Think of this as the nitty-gritty of getting the most out of a group of players. That’s stuff like trying to figure out the best starting 6 and playing a system that maximizes their collective potential. It’s figuring out training priorities to move the team forward in the areas we’ve identified as key. Maybe it’s improving specific technical skills.

Achievement

Many people who coach are inherently competitive. Coaching for them is a way they can continue to compete once their playing career has wound down. I’m not really motivated that way.

Don’t get me wrong. I like to win, and I’m competitive in my own kind of way. I just don’t put as much weight on winning and losing as others do. I’ve heard coaches say they would be very difficult to live with if they had a losing record. When I interviewed Mick Haley for Volleyball Coaching Wizards he talked about really having a problem if his team won less than 80% of its matches.

That sort of thing isn’t an issue for me in and of itself. Good thing too! I’ve coached some teams that didn’t win very much. The difference in whether I was happy with those teams or not is if they achieved. Some teams had the talent to be winners, but weren’t because they didn’t achieve. Other teams definitely achieved, but didn’t win much because they lacked the talent. And sometimes you have teams that win despite not really achieving.

That all said, I definitely acknowledge that winning is necessary for achievement beyond a certain point. You can’t take home your program’s first ever league championship without winning. You can’t reach your first national championship tournament without winning. There comes a time when the sort of building I talked about above requires win-related achievement. I acknowledge that wholeheartedly. It’s just that for me the achievement is more important than the winning.

Here’s an example. The Exeter University women’s team had a league record of 4-6 the first year I coached them. Somehow we still managed to qualify for the championship tournament as the third place team in our league (lost in the first round). We had a losing record, but the achievement was massive for us. It set the table for the following year, which I’ll talk about in a minute.

The sense of shared direction and commitment

As much as a lot of what I’ve done over the years could be viewed as individual accomplishment – like writing books, and completing my PhD – I get even more out of achieving things as part of a team. When everyone is on the same page and pulling in the same direction, and you achieve something great, it’s the best feeling in the world.

The Exeter women’s team in my second year was a great example of this. From the beginning of the season we had one objective – reach Final 8s. Everything we did was with that goal in mind. This was a direct carryover from the prior year’s experience of losing the first round playoff match.

We didn’t actually win any titles that season, and when we reached Final 8s we won just a single match out of four. We got there, though, and managed to find our way into the semifinals thanks to a tiebreak after pool play. It was an amazing thing because we again achieved something significant. I would have done just about anything for that team because we were all in it together.

Not teaching?

You’ll notice I didn’t actually talk about teaching in any of the above discussion. A lot of coaches bring that up as one of their big motivators. They love the teaching element. Once upon a time I probably would have said the same thing. These days I tend to think of myself more as a facilitator of learning than a teacher, per se.

There is another part to this, however. I figured out a while ago that my coaching niche is in the young adult age group. I’ve coached everything from U12s to middle aged adults, but I feel I am at my best with the 18-25 year olds. That means less need to teach basic skills. It’s usually more about refining technique and improving volleyball IQ at the individual level.

Not the thanks?

Hahahahahaha!

Gratitude is in relatively short supply in the coaching game. If that was something I needed to keep me going I’d have quit years ago. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. Every once in a while you receive an expression of gratitude. Their nice to receive, for sure. It’s always good to know you are appreciated. I just don’t expect it.

What about you?

I’ve shared my own coaching motivations. What about you? Why do you coach? What keeps you coming back year in and year out?

 

What is wanted when hiring a head coach

Volleyball Coach

A while back Terry Pettit (who I interviewed for Volleyball Coaching Wizards), wrote an article outlining what he looks for in a head coach candidate, which is also included in his second book, A Fresh Season. Terry mostly works with colleges and universities, so that is the focus perspective. I think the points he makes are pretty universal, though.

Top of the list, head coach experience

The very first thing Terry mentions on his list of what he looks for is prior experience as a head coach. His point is that until you are head coach you don’t really have final decision-making responsibility. That is a very different sort of thing that being an assistant coach. It is really the difference between being the leader and a follower.

Fellow Wizards interviewee Mick Haley has a very similar point of view. When I asked him in his interview what his career advice would be for developing coaches he specifically recommended getting some kind of head coach experience. He called the experience of having the decision-making responsibility key to a coach’s development.

By the way, what Mick said applies even to those aiming for assistant coaching positions. You will be a much more effectively assistant if you know what it’s like to be head coach. You are better able to anticipate the head coach’s needs.

Make sure it’s a good fit

The second big thing Terry talks about is the need for there to be a good fit for both sides. This is crucial. If the fit isn’t there, things simply aren’t going to work out well. I can tell you that from personal experience. It was pretty clear to me relatively early on in my time coaching at Svedala that it wasn’t a great long-term fit. Predictably, things didn’t work out there.

Of course, judging fit is not always the easiest thing in the world. You for sure should do your research about the school or club. That will at least give you a basic sense for whether the broad structure is a fit. That means the type of institution and its philosophy, the location, the academic standards, and the other things you can judge at least to a degree from outside.

The trickier part is trying to gauge the more internal aspects of fit. What are the ambitions of the organization. What is the management style of the Athletic Director? How is the administrative and financial support? Is it a collegial staff? These, and other fit type questions are only likely to come to light during the interview process. You’ll probably have to ask some questions of your own to get the best sense for it.

Good character

Terry’s third factor is the coach’s character. To quote, “I will not forward a candidate who has a history of bending rules, physically or mentally abusing athletes, or not interacting with peers in a professional manner.” I don’t think I need to add much to that, really.

A collaborative leader

Fourth on the list is that a head coach should work well with others. Terry focuses on assistant coaches, but I would add in anyone else associated with the program. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to running a team. Just as they would with a starting lineup, a good coach looks to use their staff in a way that highlights their strengths.

Curiosity above all else

While Terry puts curiosity last on his list, he calls it the most important trait he looks for in head coaching candidates. I might have used the word “reflective” instead, based on what he seems to be getting at here. It’s all about evaluating things, positively and negatively, and using your assessments to further yourself and your program. He describes someone who is basically always looking for ways to learn.

Additional thoughts

Terry has outlined the broad framework for what he considers a good head coaching position candidate. I generally agree with it. These are the higher level things you’ll want to get right. Of course, there are also finer details that become more or less relevant based on the position(s) you’re pursuing. Some of this relates to fit, as note above.

Some of it, though, is just technical and managerial skills you can develop. For example, most university head coach jobs require a master’s degree. High school jobs very often require first aid certification. Some jobs involve a fair bit of fund raising. Many positions require you to regularly interact with the media. You’ll want to do research into the requirements of the sorts of job you’re after to find out exactly what you need on your resume to make yourself a legitimate candidate.

The stages of a coaching career

A member of a coaching group in Facebook posted what he referred to as The 5 Stages of Your Coaching Career. Here they are with my own thoughts mixed with his in the description of each level.

1. Survival: Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

This is the time when you think you just need to know volleyball to be a volleyball coach. You especially haven’t realized yet all the other non-volleyball stuff that goes into coaching. Oftentimes these are players who have just made the shift into coaching.

2. Striving for Success: You Want Folks to Recognize You Can Coach

You’re starting to get an understanding of what coaching is really all about. You know much better what you don’t know, and that provides a certain type of motivation. On the one hand, you work hard to learn. On the other hand, it leads you to want to prove your worth. This leads some down the path of becoming extremely competitive. You crave the accolades that come from lots of W’s – all-league awards for your team, and maybe a coach of the year for you.

3. Satisfaction: You Relax, Set Another Goal, & Want To Get Better

That this stage you’ve achieved some of your goals, become established, and you have the confidence which comes with that. You can relax in the knowing you’re a good coach and you have the respect of your peers. You attend conferences to network and visit with old friends as much as you do to learn some new things. Each year you set new goals to accomplish that will push you and your team forward. You’re focused.

4. Significance: Changing Lives For The Good

At this point you’ve had a meaningful career with plenty of accomplishments. Personal glory isn’t much of a consideration any longer. Instead, you’re more focused on your legacy and the impact you have on those around you. You are very knowledgeable, and have reached the point where people solicit your opinion and ask for your help and wisdom.

5. Spent: No Juice Left, Can’t Do It Any More

The grind of it all is taking its toll, and you have a hard time motivating yourself each day. You want more time with family, and less time working generally. Not even the great incoming class excites you for the upcoming season. Probably time to hang it up.

Obviously, we all have our own particular career paths based on our own personalities, lives, and experiences. Some of us are inherently more competitive than others. Coaching may be an extension of that, especially if you’re a former player. Others of us come into coaching from more of an educational perspective. Those differences can play out in our own particular career phases.

I think, though, we generally all follow the arch described above. We are ignorant to start, learn what we don’t know, reach a level of mastery, look to give back, and then eventually wind things down.

What do you think? Does this progression make sense to you?

What are good questions to ask in a coaching job interview?

I wrote previously about questions I was asked in coaching interviews and questions you might hear when you interview for a coaching job. Obviously, you need to prepare for questions like that. You also, however, must be ready to ask questions of your own. In many interviews the final question you receive is, “Do you have any questions for me/us?”

So what types of questions should you prepare to ask your interviewer(s)?

I think there are three main categories of questions you need to consider. Which ones you go with depend on the situation and job.

Demonstrate knowledge of requirements

If you interview for a job that is outside your direct experience, it may be a particularly important for you to focus on demonstrating that you know what it takes to coach at that level. For example, moving up from assistant coach to head coach, or moving between NCAA divisions. Some of what you are asked is designed to assess you at this level. You can help your case, though, by asking good questions.

Show knowledge of the team/program/club

The second type of questions you can ask relates to demonstrating knowledge of the team or program and its history. If you have played and/or coached for the program in the past this isn’t a big deal. The connection will be obvious to the interviewer. If you haven’t, though, you want to demonstrate some kind of knowledge of and/or affinity for it. Much of this will come through in how you answer the questions posed to you. You can, however, reinforce it by how you ask your own questions. For example, you could start a question with something like, “I know in the past ….”.

Get the information you need to make a decision

The final type of questions you want to ask in an interview is the sort that helps with your own decision-making process. You want to develop as complete a picture as you can about what it will be like coaching that team and working in that school, athletic department, club, etc. Many of these sorts of questions overlap with the other types mentioned above. There might be some, though, that are more personal for you.

Some possible questions

Here are some examples of questions you could ask:

  • What is the program’s funding (scholarships)?
  • What are the roster requirements (min/max)?
  • How many assistants will I have?
  • What sort of fund raising do I have to do?
  • Is there an active booster club?
  • What sort of match attendance does the team get?
  • What is the recruiting budget?
  • Are there specific recruiting limitations?
  • How do we travel?
  • How do we split gym time with basketball when the seasons overlap?
  • What do I get for court time (club coach)?
  • What are the performance expectations for the team?
  • Will we have a dedicated athletic trainer?
  • Will we have a dedicated strength coach?
  • What is the overall coaching philosophy (for assistants or club coaches)?
  • What is my coaching role and administrative responsibility (assistants)?
  • Who is my direct report (Athletic Director, SWA, Technical Director, Club Director, etc.)?

That last one ties in with a bunch of potential questions about your relationship with your future boss. You certainly want to learn as much as you can about what it would be like working with/for them.

This is obviously just a partial list of possible questions. You need to do your research and give some real thought to how you want to present yourself, as well as what information you want to gather for your own purposes.

It’s OK to walk into an interview with a list

The bottom line in terms of questions is that you want to reinforce the things that you think make you a good candidate for the position, and you want to collect information for your own purposes. If you go to the interview with a list of questions you want to ask you look prepared – so long as you don’t ask questions basic research should have answered already. If you ask specific, thoughtful questions you demonstrate a clear interest in the position and the broader organization.

You don’t want to go overboard, of course. If the questions are too much about you, it could turn the interviewer(s) off. Always remember, they are looking for someone they think will fit into their organization. Until you are offered the job, you have to maintain a “what’s in it for them” approach with respect to hiring you.

Hope that helps. If you have any thoughts or suggestions of your own, definitely share. Just leave a comment below.