Archive for Volleyball Coaching Careers

Coaching professional volleyball – advice wanted

coaching professional volleyball

In the last few days I’ve had a pair of coaches ask me for advice on on starting a career coaching professional volleyball. One of them is an avid reader of this blog from Canada with both youth club and college level experience. The other is a current US college coach who it sounded like he came to hear about me by reading my article in the latest AVCA magazine.

First of all, seeing as I’m currently only in my first year coaching at the professional level in Europe, I’m not going to pretend to know everything there is about breaking in and making a career of it. Hopefully we can get some folks with more experience than myself to contribute to the discussion.

For now, though, I’ll share my own perspective on getting into coaching professional volleyball.

Something very important to understand about the European coaching market – and I’m guessing ones in other areas of the world as well – is that for the most part you’re not going going to see public job postings. In the US, and to a degree Canada and England, it’s pretty easy to find out about available coaching jobs through the list of volleyball job listings sites I’ve compiled. You may find narrowly defined sites – like the one that lists French and some Swiss openings – but you won’t find anything with broad coverage.

So how do you find out about openings?

Networking

Developing contacts in professional volleyball is something I strongly recommend. Networking is directly responsible for me getting my current job at Svedala. I heard about the job through one of my contacts. At the same time, the contacts I have can be useful references for positions I target. Also, they are sources of information on coaching life and careers and intelligence on the job market.

So how do you develop a professional coaching network?

The simple answer is to get out there and meet coaches. Yes, you can use LinkedIn and other online methods for finding people to connect with. Really, though, the best results in terms of creating good links and being able to learn is to get out and spend time with coaches. It’s something you might be doing in going to the AVCA Convention or the USA Volleyball High Performance Coaches Clinic, or other more regional events. A similar principle applies for looking abroad. Find the coaching events that happen each year (they are often in late Spring/Summer after the season ends).

Also, go spend some time in other coaches’ gyms. Aside from being a good learning opportunity, it gives you a chance to develop a more direct relationship with others. Don’t be shy. You’d be surprised how willing people are to have you visit with them – even those who are coaching professional volleyball!

Research

The other thing you definitely need to do is research. Think of the professional volleyball landscape as being similar to the conference structure in US collegiate volleyball. Some conferences have a very high competitive standard with lots of funding. Some conferences are at the other end of the spectrum entirely. The rest are at different points in the middle. In my post Professional volleyball country league rankings I talk about how they compare from at least the level of play perspective.

Use your coaching network to help in this research. One of my contacts in Germany was very helpful in giving me an idea of what coaching in Sweden would be like. He’d coached in Finland for several years, so knew the way of things in the Scandinavian countries.

Your research should help you narrow your target coaching market down based on your coaching credentials, where you might want to live, and the like. That then would allow you to concentrate on learning all you can about those leagues and teams – including potentially finding out when coaching jobs open up. It also gives you some specific targets for your networking efforts. After all, who’s better to tell you about your target league(s) than those who actually coach there?

And like researching potential employers anywhere, going through the process will help you figure out where and how your particular experience and talents match with what a team is looking for in a new coach.

Required Credentials

Let me start by talking certifications, licenses, and the like. In some countries they are required. Germany is an example of this. That isn’t to say a foreign coach must go through the full German licensing program in order to be hired, as there are accommodations, but you do have to jump through some hoops to be granted a German license. In Sweden there is no such requirement. Having coaching credentials from your home country (e.g. USA Volleyball CAP) definitely helps. In some cases they can be used to gain quick certification in the new country – as was my case in England.

The other thing I would bring up is that going the assistant coach route as a first step is likely to be very challenging. In the less well-funded leagues having an assistant coach at all is a luxury in some places. Even in the better funded leagues, finding assistant coaches earning reasonable money can be challenging. Many of them are required to also coach in the club’s youth teams, which may mean having to know the local language reasonably well.

As a result, you’re probably going to need to be thinking of going after a head coach job. That likely means you want to have some solid head coaching experience on your resume before trying to break into coaching professional volleyball.

Other considerations

When I got hired at Svedala I posted the basic terms of my contract here. That should give you an idea of the things to expect in that regard. Obviously, the specific terms and compensation will vary.

Note that I haven’t said anything about citizenship here. Generally speaking, professional clubs are able to arrange for working permits for foreign coaches. There’s an expense, though, so in some cases your status might factor in. This was something I ran up against exploring a Swiss job. If I’d been an EU citizen I may be coaching in Switzerland now rather than Sweden.

The other thing I would say is you need to realize that coaching professional volleyball has some considerable differences with coaching collegiate volleyball. I did a 3-part series on some of my observations which starts here. The most obvious one is the length of the season. In Europe you start play in October (with preseason starting as early as August) and you probably go until April, or even May in some cases. There is a brief holiday break (mine is about 10 days this year). That requires a different kind of thought and planning process.

Final thoughts

I think coaching professional volleyball is definitely something worth exploring if you’re in the right situation for it, though breaking in will require a lot of work. Obviously, it means uprooting your life and moving abroad – probably to a place where you don’t speak the language – and adapting to a whole new set of circumstances. You probably won’t make all that much money, but you’ll gain a lot of useful experience and education.

 

 

A coaching requirement: Passion

In his Volleyball Coaching Wizards interview, 2016 Olympic Dutch National Team and Turkish club side Vakifbank head coach Giovanni Guidetti spoke a lot about the need to be passionate. He is definitely not the only one of the Wizards to make that kind of observation. He may have done so in the most eloquent fashion to-date, though.

Alexis at Coaches Corner wrote a post on the subject which follows along the same lines. He suggests that passion is a requirement to be a successful coach. Moreover, he says coaching is different from other careers in that regard. In other occupations one can be successful without it.

This actually reminds me of something Alexis’ brother Mark once said. He suggested that non-coaches don’t really have job stress.

I think millions of folks around the world would disagree quite loudly!

Having worked in the non-coaching, non-sports arena for a fair portion of my life, I can say with some conviction that non-coaches definitely experience stress. Similarly, I can say that passion is a part of a lot more that just coaching.

Personally, I think you can be decent in just about anything based on having a reasonable level of proficiency – including coaching. A lot of people do just that. In order to really excel, achieve, and succeed over time, though, you need to have a drive and a motivation to push yourself to a higher level – and to keep doing so. That’s where passion comes it.

Passion is also a factor in keeping you in something for the long term. It sustains your motivation through the inevitable ups and downs. Those who are merely technically proficient are more likely to fall to the wayside when things become challenging. The passionate ones see the tough times as just more motivation to get better.

To answer the question posed at the end of Alexis’ article, what about a #3 option – passion for the sport and passion for coaching? ­čÖé

Professional volleyball country league rankings

When I took the job coaching at Svedala in Sweden I knew the Swedish league was not generally ranked highly compared to other European domestic leagues. What I wasn’t really sure about, beyond some vague sense, was how they actually ranked. Then I found out.

Mark Lebedew pointed me to the CEV’s club rankings. It is what they use to allocate spots in the Champions League, CEV Cup, and Challenge Cup. They also use them to determine seedings.

There’s a limitation to these rankings, however. They are basically based on performance in CEV competition. If a country doesn’t ever send teams to play in them, they never get any ranking points. As such, they have some limits. The rankings at the top end might be pretty reasonable. Once you start dropping down the list, though, they are going to be less representative of relative levels of play.

In the case of Sweden, clubs generally don’t enter CEV competition. They do not feel the benefit matches the expense and considerable travel. The same mindset is clearly at work in many other countries as well.There are 20+ nations in each gender listed with zero points.

The other thing to consider is just how deep some of these leagues are. In some cases, not very deep at all. They rank high in the CEV table, though, because they have a couple of teams that do really well in those competitions (or maybe just one). This can mask the fact that their domestic league is not really all that good once you get past the first 1 or 2 places.

Needless to say, looking at the CEV rankings isn’t quite as helpful as looking at the NCAA RPI rankings to figure out where the various conferences in US collegiate volleyball rank. It’s at least a starting point, though.

The next question I have is how the different leagues rank from a coaching quality of life and opportunity perspective.

Assistant coaches acting unprofessionally

I heard something really disappointing.

Actually, “disappointing” is probably too mild.

I was chatting with the parent of a player I did some work with in the past. We were talking about a match she was playing in that I was able to see a bit of streaming online. I made a comment about the warm-up routine they were gong through. In response, said parent told me his daughter had mentioned that there was some dissent in the coaching staff. Basically, the assistant coaches weren’t in agreement with the head coach on things.

There’s one firm bit of advice I give to any new assistant coach (for example, here). This goes for whether they work with me or with any other coach. That is that the coaching staff must always present a united front. It’s fine to disagree. In fact, that can be a very good thing. You don’t do it in front of the team, though, or in a way that can get back to the players.

In this particular case, apparently the assistants made their dissatisfaction known to the parents, which naturally trickled down to the team. Totally unprofessional behavior in my opinion. I don’t have a horse in this particular race, but it still pisses me off to hear about this kind of thing happening.

And by the way, the unified front thing applies to head coaches as well.

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – July 22, 2015

I’m transitioning from England to Sweden today, marking a number of meaningful changes in my life – not just from a coaching perspective. I think that makes it a good time to circle back for a quick update on what’s happened since┬áI accepted the Svedala position early in June. Just because I’ve already got a new head coaching position, it doesn’t mean the correspondence with schools to which I applied has stopped. In the last several weeks I’ve received rejection emails from:

  • Tennessee (June 12th)
  • Auburn University at Montgomery (June 16th)
  • Miami (June 30th)
  • Jacksonville State (June 30th)
  • Texas A&M International (July 3rd)
  • Smith (July 6th)
  • Angelo State (July 8th)
  • UT Rio Grande Valley (July 16th)
  • UNC Charlotte (July 16th)

As you may recall from my earlier listing of all the jobs I applied for during the process, some of these positions I already knew had been filled. There remain a number I haven’t heard anything about thus far. Though to be fair, I haven’t really been paying close attention – as I’m sure you can imagine.

One of the more interesting developments was that shortly after accepting the Svedala job I found out about a UK university position that was opening up in London. Had the timing been different, I would have at least explored that option. I’m not sure if I would have been considered given my non-UK/EU status, but from a credentials and contacts perspective I have to think I would have at least been in the discussion.

On a separate, but related subject … I’ve found it interesting to think about what life might be like as a professional volleyball coach if I stick with it long-term. The primary coaching commitment is August/September to April. Unlike US collegiate volleyball, the administrative/recruiting demands outside of that are not large. This leaves considerable space and time for doing other things. Coaches seem to fill that with things like clinics and camps and national team coaching.

I now coach a professional volleyball team!

This morning I signed my first professional volleyball coaching contract. I’m officially now the head coach of Svedala Volleybollklubb, which plays in the top women’s division in Sweden. This is the job I referred to in last week’s log entry.

If you asked me back in the 2000s when I was coaching NCAA volleyball whether I would ever coach in Europe, let alone Sweden, I probably would have laughed. Admittedly, I was kind of ignorant about the global volleyball world at the point (not that I’m some all-knowing font of information now). Even when I started the job search back in December I wouldn’t have given very good odds of ending up in Sweden. One thing I figured out a long time ago, though, is life can take you in the least expected directions.

This job is a definite “who you know” development. One of the coaches I spent time with last summer knew the Svedala coach of the past two seasons who had decided to move on. It was through this connection that I found out about the opening and was given the details for applying. It took a few weeks for things to play out. I exchanged a number of emails with the club’s sports director, who is also manager of the team I’ll coach, has been the assistant coach recently, and once coached the team himself.

The process started on May 5th with my initial indication of interest. It didn’t really get going until May 16th, though. That was when I was given an indication of the club’s situation and designs. I was asked to outline my coaching philosophy. Being the naturally curious sort, I asked loads of questions about the club and Swedish volleyball more broadly. On May 24th, as part of being in the top 3-4 candidates under consideration I was provided with an outline of the contract terms. More Q&A followed, of course. I was then offered the position on June 1st and accepted on the 2nd.┬á Believe it or not, I didn’t have so much as a phone interview in the whole process.

Per the contract, these are my responsibilities:

a) Participate fully in the efforts of the Club to reach the play-offs.

b) Actively lead the elite team’s practices organized by the Club.

c) Participate in sponsor related events organized by the Club.

d) The coach should also be prepared to participate in other club activities and be a part of the total coaching team at the club.

e) Be part of the Club’s general work in the community

f) Wear specified sportswear with sponsor information during training, games and other arrangements conducted by the Club.

g) Be prepared to mentor other coaches in the Club

h) Not use any drugs specified by the Swedish national Volleyball Federation (Svenska Volleybollf├Ârbundet) and FIVB to be considered as drugs or doping substances.

As you can see, not only will I be responsible for coaching the club’s top team, I will also be tasked to work with the coaches from the club’s lower teams. Naturally, there are the usual public relations efforts as well.

The club’s responsibility to me is as follows:

1. Structured support surrounding practice and matches.

2. Medical support in volleyball related circumstances.

3. Health and Care insurance at least compatible with national standards

4. Accommodation in Svedala.

5. A round trip flight ticket to Sweden (Copenhagen Airport).

Plus my monthly salary, of course. As I mentioned in my comparison of professional vs. NCAA coaching, in Europe it is standard for club’s to provide accommodation and transportation to coaches (and players). Sweden is a lower level league and Svedala is a small club, so I definitely won’t be getting rich off the salary. If you work things back out, the equivalent pre-tax salary is probably about in line with that of a low level NCAA Division I head coaching job. And like those lower level programs, the resources at my disposal will be limited.

I have actually already started performing duties for my position. I am going to begin a new coaching log for 2015-16 to document things along the way. Look for my first entry soon. I’m definitely looking forward to the new challenge. I’ve never been to Sweden.

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – June 5, 2015

The only news that matters is that I was offered the professional job I talked about getting short-listed for previously. And I accepted the offer. The club is Svedala in Sweden. Once the details are finalized I will talk about things more specifically – probably next week.

In the meantime, for those who might be interested, below is a list of all the volleyball coaching jobs I applied for in the last six months. Some of them I knew I had no shot at, but put my resume in because it got my name out there for potential future consideration. Other positions no doubt were already filled before they were even posted. So while the list below is long – perhaps depressingly so from a job-seeker’s perspective – only part of it is jobs I was actually ever really in potential consideration for on some level. Those in red are ones I either got a rejection note from or otherwise found out the job was filled.

NCAA/NAIA Head Coach (NCAA Division I unless noted)

NCAA Assistant Coach (Division I unless noted)

Non-US head coach

Opportunities in Irish volleyball coaching?

I had the following email hit my inbox. It’s not something I have a lot of information about, so I’m posting it here in hopes that maybe some folks out there better informed than myself can offer their suggestions, insights, etc.

John,

I have enjoyed your Job Search Log. While our personal needs and goals are  quite different, I am hoping you have run across things that might help.

As an Irish American on both sides I am curious to know if there are any opportunities to coach in Ireland? I am about to retire from a career at the Boeing Company with a pretty good Pension and Retirement Fund. So while a pure volunteer position wouldn’t work, I don’t require a full time living wage.┬á

I have coached 3rd through 12th graders at schools, Boys and Girls Clubs and USAV Clubs. I would be interested in coaching teams at any of those levels or working with camps or clinics.

Do you have any ideas about how to start looking?

Thanks!!

Jim

Teams from universities in Northern Ireland sometimes compete in the U.K. BUCS championships. My first season coaching the Exeter guys saw us play one of them (would have been another my second season, but that one forfeit). That team had a coach, but I don’t know his status. My guess is the Irish universities across the whole island are similar in structure to the ones in England, which probably means not much in the way of resources for things like paid coaching in most cases.

As for other levels, I have zero knowledge. If it’s like England then there are a number of Juniors clubs, though coaching those teams probably pays little, if anything. School volleyball the way Americans think of it probably doesn’t exist at all, though there may be certain competitions.

As I said at the start, though, hopefully someone much better informed than myself can give Jim some proper answers.

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – May 29, 2015

Scratch the Angelo State and Idaho State assistant positions from the list of prospective new jobs.. Likewise for the Robert Morris (Chicago) head job. Also, the head coach position at German club M├╝nster was filled by a coach unexpectedly nabbed from another club.

I applied for an NCAA Division III head coach job in the Northeast. It is a position which includes teaching responsibilities. I’ve avoided those types of jobs to-date, largely because they seem to require P.E. type degrees, which I don’t have. This one, though, seems to want someone able to teach about coaching, which I’m better equipped to do. It’s also at an academically high level school, which appeals to me.

Around about the time I was finalizing last week’s log entry, I got an email from a German contact about a women’s Bundesliga head job he’d just put in for. That led to an exchange about coaching together. The club in question apparently was put into a scramble by their current coach unexpectedly leaving. Word had it internal candidates had or were going to turn management down in terms of being promoted (which seems now to be the case). It turns out one of those approached was the current assistant who is the father of a player on the team of one of my other contacts in Germany. I joked that if said father did indeed accept the promotion, maybe the child’s coach could get him to hire me in his former position. ­čÖé

Also referring back to last week’s log entry, I did hear back again from the club who told me I was on their short list to head coach. I was given the basic framework of what the contract would look like. Financially, it was about what I’d been told to expect. The contract period wasn’t quite what I’d anticipated, but not in any way that would impact significantly on my decision was an offer to be made.