Archive for Volleyball Coaching Careers

Why so few women coaching volleyball?

For as long as I’ve been involved in US collegiate coaching there have been discussions and articles and commentary on the subject of attracting and retaining female coaches. This is particularly the case at the college level. A December 2013 article from Volleyball Magazine is an example of the debate/dialog. There was a related session at the 2013 AVCA Convention I attended as well, and no doubt others.

While I visited German professional volleyball teams in 2014 the subject came to mind. I thought about the composition of the coaching staff of the women’s teams I saw. There were no female coaches on any of the staffs. In fact, when I was with the SC Potsdam women there was a day when it was something like eight men in the gym between coaches, trainer, manager, etc. standing opposite 12 players. That struck me as borderline comical. I think one player made a similar observation to one of her teammates.

With that in mind, I asked a coach if he knew of any female professional coaches in Europe. He could think of no more than a handful across all the men’s and women’s teams. When I asked him what he thought the reason for that was he replied with something to the effect of, “Women are smarter than men”.

That’s obviously a fairly tongue-in-cheek response. It’s the start of a reasonable thought process, though. The main thrust is coaching can be all-consuming. I can attest to this myself. I might have finished my PhD quicker if it not for coaching volleyball.

OK, maybe not. You get my point, though.

As my supervisor could attest, coaching became a major distraction. I find that volleyball always worms its way to the forefront of my mind. This is especially true during the season. And I was not even coaching professionally or in an everyday coaching situation. Certainly it was not like coaching pro volleyball or in the US college game.

This all-encompassing aspect of coaching at the higher levels is something I know gives prospective female volleyball coaches pause. I have a friend from my youth who played NCAA Division I. She earned All-American honors and later played on the beach tour. She coached at our high school for a couple of seasons. That was as far as she would take it, however. She told me that after seeing the amount of time and travel and all that her own college coach put in she wanted nothing to do with it.

Then there’s the family element.

The head coach who hired me as assistant at Midwestern State resigned after my second season there (her third). She’d had a baby 9-10 month earlier. The father had been at another school in Texas as a basketball coach, but moved on to a school in California near the start of our season. She decided over the holiday break that she didn’t want to wait any longer to have the family together (she was thinking to give it one more season). She was not going into a new coaching job, though thought she might look for a high school or junior college position eventually. This is an example of how quickly one’s priorities can change.

As a upper level coach, volleyball can easily become your life. If someone doesn’t want that, they either have to coach at a less intensive level or not coach at all. This is what the coach I asked above about why women don’t, because they are smarter than men.

What do you think?

Comparing NCAA and professional volleyball – Part III

In the two prior posts in this sequence (first, second) I compared professional volleyball to NCAA Division I volleyball on the basis of seasons and resources. In this post I look a bit more narrowly at the coaching aspect of things. This based on what I saw during at total of six weeks hanging out with teams in Germany and my own coaching Sweden. Again, I don’t really claim to have a comprehensive knowledge of things. I’d love for those with more exposure to share their views.

Schedule

As I noted in my first post in this series, the competitive season for professional volleyball is longer than the one for NCAA teams. Preseason starts at roughly the same time in August, but play can carry on into May. There may be a break over the holidays, but that’s it. College players train during Spring term as well, but have Winter break, Spring Break, and May exams (generally speaking). So while the coaches in both categories have a similar length overall coaching period, the professionals almost certainly spend more time in the gym during that span.

Both sets of coaches have lengthy periods during the year out of the gym – generally April/May to August. NCAA coaches continue to recruit in that time frame (as noted in the next section), and of course there are always administrative duties for both groups.

Recruitment

Both professional and college coaches are required to scout and evaluate potential additions to their teams (and to decide which players to attempt to retain). To do so, both watch a lot of video. They are also in touch with any number of contacts to help identify prospects and gather player information.

NCAA coaches spend a fair amount of time between January and July on the road at Juniors tournaments. Because of their season timing and limited budgets, professional coaches don’t have the same sort of opportunity. They are better able to bring players in for trials, though. NCAA rules prohibit that in Division I.

Administration

Naturally, there are differences between working for a professional sports organization and working for a university. I suspect, however, they are not as great as one might think. Much of managing a team – scheduling, equipment, travel, etc. – is pretty constant, no matter the context. Yes, there will be some differences in how things operate, but not major ones. Coaches in both cases have to deal with management above them, deal with players transitioning in and out of the team, interact with fans and sponsors/donors, and all of that.

The one thing I would say is that professional coaches are probably as a whole less directly involved in administration of their team than are college coaches. The pros have team managers handling that. The are not the sort of managers or DOVOs previously mentioned as part of many college programs, however. Those report to the head coach. In the pros the manager works alongside the coach, or might even be their boss.

Communication

Language is generally not an issue for NCAA coaches. They may occasionally have a player who struggles with English. A certain level of fluency is usually required for college admission, though, so it’s not really a problem. Communication issues come from other areas, such as differences in where the players are from, background, etc.

Professional coaches have to deal with the latter, but also have language considerations. It seems like English is the common tongue for most professional teams. It’s far from the case, however, that every player speaks it or speaks it well. The result is a multitude of languages spoken between players, between coaches, and between players and coaches – and even club management.

For example, when I was at SC Potsdam the coaching staff spoke Italian amongst themselves. The primary on-court language in group situations was English, but both Italian and German were frequently used in 1-on-1s and smaller group situations. I was told club management speaks very little English, so business at that level is done in German. At TV Bühl the coaches speak Spanish together, and there was a bit of Spanish and Portuguese spoken in 1-on-1 player situations. Otherwise, English dominated, even among club management. Most players didn’t know much German (but were taking lessons). One player, however, spoke little English, instead requiring translation to French by one of his teammates.

So basically, decent English is generally necessary for professional coaches to work with their teams. The extent to which they need to speak the local language varies, but I think generally it does behoove a coach to learn it. The same could actually be said of NCAA coaches who work in strongly ethnic communities.

Salary & Income – Professionals

I was told that German head coach annual salaries are generally in the €30s. Call that about $39k-$50k or £24k-£32k based on exchange rates at that time. Assistants are in the €15k-€20k range (about $20k-$26k, £12-£16). This may not sound like all that much. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that coaches are generally provided with housing and transportation by the club. That’s worth quite a bit. It’s commonly suggested that people pay roughly 1/3 of their take-home pay on housing alone. It’s pretty easy to imagine a car being another 10%.

Let’s say a coach takes home 70% of their salary after taxes, etc. Someone making €35k would take home €24.5k. Housing would be worth about €8k, with the car another €2.5k, so that coach in Germany would have an effective take-home pay of just over €35k, which would be about €50k pre-tax. This equates to about $65k (£40k).

Given that the German professional leagues rank in about the middle of the pack among, the implication is that coach pay is probably a bit lower on average in lesser leagues and higher in the bigger ones. I think I worked out that my annualized salary equivalent in Sweden was about $40,000. I was only contracted for 8 months, though, so knock 33% off that.

Salary & Income – College

How does this compare to NCAA salaries? In 2010 the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) conducted a salary survey. The results were published in the February/March 2012 edition of Coaching Volleyball magazine. The graph below shows the distribution of Division I volleyball coach base salaries.

AVCA-DI-Coaching-Salary

The article reports that the average salary is $73,426, with a median of $69,079, so not far off the numbers from above on an equivalency basis. The lowest was about $37k, with a high in the $140s.

What these numbers don’t account for is performance bonuses, camps, sponsorships, and other income which can significantly increase a coach’s total compensation. A number of threads on VolleyTalk (here, here, here) address the subject. The suggestion is that coaches in the upper echelons of the sport can do quite well for themselves. Numbers from this FloVolleball article back that up.

Assistant coach salaries parallel head coach pay in terms of variation based on conference differences. Obviously, they an order of magnitude lower and without the same kind of upside.

I would imagine professional coaches also have additional income opportunities. I’m not sure to what degree, though.

Tenure

I get the impression coaches in the professional ranks don’t tend to spend a great deal of time with any one team. I certainly didn’t! There are a few who do, but that is the exception. It’s like any other professional sport in that regard. NCAA coaches probably don’t move around quite so much, but it isn’t like long tenures at a single school are the norm there either. Most coaches in the AVCA survey mentioned above were in their current positions less than 10 years.

Coaching

I’ve already talked about how similar coaching at the professional level is to coaching at other levels in the Being reminded of the coaching similarities post. Going beyond that, I think the biggest thing for me was the relative youth of the players. Certainly, there are mature, experienced one as well. Because, however, players are being developed out of youth club programs rather than coming out of a collegiate structure, there are also a number of younger athletes (even down to 16). The result is that in some cases there’s not a lot of difference in terms of age, maturity, experience, technical ability, etc. between professional players and those competing in the NCAA.

And in terms of the actual coaching on the court, just as you’d expect going from gym to gym watching NCAA coaches, there are any number of different styles and philosophies among professional coaches. Given that they come from a more diverse set of backgrounds, the professionals are probably a bit less homogenized in style than those in the NCAA. In neither case, though, will you see the same sort of coaching approach in every gym.

Coach-Player Interaction

Here’s a major area of difference between professional and NCAA coaches. In the US it is essentially forbidden to fraternize or even socialize with players. A big factor is the drinking age of 21. That means only a minority of members of a team will be old enough to drink. This is certainly not the case in Europe. Further, many schools have strict no-alcohol policies where school-related activities are concerned. Generally speaking coaches are expected to maintain a professional relationship with their players at all times. Needless to say, romantic/sexual relationships between players and coaches are an absolute no-no. They are usually viewed from a sexual harassment perspective.

While European coaches are also expected to be professionals, the player-coach relationship is somewhat more relaxed. At least it can be, depending on personalities involved. That isn’t to say coaches are often out partying with their players, but they will have a drink with them. Personally, this was something I struggled with when I first went to England. The idea of socializing with my players was really uncomfortable, though over time I was able to relax a bit. You will also find the occasional romantic relationship between player and coach, though I can’t imagine it’s something very common.

Player Turnover

As a last point, I should note that professional team rosters seem to turnover quite a bit. At an NCAA school you’d expect roughly a quarter of the players each year to leave and be replaced. At TV Bühl in 2014-15 there was only one player back from the prior season. It was similar the year before (though they were moving to reduce that level of change moving forward). I think the year-over-year change for SC Potsdam was something close to half the team. It was about half at Svedala when I coached there.

Obviously, when you have that kind of squad change from year-to-year it can impact how you coach.

It should be noted that American players seem to be among the least likely to stay in one place for any length of time. One coach suggested a desire to see new things and have new experiences is part of the motivation. That said, non-American players move around a lot too. For the most part, players salaries are not particularly high, which tends to increase the motivation to make a move for better pay.

OK, so those are my impressions. Like I said at the beginning, I’d love to hear from those with more exposure, a different perspective, etc.

Comparing NCAA and professional volleyball – Part II

In the first post of this series I started to look at the similarities and differences between NCAA Division I volleyball and the professional game in Europe based on the time I spent with some pro teams in Germany and my own experience coaching in Sweden. The focus there was on the time element. In this post I want to extend that comparison into the area of resources.

Facilities

I think this is actually an area of considerable commonality. There are some professional clubs who host home matches in large arenas. BR Volleys plays its matches in Max Schmeling Halle, which holds over 8000.

That’s one of the bigger, better arenas, though. Most clubs play in more modest gyms. The folks at SC Potsdam and TV Bühl both can seat around 2000. When I coached in Sweden, our gym at Svedala maxed out at about 800, and that was straining the fire codes. I saw a hall in Denmark that I don’t think held even that many.

Honestly, I think most colleges have bigger gyms than do the majority of professional clubs. I doubt you’ll find many schools with a capacity of less than 1000 and many have arenas the can match or beat Max Schmeling Halle.

In both the pros and the college game there can be scheduling conflicts with other sports and other demands on the facility. In some cases the training and playing gyms are not the same. Alternative gyms need to be used for training periodically. None of the pro teams I’ve visited have full control over their training/playing site. Similarly, most college programs have to coordinate with other sports and school demands in scheduling gym time.

Staff – College

NCAA Division I schools are allowed to have three paid volleyball coaches (a head and two assistants). They may also have a volunteer and/or graduate/student assistant. At the top end the staffs are full. In the lower rankings, though, oftentimes schools only have a head coach and assistant. Maybe they can get a low-paid 2nd Assistant during the season.

Schools generally also have a trainer (physio) and a strength coach. These are usually shared with other teams and are not always available to be assigned to be with the volleyball team during all training sessions and competitions. Many schools also have a Director of Volleyball Operations. They do a lot of administrative work for the program, but are not really management. They report to the head coach.

When I was at USC in 2013 all those people were in the gym during preseason training sessions. Most schools have just a handful of staff in the gym to work in practice, though.

Staff – Professional

From what I’ve seen, professional teams tend to have maybe three coaches – oftentimes it’s just a head coach and an assistant. You might also see what is called a Scoutman, which is basically a stats person. In some cases an assistant coach fills that role. When I was in Sweden my assistant was also the team’s manager. Because he had a day job, he couldn’t always make practice.

Pro clubs generally have strength coaches and trainers, though how often they are specifically on-hand varies. At one club the strength coach was actually involved full-time and also coached the club’s second team. In another case the strength coach was more of a consultant who spent spells with the team throughout season. One club had a trainer at the gym sessions while the other didn’t.

At Svedala I had to be the strength coach and we didn’t have a trainer. That serves to highlight how different things can be.

Professional clubs have team managers who work on the administrative side of things. They get players signed and deal with much of the off-court stuff around the team. How often they turn up for and/or help out with training no doubt varies. My impression is that they are largely considered administrators rather than having much of a role in practice.

Equipment & Technology

Here, budget is a large factor. I saw clubs in Germany with lots of equipment of all kinds – or at least access to it. I saw more use of stuff like training aides than technology, though. One club used video replay in training, but the others didn’t at that stage (though one was moving in that direction). No doubt at least some of that reflected the attitudes of the coaches.

At Svedala, where there was a lot less money, we didn’t have a lot to work with. We had some basic equipment that belonged to the hall. I had to bring in video stuff of my own to use in practice, though.

By contrast, I’ve seen NCAA volleyball teams use video and stats extensively in training. USC has video replay systems on all three of its training courts, which is definitely a high-end example. Even much smaller programs have that kind of technology, though. I was given the impression by a couple coaches that in Europe they kind of look to the US for the latest technology developments.

Budgets

I was told in 2014 that the average budget among women’s teams in the German top flight (the Bundesliga) is about €500,000. That was roughly $650,000 based on exchange rates at that time. I think on the men’s side it might be more like €700k ($910k). I know there are teams with 7-figure budgets, though, implying that there are also teams with markedly lower ones.The result is a disparity in resources among teams competing in the same league. It’s the sort of thing which can also notably be seen in professional soccer.

I don’t have budget figures for NCAA schools. It would be a bit tricky to compare them directly with the pros in any case (and perhaps even with each other in some cases) depending on how scholarships were valued and such. On a conference basis there is probably less disparity in funding between schools than we see in the professional ranks. The same, however, can’t be said when we look at all of Division I as a whole. There are clearly some schools with massive financial support and many with relatively little. That’s hardly unexpected when considering 300+ teams.

Overall, my impression is that NCAA Division I schools and European professional volleyball teams are not dissimilar in terms of available resources. There’s is considerable disparity on both sides of the equation, and one side may be stronger than the other in some aspects, vice versa in others.

As I said in my previous post, my perspective is a limited one at this point. I’d love to hear from readers with better/different knowledge than myself. Just leave a comment below.

I wrap up the comparison in the next post by talking about things from a coaching perspective.

Comparing NCAA and professional volleyball – Part I

I won’t ever claim the three weeks I spent with professional clubs in Germany in August 2014, again in 2015, and coaching in Sweden gives me a complete understanding of what pro volleyball is all about. I do think, however, it allows me to make a basic comparison to volleyball in the U.S. This is particularly true for the NCAA Division I collegiate game, where I spent a fair amount of time. Over the next couple of posts I’ll document what I observed in terms of similarities and differences. Here I start with a look at the time commitment.

The College Season

Most NCAA Division I teams report for preseason in early to mid-August. They can official matches starting in late August or early September. The first couple weeks are non-conference competition – often tournament style. In this period teams often play 3-4 matches per week, sometimes more.

Conference play begins in late September or early October, depending on league size. During this phase teams usually play just twice a week on the weekend. Sometimes, however, they mix in a mid-week match against local non-conference competition.

League play usually runs into early or mid-November, after which many conferences have a post-season tournament to determine their champion. Those champions, and teams granted at large bids, begin the NCAA tournament the first weekend of December. There are two rounds per weekend for three weeks, with the National Champion crowned the third Saturday of the month.

Add all this together and you get a season about three months long for those who don’t make it to the post-season, and up to four months for those who do. Teams may play 30 or more matches during the regular season. Those who go far in the NCAA tournament can get up near 40.

From late-January through April the main focus for NCAA teams is on individual training and strength & conditioning work. For most of that period players are limited to just 6 hours per week, 2 of which can be volleyball (20 hours is the limit during the main season). There is a “non-traditional season” of several weeks during which a more normal training regime can be used. With only a couple of available play dates, though, the focus remains on training rather than competition.

Coaches may not work with players when school is out. These days, however, it is not uncommon for players to take Summer classes and workout together.

The Professional Season

In European pro leagues the competitive season runs from October until perhaps April or early May for the top teams. For example, the German (Bundesliga) regular season ends in February, but the playoffs there go on into May. The extent to which a team is still active in one or more cup competitions dictates how many matches they play each week. It’s very much like professional soccer where teams generally play a weekend league fixture, and could have a cup match midweek.

For example, TV Bühl had about 25 matches listed on its schedule to begin the 2014-15 season. That number would grow to the extent that the team advanced in the German and CEV Cup competitions and makes the league playoffs as the end of the season.

This makes it sound like NCAA schools and professional clubs play a comparable number of matches. The college teams just do so in a more compressed time frame. This fails to account for the “friendly” matches teams play during their preseason, which lasts upwards of 2 months. These friendlies are against teams from a variety of different countries and levels of play. It is similar to the way NCAA teams play pre-conference matches, only more so (I actually had one coach express bewilderment over the fact that pre-conference matches count toward a team’s record). TV Bühl had something like 20 friendlies planned before starting the Bundesliga season, from what I heard while visiting them in 2014.

What we end up with in terms of the pros is a season that runs upwards of 9 months from the start of preseason to the end of the playoffs. A competitive team can get easily north of 50 matches in a year, all together.

Travel

Depending on the country, travel for league and domestic cup competitions among professional teams can be either minimal (imagine the likes of Belgium or the Netherlands) or potentially substantial (think Russia). International competition such as CEV and friendlies can add to that required by domestic play considerably. Competitive level and league thus are significant contributors to how much traveling a professional team must do.

The same is true for US college teams. Some conferences are fairly narrowly confined geographically. Also, teams with low budgets don’t travel much beyond that for pre-conference competition. The other end of the spectrum is a conference like the ACC, which spans practically the whole of the US east coast (Boston to Miami) and extends west to Indiana (Notre Dame). That’s a lot of time on the road.

The potential major difference between the college players and the pros is how the travel works out. A professional team could be required to make two long trips in one week (midweek and weekend). A college team, however, usually plays multiple matches each time they go on a long trip. For example, they play Friday/Saturday, and travel from one locale to the other in between. Usually those pairings are selected to be relatively close to minimize travel.

Gym Time

At the collegiate level the NCAA’s 20-hour per week time limits constrain what teams can do in-season. For the most part that means just one training session per day (though 2 gym sessions a day is common during preseason when there are fewer constraints). Teams may add in 1-2 days in the weight room for maintenance and injury prevention. The major S&C work tends to get done outside the regular season, though.

At the professional level, the amount of gym time can vary considerably. At the upper levels players often have two sessions per day. That could be one weight session and one in the gym. Alternatively, it could be weights plus small groups in the morning, then team training in the afternoon. At the lower levels where there are fewer fully professional players, one training per day is generally it. At Svedala we trained four nights per week. We had one team lifting session. Otherwise, though, they were left to lift on their own.

Off Time

Obviously, at the college level much of a player’s time is spent in classes, studying, working on papers, etc. Basically, that’s the “student” part of student-athlete.

There isn’t the same kind of commitment for upper level professional volleyball players. There may be language training going on for those who don’t speak the language of the country in which they’re playing. Mainly, though, as pro athletes they are expected to rest, recover, and take care of themselves. There are things like sponsor commitments and supporter events on their schedules, though. Some also have families in their lives.

It’s a different story for lower level players. They often have jobs and/or are students. My Swedish players at Svedala were all either still students or worked. Only my American players were full professionals.

As I said at the top, my knowledge of this subject matter is not comprehensive. I know there are a couple of professional coaches who check in on the blog from time to time. I’d love to hear their input, and thoughts or experiences from anyone else who can speak with any knowledge of the subject. Just leave a comment.

In the next post I take a look at resources and how they compare between college programs and the pros.

Three weeks in professional volleyball

I am back in England now. I returned the other day from my August sojourn into the realm of professional volleyball in Germany.

First of all, I need to offer thanks to Ruben at TV Bühl and Alberto at SC Potsdam . I appreciate their being so open and hospitable. They let me spend time with them, their coaching staffs, and their teams during pre-season preparations for the 2014-15 campaign. Not only did they house me and allow me to observe, but they included me in the training sessions and evaluation aspects of things. The experience wasn’t just me sitting on the sidelines watching, but rather one of active participation.

I need to additionally thank Mark at BR Volleys, and At Home on the Court. He provided my first exposure to pro volleyball back in April. He also made the contacts that let me spend the last few weeks gaining a deeper perspective. And he brought me along for a day in Poland. I got to take in my first ever major international competition matches at Men’s World Championships.

I had a talk with Ruben near the end of my stay. He expressed the hope that I saw some new stuff during my time with him and his staff. My honest response was that in this sort of situation it isn’t necessarily just about “new”. Sometimes it’s a question of being reminded of stuff you already learned along the way, seeing things from a different perspective, and/or having your own ideas validated. The latter is something I discussed last year when talking about my time with collegiate teams in Southern California and this time around in terms of warm-ups.

Of course, just the chance to work with professional volleyball teams was new for me. The pro game gets very little exposure in the States, so my three weeks in Germany was as much about getting a better understanding of that aspect of the sport as anything else.

I’ve written three posts with my impressions of the difference and similarities between the NCAA Division I collegiate structure in the US and the European professional system on the basis of schedule, resources, and coaching careers. Hopefully you find them useful and/or interesting.

Thinking about coaching off the court

One of the podcasts I started listening to on a regular basis is Sports Coach Radio. A recent episode featured an interview with Daniel Coyle, who you may know as the author of The Talent Code. I haven’t read that book myself yet, but it’s on my list. I know a number of coaches have found it very useful. The interview is an interesting one – well worth a listen. As are most of the podcast episodes, for that matter.

The Belichick interview technique

In this particular episode’s discussion there is talk about what you could call the interview technique of Bill Belichick. For those who don’t know of him, Belichick is the head coach for the New England Patriots football team. He’s won three championships, with two other appearances in the title game, and generally gets put at or very near the top of the list of best American coaches, in all sports. I’m not just saying that because he’s coach for my home team. 🙂

Anyway, the story goes that when Belichick met a prospective draft pick during the NFL combine he would immediately show him video of some of his worst play. The idea behind doing so is to judge the character of the player by seeing how he would react. Would he make excuses? Would he blame his teammates? Did he never really self-evaluate? Or did he take ownership of his mistake, accept responsibility, and work to avoid repeating the error?

This reminds me of a “behavioral” interview question that gets asked these days, which I myself have gotten (and which comes up in the podcast as well) – “Tell me about a time when you made a mistake and what did you do about it.” These sorts of questions are meant to focus on personal traits rather than job skills and experience. It got me thinking about the collegiate volleyball recruiting process.

Recruitment as hiring

Recruitment is basically hiring. Coaches of professional teams have to deal with this as well. It’s one of those elements of coaching when you reach a certain level which arguably becomes at least as important as your ability to train players and manage teams during matches. This is why it is often easier to get a job as a head coach at a certain level if you’ve assisted at that level than if you’ve been successful at a lower level. It means you know what is required – at least in theory – to work at that level.

The podcast also brings up the idea of continuous professional development. It’s pretty easy for volleyball coaches to think about improving their skills when it comes to their sport. For early career coaches this tends to be about collecting drills (see Fancy New Drill Syndrome – A Coaching Affliction). At a certain point, however, it becomes advantageous to start thinking beyond volleyball to other sports, and then beyond sports to things like management. Coaching lessons can be learned from many different sources.

Four key coaching candidate questions

Mark over at the blog At Home on the Court has a post which talks about questions which get asked in the process of hiring a coach. Or at least management should ask them. Those questions are as follows.

1. Where is the game now, and where is it going?

2. How will your teams play?

3. What is the balance between being competitive now and being competitive in the future?

4. How will you lead?

Notice how all the questions on this list are philosophy ones? Also, they’re pretty forward-looking. They are well worth being ones you can answer without much hesitation if you’re coaching. Granted, there is necessarily some influence in how you respond which derives from the coaching role you are in, or the one you are pursuing. Priorities tend to come down from above for most of us. As a coaching job candidate, though, you should have enough familiarity with the team/club/school you are interviewing at that you can account for those priorities.

I’ll be honest. Coaching philosophy isn’t something that came up much when I was talking about prospective coaching jobs in the past. Mostly it was about knowing if I was qualified and was going to abide by the rules. Read the sorts of volleyball job postings you see at places like the NCAA website and you’ll see what I mean. It behooves you, however, to try to get some idea of philosophy expectations from your would-be boss(es) to make sure a given position is in fact a good fit for your style of coaching. This is part of what you do when asking questions of your own.

Coaching Careers: Your resume/CV

When the women’s college season ends for US teams in November or December, coaching vacancies start to be posted. That’s when resumes begin crisscrossing the nation.

There are different theories on the best formats and styles for resume and CV layout. Things can get quite complicated when you realize that for many coaches there is non-coaching work to consider. Many of us, after all, have things other than coaching full-time in our history. That can make the standard chronological format a less-than-optimal choice.

I know in my case it would be a nightmare. I spent quite a few years working in a professional career. Some of that overlapped my time as a volleyball coach. Some of it happened between volleyball coaching stints. If I just listed things chronologically it would no doubt be very confusing for someone who really was just concerned with my volleyball work. I’ve also done a fair bit of non-coaching stuff related to volleyball. I have to account for that as well in various ways.

So don’t necessarily feel like you are locked in to a standard resume/CV format. Nor should you give too much thought to making your submission eye-catching in some fashion. I’ve been on the receiving end. Fancy formats don’t really mean a thing. You need to do what works to best and most clearly present your qualifications and experience.

And no matter what your coaching experience looks like or how you decide to format your resume, the most important thing is to make sure the prospective reviewer can made sense of it. Resumes tend to get only relatively brief looks, especially on initial review. A confusing one is likely to end up in the “No” pile. A busy reviewer just won’t give it the extra time necessary to sort things all out.

When I say be sure your resume makes sense, I mean you need to keep in mind the person or persons who will be looking it over. Will it be a volleyball person? Or will it be an administrator or Human Resources representative? Even if it is a volleyball person, is it someone who knows the volleyball background you’re coming from?

I once advised a UK coach pursing a US coaching job. As part of that I looked at his resume. His coaching achievements were certainly impressive. Unfortunately, he presented them poorly. Even a volleyball person in the US would have a hard time sorting through them. I myself struggled to follow the threads, and that was with a reasonable idea of the structure of volleyball in the UK. I can only imagine the confusion it would have fostered in the mind of an American university Athletic Director. On my advice, he reworked his CV into a much clearer format. I won’t say that was the reason he was able to land the job in US he ended up getting. It was more than CV format, of course. I have no doubt, though, it helped make his candidacy more understandable.

The bottom line is that as you build your resume (and write your cover letter) you need to think in terms of the like reader and how you can make things most clear and understandable to them.

Inspire your players, but be yourself

As I mentioned previously, one of the sessions I attended at the American Volleyball Coaches Association convention back in 2013 was titled “If I knew then…”. It featured a panel of some very high profile coaches – specifically Russ Rose of Penn State (just crowned national champions), John Dunning of Stanford, and Terry Liskevych of Oregon State (and formerly the US National team). They answered a series of moderated questions. It was a fun session with a lot of laughs, but there were also some real nuggets worth passing along.

Be yourself

One of the major themes was that coaches need to be themselves. I also wrote about them from the Creating a Culture of Success and When Winning is Your Job panels. In this case, one of the specific points made was that a coach needs to learn within their own personality. I think John Dunning said something to the effect of “Be curious, but be you.” In other words, continuously learn, but make sure you incorporate new things which mesh with your personality and coaching style. Or at least things which can be adapted to it. Don’t try to mix in stuff which goes against the grain. Obviously, this is not meant to tell coaches to be closed-minded. Instead, it cautions against just picking up any new exciting idea that they come across and trying to make it work for them (see fancy new drill syndrome).

Related to “Be you” was the thought that a coach should find a place where they can do that. Basically, you need to find a school or club or whatever where where you can express your personality. This, of course, isn’t just sound advice for coaches, but for the working world as well. We are all much more satisfied when we can be ourselves. We do not work well when forced to operate in a constrained way or against our nature. This does not mean we shouldn’t put ourselves in challenging positions. We just need to do it in a way that is aligned with our values.

Inspire Them

The big theme at the end of the seminar was the idea that a coach must inspire their players. This is a necessary function of non-participant leadership in any organization. By that I mean the coach is not an active participant in the actual work of the team. They do not train or play volleyball, except in player-coach situations. As a result, they cannot take a “lead from the front” or “follow me” kind of approach to team and player motivation. The coach needs to inspire the desire to grow and succeed in their players.

In many ways you can be think of it the same way as a company CEO or president. They don’t do the day-to-day work, but they set the tone. Part of that inspiration, said someone on the panel – I think it was Russ Rose – is teaching the players to see more, to understand more, and to win.