Coaching work-life balance

Are you are planning or considering a career as a full-time volleyball coach? It could be at the college level in the US, in the professional ranks in Europe or elsewhere – or as someone who makes a living by cobbling together multiple coaching roles. If so, balancing the demands of your coaching and your life outside coaching will be a very big deal.

Coaching is not like a standard 9 to 5 job, as you may already be aware. It has a tendency to become all-consuming, at least for some of us (I consider myself in that category). That means you will end up putting in way more hours on it than you probably would most other jobs. I’ll use coaching at the women’s Division I level in the US as an example. Here are some of the things that will take you out of having a nice, regular schedule.

  • Team travel – Basically every other week, on average, you’re going to be on the road for at least two days.
  • Recruiting travel – From February to early July you’re going to have to be off at Juniors tournaments recruiting. Figure on at least one trip per month. Then add on visiting club programs and doing home visits.
  • Recruiting communication – This is year-round, and often takes place in the evening.
  • Video work – This includes editing video for internal use and to share with the players and video analysis to scout the opposition, which can be a major time suck.
  • S&C and individuals training – These things can get scheduled at all different times, including early mornings, especially in the Spring season.

On top of this you can add press/media demands, community relations, fundraising, alumni relations, taking part in Athletic Department and university functions, running camps/clinics, dealing with player emergencies, and a number of other things that pop up. And if you’re at the Division II or Division III level you could very well have a secondary duty such as teaching or administrative work to stack on top of all this. When I coached at Brown, we also ran a Juniors club to help grow the sport locally.

For those who might be wondering, the demands are not dissimilar for professional coaches. I know of assistants who are the head coach for one of the club’s lower teams. The head coaches have all kinds of press and media requirements. They have to interact with supporters groups and take calls from club management at all hours. And they all do lots and lots of video work. The point is, full-time coaching creates work-life balance challenges, especially as you move up the competitive ladder.

On top of that, coaching tenures can shorten up considerably. In professional volleyball you don’t see a lot of coaches who’ve been in their position for a long time (it’s similar in other sports as well). In the US collegiate realm you do see it a bit more. It tends, though, to be at the very top (think Russ Rose, John Dunning, etc.) where there’s relatively little movement. You can also see it much lower down where the expectations are different (keep the student-athletes happy, stay out of trouble, etc.). Coaching positions in the middling ranks turn-over quite often. And let’s not even get started with assistant coaches.

So, not only do you have to consider the long, irregular hours and probable volleyball invasions into home time. You also have the prospect of moving jobs, and maybe locales, every few years.

It’s been suggested that the reason there aren’t more women in coaching, especially at the higher levels, is that they want a better balance and/or more stability. True or not, it’s something all of us have to think about when plotting out a career in coaching. What we end up deciding will have a lot to do with where we are in our careers, our family situation and support structure, and the the priorities we have in life.

P.S.: There are some tips on improving work-life balance on the AVCA blog.

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John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women's team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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