Do I get the coaching credit/blame for this?

I have a question which has nagged at me for a while. Maybe you can help me with the answer.

If you’ve read my bio and/or followed along with the blog for a while you know over the last couple of years while working on my PhD in England I have coached the Exeter University Volleyball Club teams – men and women. That started with the 2012-13 season. Before I arrived, in 2011-12 the men had barely avoided being relegated from Division 1 and the women had just earned promotion up from Division 2. It had been a while since the program had any meaningful success (the history is hard to find).

2012-13
In my first year the men’s team finished 2nd in the league with the only losses coming to the undefeated top team (Bournemouth). We went on to beat a team from Northern Ireland in the Championship Round of 16 to earn a spot in Final 8s in Leeds where we finished a disappointing 8th (should have been 5th or 6th but one bad match did us in). The women that year took 3rd in the league, but lost in the Round of 16 to what was still a relatively good Loughborough team.

2013-14
In my second season we brought back quite a few of the women’s players but the guys had a lot of turnover (only 3 back). The women ended up in a 1st place tie in the league, but came second (to Bournemouth) on I believe a head-to-head set differential tiebreak. We made Final 8s and reached the semifinals, with a win over Bournemouth being the key in doing so. As far as we know that’s the best the Exeter women have ever done – or at least have done in a long, long time. The men weren’t quite as strong, but still managed a 2nd place league finish and again advanced to Final 8s, where they finished 7th thanks to an upset win over Durham. By making Final 8s, both the men and the women earned promotion into the 6-team Premier League South for the next season – a new division set above Division I.

That year we also added men’s and women’s second teams in Division 2 (the lowest level in the Western Conference of which Exeter is part). The men finished 3rd in the league and reached the Conference Cup semifinals. The women took 2nd. Unfortunately, a major schedule conflict forced us to field a significantly undermanned women’s team in the Cup quarterfinals, which saw that run end there.

All together for 2013-14 the combination of league, playoff, and cup results were enough to earn Exeter the 3rd most points of the schools with volleyball. Not bad considering the two schools above us – Northumbria and Bournemouth – along with some below us, featured scholarship athletes and we had none.

2014-15
My third season working with the teams was just a half year. I only coached them during first term, and even then on a limited basis. I coached all the training sessions and the home matches (though when there was a conflict I coached the women), but only coached one away match (for the women). Being in the last year of my PhD program forced me to put my focus there. I could have potentially continued coaching second term, but I felt that doing so would be a distraction I really couldn’t afford to have at a time when I was jamming hard to finish my thesis and to find a job (the latter being a job unto itself!).

This time the women only had a couple returners. Although some good players came in, we were entirely lacking an experienced setter. I had to convert a former OPP who could end up being a pretty good setter in time, but she basically got thrown in at the deep end. The team definitely made steady progress, but the results were pretty predictable. We ended up going 1-7 in the matches played during that first term, with the single win coming against Sussex in the last one I actually coached. They lost their two second term league matches, which meant finishing bottom of the Premier League South and going into the relegation playoff. They lost their Championship Round of 16 playoff though (all premier league teams qualify) against the 3rd place finisher from the North league (Edinburgh), which meant no return trip to Final 8s.

The men had a lot more in the way of returners. Unfortunately, I was only able to actually coach them in 2 matches. One a loss to Bournemouth (again!) and one a win over Warwick the same day I coached the women’s victory. That win was important as they were able to pick up a pair of wins over UCL in second term play to grab 4th in the league. That kept them away from relegation and set up a Round of 16 match at home against winless Edinburgh from the North, which they won to make it three straight years reaching Final 8s. They had a tough draw, but managed to take 7th again.

In terms of the second teams, they were largely completely turned over from the prior year. I didn’t coach any of the women’s matches as the first two were away on a day the 1st team played and the others were second term. They finished 2nd in the league again. This time, though, they could field a full team and won their quarterfinal Conference Cup match to reach the semis. Unfortunately, injuries and illness forced them to play short-handed in that match and they lost. I did coach the men’s first round Cup match, which they won. They went on to reach the semis, but they again lost at that stage. All of their league matches were second term and they finished mid-table.

The women’s 1st team not making Final 8s cost them points, but overall the club managed a solid 6th in the volleyball standings. I believe all but one of the teams above Exeter feature scholarship athletes, so that’s a pretty respectable finish.

So what do I tell people?
It’s easy enough for me to put the results and achievements from my first two seasons on my resume/CV, in my bio, etc. What about the third season, though? Do I just ignore it and leave it out of any official type discussion? If I include it, do I only count what I was there for, or do I include it all?

The inclination is to count 2014-15 fully as being on my watch, so to speak, even though my involvement was cut back considerably from the prior years.They had no other coach after me and some of the players were in the program all three years I was there. Although from a win/loss perspective the 2014-15 results don’t look very good, in many ways Exeter has been punching above its weight as it’s a place where volleyball has no scholarship athletes and is quite low on the sports priority scale. The teams may have been automatic Championship qualifiers in that third year, but that’s because of the work we did in the years before.

So what are your thoughts? What do I put on my resume/CV, in my LinkedIn profile, etc. with respect to 2014-15?

 

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.

4 comments

  1. Oliver Wagner says:

    Since most of the jobs you are applying for are in the U.S. it’s hard for me to judge it from this point of view because I am lacking experience. But I can see it from an editorial point of view: the 2014/15 season needs explanation. And in an CV you don’t have the possibility to explain things. So I think that excludes this season from your CV. If there is space to explain things (like on LinkedIn and others) I would say it’s a good idea to tell about this season as well. There is no doubt that you and your coaching team (was there a team?) earn a lot of credit for the results of that particular season. And the fact that the teams still had some reasonable success – even without their coach – gives credit to your work.

    • John Forman John Forman says:

      I think that’s reasonable approach Oliver. As you’ve said, I’ve excluded the outcomes of 2014-15 on my resume/CV, though it occurs to me that I may need to clarify that I did indeed coach into the most recent season, just not all the way through it.

  2. Kelly Daniels says:

    I do not see negative sides in coach’s bio even when they were release from their contracts due to lack of success. Their next bio only have the successes listed.

    I also think here in the U.S. ADs are looking for people locally who can vouch for you. I had a conversation with a national DI coach who also an USAV HP coach. I asked him how did he come from one side of the country to the other and picking up a program that wasn’t very successful. His answer was the AD trusted the feedback from his head coach and former AD. They understood they need time to build a program and with name recognition they could recruit. As you know that is the success of any program. The program only after few years broke into the top 25 and have reminded there.
    Having been a collegiate coach myself I know everyone of my jobs have been through the view others have of me. That continues today as in youth level parents and athletes will give such an adamant recommendation. So when I go looking for a club coaching position next fall in a new town, I have not doubt I will have letters of recommendation coming out of the wood works to my new club director/operations director. Not just from my club parents, but others who I work with at HP.

    • John Forman John Forman says:

      You’re right Kelly. Having strong references is always key. One of the things I’m up against is that while the head coaches I worked with at Brown and Rhode Island are happy to give me a reference, I don’t have a lot of really influential contacts in the rest of the collegiate community after having been away.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.