If you followed my coaching job search log you may have noticed that at times I talked about the career implications of certain types of jobs. I realized with a degree of sadness the other day that thinking in terms of a full-time volleyball coaching career led me down a path very different from the one that got me back into coaching three years ago in the first place.
Let me explain.
The back story
I left coaching after the 2006 NCAA Division I women’s season following six years at Brown University. Aside from the last one – which was rough because of bad team chemistry – they were generally fulfilling years. Might have been fun to win a few more matches. In terms of the work I did, though – both at Brown and in the broader community and context – I was content. The problem was finances. I was flat broke and the assistant coach job I was in was only technically part-time. I left coaching to return to my former career in finance to make a living and get myself out of the big hole I was in. That took five years.
Over that period, I followed NCAA volleyball, but intentionally stayed away for fear of getting sucked back into coaching. I needed to focus on my finances. It wasn’t until 2011 that I actually attended a match again. I was at a conference at UCLA and they happened to be hosting Stanford. I figured it would be crazy not to take advantage of the timing. Later, I went to watch Harvard host Princeton at the invitation of the Princeton coach, who was a fellow Ivy League assistant during my Brown days.
By that point the PhD idea was firmly rooted and I was in the application process. When I first visited Exeter in February 2012, a visit to a local club training session was on the agenda. I figured connecting with the local volleyball community would be a good way to socialize myself beyond the academic environment. I didn’t have a specific plan in mind at the time, but figured coaching would feature in some fashion. The idea of coaching the university teams developed months later based on exchanges I had with a fellow American already involved.
Coaching with no expectations
There was no agenda when I started coaching at the University of Exeter. In fact, the original plan was that I would “help out”. Things quickly went beyond that, of course. My point, though, is that I wasn’t thinking at all from a coaching career perspective. I was just thinking that I would like to get back involved in coaching volleyball again after my break from it.
Coaching in Exeter – both at the university and during my stint with the Devon Ladies (see my bio for details) – was about the two things that most motivate me. One is teaching and helping players develop. The other is problem solving – finding solutions to the continuous challenges presented. I talked a bit about this in Coaches coach. It wasn’t about my resume.
How is this going to look?
Now I find myself thinking mainly about resume implications and less about teaching and problem-solving. Questions like “How will this job set me up for the next position?” go through my mind.
Partly, this is a function of going after at least as many assistant coaching jobs as head coach positions. I’m to the point where I have the knowledge and experience to be a head coach in my own right. I may, however, have to re-enter the full-time coaching ranks lower down in order to eventually get that kind of opportunity down the road. Alternatively, I may be able to take a head coaching position at a lower level, and then look to move up from there. In either case, I’ll need to be in a place where I can be part of enough success to be taken seriously (or potentially attract interest) with regards to an upward progression.
For example, there’s currently a head coaching vacancy in my home state. While there are a number of potential positives to a job like that, if I’m thinking in terms of it being a stepping-stone job then it’s probably not a good situation from the perspective of it not just being a pure coaching job (has additional admin duties). The program is a fairly good one regionally, but in a relatively weak part of the country. It would be a long, slow progression to try to move up from there to the type of position I’d like to have. I’m no spring chicken anymore, which is a consideration in situations like that nowadays.
All I really want…
In an ideal world I would find myself a head coach job in a place I want to live in a program where there is a good working environment and enough support for me to be able to develop and progress things. I am not inherently ambitious from the perspective of wanting to climb the proverbial ladder by constantly moving to “better” programs. I do, however, need to see an opportunity to keep moving forward where I’m at. Once I get to the point where I feel like I’ve done the most I can there, then I would feel the need to move on.
Beyond that, though, I just want to be able to teach and problem-solve – as I did at Exeter.