Tag Archive for college volleyball

Coaching Log – January 23, 2017

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2016-17.

School is back in session, which means we are back in action!

Roster moves

As I mentioned in my last update, we had a player with major academic issues. We met with her last week. It wasn’t an easy meeting, but we decided that she needs to not be on the roster next season. She’s had two poor semesters on the grade front while in-season. That tells us she struggles to balance school and sports. We obviously want her to graduate. That means she needs to prioritize academics at this point. She can stay involved with the team, though.

On Wednesday we had a prospective transfer on campus for a visit and tryout. She’s a libero who played two seasons at an NAIA school, but wanted a different volleyball experience. She had some good qualities and we decided to bring her into the team straight away. Since she left her last school at the end of last semester, and it’s early enough in the new one here, she can join us for this term.

These moves put us at 11 players for the Spring. Two of them will be pure defensive players, with one other a DS/OH and another a DS/S. We have two straight up setters, three outside hitters, and two middles. There will be no OPPs, so one of the OHs will have to fill that spot when we play matches. We have one more setter on the squad, but in order to be eligible for Fall she cannot be full-time in the Spring.

Recruiting

Myself and our Grad Assistant were down in San Antonio for the Tour of Texas qualification tournament on the 15th and 16th. It was split between the Alamodome and San Antonio Convention Center. Our focus was on seniors in positions we might still want to fill with incoming freshmen, and on juniors for the 2018 recruiting class.

These big multi-day events are always a challenge. Basically, what you’re doing is spending all day on your feet walking and standing on concrete. One day is already enough for sore feet and a stiff lower back. When it comes to two or three days, it just all gets compounded. Plus, we spent about 12 hours on the road traveling to and from.

We looked at A LOT of players, which tends to be the case in these early events. The start of the club season is when players and families usually get going on recruiting efforts. As a result, we get a steady stream of emails from prospective players this time of year. To be honest, most of them simply are not at the level we need. That means a lot of what we do this time of year is culling the list.

Team Meeting

We had our first team meeting of the Spring on Thursday afternoon. We talked about the Argentina trip plan and fund raising. Our athletic trainer gave the team an update on personnel stuff among the training staff for this semester. We talked with them about what we took away from their end-of-season individual meetings, and went over some Spring planning stuff. A feature there was raising the level of expectations across the board. We also talked about some of what we’ll be doing to help further individual development and team cohesion.

Initial Testing

The players went through their initial Spring testing with our strength coach on Friday morning. They tested their verticals and broad jumps and ran a timed mile. They start strength and conditioning work on Monday.

Coaching Log – Mar 15, 2016

I’m going to start a new coaching log sequence to share the stuff I’m doing at Midwestern State for the rest of this current academic year. This is likely to be different from the ones I did for Exeter and Svedala in a couple of ways.

First, I’m not the head coach, so I won’t be the sole driver of the coaching involved. I’ll be part of a staff, with a head coach setting the tone and me working within that framework. Second, coaching at the college level involves a ton of moving parts. Yes, there’s on-court work, but there’s also recruiting and player academic supervision and lots of other organizational stuff which are integral to the job.

In fact, we’ve already started talking about how we’re going to revitalize the office area I work in. This wasn’t motivated by me, by the way. The rest of the staff were already thinking about it. Here’s the view from my desk.

MSU VB assistants office

I don’t know yet how frequently I’ll do updates. I need to see how things fall out. This time of year, since the on-court team schedule isn’t as full and defined as is the case in the Fall, I may just end up doing ad-hoc updates as things happen which I think might be of interest.

With that, let me start off telling you what I’ve been doing since I arrived in town on Saturday morning. Basically, I’ve been running around. I had to secure an apartment. I had to buy a car. I had to shop for furniture and other household goods. I’ve had to do various admin things on campus (visit HR, get my ID, etc.).

I’ve spent A LOT of money!

And I’ll be spending more getting my life in order. My to-do list is still a mile long with details big and small. Trying to secure auto insurance has been the single biggest hassle. Definitely making me miss the days of not needing a car. 🙁

I was in the gym for an hour on Monday, though. We did an individual session with one of the players. Mostly they do their sessions in groups of 3-4, but this one’s schedule doesn’t work with anyone else’.

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – Mar 4, 2016

Late last week another interesting Division I head coach job was posted for which I put in my application. Strong academic institution, which one would think might find some extra appeal in a candidate with a doctorate. Also an attractive part of the country from a living perspective, though perhaps not as great in terms of the strength of the local volleyball.

I also put in for an assistant position with one of the Power 5 conference teams in Division I. I’ve seen a number of assistant jobs post, but for the most part I steered clear of them. None really offered anything that I thought would be appealing. This case was a little different, though. It struck me that I might be in a position there to apply my experience and connections to the program’s benefit. Of course jobs at that level that get posted often are already filled, effectively, so it might have been a waste of time.

As for Texas…
I got a call on Tuesday basically asking me if I’ll accept the job if offered. My answer was “Yes”. Obviously, though, that comes with the assumption the offer is a reasonable one. The expressed hope was that things could be sorted out to be able to get me that offer later in the week, but the Athletic Director was out of town, so delays were anticipated.

There was also the question of setting the hire date. I said I could basically start right away. For sure the desire would be for me to be on campus when the players return from Spring Break and begin their Spring team training. Actually, getting there ahead of that for planning and organizational purposes would be ideal – not to mention giving me a chance to get my living circumstances sorted out before things got busy.

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – Feb 26, 2016

I got an update from the coach at the school in Texas that the hope was they’d be ready to make an offer soon – perhaps early next week.

Back in Europe?
Since the Texas position remains in limbo for the moment, I’ve stayed active in the job market – even to the point of applying for a potentially interesting non-volleyball position. I was in touch with one of my contacts in Germany on Sunday who asked me whether I would pursue a job in Europe. My response was that if nothing interesting developed on this side of the Atlantic over the next few weeks (basically until clubs started winding down their seasons and positions begin opening up), then I would consider it. The situation would have to look really good and interesting, though.

Camping
I’ve had a few conversations with one of my other coaching contacts in Germany about running a Summer camp over there. It’s something he’s interested in doing, though he has concerns about handling the logistics. In any case, the situation with his club is muddled at the moment. Things need to settle out before we could make any plans, which probably means we’re talking 2017. I have an idea for something Stateside that I’d want him involved in this Summer, though. Hopefully, more on that later. 😉

Other positions
I saw a posting for a potentially interesting job back over the weekend – a joint men’s and women’s position at the Division III level. There’s a definite appeal to being somewhere with both genders. It was a dynamic I really liked while coaching at Exeter. In this case the situation also involves building a program from scratch (men’s), which is the sort of challenge I’d like to take on. The problem is coaching both means you’re in-season almost the whole school year. That wouldn’t offer much opportunity to do some other things. Plus, it’s in a region I’m not overly keen on at this particular moment, and is a religiously oriented school, which likely wouldn’t be a good fit.

There was another head coach job for a religion-based school that I bypassed, and a couple others where I just wasn’t interested in the part of the country and/or the situation. I’m at the point where if I am going to be serious about a job, it needs to offer some things above and beyond just the opportunity to get paid for coaching volleyball. It’s kind of like when I decided to do my PhD in England. That had a lot to do with having a new type of experience and being able to grow in new ways as an individual.

A pair of other head coach jobs, though, were interesting enough for me to send off my resume. One was in Division I and the other in Division III. Very different parts of the country, and different from the other jobs I’ve applied for thus far. I’m not saying that either would necessarily be my dream job, but they made me want to have the discussion.

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – Feb 5, 2016

Leaving Sweden
As you are probably aware, on Monday my contract with Svedala was terminated. I had already decided several weeks ago that I wouldn’t look to sign with Svedala for another season, so all the early exit did was move up my time line.

Coaching in Sweden was a worthwhile experience and I have absolutely no regrets about making that move. I just want to be somewhere I can do more program building – to have aspirations beyond “Do as well as you can this year”. That wasn’t looking like it was going to happen at Svedala – at least not within a reasonable time frame. It’s kind of the nature of the club’s current structure, and also Swedish volleyball more broadly. Just a personal thing at this point in my career. Nothing against either the club or volleyball in Sweden, there are a lot of people doing a lot of good work there.

Leaving professional volleyball
In January I further decided that continuing in European professional volleyball probably wasn’t going to be my path forward. The season is a long one and, as was the case when I was coaching at Exeter, I found my mind wanting to shift to other things around January. Perhaps that’s something that developed during my time coaching college ball in the States. At least at Exeter the feeling was moderated by my volleyball time commitment only being a couple of days, giving me more scope to do some other things. Obviously, with a professional club it’s at a higher level and intensity than that.

Along with the attention factor in my decision was my desire to be able to do things like go to the AVCA Convention and/or the USA Volleyball High Performance Coaches Clinic and other similar sorts of events. Because both of those in particular happen during the professional season, they aren’t doable in a professional coaching circumstance. If I were coaching back in the States it would be a different story, and with the added benefit of still being able to attend similar European events. Plus, as weird as this might sound, I always liked the recruiting side of things – getting out to different places, meeting people, and all that.

Being back in the States would also likely considerably boost my visibility and connectivity with the coaching community there and lead to opportunities I might not otherwise have. I could potentially get involved with national team programs, though I have some contacts in Europe that might allow me a similar opportunity overseas as well. Importantly, having a lesser in-the-gym and team travel commitment during part of the year will provide me more scope to work on my other projects, including academic research and publishing related to my PhD.

My path forward
The conclusion that I came to was that I should look to do one of two things – either look for a college coaching job back in the States or take a non-volleyball primary job and coach on the side. Given my new PhD credential, one possibility would be to find a teaching job and coach locally. I could also return to working in the finance industry, though that would likely have higher time demands, making coaching a bit more of a challenge.

Before Monday’s developments, it didn’t make a lot of sense applying for the US coaching jobs getting posted. No doubt those would want to be filled quickly to have people in place to be at work recruiting and the like. I figured I would probably have to wait until late February to start putting in applications where the hiring time line would more mesh with my need to stay in Sweden through April when my contract ended (coinciding with the end of playoffs). I did keep an eye on the market, though.

Obviously, that’s all changed now.

An early application
That said, I did apply for a job in December. It was the assistant position at a school where I have a connection. I hadn’t really intended to do so. I know the coach there from our days as competing assistants, and it would have been about working together with her as much as anything else. I didn’t figure the time line was going to work with my Svedala commitment, though. She encouraged me to apply – probably for HR purposes – which I did, but they clearly needed someone in more quickly.

Had I known how things were going to unfold, maybe the situation would have been different and I could have been a more realistic candidate. That job has since been filled.

A path unexpected
One potentially interesting development did come up in January, though. A contact from the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project put me in touch with an NCAA Division II coach looking for an assistant. Under normal circumstances, I probably wouldn’t have considered going for that kind of job, but my contact knows what I’m thinking and knows the coach in question well. She was of the belief that we would make a good team in a program with a lot of upside potential. Also, the position would offer me the flexibility to continue to pursue my other projects, which would be harder at a higher level program. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to talk.

I ended up having about an hour-long conversation with this coach last week. I’d already been talked up by my Wizards contact (something which always makes me a bit nervous), and the coach was impressed with what she’d read on this site. Her other assistants were young and relatively inexperienced, so she wanted to bring someone in at a higher level both in terms of organizational skills and knowledge and experience. She said she really wants someone she can bounce ideas off of and talk about things with at a higher level, as well as obviously carrying part of the administrative load for the program.

I think we both came away with positive thoughts about the conversation. I officially applied for the job the next day. She said she had two others she was looking at seriously and that initial interviews were likely to happen the following week or so. We’d talked about using Skype for that, since I wouldn’t really be able to go there any time soon. This was all with the understanding that I wouldn’t be able to start until May.

Clearly, with things changing on my side, my availability to interview on campus suddenly opened up. As a result, I’m headed there this weekend to interview on Monday. That will end my time in Sweden.

Services in demand
And I haven’t just gotten interest from the States. Yesterday morning I had someone email me about potentially taking over some coaching for a club in Norway. It was a tentative idea that wouldn’t have been a sure thing, but it was good to know that others value what I have to offer.

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?