Tag Archive for university volleyball

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – Mar 6, 2015

Only one head coach application submitted this week. That was for a job in the Northeast.

I applied for another of what looks like a 2nd assistant position. This is for a program where the 1st Assistant moved on to take one of the head coach jobs I applied for, but obviously didn’t get. I took a slightly different approach with my initial contact to the head coach there. We’ll see if it pays off. I followed that up with applications to a pair of stronger conference teams for their assistant vacancies which also look like they would be 2nd assistant positions, but at that level there is often less of a distinction.

I also applied for a Division II assistant position in the Northeast. That’s the first non-Division I assistant job I’ve put in for up to this point. It’s full-time, though I don’t know if there are any additional duties attached, which can be the case at that level. Nothing was indicated in the job posting. The program has been pretty consistently strong and regularly in the NCAA tournament.

I got a rejection note from Cornell for their head coach position. They’ve elevated their assistant, who had already been given the interim tag. Also got a head coach rejection note from West Virgina, which I never really expected anything out of anyway. East Carolina has filled the assistant vacancy that I submitted for and I received a polite “you’re not on our list” email with regards to Utah.

Upon request, I finally was able to get some useful feedback this week from one of the schools to which I applied for a head coach position (but didn’t get). It went like this:

“Perhaps in the future, it would be worthwhile to provide more context about your work with the Exeter club, and to highlight similarities with recruitment there and NCAA D1, high-caliber play, and so on.   Emphasis on continued expansion of US recruiting networks would be important here since we have such a limited pool of international financial aid, though other institutions may be keenly interested in recruiting networks abroad.”

My takeaway is that basically I need to do a better job of translating my experience in England into NCAA coaching terms and give more attention to the recruiting side of things. Not unreasonable. I’ve sent follow-up emails to schools where searches remain active to try to address that, have adjusted my resume, and will incorporate it into future applications.

I had a conversation with one of my German professional coach friends this week. He told me to email a contact of his in Finland, suggesting that is a good place to get a start in the pro game. I did and heard back basically that he’ll keep me in mind.

Also connected with a coach I used to battle against in the Ivy League, and who was a fellow coach in the same Juniors club back when I got started. He coached at one of the schools I’ve applied to, and apparently still is connected with them. Said he’d put in a good word for me.

Saving perhaps the best for last, I finally had someone actually express interest in me! It’s for one of the 2nd Assistant positions in the Midwest I mentioned putting in for last week. The coach emailed me the other day. Officially, they cannot do anything just yet because the posting needs to be active for a certain amount of time before they can begin screening. It’s a start, though.

I made the decision at the end of last week to strip the UK address and phone number from my resume when applying for jobs in the States. I’d already been using my US mailing address in the online application forms – partly because some of them just didn’t handle overseas addresses well – and had begun leaving my address off my cover letters. I also changed my LinkedIn profile to show a US location. I’m hoping this will at least avoid any kind of initial automatic screening out on that basis. I can always explain my situation in an interview.

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – Feb 27, 2015

I had a lot of back-and-forth thinking over applying for a couple of Division III head coach jobs that recently got posted. I think I’ve decided not to go the full-time route at that level, though, since mainly it means having some other job that I wouldn’t normally be too excited about. If I were to end up doing DIII it would be part-time in conjunction with a normal job of my choosing – in which case I could alternatively do high school and/or club coaching. The one potential exception is a combined combined men’s and women’s position, which is definitely something I find appealing at that level. One of the jobs in frame is just such a position, and I’ve applied for it. I’ve enjoyed have that kind of joint role the last couple years at Exeter, especially in the way the two teams have worked together, supported each other, etc. The problem with applying for a men’s related position at this point is that they aren’t likely to hire someone officially until after the season ends, so the process could drag out for a while.

I’ve applied for another head coach job at Division I program in the Northeast. It’s one where a successful coach has moved on to become an assistant at a big conference program. The roster of the program looks like a professional one with the bulk of it being foreign. My guess is the history winning there will attract a bunch of applicants who want an easy path to getting an NCAA tournament appearance on their resume.

I applied for the assistant job at one of the schools where I previously applied to be the head coach. No doubt there are a few others like that which will open up in the weeks ahead as coaches get going in their new jobs.

I put in for a few 2nd assistant positions at mid-level programs in the Midwest. I wasn’t going to go that route because they are essentially a step backwards in terms of my coaching progression and the pay won’t be great, but I ended up changing my mind. They would still get me back into NCAA Division I coaching, and I would be in an area of the country where volleyball has a decent level of respect – unlike the Northeast where I’ve done most of my coaching (never mind England!). I’ve seen the posted salary for one of them. It’s predictably low, but even at that it’s quite a bit higher than what I was getting in my 1st assistant days at Brown. Sad, but true. I have some other side sources of income that will help keep things from being too lean in any case.

Also put in for what is likely a 2nd assistant position at a top conference program. No doubt the list of candidates for that job will be a mile long.

Of the follow-up emails I sent out last week, I got one response basically right away with respect to a head coach job. I’d emailed the Assistant A.D. with oversight over the volleyball program. He responded telling me they would begin reviewing resumes this week. No other communication as yet, though.

On the rejection front there’s the Northern Kentucky assistant job. Didn’t even get a call and the new guy definitely can’t match my qualifications. Could have been other considerations at work, though.

I’ve started slowly trying to put out feelers in the professional volleyball world. They are still largely in-season, though. Germany, for example, just finished the regular season, but will have play-offs running right through April. The CEV Champions League Final 4 takes place the last weekend of March.

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – Feb 20, 2015

I applied for a Division I head coaching job in the Mid-Atlantic the other day, as well as for a combined men’s and women’s head coaching position at an NAIA school in the central part of the US. Not sure about the fit for either one, but it doesn’t cost anything to submit. Also submitted for a second Mid-Atlantic head coach job at a school where the current coach just took a new position. It looks to be a re-building situation as the team is graduating about a half dozen foreign seniors and basically just has freshmen left.

I finally bit the bullet and applied for a Division III head job near Chicago after dragging my feet for a few days. The “additional” duties thing always gives me pause. Many of the ones I’ve seen up to now have involved teaching duties, but this one did not specify. The school looks to be in prime recruitment territory, which makes it intriguing, especially since recent performance hasn’t been very good.

I also put in for a DI assistant job in the mid-Atlantic area. It was one I didn’t initially go for as the staff is already all-male and it looks likely to be a 2nd Assistant job. It’s a decent geography, though, so I figured what the heck. I doubt anything will come of it, but it’s another chance to get my name out there for potential future benefits. I skipped a Division I assistant job where they wanted Gold Medal Squared knowledge/experience and another where the salary was too low (middle to upper 20s).

Word came down the the other day that the Alaska-Fairbanks coach had been sacked for recruiting violations. That opens up a Division II head job, but not exactly one in a location I’m overly keen to try out.

In terms of rejections, add the Coastal Carolina, and Florida International assistant positions to the pile. No posting of a new hire yet, but I got “…your application is no longer under consideration” emails. The UNC Charlotte and Eastern Michigan head job have been filled.. Likewise with the Albany assistant post. I’ve also heard that they are close to filling another head job I thought I had a really good shot of at least getting a call for, which is annoying.

I did a couple of follow-up emails this week for jobs I’ve recently put in for. We’ll see if they spur any higher level of interest.

I actually had a friend ask if I thought being in England was causing me problems. I’ll admit, it’s something I’ve thought about.

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – Feb 13, 2015

The head coach job I mentioned last week hearing rumor about being filled has indeed now been. That was Hartford. Interestingly, they didn’t go for a female candidate as I’d heard suggested they wanted. That’s a tough job, though. As I understand it from my contacts in the region, the prior coach left because of the lack of resources. The new coach has good names on his resume from assistant coaching. I can’t help but wonder how he’s going to deal with things in this much less well supported program. I applied somewhat out of curiosity myself. Never heard anything from them, though.

In other rejection news, I heard at the HP Clinic that the East Tennessee State assistant job is/will be filled (by a former player). Haven’t seen anything posted officially. Also saw that the George Mason head job was finally filled. To this point I haven’t found all that much fault with the selections made, but in this case I have to ask the question why I wasn’t even contacted. The new coach has zero head coaching experience and her four years as a Division I assistant were spread across three different programs. I’m not suggesting she may not end up being a perfectly good coach for the program, but her qualifications beg the question why someone with more experience wasn’t at least contacted.

After seeing that news, I reached out to one of my former coaching bosses. She made the observation that my time away from US volleyball and the fact that I’m a male aren’t helping me, which I’ve known would be the case. She suggested I might need to go the assistant route – which I’ve obviously been doing – or going Division III, which I haven’t done yet.

I also had another head coach I worked under suggest people might be afraid of me because of the PhD thing. I’ve definitely wondered about that. He also expressed the idea that going after a head job would be difficult not coming from a major program in the US and that women seem to be favored. He also asked “Are you sure you want to do this?” 🙂

The head coach job at another lower level program in the Northeast has opened up that I’ve applied for. It’s in a difficult competitive situation in that basically there’s one dominant team in that conference, with everyone else playing for second. If I were to go for it I would do so from the perspective of a potential stepping stone and/or being in a position to help develop volleyball in the region.

I also put in for another Division I head coaching job in a better part of the country. It’s one I initially thought not to go after, but I’ve since figured “Why not?” I’ve applied for a handful of DI assistant jobs as well. I’m now up over 40 jobs applied for since things started.

I emailed the A.D. of a couple of the schools I applied to earlier just to follow-up and reiterate my interest in those jobs and will do the same with a few others, and some head coaches as well.

In other interesting news, word has it one of the schools I submitted for a head position at has sent out “thanks, but no thanks” notes a couple weeks ago. I didn’t get one, suggesting I passed at least the first cut. I haven’t heard anything beyond that, though, which implies I’m not near the top of the list.

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – Feb 6, 2015

After last week’s update I had a lengthy internal debate about whether to apply for a head coach job I’d seen posted. It’s in Division III and back home so to speak. By that I mean it’s in New England where I did all my coaching before spending time in England. Unfortunately, New England is not one of the stronger volleyball areas of the U.S. That means there isn’t a deep high caliber player pool from which to recruit regionally and the coaching salaries are not great, relatively speaking. This particular school is a strong one academically, though, so it’s able to attract players from all over. Still, it’s Division III, which means in order to make up a reasonable salary coaching has to be combined with some other duties. In this case teaching P.E. courses is the add-on. It’s a situation I’m not overly keen on for a number of reasons, but I’m old and wise enough to know that sometimes the thing you don’t think will be good turns out to be quite positive.

In the end I decided not to go for it for two main reasons. First, it’s too early. There will be loads more jobs posted in the months to come, and opportunities in the professional game may develop as well. Second, taking a job like that very likely would limit any potential upside I might look for later. In other words, were I to decide at some point to move on, I would probably be very limited in my options for doing so.

I did, however, apply for a Division I head coach job that got posted. It was vacated by a coach who was hired for one of the positions I previously put in for. This is a job I would definitely go in thinking stepping stone position. Which of course isn’t to say I couldn’t find myself really enjoying coaching there and decide to stick around long-term.

Of course going through the job hunt process means having to think about salaries. I have seen job application instructions explicitly state that salary requirement be included in the cover letter. That got me revisiting some AVCA salary survey data I mentioned in the third part of my comparison of coaching collegiately in the U.S. vs. professionally in Europe. It provides a helpful starting point. I’ve also seen some of the position listings mention salary level or range, which helps further get some idea of relative levels – especially for assistant coaches.

On the rejection front there’s the Bowling Green assistant job and the Coker head job on the women’s side.

It’s kind of amazing how some positions remain open after two months or more. Rumor has it one of the jobs I put in for early in the process is starting things over. Actually, it’s more than just one of them now that I think about it. Word is one of them has finally been filled, though.

My 2014 volleyball coaching year in review

It’s that time of year again – time to look back on the 12 months which have gone by. In this post I want to take a more personal view of things. I’ll follow up with a report on how the blog has done for the year.

Team Coaching
This is going to be a year I always look back fondly upon from a coaching perspective because of the run the Exeter University women made to the BUCS national semifinals. I’ve coached league and tournament championship teams, but this one was really special. More than being something no one ever expected, it was also the culmination of a season in which a group of young women committed themselves to a common goal at the start and remained steadfast to it throughout.

More than that, the whole experience of Final 8s in Edinburgh was amazing. The men and women supported each other fantastically. The guys may not have had the best year, or even their best tournament overall, but they pulled off the upset in their final match of the season to make it all worthwhile. It was a very happy bus full of volleyball players for the long ride back to Exeter! The women later went on to have a very respectable South West Championships tournament to round out their season.

The 2014-15 BUCS season has been much more of a struggle. Part of that is a function of playing in a stronger league now that both teams are in the new Premier division. Part of it was my need to concentrate much more on my PhD work to the detriment of volleyball. Part of it on the women’s side was the lack of an experienced setter in the squad. These things happen in sports. Not every season is a good one and it was always going to be hard to follow up on 2013-14.

Coaching Development
A definite on-going theme for me in 2014 was my continued education and development as a volleyball coach. I completed the requirements for my Volleyball England Level 3 coaching certification (in record time, I was told). I also got my USA Volleyball CAP II re-certified. Part of the process for both was attending some general coaching seminars, as well as attending Volleyball England’s annual coaching conference.

Perhaps most significantly, though, I gained quite a bit of exposure to professional volleyball. It started with a visit to Berlin in April to watch BR Volleys, coached by Mark Lebedew of At Home on the Court, train ahead of the German championships (which they went on to win). Then, with Mark’s help, I was able to spend about 10 days each with a pair of teams during their preseason training in August. As I wrote, it was a great experience and really expanded my knowledge of the sport.

Other Stuff
During the summer I helped out at trials for the English girls cadet and juniors national teams. That gave me the opportunity to further develop my contacts at that level and to see how some of the talent pathway designs I’ve heard about were being put into practice. I also consulted with the Volleyball England Technical and Talent Director, Audrey Cooper, on the subject of US collegiate volleyball recruiting for up and coming English players.

In terms of something with more of a forward-looking focus, the latter part of the year saw me start applying for coaching jobs back in the States. No doubt this is something I’ll document more in the weeks ahead as I work my way through the process. At this point it’s still relatively early days.

Beyond volleyball
The main focus of my life aside from volleyball the last year has been, of course, my PhD. It was a pretty productive year from that perspective. I got a lot accomplished, especially in the latter Spring and over the summer, that set me up to be able to (hopefully) be able to submit my thesis in the next few weeks or so. By the end of 2015 you’ll have to call me Dr. Forman. 🙂

Turning participation into competition

A while back I wrote about the participation vs. competition conflict. It was mainly from the perspective of English volleyball, but with wider implications. Later, I received an email on the subject from Amy Dennis, the Young People Manager at Volleyball England. I want to share what she said.

This isn’t the full text of the email Amy sent me. It’s the stuff that I think speaks to the main points and will be of most interest to readers, though.

A defense of HEVO

Since the HEVO programme has been in place (over the last 4 years) there has been an increase in BUCS teams. While this will not all be due to the programme, there is link to universities starting recreational activity and then linking to BUCS. Albeit, it’s at the lower end of the leagues. Still, it is increasing the number of competitive opportunities for students to play volleyball. It could be argued that a competitive player does not just apply to experienced players. You can still be competitive as a beginner. Beginner players can be developed through a strong club structure that supports the player to progress into a BUCS team (depending on what the Club Development plan focuses on).

However, the students view point needs to be considered. They may be happy just being a recreational player and have no desire to play competitively in the BUCS league. I have some great examples from Universities where volleyball started as a recreational sport through the HEVO programme, developed into BUCS competitive teams and is now a performance sport at the university. The University of Derby and University of East London, to name just two.

Changes and developments

The recent changes to the league structure, introducing the Premier league has allowed for motivation and a goals for institutions regarding volleyball competition in BUCS. Many of these players also play in the National League teams in the Super 8s/ Div 1, so the level is clearly high. It is also important to offer competitive outlets for all levels of students, though. We have found where there is entries into local leagues this has both retained students and increased the ability of those playing. You have this set up already within Exeter so this is great and will develop the club for the long-term.

The English player verses international player debate is a difficult one. There are developments in place both within Volleyball England and BUCS to look at this. Volleyball England just launched our Senior Academy Programme. That will extend the athlete pathway within England. BUCS have also recently shared a proposal for an English Universities structure, which is due to vote on in December. It has not been confirmed which sports this could involve, though.

My points hold

This response obviously defends the HEVO program and the participation side of things. That’s totally fine. They are fair comments. I wasn’t really attacking it. I just said I’d like to see more effort put in to help develop and improve the competitive side of things. I’m talking about things like sharing best practices, etc. between and amongst university volleyball clubs. HEVO was, in my mind, in a prime position to facilitate.

Universities as senior volleyball academies

A while back I posted on a new effort from Volleyball England. The announced the creation of what they are calling senior academies at a group of English universities. I received an email in response to that post from the head of the V.E. coaching commission, Richard Harrisson. It was in response to that post. I thought it worth sharing to provide a bit of context for how things developed.

Volleyball England thinking

In the past we had male and female adult development squads each with a professional coach based at Hallam University (Sheffield) for men and at Loughborough University for women. Many of these players became part of the GB indoor teams at the London Olympics. All players at some stage had professional contracts in Europe.

The idea was to channel the top young players with academic credentials into a regular training and competition programme. The ‘ideal’ new programme would be for a number of universities to have the same offer with more players training and playing regularly in the Super8s. This is separate to the ‘participation’ goals.

I don’t know the details of the programme. But based on the Schools Academies there will be a rigorous process of application (universities to bid for ‘Academy’ status) and selection to ensure the right coaches will be appointed and a sustainable recruitment and training system will be offered.

For a small federation Volleyball England had a good return from investment in the Development Squads. The aim is to replicate and grow the model. I’m interested to see how this develops…

There’s been a bit more information posted up by Volleyball England here. Interestingly, at that point no school was in at the “gold” level yet. I’m not entirely sure what exactly that means, though.

Will this create an NCAA equivalent?

It will indeed be interesting to see how things develop. Creating this sort of academy structure at the university level would in many ways make for a structure not unlike NCAA Division I or II volleyball in the States. I speak from the perspective of scholarships and linking sport and education in a way that isn’t really done in Europe. There isn’t really professional volleyball in England, at least now how most would think of it. At the same time, basically every USA national team player comes through the NCAA pipeline. That being the case, this new structure might not be a bad idea.

As I wrote before, though, there are some serious issues.

Prowling the volleyball coaching job market

I mentioned on social media last week that I started the process of seeking a full-time volleyball coaching after an eight year hiatus.

Actually, technically I wasn’t full-time in my last NCAA coaching position as it was a 2/3 equivalency. That fact was contributory to my absence from coaching for almost six years. I was broke and had to go back into my former profession in the financial markets where I could make a lot more money to get my finances cleaned up.

It took me about five years to finally pay off all my personal debts (and then a couple more for my credit rating to be fully restored). During that time I literally forced myself to stay away from volleyball aside from watching the occasional match on TV. I was afraid it would suck me back in and upset my financial reclamation efforts. Given how quickly the coaching bug got hold of me again in England, that fear was justified!

Why now?

I timed my plunge back into the full-time coaching market for now based on a couple of factors.

First, my PhD funding runs out in August. I need to be done with my doctoral work by then. That actually means submitting my dissertation at latest in February because there’s up to 3 months from then to my defense (Viva) and potentially up to another 3 months to make corrections before final submission. I personally targeted December/January for initial submission, which now looks to be January.

Second, this time of year is when a lot of coaching jobs in the States open up because it’s the end of the women’s collegiate season (the Division I championships will conclude next weekend). Now is when contracts are not renewed, coaches resign or retire, etc. Schools are particularly eager to fill head coach vacancies relatively quickly. They want to have someone in place to recruit and work with the team through the Spring semester.

The options

As I mentioned above, I’m funded through the Summer. As a result, there’s no actual need for me to rush into things. I can be patient from that perspective. In fact, there are really three potential career paths at this point.

With a PhD I can obviously go the academic route. I could also return to the financial industry. Either one of those choices would be quite lucrative, and I have not entirely ruled either out. The reason coaching volleyball tops my list, though, is the lifestyle suits me better. I’m physically fitter and healthier as a coach. And of course I find it very rewarding. I probably won’t make as much money in coaching, but I think my overall situation will be better.

Within coaching there are a couple of ways I can go. The most obvious is a return to the States and rejoin the collegiate coaching ranks. The other is to enter into the professional volleyball arena. I gained some nice exposure to back in August (see Three weeks in professional volleyball). I am considering both options. Unfortunately, the European professional season runs until March/April. That makes it less than ideal from the perspective of parallel job searches.

Head vs Assistant Coach

At this point I think a head coaching job is probably the best option. Given my experience, how my coaching has matured, and where I’m at in my life generally it seems to make the most sense. To the latter point, I’m no Spring chicken. My long-term finances must be on my mind at this stage. I can’t afford a lengthy period of low pay. My lifestyle isn’t particularly lavish. I don’t require a large salary from that perspective. I do need to be able to save toward retirement, though.

In the US it would be no problem to take over a program as head coach. I spent 7 years in Division I. During my time at Brown I was involved in all aspects of running the program (which is what happens with a small coaching staff). Every position is different, of course. I am confident, however, that even after the time away I’ll be able to work effectively in that system once again.

My expectations in that regard are realistic, though, I think. I can’t imagine I’m a strong candidate for a head coach position in one of the big conference schools. I wasn’t an assistant at that level and don’t have NCAA head coaching experience. Not that the postings for those jobs list those credentials. The candidate pool will certainly reflect it, though. My prospects are better in the more middling and lower ranks of Division I, or in Division II.

I won’t rule out the assistant coach route, though. In the States it would be all about the situation. I have no problem being a long-term assistant in a good location with an enjoyable working environment. In terms of something that was meant to improve my credentials as a potential head coach, however, I would have to confine myself to looking at only upper level positions. A middling or lower level one wouldn’t do much for me, either in terms of my resume or my own development as a coach. Been there, done that. Professionally, being an assistant would definitely be developmental with regards to that system.

What am I looking for?

On a certain level beggars can’t be choosers. That’s my volleyball coaching candidacy at this stage. From a professional perspective, I’m largely an unknown quantity, though my US coaching helps. From an NCAA job perspective, being away from that system for a while now doesn’t help. I have head coach experience in England, with a good bit of success to boot. Alas, I don’t know how that will be judged. I also have potentially useful international contacts, but that is something which might only matter to a relative few.

From my own perspective, I’d like to end up at a place where I can build something – or help build it if in an assistant role. That means I am somewhere the opportunity to work toward success exists. It doesn’t bother me to start at a low point and work up from there. I just need to see how thing can growing and improve over time. A place where management was happy with the status quo and unsupportive of my trying to elevate things is not what I am after.

I told friends I wish the opportunity existed for me to stay with the Exeter University volleyball program. We’ve already had considerable success. This is especially true compared to the relative difference in support received by our competition. There’s plenty more to do. I can see so many ways to make it stronger – to make it potentially one of the truly elite programs in the U.K. That is the sort of situation I want to find moving forward. Unfortunately, the opportunity for me to stay in Exeter doesn’t exist, so I have to try to find something similar elsewhere.