Tag Archive for university volleyball

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – Apr 24, 2015

Last week I mentioned a position opening up in Germany’s top division on the women’s side. One of my coaching contacts told me a bit about the club and strongly encouraged me to go after the job. Another contact asked around on my behalf and told me they were looking to move quickly, so I went ahead and got my CV in. We’ll see if anything develops. If nothing else, it doesn’t hurt to have my name out there. It’s a relatively large club, so there might be other opportunities.

That same contact also pointed me toward a pair of other clubs in search of new coaches – both on the women’s side. One finished near the bottom of the Bundesliga, but should be able to stay up. The other has earned promotion this year. In the latter case, the current coach apparently doesn’t feel up to coaching in the top flight, so is stepping down to assistant. Potentially an awkward situation for someone new coming in, but it doesn’t bother me. I actually see it as an opportunity to have someone on-hand who would be able to quickly get me up to speed on the team, the club, and the overall system. A different coaching friend in Germany – one with a high profile – emailed the club manager on my behalf.

Back in the US market, I put in for a pair of assistant coaching jobs in Division I. I actually got my first phone interview for one of them! Had that last night. It seemed to go pretty well. Sounds like the head coach is looking to move quickly, so I’ll know if it’s going to go anywhere fairly shortly. I plan on writing a post about the interview questions I got, as I imagine they are probably fairly common ones and therefore may be of interest to others going through the process.

I also gave some hard consideration to a combined men’s and women’s Division III job in the Northeast. As I’ve mentioned, I like the idea of that kind of position at that level, but this particular situation doesn’t look to be a good one. It’s a very small school (if both teams had full rosters it would represent like 5% of the student body!) with what I suspect is limited support.

In terms of the positions I won’t be getting, the LIU Division I head job is filled. Ditto for the UConn and Illinois Division I assistant coach jobs, and the Northwest Oklahoma State (NAIA going Division II) and Rockford Division III head jobs. Also got a “you’ve not been selected for an interview” email from North Dakota State with respect to an assistant position there.

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – Apr 17, 2015

Got yet another rejection note from Cornell, this time for the assistant job. Also found out the UNC Charlotte assistant position has been filled. That’s actually the first assistant job I went after, but the head coach left in the middle of that process, which naturally put everything on hold.

I applied for a Division I assistant position in the Southeast.

I applied officially for the Division II head job in the Northeast I mentioned last week. Interestingly, I got a note from the Athletic Director later on the day that I applied letting me know the posting had finally gone up. Perhaps a bit of interest based on initial contact?

Also applied for another Division II head coach position. This one is in the upper Midwest.

Another Division I head coaching position has opened up due to a coaching retirement. I haven’t seen an official posting for it yet. No doubt it’s filling will create another cascade of coaching moves.

Had some advice from a contact in Europe that taking a coaching position at a second division Swiss club – as I talked about last week – probably would prove very limiting. The potential for progression, advancement, and/or growth in some fashion are all definitely factors in any decision I would make with respect to a coaching job – in Europe or anywhere else.

The same contact also pointed me toward a new coaching vacancy in the German women’s Bundesliga – the top professional league in that country. He said my training and development as a volleyball coach in the land of Karch could generate some interest. 🙂  I’ve put some of my other contacts in Germany to work to learn more about what the club might be after and my prospects.

College volleyball is not the end of the line

At USA Volleyball they express a philosophy. They tell coaches in the various educational programs that we should never be a player’s last coach. In the context of youth volleyballers, that’s a pretty easy mentality to take. At its most altruistic, coaching at that level is about bringing kids into the volleyball tent and keeping them there. From what can sometimes be a more materialistic perspective, the focus is on developing players for collegiate recruitment – or in the case of much of the the world outside the U.S., progress up the club ranks in a professional structure. The problem comes when you reach what many people view as the pinnacle of the sport in America – the college game.

College volleyball is not the end

Yes, there is the national team. The vast majority of college coaches, though, don’t give much thought to even that. After all, only players from the top programs make it into the national program. Basically, they just expect their players to graduate and go get a job in the real world.

Here’s the thing, though. There’s a whole bunch of former US collegiate players who have gone on to play overseas after graduation. USA Volleyball reports that more than 300 American players file for international transfer certificates (required to play outside your own country). About 2/3rds of them are women.

For some of them it’s about continuing their education and using their volleyball skills to pay their way. I coached against a few of those players in my time coaching BUCS in England. Former Stetson University assistant coach Scott Tunnell is an example of this sort of player. A handful of universities in the UK activity recruit former US college players with Master’s degree scholarships. Not a bad way to continue your education and get an experience living and playing abroad.

Of course the headline players are the ones who go on to play in top foreign profession leagues. The New York Times has been the highest profile news outlet to pick up on the story. Volleyball Magazine had an article on the subject and I came across an interesting piece on Facebook as well. And Americans are not the only ones going this route. Canadians are in on the party as well.

It isn’t only the household name volleyball players going pro, though. A former player of mine from my Brown coaching days played on teams in Belgium, Holland, and England. Brown is hardly the sort of program anyone would expect to produce professional volleyballers, but she went on to have a great experience playing abroad.

It’s not just about going pro overseas

On top of the international opportunities, we cannot forget domestic beach volleyball, USA Volleyball indoor club play, and any potential pro league that might develop. The point is college coaches shouldn’t be looking at their programs as the final stop in their player’s coaching journey. We need to maintain that USA Volleyball philosophy of not being a player’s last coach.

One of the more rewarding experiences of my coaching at Exeter was having a Danish exchange student who spent a semester with the team tell me at the end she enjoyed her volleyball so much that she was going to try to find a way to keep playing when she got back home. We should all be aiming to have that kind of impact on our athletes. If nothing else, the better their experience with us the more likely they’ll be to support the program – and the sport in general – in the future!

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – Apr 3, 2015

Attending the CEV Champions League Final 4 last weekend was a bit of a bust in terms of developing direct new job-related contacts – at least from an immediate term perspective. There is the potential for longer-term impact, however.

I got a rejection email from San Francisco with regards to their assistant coach vacancy, as well as for the UT Martin head coach position. I should note that in the latter case the rejection email was sent simultaneously to a number of coaches and they didn’t bcc the recipient list, so now we all know who applied and got shot down.

Also found out that the Lake Erie (Division II) head job has been filled – by a guy with a name an awful lot like mine! The Marist head job has also been filled.

A new contact on LinkedIn actually informed me of a Division II head job in the middle part of the country that has just opened up. The posting hasn’t gone up on any of the boards I follow, so I had to go to the school’s employment section to find the listing. I’ve applied for it, along with another Midwestern position for a program getting ready to be full Division II.

I’ve also seen that a Division II job in the Northeast has also come open, along with another in the upper Midwest. Neither has posted officially at this point. In one case there’s an on-going search for a new Athletic Director, which could slow things down.

I also applied for another Division I assistant job – one at a fairly high level.

New assistant coach working with former teammates

The following emailer seeks some advice. I present the text of their note here, with my reply below, in hopes of generating some discussion. I know there are a number of current and/or former collegiate assistant coaches who read the blog. Hopefully, we can get something going based on different kinds of experience.

I recently graduated in December and was offered to be the assistant women’s volleyball coach. I am in an awkward transition from being a student athlete to now coaching my former teammates. I have coached club volleyball for the last 5 or 6 years, but I have never coached at the college level. I am a member of the AVCA and submitted an application to receive a mentor, but they are unable to match me just yet. Do you have any advice by chance? Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you!

It can definitely be a challenge to have to coach former teammates. I did a bit of it back when I was doing some coaching after high school. Mainly, though, I was a drill facilitator rather than someone providing real coaching. Though I did push to try to develop a quick attack. Unfortunately, the head coach wasn’t really interested in pursuing it (much to my frustration!)

If you’re working with a head coach who has a pretty strong presence with the team then things probably won’t be too difficult for you with respect to your former teammates. They will just see you as being Coach’s helper more than actually being someone who’s telling them what to do. That’s not a bad thing. It makes it really easy for you to take a learning approach.

Provide information

Either way, though, I think the key for you developing a good working relationship with them is taking a “providing information” angle on your interactions. By that I mean try to avoid coming off as telling them what to do. That could be tough for former teammates to take. Instead, try to think of the sorts of things you wanted to hear from your coaches – scouting information, stats on their play, video of what they’re doing, encouragement, a kick in the butt at the right time, etc.

Professional relationship

Potentially the biggest challenge will be developing a professional relationship with your former teammates. You can have a friendly relationship with them, but you can’t be their buddy anymore. You’re their coach now. Yes, assistant coaches tend to be closer to the players in that regard, but there are boundaries which you have to establish and maintain. You need to be able to view them objectively and work with them without personal entanglements which can create all kinds of problems.

Definitely talk with your head coach about this stuff. They should be able to help guide you.

Be loyal

And one last thing. A coaching staff is like a set of parents. It should always present a unified front to the team. That means you do not contradict the head coach or another assistant in front of the team or when speaking with any of the players. And you never do anything which might damage another coach’s standing with the team – or anyone else, for that matter.

Here’s some additional advice on being a good assistant.

 

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?

 

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – Mar 13, 2015

Daniel Webster, the Division III program where they posted for a joint men’s and women’s coach to which I applied, has hired. This was a pretty quick turn around, at least from the posting date, which is a little surprising given the men are currently mid-season. I was thinking this wouldn’t be filled until after the season ended. Makes me think maybe they had their person in mind already.

Miami has filled their assistant vacancy. Likewise with Arkansas State and Eastern Michigan. The College of Charleston will be filling their position with a former player, from what I was told.

I applied for one Division I head coach position in the south and one Division II assistant job in the west this past week. I also applied for another assistant job at a school where I previously applied for the head coach vacancy.

On the professional front, I committed to going to the CEV Champions League Final 4 in Berlin. Part of it is just to go to an event I might otherwise not have a chance to see, being hosted by a club I’ve visited a couple times now. There is definitely an eye toward doing some networking as well, though. I expect some of the professional coaches I know to be there. Hopefully I can meet a few more. I went with the VIP ticket to help facilitate that.

Thinking about volleyball recruiting

It occurred to me the other day that I had yet to really take on the subject of recruiting on this blog in any meaningful fashion. At I haven’t least from the coach’s perspective (see Inside College Volleyball for a different angle). The realization came on the back of having to give serious thought to my own recruiting track record and how I present it following some feedback I recently received in the job hunt process. Recruiting is a massive part of coaching collegiately in the US. Really, in some fashion or another is a feature of competitive volleyball at just about any level. As much as we might all like to think our great coaching is why we win, having quality players is a big part of the equation. Identifying, attracting, and retaining them is thus an important part of coaching successfully when you get paid to win.

My plan is to run a series of posts covering different aspects of recruiting. To that end, I’d love to hear from you. What aspects of recruiting do you want to learn more about? What do you feel like you need to be better at in recruiting? Do you have any personal insights into recruiting you’d like to share? Maybe you’ve got a story?

I’ve got the framework of an idea for how I’ll take on the subject, but input and contributions are very welcome. Feel free to leave a comment below. Alternatively, you can email me through the contact page or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks in advance.

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.