Tag Archive for US collegiate volleyball

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. ūüôĀ

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 19, 2016

Following up on last week
I started the new week with some follow-up correspondence. As you may recall from my last entry, the Athletic Director at the school asked me to give some real thought as to whether the position would be a good fit for me. From a volleyball and coaching perspective, and from an overall work environment point of view, everything looked good to me – at least as best you can judge these things based on a couple of days. The big question mark in my mind was whether I’d enjoy living there. It’s the type of environment I’ve never lived in before, both in terms of climate and culture.

Since the interviews, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering that question and doing a bunch of research. As strange as this may sound, I looked at housing costs and car prices and general cost of living considerations. That’s obviously not the same as being feet on the ground and experiencing day-to-day life, but it definitely helped me feel more comfortable about the prospect of living there. Maybe I won’t be a huge fan of the climate or the environs, but I at least feel like I can carve out a pleasant existence there, which is key. I struggled with that in Sweden, which probably fed my apparent unhappiness there.

I should also note that I also had a few email and text exchanges with the head coach there after I left and over the weekend. Not really job-related stuff, though.

New application
On Monday I put in for a head coach position in Division I. Very different part of the country in this case My qualifications should be more than sufficient in multiple ways, but there is at least one potentially important factor which doesn’t work in my favor.

On Tuesday I also put in for another head coach position. This is for a Division II program in yet another different part of the country. I was in part motivated to do so by the fact that I think I crossed paths in England with the current assistant coach.

One that could be interesting
I also found out on Monday about a job in England that under a different circumstance I might go for. This one isn’t a coaching position, but rather is meant to work at the sub-senior national team level to coordinate the efforts of the senior academies, among other things. Seems like a position that could really help grow and develop the game there. Here’s what got posted by Volleyball England:

Working with partners in the University sector to establish a network of accredited talent development environments for players exiting junior academies including the delivery of existing Senior National Development Programmes for Indoor and Beach.

Coordinating the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme for Volleyball acting as the key point of contact for partner institutions and athletes.

Working with partners to develop senior domestic and international competition opportunities in Indoor and Beach ensuring that they meet the needs of developing talented players. 

We are looking for a candidate whose skills and experience include: 

  • Firsthand experience of talent pathways either as a participant, parent, coach or supporting staff.
  • Experience of managing projects/ partnerships with multiple external stakeholders.
  • Knowledge of sports agencies and stakeholders that contribute to the provision of performance sport in the UK (UK Sport, TASS, Sport England etc.).
  • Ability to meet deadlines, systematic approach to tasks with efficient time management skills including the ability to work under pressure.¬†

Unfortunately, my lack of UK/EU citizen ship and the fact that the completion of my PhD means the end of my student visa (and the potential to extend it now) makes me an unlikely prospect.

Other options
I of course kept my eye on the postings and considered which ones might be a good fit for me. Honestly, I’m being very picky. I won’t be rushing into things, especially since the recent completion of my PhD gives me options in other directions. I will seriously explore them if I don’t find something I really want to take on in the full-time coaching arena.

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – Feb 12, 2016

Monday’s Interview
I mentioned in my last update that I was returning to the States to interview for an assistant coaching job at a Division II program. It was actually a multi-day process. It started on Sunday when I was picked up by the head coach for the ride to campus and eventually lunch before getting dropped off at the hotel. We talked about a lot of coaching topics, as you might imagine.

Monday was the high intensity day with not just one interview, but several. My initial schedule looked like this:

10am: Tour of campus
11am: Meet with HR
12pm: Lunch with volleyball staff
1pm: Meet with women’s basketball coach
2pm: Meet with Senior Women’s Administrator
3pm: Meet other coaches on campus
5pm: Dinner with Athletic Director

The lunch was with the current 2nd/Grad Assistant and the Volunteer Assistant coaches.The SWA is actually the former head coach.

That last entry was a real surprise. I’d never have expected a dinner meeting with the A.D. for an assistant coach candidate.

A couple of other meetings with administrators actually got inserted along the way. One was the Associate A.D. and another was with the head of the department through which I would teach were I to land the job. Not surprisingly, I answered the same questions several times (especially “Why here?”). Long day, but it gave me a lot of exposure to the school and especially the Athletic Department.

You’ll notice no player meetings scheduled. The head coach debated my getting together with them as a full group after their morning strength and conditioning session vs. doing it in smaller groups on Tuesday when they came in for their on-court training. She ended up going with the latter because she thought the players would be more open and conversational in the smaller group situation.

Tuesday’s meetings
The result of the player meeting decision was that I met the team in groups of 3 and 4 on Tuesday after they got done with their small-group practices. The head coach had told them to look me up, so they had questions related to my experience – in particular what it was like coaching in Sweden. The groups were comprised of different mixes of players (one was all freshmen, one was all juniors, one multiple classes), so the other questions they asked and what we talked about varied.

In between the meetings I took a detour over to the business school. I spoke with the head of the Finance department about maybe doing some adjunct teaching. This would be in addition to the teaching requirement for this job – a volleyball activity class each semester.

After another lunch with the head coach, my final meeting on Tuesday was a follow-up 1-on-1 with the A.D. Basically, he just wanted me to think about whether the job and locale was a good fit. Made it sound like if I thought it was, then they would think so too. At least one more interviewee is scheduled to visit campus in about a week’s time, so there will be some time before anything could move forward.

Rest of the week
On Wednesday I flew to California. I’ll be hanging out in Long Beach for a while – probably until my next step is decided. Top priority – getting some rest after all the travel and getting my internal clock set to the right time zone!

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – July 22, 2015

I’m transitioning from England to Sweden today, marking a number of meaningful changes in my life – not just from a coaching perspective. I think that makes it a good time to circle back for a quick update on what’s happened since¬†I accepted the Svedala position early in June. Just because I’ve already got a new head coaching position, it doesn’t mean the correspondence with schools to which I applied has stopped. In the last several weeks I’ve received rejection emails from:

  • Tennessee (June 12th)
  • Auburn University at Montgomery (June 16th)
  • Miami (June 30th)
  • Jacksonville State (June 30th)
  • Texas A&M International (July 3rd)
  • Smith (July 6th)
  • Angelo State (July 8th)
  • UT Rio Grande Valley (July 16th)
  • UNC Charlotte (July 16th)

As you may recall from my earlier listing of all the jobs I applied for during the process, some of these positions I already knew had been filled. There remain a number I haven’t heard anything about thus far. Though to be fair, I haven’t really been paying close attention – as I’m sure you can imagine.

One of the more interesting developments was that shortly after accepting the Svedala job I found out about a UK university position that was opening up in London. Had the timing been different, I would have at least explored that option. I’m not sure if I would have been considered given my non-UK/EU status, but from a credentials and contacts perspective I have to think I would have at least been in the discussion.

On a separate, but related subject … I’ve found it interesting to think about what life might be like as a professional volleyball coach if I stick with it long-term. The primary coaching commitment is August/September to April. Unlike US collegiate volleyball, the administrative/recruiting demands outside of that are not large. This leaves considerable space and time for doing other things. Coaches seem to fill that with things like clinics and camps and national team coaching.

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – June 5, 2015

The only news that matters is that I was offered the professional job I talked about getting short-listed for previously. And I accepted the offer. The club is Svedala in Sweden. Once the details are finalized I will talk about things more specifically – probably next week.

In the meantime, for those who might be interested, below is a list of all the volleyball coaching jobs I applied for in the last six months. Some of them I knew I had no shot at, but put my resume in because it got my name out there for potential future consideration. Other positions no doubt were already filled before they were even posted. So while the list below is long – perhaps depressingly so from a job-seeker’s perspective – only part of it is jobs I was actually ever really in potential consideration for on some level. Those in red are ones I either got a rejection note from or otherwise found out the job was filled.

NCAA/NAIA Head Coach (NCAA Division I unless noted)

NCAA Assistant Coach (Division I unless noted)

Non-US head coach

Building a team vs. building a program

Do you consider yourself a team coach or a program builder?

By that I mean do you tend to like to think just one season at a time or to have a longer-term view in mind?

I personally consider myself a program builder. When I say that I mean what I find the most rewarding aspect of coaching is developing players, teams, and organizations over time and progressively moving them forward. The irony of that, though, is from a silverware perspective it could perhaps be said that I’m best in a single “season” role:

  • Gold medal coaching the Southeast Boys Scholastic team in the Bay State Games in my first head coach position.
  • 3rd place in the regional championships with the Metrowest 16-1 girls in my first year coaching Juniors.
  • Reaching Final 8s in my first season with the Exeter University men, which they hadn’t done in anyone’s recent memory.
  • Winning the South West Championship¬†with the Devon Ladies after taking over midway through the NVL Division 1 season and leading them to a 7-1 second half record in helping them recover from a 1-7 start.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I think these achievements aren’t worthwhile. In part they reflect my attitude that coaches coach whatever group they have in front of them They also suggest I’m pretty good at getting the most out of the available players.

The thing is, though, what I look back on and remember with the greatest sense of pride and accomplishment are not the above. Instead, top of the list is the Exeter women finishing 3rd at Final 8s, and the club ranking 3rd overall in the UK for volleyball in my second season, building on the foundations laid in my first season. Significantly, that was without any scholarship athletes.

Also on that list is building the RI Blast Juniors club program (now called Blast Volleyball) into the dominant program in my home state, a position it still holds. Not only does the club provide playing and training opportunities for lots of kids beyond high school volleyball, and to give younger kids a chance to play the sport that didn’t exist before, it helped change the whole volleyball culture.

Although it’s not coaching per se, this blog can be put in this category as well. I’m quite proud of how it’s grown and developed and now has a positive impact on volleyball coaches all over the world.

These things have been near the top of my mind recently in considering professional coaching. When I visited German club TV B√ľhl last preseason they had only one player returning from the prior year’s team. That’s basically starting from scratch. This can be the reality of certain types of clubs. Compare that to BR Volleys where they only had a handful of roster changes and you can see how different things can be from club to club.

I would venture to say that many professional coaches in that environment tend to think more from a season perspective than a program-building one. This is not just a reflection of roster turnover, but also in how they have less responsibility beyond the on-court product than the likes of college coaches in the American system. From that perspective, they are probably more in line with coaches in the US Juniors system, which in comparable to the pros in terms of structure.

Just my impressions. Feel free to share your own feelings.

Learning from college transfer developments

This article discusses the increase in volleyball transfers in NCAA volleyball. It cites numbers saying they went from 95 in 2010 to 267 in 2013. That’s a pretty big increase. I don’t know if it’s yet at the level where there needs to be serious concern (it’s probably about 5% of all Division I players). It does suggest an evolution in the sport at that level which it would be good to understand, though.

One of the main culprits often mentioned with regards to transfer numbers is the shift toward earlier and earlier commitment. How can we expect a 15 year-old to know what they’ll want as a 19 year-old?

In the article, John Cook from the University of Nebraska also suggests that the current generation of athletes is less emotionally connected with their teammates. He says that’s because they interact so much via technology rather than face-to-face. This makes it easier for them to transfer. I’d be curious to know if there’s any research as to whether that’s actually true.

Something else which could be a potential source of rising transfer rates is coaching turnover. As much as players are encouraged to pick a school based on academics and other non-sport considerations, the reality is that the coach matters. Coaching changes, therefore, can alter a player’s level of satisfaction. Further, sometimes new coaches come in and clean house. They want to “bring in their own players”. Or, as in the Hugh McCutcheon case, there can be a cultural change some just don’t want to go along with.

Add into the mix the tendency for the recruiting process to operate as two sides trying to sell themselves. That’s instead of truly looking for a good fit. Coaches pursuing players put their best foot forward. Players in pursuit of schools do the same. That leads, in some cases, to one or both sides not really taking the time to look at things on a deeper level. That’s where the actual satisfaction level once a player is on campus comes into effect.

We can never completely avoid transfers. They’re going to happen for any number of reasons – many of which are case-by-case. What we should do, though, is to look for the broader patterns of commonality and see if there are detrimental underlying factors which need addressing. In some cases there won’t be. In some cases there might. Even for those not involved in US college volleyball, these sorts of things can help increase understanding with regards to player recruitment and retention.

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – May 22, 2015

In the last week I put in for another Division I assistant position.

I did some follow up with two of the clubs in Europe I was in touch with about head coach positions where I’ve been waiting to hear back. The manager at one of them responded that there’s been a fair bit of interest in their position, but that I was “…one of the coaches I would like to discuss the position further with.” What followed was an email exchange covering the club’s recent history and ambitions, my coaching philosophy, and some other related topics. I’ll get into more specifics later once things are resolved one way or the other. I was told at the beginning of the week that I’m on the list of the final 3-4 candidates and that I’d hear back around today with “…a little more details and numbers.”

The rejection list adds the assistant job at UAB., the assistant job at Buffalo, the assistant job at Clemson, the head job at Urbana, and the head job at UC Irvine. I knew I had zero chance at the latter.

One of the things I’ve decided recently is that I’m not going to pursue just any position anymore. Not that I’ve put my resume in for every job I’ve come across – though at times it’s seemed that way. I’ve simply decided that there must be a legitimate positive about a coaching job. If it’s a lower level job where moving up the career ladder probably isn’t going to be a real consideration, then the position needs to be in a place I legitimately think I would like to live in, where I think I can do some good things for the program, and where I’ll still have opportunities to pursue my other projects and interests. If it’s a job where I would expect to be able to move up a step or two after a couple seasons, then I’m willing to sacrifice some things.

That could all become moot, though. There’s apparently some interest from my former employer (finance industry) in hiring me back in the London office. I’m fast approaching a point where I’m going to have to make some hard decisions if nothing meaningful develops on the coaching front. I can’t really stay in Exeter any later than the latter part of July because of my housing and PhD funding situation, so I will have to move in the next eight weeks one way or the other. If I am indeed offered that finance job, I will very seriously have to consider taking it as we’re getting to the point of the year where US jobs openings of any consequence will be few and far between.

On the plus side, living and working in London could offer me the opportunity to continue coaching at the UK university level as there are a number of programs in and around the city. There are several National League clubs I could potentially coach for as well. On top of all that, it would also be easier for me to get involved with the national team program if an opportunity were to arise. I do generally like the idea of working to help grown the sport in England, and more narrowly to help develop the country’s volleyball coaches.

We’ll see how things play out.