Tag Archive for volleyball coach interview

What is wanted when hiring a head coach

Volleyball Coach

A while back Terry Pettit (who I interviewed for Volleyball Coaching Wizards), wrote an article outlining what he looks for in a head coach candidate. Terry mostly works with colleges and universities, so that is the focus perspective. I think the points he makes are pretty universal, though.

Top of the list, head coach experience

The very first thing Terry mentions on his list of what he looks for is prior experience as a head coach. His point is that until you are head coach you don’t really have final decision-making responsibility. That is a very different sort of thing that being an assistant coach. It is really the difference between being the leader and a follower.

Fellow Wizards interviewee Mick Haley has a very similar point of view. When I asked him in his interview what his career advice would be for developing coaches he specifically recommended getting some kind of head coach experience. He called the experience of having the decision-making responsibility key to a coach’s development.

By the way, what Mick said applies even to those aiming for assistant coaching positions. You will be a much more effectively assistant if you know what it’s like to be head coach. You are better able to anticipate the head coach’s needs.

Make sure it’s a good fit

The second big thing Terry talks about is the need for there to be a good fit for both sides. This is crucial. If the fit isn’t there, things simply aren’t going to work out well. I can tell you that from personal experience. It was pretty clear to me relatively early on in my time coaching at Svedala that it wasn’t a great long-term fit. Predictably, things didn’t work out there.

Of course, judging fit is not always the easiest thing in the world. You for sure should do your research about the school or club. That will at least give you a basic sense for whether the broad structure is a fit. That means the type of institution and its philosophy, the location, the academic standards, and the other things you can judge at least to a degree from outside.

The trickier part is trying to gauge the more internal aspects of fit. What are the ambitions of the organization. What is the management style of the Athletic Director? How is the administrative and financial support? Is it a collegial staff? These, and other fit type questions are only likely to come to light during the interview process. You’ll probably have to ask some questions of your own to get the best sense for it.

Good character

Terry’s third factor is the coach’s character. To quote, “I will not forward a candidate who has a history of bending rules, physically or mentally abusing athletes, or not interacting with peers in a professional manner.” I don’t think I need to add much to that, really.

A collaborative leader

Fourth on the list is that a head coach should work well with others. Terry focuses on assistant coaches, but I would add in anyone else associated with the program. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to running a team. Just as they would with a starting lineup, a good coach looks to use their staff in a way that highlights their strengths.

Curiosity above all else

While Terry puts curiosity last on his list, he calls it the most important trait he looks for in head coaching candidates. I might have used the word “reflective” instead, based on what he seems to be getting at here. It’s all about evaluating things, positively and negatively, and using your assessments to further yourself and your program. He describes someone who is basically always looking for ways to learn.

Additional thoughts

Terry has outlined the broad framework for what he considers a good head coaching position candidate. I generally agree with it. These are the higher level things you’ll want to get right. Of course, there are also finer details that become more or less relevant based on the position(s) you’re pursuing. Some of this relates to fit, as note above.

Some of it, though, is just technical and managerial skills you can develop. For example, most university head coach jobs require a master’s degree. High school jobs very often require first aid certification. Some jobs involve a fair bit of fund raising. Many positions require you to regularly interact with the media. You’ll want to do research into the requirements of the sorts of job you’re after to find out exactly what you need on your resume to make yourself a legitimate candidate.

What are good questions to ask in a coaching job interview?

I wrote previously about questions I was asked in coaching interviews and questions you might hear when you interview for a coaching job. Obviously, you need to prepare for questions like that. You also, however, must be ready to ask questions of your own. In many interviews the final question you receive is, “Do you have any questions for me/us?”

So what types of questions should you prepare to ask your interviewer(s)?

I think there are three main categories of questions you need to consider. Which ones you go with depend on the situation and job.

Demonstrate knowledge of requirements

If you interview for a job that is outside your direct experience, it may be a particularly important for you to focus on demonstrating that you know what it takes to coach at that level. For example, moving up from assistant coach to head coach, or moving between NCAA divisions. Some of what you are asked is designed to assess you at this level. You can help your case, though, by asking good questions.

Show knowledge of the team/program/club

The second type of questions you can ask relates to demonstrating knowledge of the team or program and its history. If you have played and/or coached for the program in the past this isn’t a big deal. The connection will be obvious to the interviewer. If you haven’t, though, you want to demonstrate some kind of knowledge of and/or affinity for it. Much of this will come through in how you answer the questions posed to you. You can, however, reinforce it by how you ask your own questions. For example, you could start a question with something like, “I know in the past ….”.

Get the information you need to make a decision

The final type of questions you want to ask in an interview is the sort that helps with your own decision-making process. You want to develop as complete a picture as you can about what it will be like coaching that team and working in that school, athletic department, club, etc. Many of these sorts of questions overlap with the other types mentioned above. There might be some, though, that are more personal for you.

Some possible questions

Here are some examples of questions you could ask:

  • What is the program’s funding (scholarships)?
  • What are the roster requirements (min/max)?
  • How many assistants will I have?
  • What sort of fund raising do I have to do?
  • Is there an active booster club?
  • What sort of match attendance does the team get?
  • What is the recruiting budget?
  • Are there specific recruiting limitations?
  • How do we travel?
  • How do we split gym time with basketball when the seasons overlap?
  • What do I get for court time (club coach)?
  • What are the performance expectations for the team?
  • Will we have a dedicated athletic trainer?
  • Will we have a dedicated strength coach?
  • What is the overall coaching philosophy (for assistants or club coaches)?
  • What is my coaching role and administrative responsibility (assistants)?
  • Who is my direct report (Athletic Director, SWA, Technical Director, Club Director, etc.)?

That last one ties in with a bunch of potential questions about your relationship with your future boss. You certainly want to learn as much as you can about what it would be like working with/for them.

This is obviously just a partial list of possible questions. You need to do your research and give some real thought to how you want to present yourself, as well as what information you want to gather for your own purposes.

It’s OK to walk into an interview with a list

The bottom line in terms of questions is that you want to reinforce the things that you think make you a good candidate for the position, and you want to collect information for your own purposes. If you go to the interview with a list of questions you want to ask you look prepared – so long as you don’t ask questions basic research should have answered already. If you ask specific, thoughtful questions you demonstrate a clear interest in the position and the broader organization.

You don’t want to go overboard, of course. If the questions are too much about you, it could turn the interviewer(s) off. Always remember, they are looking for someone they think will fit into their organization. Until you are offered the job, you have to maintain a “what’s in it for them” approach with respect to hiring you.

Hope that helps. If you have any thoughts or suggestions of your own, definitely share. Just leave a comment below.

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 Wizards now open!

Volleyball Coaching Wizards banner

I’ve mentioned Volleyball Coaching Wizards a number of times over the last couple months. If you missed it, basically it’s a project to interview the world’s great volleyball coaches – at all levels. I teamed up with Mark Lebedew of At Home on the Court (he coaches a pro team in Poland). We have a list of over 300 coaches taken from Hall of Fame lists and/or recommended to us. The work is still in the very early stages. A bunch of interviews with some really high profile and very successful coaches are already done. Numerous others are committed for the future.

We opened up access to the Wizards recordings publicly, which mean full access to each interview. They generally run 1.5 to 2 hours, and in them we talk about things like:

  • Coaching philosophy and how it’s changed
  • Team building
  • Training and season planning
  • Line-up decision and playing time
  • Managing expectations
  • Career development
  • and much more.

While Mark and I look to touch on basically the same basic coaching topics, each interview is different. They reflect the variety of coaching levels and circumstances, backgrounds and development paths, and personal philosophies and styles of each of these Wizards. The process of doing the recordings has been great, and what we’re hearing is really interesting – especially the common elements across coaches from very different experiences and backgrounds.

What’s really been awesome to hear from these coaches we’re speaking with is how great they think the project is and how it will contribute to volleyball coaching knowledge. They are as excited to listen to their peers as the rest of us!

Click here to learn more, see who we’ve already interviewed, and find out how to get access.

 

One interview down, dozens to go!

Yesterday I did the first of the Volleyball Coaching Wizards interviews. It was with my partner on the project, Mark Lebedew from At Home on the Court. We ran it as a kind of webinar to allow some others to listen in and ask questions of their own. There were a couple of technical glitches on Mark’s end, and a “family” interruption or two, but overall the interview went well and covered a lot of good ground. Once I edit the recording we’ll be making it available, and Mark has offered to do the transcription to produce a text version.

Want to know what the biggest takeaway was for me from the interview?

It was that this project is going to be A LOT of work. The interview took about 2.5 hours. It will probably take at least that much time to edit, produce and upload. Add in the time required to arrange for an interview and to do all the other little admin things around it and you’re basically talking about a full day’s effort for each one. And that’s not even counting the transcription of the audio, which after this one we will almost certainly outsource.

Now consider that we already have over 30 coaches who have agreed to be interviewed and that’s just about 10% of our prospect list. Starting to get the idea of how much work this project will involve?

By the way, those who attended the interview – which we ran as a Google+ Hangout – was very positive.

Volleyball Coaching Wizards developments

After an initial flurry of activity and attention, the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project has settled down into a calmer state of affairs. Partly that’s because I’ve been in heavy crunch mode with my PhD thesis development and my partner Mark has been involved in the German championships. While my own work continues for at least a little longer, Mark is now done for the season (though he’s now on the job market). That means he can actually start doing some stuff! 🙂

We have a lengthy list of coaches who are prospective Wizards thanks to research and recommendations. I’ve begun reaching out to a number of them with invitations to take part and the response has been very positive. The guys at The Art said “No” at first (though John Dunning individually said “yes”), presumably because they thought of Wizards as being a competitor to their own stuff. I don’t see it that way. If anything, I see it as potentially supportive, and told them so. They said they’d reconsider.

The list of those who have committed is at about 25 now. Most of them are AVCA Hall of Famers. You can see the full list here. So far the international/professional contingent is limited, but now that Mark is freed up I expect that to grown rapidly in the days and weeks to come. I personally will also be turning more attention to the high school and Juniors area, which are also under represented at this stage.

I expect us to start doing interviews in a matter of a couple of weeks. We just need to iron out a couple of things. Announcements will be forthcoming, so keep an eye out for updates on the Volleyball Coaching Wizards blog, the Facebook page, or on Twitter.

Questions from a recent coaching job interview

As I mentioned in this job search log entry, I had a phone interview for a position where I’d applied. In that case, it was for an NCAA Division I assistant coaching job. Some of the questions I got are ones that I’m sure get asked regularly. Others were a bit more specific to my own background. I thought it would be worth sharing them. They are probably good examples of what one can expect. They apply whether the interview is done over the phone or in-person (see also Potential coaching interview questions).

Why <insert team/club/school/etc. here>?

I can just about guarantee you’ll get some form of this question. You need to be prepared with a good answer. It may be a simple fact that you just want a coaching job and they have an opening. You probably don’t want to say that, though. 🙂

This is an opportunity for you to show that you did some research and actually know something about the situation, the job, etc. Once you’ve reached the interview stage it’s likely less about qualifications. They want to see whether you fit with what they want for someone in the job.

What motivates you to coach?

This is very much a question looking to see if your approach to coaching matches their own. This is particularly true when you are after an assistant coach position.

What do you look for when you’re recruiting?

Obviously, you’ll have personnel-specific needs and considerations. What they want is a broader sense of the type of players you would look to bring into the team.

What will you bring?

This is another question which gives you an opportunity to show you’ve done your research. It’s also where you can really do a good job selling yourself to them, but only if you have some idea of their needs. The temptation is to make it all about you. Really, though, it should be all about them and how you can help them succeed.

Why women vs. men?

This one was motivated by my experience coaching both men and women. I’m sure other coaches who’ve worked with both genders will get a similar inquiry. If you’re in this situation, you’ve probably had numerous conversations about the difference in coaching men vs. women. That should mean you are prepared for this question. This could simply be asked as a question of curiosity. It could, however, be to see whether you might be happier coaching the gender other than the one the specific job in question involves.

What do you think about the developments with the respect to the Power 5 conferences?

If you’re not already aware, there has been a move in the NCAA to expand what can be offered to student-athletes. Basically, that means going beyond the standard tuition and room-and-board covered by their scholarships. This is something agreed upon for adoption by the five top and others are determining which way they’ll go (see this Forbes article for a discussion). I was told my answer to this question had no real bearing on the hiring process. It was just a question of curiosity. It serve to see how much I paid attention to the landscape and gauge my thought processes, though.

Do you have any questions?

You should always have some questions you want answered when you’re in an interview situation. If for no other reason, you should look to judge for yourself whether the position is a good fit. This is also an opportunity to show that you are really interested, have done your homework, and know what’s sort of things are important. In my case, most of the things I would have asked were covered in our discussion through the prior Q&A process. There was still something I could ask, however, to get an idea of the head coach’s management style.

Volleyball Coaching Wizards project update

In case you haven’t been following the Volleyball Coaching Wizards blog, the Facebook page, or the Twitter feed (why not!?) there have been a number of very positive developments since I mentioned the project two weeks ago. I think we’re now up to somewhere around 300 top notch coaches on our list of nominees. Many of them are there on the basis of being in the AVCA Hall of Fame and/or on on the lists of the winningest coaches in US collegiate and high school volleyball. The remainder, though, have come by way of recommendations from coaches all over the world.

And they continue to come in! As far as I’m concerned, we’ve only just scratch the surface in many ways – especially outside the US.

The process of inviting the nominated Wizard coaches to be a part of the project has gotten underway. As of this writing, 19 have already agreed to be interviewed. That includes some of the most noteworthy names in the game, including 11 AVCA Hall of Famers. It’ll be a couple weeks before we can start lining up the interviews (my partner, Mark Lebedew, is in the middle of the German championship finals series). The excitement is building, though. The response to the project has been really positive!

Definitely make sure to stay up-to-date. Things are likely to start moving very quickly in the weeks ahead.

Best volleyball coaches – nominations wanted

As some readers are aware, roughly in parallel with my volleyball coaching I’ve had a career in the financial markets. My coaching in England the last three years has been on the back of working on a PhD in Behavioral Finance, which can be thought of as combining financial markets with psychology. I actually authored a book on trading that was published back in 2006.

In that arena there is a series of books by a gentleman named Jack Schwager, the first of which is titled Market Wizards. They comprise a collection of interviews with some of the world’s elite traders. These books are widely considered among the best, most educational and inspiration ever published in financial market circles. (As and aside, I actually interviewed Schwager not long after the first book came out.)

I’m not entirely sure what triggered it, but some combination of thoughts and ideas sparked a fusion in my head a couple weeks ago. It occurred to me that a similar sort of book would be really awesome from a volleyball coaching perspective.

Thus was Volleyball Coaching Wizards born.

Only, my partner Mark Lebedew and I will be taking things to a higher level. The conceptual framework of interviewing the best of the best remains. We’re just going to build on the original in a couple of ways.

First, we’re not just going the book route. These days the internet and audio/video delivery offer much greater opportunity for distribution than Schwager had when he published his first Wizards book. The specific plan is still a work in progress, but for us a book (probably multiple books) is only one of the ways we plan on sharing content from the interviews we do. We also want to use audio and video, and every other available platform, to be able to reach volleyball coaches everywhere.

Second, we’re going deeper. There are great volleyball coaches at all level of the sport and all over the world. Certainly, we’ll be looking to interview the big names in coaching – international and elite collegiate coaches everyone knows. We also, though, want to interview coaches much less well-known but who are still great coaches in their own right.

I’ve already been in touch with a number of my contacts around the world about the project and the response has uniformly been extremely positive. I think this is something that has the potential to be really special.

All of this means Volleyball Coaching Wizards is likely to be a major undertaking, though. I can easily see us doing more than 100 interviews just in the initial phase. I would expect to add additional interviews over time as new coaches distinguish themselves.

We’d appreciate your help

At this early stage you can help us out big time by bringing great coaches you know of to our attention. In particular, we want to hear about lower profile coaches. It’s easy enough to pick out the the likes of great international coaches based on medals won, top US collegiate coaches based on wins and being in the AVCA Hall of Fame, etc. To an extent, the same is true for US high school coaches. What about Juniors coaches, though? Or university, high school, and club coaches outside the US? Those are the folks we most need the help identifying.

The best way to submit a great coach for potential inclusion is by filling out the nomination form.

You can also help by spreading the world. The more folks we have providing Wizard nominations, the better the pool of candidates will be. So like the Facebook page, follow the Twitter feed, send your friends and coaching colleagues to VolleyballCoachingWizards.com, and whatever else you can think of to get people connected to the project. Any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

And definitely feel free to share your thoughts, suggestions, ideas, etc. about the project in general with us.