Do you consider yourself a team coach or a program builder?
Here’s what I mean by that. 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. I have to admit to some irony there, though. 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. Also, leading them to a 7-1 second half record in helping them recover from a 1-7 start.
- Taking home Bronze at Gran Prix during my season in Sweden, which was only the second medal at that event for the club.
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 my second year there. Also, the club ranking 3rd overall in the UK for volleyball that year. In both case that was building on the foundations laid in my first season. Significantly, that was without any scholarship athletes.
My second year at Dean College we won the District Championship for the first time ever. In the second season I was at Midwestern State we had the strongest season for that program in several years.
Also on that list is building the RI Blast Juniors club program (now called Blast Volleyball) into the dominant program in my home state. Not only did the club provide playing and training opportunities for lots of kids beyond high school volleyball, and give younger kids a chance to play the sport that didn’t exist before, it helped change the whole volleyball culture there.
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 are always near the top of my mind while considering professional coaching. When I visited German club TV Bühl the first time in 2014 they had only one returner from the prior year. That’s basically starting from scratch. This can be the reality of certain types of clubs. Compare that to BR Volleys that same season 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. 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 is comparable to the pros in terms of structure.
Just my impressions. Feel free to share your own feelings.
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