In a previous post I shared a set of questions I got in a college volleyball head coach phone interview. I want to flip that around in this post and share the questions I asked in return.

In another post I shared a general thought process for developing a list of questions, with a list of examples. And yes, you MUST have your own questions for all the reasons I talk about in that article. Here I will get more specific and talk about the questions I asked in this instance and why.

Why did the last coach leave?

In this instance, there was no announcement on the school’s website reporting the out-going coach’s departure. As a a result, I couldn’t tell if they were fired or left of their own volition. This was important because it had the potential to speak to administrative expectations of the position.

What are the performance standards for the head coach?

Basically, this is me asking on what basis I would be judged in the job. In some places winning and losing is clearly the main metric. This is by no means universal, however. College volleyball programs can have a wide variety of objectives and considerations. I wanted to be clear on the job’s expectations.

What is the relationship between Admissions and athletics recruiting?

This particular school was academically selective. I have worked in this kind of situation before, so I know how that Admissions can relate to recruiting. I wanted to get the details for this specific case. In other words, how much influence on acceptance does being a recruited athlete have?

This question served two purposes. Most obviously, it allowed me to better understand the situation. Just as importantly, though, it let me demonstrate my understanding of how things work at a school like that.

Is there a minimum and/or maximum squad size?

Because of Title IX considerations, many colleges expect the volleyball team (and other women’s teams) to carry some minimum number of players. Even where Title IX compliance isn’t a concern, there might be a desired minimum roster size for revenue purposes. Or, alternatively, you could have a roster cap for budget purposes.

What is the expectation in terms of fundraising?

In many college programs fundraising is an important part of the head coach’s job. A lot of times you’ll see it specifically mentioned in the job posting. It’s very much worth understanding how fundraising ties in with the program’s operating budget (e.g. it pays assistant coach salaries) and what the expectations will be.

Are there any other duties?

Especially as you move down the college volleyball levels, there can be additional duties to make up a full-time position. This particular job had teaching included alongside coaching – as was the case when I coached at Midwestern State. In other places you could have administrative duties, such as facilities management. My question was to clarify whether there were any of the latter alongside the teaching.

Are the Graduate Assistant Coaches assigned or recruited by the head coach?

At this particular school the assistant coaches were mainly GAs. Those GAs, from what I understood, were part of a Master’s program in college coaching. As such, it would be a program that could attract GA candidates without the head coach specifically recruiting them. That’s why I wondered about the source of the ones who actually became part of the volleyball staff.

What’s the percentage of international students at the school?

In my research into the school I found quite a bit of discussion of diversity, exchange programs, and things like that which suggested there could be a fair number of international students there. I could not, however, find any stats on the website. I basically asked this question out of curiosity, with the additional thought that it could related to international recruiting.

What are the positives and negatives of the current state of the program?

I asked this question to attempt to get a basic external view of the volleyball program at this school. The fact that one of the former coaches was the in the administration, and on the call, was a factor as well. Not surprisingly, that former coach was the one to answer my inquiry.

Notice the broadness

Notice how this list is pretty general, and likely any of the committee members on the call could probably answer them. That was intentional for a couple reasons.

First, on a phone interview you probably have a limited amount of time for questions. Maybe only 10 minutes. As a result, your list can’t be too long. Further, you can’t get into a long discussion if you want to be able to touch on a few different topics as I did.

Second, I wanted the conversation to be inclusive. It could very easily turn into an effective 1-on-1 between you and someone like the Athletic Director. Admittedly, if the AD is on the call they are probably running it. You still have to keep in mind the others involved, though. As members of the committee, they have a say in whether you advance and are eventually hired. As a result, you need to try to keep them engaged in the process and keep working to impress on them the value of your candidacy.

While I had a long list of other potential questions, I left most of them out. They were ones which got more into details. As such, I saw them as better suited for more one-on-one discussions in an in-person situation.

Remember, a phone interview like this is still one where the main focus is on demonstrating the strength of your candidacy. This is not to say you don’t continue to do that once you reach the finalist stage and make a campus visit. There, though, you’ll get more of a sales pitch, especially if you are a leading candidate. That becomes more the time for you to find out what you need to know to make a decision if offered.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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