Because I can’t seem to help myself, I’m taking on a new coaching challenge, and moving to another new part of the world. I’ve accepted an offer to coach both the men’s and women’s volleyball teams at Medaille College in Buffalo, NY.
Medaille College is a private liberal arts college. It’s existed by that name since 1968, but has a history going back into the 19th century. Medaille currently has about 2600 total students across its undergraduate and graduate programs, and between its two campuses (it has a secondary one in Rochester, NY). Aside from when I coached at then 2-year school Dean College (which has since become a 4-year school), this is the smallest college I will have coached at in my career.
Medaille has 19 sports teams, a couple of which are new additions. The indoor sports play in an complex that was built in 2012, while the outdoor sports recently got new facilities. Here’s a video tour.
The Medaille teams both play at the NCAA Division III level in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference (AMCC). The AMCC is, in turn, part of the Mid-Atlantic NCAA Region on the women’s side (the men don’t currently have regions).
The men’s team was conference champion in the 2014, 2015, and 2016 seasons. The last couple year, though have been a bit of a struggle. The women were champions in 2012, and conference tournament finalists in 2015. Since then, though, they haven’t had a winning record, and only once in that span even qualified for the AMCC tournament.
As I understand it, I will be the first full-time volleyball coach at Medaille. The previous coach also ran both programs, but on a part-time basis.
Coincidentally, this will be my second straight college job where horses are the mascots. They are the Mavericks at Medaille. It was the Mustangs at Midwestern State.
The challenge of running two teams
Running two volleyball programs at the college level is definitely a challenge. You are in-season both semesters with one team, while also having off-season stuff to do with the other as well. On top of managing all that gym time to give both teams sufficient attention – and everything else involved in administering the two teams – you also have to recruit for both squads.
I was told that the leadership at Medaille considered two possible routes forward when they decided they wanted to make an adjustment. Obviously, they chose to keep the leadership of both under one individual. They also considered splitting them up and having separate part-time coaches so each could give more focus to their team.
What made me want to coach at Medaille?
Let me start with the institution. I always want to work where there is ambition. That can take different forms. In the case of Medaille, they’ve been working to grow their enrollment, have been updating facilities and/or building new ones, and have been pushing forward in the use of technology in the educational setting as well as in what they offer. For example, they recently started an undergraduate esports management degree.
With respect to the Athletic Department, I really enjoyed my interactions with the folks I engaged with during my interview and hiring process. They struck me as the sort of people I’d be happy to work with on a day-to-day basis, which is important. At the lower levels there tends to be a lot more need to cooperate and work together to get things done departmentally. People also tend to wear more than one hat.
In terms of the volleyball side of things, ever since I coached both the men and women at Exeter in England, I’ve really liked the idea of coaching somewhere with both genders. The Exeter teams were part of a unified structure that was able to create a mutually supportive environment. That’s the sort of thing I have in mind for Medaille.
But couldn’t you have coached at a higher level?
Yes, Medaille is NCAA Division III and in a part of the US where volleyball isn’t as strong as in other places. The AMCC conference average on the women’s side falls a bit below the midpoint of the Division III competitiveness range I talked about here with respect to Kills/Set.
Could I coach at a higher level? Of course, and I’ve done so. Coaching at Medaille will actually fill out my NCAA trifecta, though, as I’ve previously coached in Divisions I and II. How many people can say that? 🙂
But more to the point, coaches coach. I don’t need to coach at the highest possible level to validate myself. My validation comes from getting the most out of the team I have and seeing my players maximize their potential. In any case, there are a lot more similarities to coaching across levels than there are differences.
My remit at Medaille
At the Division III level sports are clearly meant to be part of the student experience rather than the dominant factor of attendance they can become at the higher levels. That means my overarching objective will be to provide the volleyball student-athletes with a positive, rewarding experience.
At the volleyball level, it is clear from my conversations with the administration that they want to see the programs return to their prior competitiveness. Going hand-in-hand with that is diversifying recruitment, which ties in with the College’s overall desire for diversity.
If you look at the 2019-20 volleyball rosters you’ll see a very strong NY bias. As in just 1 non-NY member on each team. It’s hard to be surprised at this when the prior head coach was part-time covering both teams. Not much time available for recruiting!
At a minimum, one would expect Medaille to be able to attract players from Canada. After all, Toronto is less than 2 hours away. Of course there’s the rest of the Northeast, plus Ohio and Michigan are both within reach as well. Overseas recruiting isn’t out of the question either. Both soccer and basketball have teams featuring players from abroad.
What about Nation Academy?
I should note that I will continue to retain my role as Global Director of Volleyball for Nation Academy. There are a number of new developments lining up with that organization which should be very interesting. So keep an eye out for news there in the weeks and months ahead.
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