I once had a phone conversation with a men’s coach at an NCAA Division II school. The women’s program at the school was looking for a new head coach. I was in the market and thought about applying. Not surprisingly, he’d been fielding a bunch of calls and emails from people potentially interested in the job.

No real surprise there. Folks wanted to get a feel for the program and the job.

This coach told me that he’d talked with a number of coaches who come from Division I. In hearing what sort of funding and support the program had, they often responded with the equivalent of, “I can’t win in a situation like that.” You see, they only had half the number of scholarships allowed.

My response upon hearing this was to think to myself, “Well, then maybe you should be a better coach.” Actually, both of us said that out loud in our conversation. After all, coaches coach.

This men’s coach managed to get his team in conference title contention each of the prior four years. Clearly, the available resources were enough to win if you know how to make good use of what you’ve got. This sort of thing is a big issue I have with the way a lot of lower level programs go after assistants from upper level ones.

If you’ve just coached at a top tier program, then you’ve probably had all kinds of resources available. These are things you don’t have when you start sliding down the RPI scale or move into lower divisions, though. It really can be a whole different world. That’s in terms of the caliber of athletes, the money for recruiting, and the amount of coaching and administrative support, among other things.

For example, I heard about a former top level player who started her coaching career at a top level program. She then took a head coach position much lower down. She want from private jets to driving a 12-passenger van. That’s not something coaching at the top level prepares you to deal with.

Plus, in some cases the administration doesn’t really care if you win or not. That’s a foreign concept for a lot of people used to high competitive conferences.

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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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