I was looking at your resume and trying to figure out how you made the jump to college coaching. I would love to coach at that level, but am not sure when and how is the best way. Obviously the competition is steep.
Get a couple high school state titles, win a couple regional
tournaments in USAV, or maybe volunteer at a junior college? Do you
think there is a “best” way to go about it?
Any recommendations on where to start would be amazing. Thanks in Advance!
Before I answer your question about becoming a College Volleyball Coach, I highly recommend visiting The College Volleyball Coach’s blog, in particular three posts on becoming a College Volleyball Coach:
The Coach provides some great answers and insight to this question. What I can offer you is my experience, my luck (the good and bad), and my recent struggle searching for my next coaching gig.
Fifteen years ago, I played volleyball for Arizona State University. Scott Swanson (current Associate Head Coach at the University of Minnesota) was a teammate. After college, I spent 10 years in the business world, international marketing, and continued to play in USAV indoor tournaments and AVP Qualifiers for fun. When my competitive playing days were over, the passion for the sport never fizzled. So I decided to help out as a ‘floater’ coach at a small club in South Carolina called Low Country Volleyball Club. I then ‘graduated’ to coach my own team for three more seasons. During the club off season, I was an assistant coach at the local high school, Bluffton High School. As I traveled to tournaments and sincerely enjoyed spending my weekend sitting inside a convention center as another perfect sunny 80 degree day passed outside, I often thought to myself, “How cool would it be to actually get paid to do what I love?” (all my time coaching club and as the assistant coach at the high school was done on a volunteer basis).
Luck came my way. A fellow beach player (Chris Keen) was, at the time, the Assistant Coach at Georgia Southern University. He decide to leave Georgia Southern to pursue his AVP dream (he’s now also the Volunteer Assistant at the University of Florida). He asked me about my interest in the position and gave my name to the Head Coach, Nicole McCray. My original plan was to coach club for one more year to see a particular group of girls through their senior year, but I couldn’t handle working a sales job any longer. So I took the Assistant Coaching position at GSU.
This stroke of good luck soon turned south after just one semester
at GSU. The Head Coach moved-on and the new coach brought in his own crew. Fortunately, I was able to stay at GSU to coach the Men’s Club Team throughout the spring. I was also able to help out at Low Country Volleyball Club again and see those seniors through their final year of school.
To help me find that next coaching job, I broke the piggy bank to gather what change I had left, and paid for a trip to the AVCA Convention in Sacramento. Not only would I be able to attend the Final Four, but I could network with the world of volleyball coaches. I think it was fate that the first person I saw when I walked into the hotel was Doug Beal. Then, by fate again, I happened to ride up the elevator with Mike Hebert. I honestly didn’t really know much about Mike at the time and only recognized him because he was wearing a Minnesota Volleyball shirt. I said to him, “Is Scott Swanson here?”. He looked at me like I was a lost soul.
At the convention, I did run into Scott. I hadn’t talked to or seen him in over 10 years. We caught up a little on life and he suggested I volunteer at the University of Minnesota for a semester (only a semester as they had an Olympic volunteer coming in the spring 😉 I pondered the idea for a few months as I applied to every job opening available. Scott even introduced me to a couple coaches, but good luck was not on my side this time. So I booked a flight to Minneapolis in the spring, met Mike (for real this time) and I started as a volunteer coach for the University of Minnesota in the summer.
The volunteer position at the U of MN was priceless. I learned so much working at an elite program for Mike, Scott, and Laura Bush. On the flip-side, it has been a financial drain (as I “worked” full time as a volunteer at the U, with no other job). I am confident the experience will pay great dividends as I coach in the future.
The Struggle. It is now April. Even with Hall of Fame Coach, Mike Hebert (who seems to know everyone in the volleyball world) making calls for me and is really helping my job search, I have not been able to land one yet. I again paid my own way to go to AVCA Convention in Nebraska this past December, I have interviewed with a few schools, I don’t have enough experience for some of the openings, and I have actually turned down a couple positions. There just hasn’t been the right fit yet. I do not believe I am being picky, but I have learned quite a bit. I do not want to end up in another situation where I only coach for a semester at a school again. This is my lifelong career, I believe it is worth waiting a couple months for the right position.
So to answer your questions, I have been part of a juniors program
that has won two regional championships and a high school program that has been the state runner-up. Honestly, the first regional championship happened when I already started coaching in college. I was just fortunate, in a convoluted twist of events, to be a part of these programs when they won. So I do not believe a regional championship or high school state championship is a necessity to coach in college. I was able to land Georgia Southern based on who I knew.
Following is list of things I highly recommend to get your feet wet:
- Volunteer at a University. The experience is priceless. Besides working with the immediate coaching staff, you will meet coaches throughout the conference.
- Coach at college camps. You’ll get to network with college coaches.
- Join the AVCA – and try to scrape some money together and attend the convention.
- Attend USAV CAP Courses – Cecile Reynaud happened to be my cadre at one of my courses. I still keep in touch with her today and ask for advice.
- Save money! I looked at the volunteer position at the U of MN as a college education, one in which I paid for by not getting paid.
- Learn, learn, learn. I am a sponge when it comes to learning the game and all those associated with it.
Realize that a college coaching career will not lead you to success
financially, but it will spiritually. I have certainly struggled my first two years coaching. I have had to move three times, I am in my thirties and shared a cheap apartment with a college senior, and ramen noodles are again my best friend, but it is all completely worth it to me. As the saying goes, “Do what you love and you will never work another day in your life”.