May 21, 2008

AVCA Question

The question I was hesitant to answer:

Hey Coach,

So, after reading your blog on the ups and downs of being a college volleyball coach, I wonder what we can do to push the AVCA to help out. What things can we do to make it better? I'm very interested in moving up to the college level to coach, so this is important to me! Also, what is the average salary of an assistant coach at the college level?

Thanks, Marci

This is a question that many, many college volleyball coaches have been asking themselves, especially after the latest rule changes instituted by the NCAA. The fact that we even have to ponder what we can do to push the American Volleyball Coaches Association to help out is just staggering. I lost faith in the ability of the AVCA to be an instrument of positive action on behalf of the college volleyball coaches years ago.

Having lost the faith, I feel college volleyball coaches must form their own specific association whose only agenda is improving the benefits and professional satisfaction of being a college volleyball coach. The AVCA is trying to be everything for every single volleyball coach in the country. Any person who says they are a volleyball coach can pay the appropriate membership fee and join the AVCA - the focus seems to be to increase membership as a means to gain credibility.

The needs of a college volleyball coach are so drastically different than a club volleyball coach or a junior high coach, yet the AVCA is supposed to provide quality service? What a mid Division I (and any category) head volleyball coach must routinely manage and digest are categorically more significant than any non-college coach. It baffles me that we allow the representative organization for our profession to accept any and all comers.

The fees of Division I head coaches to be a member of the AVCA are significant (even though the program budget pays the fee), yet the professional service we receive is nebulous. I cannot think of one tangible benefit that the AVCA provides me as a college volleyball head coach - I get a monthly news magazine that is boilerplate in the format because I have seen the same exact magazine for the softball coaches. The AVCA National Convention is often touted as a big benefit - everyone gets to pay upwards of $500.00 to enjoy this benefit. In a very real sense, college volleyball coaches are doing nothing more than funding an organization whose demonstrated purpose is just to propagate.

The current dues of the AVCA for Division I head volleyball coaches is approximately $350.00 (this was raised a few years ago to try and get volleyball onto television more - the golden goose that we have all been chasing since the early 90's). If each of the 325+ Division I head coaches were to pay this fee, it would equal $113,000.00. If all the rest of the NCAA Volleyball coaches (Division II and II head coaches and all the assistants in all divisions), say 600 coaches paid a $100.00 fee, this would boost the phantom organization budget to approximately $175,000.00 (consider how much extra we could generate by shifting convention money into the new organization).

I would feel more confident about hiring 2 people whose only job description is to make college volleyball coaching more rewarding - that is it, day in and day out, just focus on making my professional life better. The reality is that college volleyball is the premier representative of volleyball in the United States (it is not the National team) - the higher we fly, the more we lift those volleyball coaches that are not coaching college. When we start to act big time, then we will be big time - Just look at women's basketball; they walk around like they are the show and people treat them with respect. You want to be Big Time, then act Big Time.

The areas that I believe should most be addressed by my new phantom association are; 1) Salary, 2) Contract, 3) Program resources (budget, staffing, equipment, etc), 4) Marketing and Promotion of Women's Volleyball. These are the exact areas that I have seen zero support for college volleyball coaches by the AVCA.

By addressed, I mean that the athletic departments need to be pushed into providing better support in these four areas for coaches. By and large, schools are not going to provide an increase in support out of the goodness of their heart or their moral/equity responsibility - they are going to do it because an organization is agitating for change. Read that again, it is not the individual coaches who make change happen; if this were so, we would not need a professional organization. The NCAA recently funded hundreds of grants, approximately $15,000 to $30,000 each, to be spent on marketing and promotions for women's basketball! Do you think their coaches association had anything to do with this or was it out of the goodness of the NCAA bank account?

An outside body, with the only focus being the betterment of their constituency, is the best agent for positive change. I go into my AD's office and push for a salary equal to the basketball coach, I will be laughed at - I do it twice and I will be labeled as a problem. My professional organization does the same thing, I may well get a raise just to placate this organization because this is the smart solution for the AD.

I could easily write 10 paragraphs about the chasm in each of the 4 listed categories between College Volleyball coaches and the other three NCAA head count sports of football, men's basketball and women's basketball. Just let me say that not only are we not even in the neighborhood of our departmental peers, we are not even the same state. Nothing demonstrates the lack of respect that the AVCA has, than the fact that many Division I athletic departments will not fund the sending of the entire volleyball staff to the National Convention. Absolutely no way would the Athletic Department make the same decision with football or the basketballs - everyone on staff goes, along with the AD's!

We have so much latent power, because of our status as a head count sport and the timing of our season; yet, as a body, the college volleyball coaching community has failed. And we are paying dues to a continuously failing professional organization.

The recent rule change, that reduced the scoring cap to 25 points and virtually allows all double hits clearly illustrated the impotency of the AVCA. This rule was not supported by the mass majority of the college volleyball coaches, in all divisions, in all conferences. Individual coaches were very active in their negative responses to the initial NCAA surveys about a possible change and were even more vociferous in their reaction to the change that occurred. Yet, no where to be found was the AVCA advocating the opinion of the college volleyball coaches. So far, the only response that I have seen is a letter from the AVCA to the NCAA asking what happened?

This is especially tough to stomach because every rule change that the NCAA approves for football, basketball and women's basketball is cleared through the coaches organizations first and those organizations are generally mentioned in the NCAA press release.

To answer your first question - I don't believe we can do anything to push the AVCA because they are not interested in servicing the needs of the college coaches. I absolutely believe the only thing we can do is form a college volleyball coach specific association.

The second question - Salaries of assistant coaches. This actually ties into the failing of the AVCA. The assistant coach's salaries are all over the board, but by and large, they are not good. I know of too many name brand schools, in nationally recognized conferences that pay the first assistant coaches in the 20's and low 30's - which should be beyond embarrassing to our profession. Now, there are a number of schools, predominantly in the power conferences, but occasionally where volleyball has a following in the community or region, that can pay into the 50 to 75K range, but that is not the norm.

I have written about this before - being a college volleyball coach is a great job if you are single or if it is a second income job: Good health care, retirement, travel and a passionate endeavour.

In closing, I would like to apologize for the negativity and/or bitterness that comes through in this post. I just see how far behind we are professionally and we only have ourselves to blame for it.