November 11, 2008

Inner Ramblings of a College Volleyball Coach

Andrea has opened the door to let the inner me out:

What is the most discouraging/ frustrating thing for you as a coach, and what is the the most encouraging/ enjoyable thing for you as a coach? I ask this because I am a fairly new coach and I would love to hear your perspective! Thank You!! Andrea

I appreciate the question from Andrea, but don't think I could just provide a simple one 'thing' answer - It will need to be one plus a lengthy rant.

Most Discouraging/Frustrating Thing:

1. Watching our sport slide into mediocrity.

Our sport has become toothless - We are much like the old saying about children; to be seen and not heard. The NCAA and Athletic Departments like to roll us on out when they need to illustrate good grades, sportsmanship and ethics, but when we speak up about issues, suddenly we are a bother.

The playing rules have become a joke, it is slop volleyball and even the players are now frustrated - when the players know it is garbage ball, then something is not right.

The AVCA seems to be nothing more than a clicker group to tally up how many people they can say are members. Other than paying a hefty membership due, there is really no difference in service to me versus a junior high volleyball coach from northern Michigan or southern Texas.

Women's Basketball assistant coaches double the salaries of Volleyball head coaches - They take buses and we drive the vans - They charter private planes and we have to get the cheapest commercial flight possible with a 3 hour layover in Detroit on a Sunday afternoon.

We have completely changed our sport to get two prime time games on ESPN/ESPN2 in December, which we had before the playing rules meltdown.

The NCAA only seeds 16 teams, so our 'Championship' is nothing more than a regional pre-season tournament and because of the economy, there is talk of not seeding at all.

We have zero non-NCAA post season opportunities - There are more football bowls than football bowl eligible teams, there is a post season men's and women's basketball NIT tournament (and unless I have just lost my marbles, I think there is another NIT type tournament available post-season for men's basketball), yet the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (anyone remember this event?) went out with hardly a hiccup from college volleyball in protest - I guess opportunities for females do not apply to volleyball.

We have allowed the sports world to associate gender equity solely with women's basketball, even though there are two head count team sports - Women's hoops has equal support then all women's sports must have equal support.

I still get asked when volleyball season is.

Most Encouraging/Enjoyable Thing:

1. Special Wins.

Specials wins are rare. For me they are the result of a long effort to achieve a certain satisfaction that a special win represents.

I have been coaching for a long time and have won and lost my fair share of matches, yet I only count about 4 victories as special.

These tend to not be surprises - a surprise win can happen because another team has suffered an injury, or bad luck with travel, etc. They are against teams that are talented, traditionally better than my teams and played well during our win.

It is with great satisfaction that I look at the special wins because it means years of recruiting, training, player mental development, preaching, heart breaking losses and personal sacrifice have all been worth it.

For the amount of time and effort college volleyball coaches put into their craft, very few of us are paid accordingly - we are not talking the minimum million dollar packages that every football coach and basketball coach enjoys. Rather, when we consider the amount of time put into the volleyball routine (office work, practice preparation, films at home, video breakdown in the office, watching scout tape, official visits, home visits, unofficial visits, team travel, recruiting travel, more travel) we actually don't make too much per hour.

For me the payoff, the reward, the satisfaction is savoring those special wins that may only happen once every few years.

Andrea - It has taken me years to balance my passion with my frustration. But, in the end, I coach because I enjoy it and I am good at it.