February 6, 2009

Volleyball Coaching Jobs, Part II

Another version of the "how do I become a college coach" question:

Dear Coach:

I have been a high school coach for 11 years, and I feel that I am ready to be a head coach at the collegiate level. I played club volleyball for about 10 years at a BB/A level, but have now been out of it for 10 years. I am 39 years old, have a wife and 2 children, and am ready for a new challenge.

I work camps in the summer at three different Division II schools in my area and have become good friends with all three head coaches. They have all said that they would give a good recommendation for me to help me land a job. I have successfully built our program that was a traditional losing program (4 winning seasons in 20 years) into a winning program (7 winning seasons in my 9 years here and a 25-4 record this season). I don't know if I could afford to move my family to take an assistant job at a D-2 or lower school, and I also don't really have the desire to be an asst.

1) What are my chances of being hired as a head coach at a D-2 or NAIA school with only high school experience? and 2) What advice do you have for me besides just trying to get an assistant job first.

Thanks, NV

I believe that NV's situation is very common throughout volleyball - Successful coach looking to go to the next level, but how to do it. What makes it a bit tricky for NV is marriage and children. I have known a number of married with children coaches that take low paying assistant jobs for a number of years to get in the NCAA door and wondered how they could afford it - then I come to find out that they or their spouse was fortunate enough to be well off. It makes the financial stress of coaching much more palatable when you have the ability to make ends meet from another resource.

To answer NV's Questions:

1) Chances of being hired at a D2 or NAIA school? Honestly, who knows? I will say that you cannot count yourself out of any potential Division II or NAIA school. These type of institutions tend to have a bit more of an open mind and a bit less salary support than NCAA Division I programs. When I have seen high school coaches make the jump to DII or NAIA schools (or DIII/JC for that matter), it has tended to be when the college position was geographically close to where a coach was coaching high school. Successful coaches in high school can build a solid reputation within their general area and this could well translate into an interview.

The key is to get the interview - this is the opportunity to make an impression. Most times, athletic directors will have a prime candidate who must almost 'lose' the job offer by their interview. Yet, I have known many coaches (not just in volleyball) who landed the position and were not the favorite - they just had a great interview.

2) What advice do you have besides just trying to get an assistant job first? You need to build your resume beyond just high school coaching. For starters, I would encourage you to get involved with a Junior Club team - this is where all college coaches recruit and would provide you with much needed experience about the craziness of college recruiting. In addition, USA Junior Volleyball has a variety of regional and national coaching opportunities outside of a specific club team. Try to attend as many coaching clinics or seminars as possible; not only will you gain more ideas and information, but this will reflect well on your resume. I would also consider volunteering as an assistant coach with a local NCAA program.

Most high school coaches are teachers who get a small (very small) stipend to coach volleyball. This being the case, by volunteering at a NCAA school, you are not giving up too much money but you are adding tremendous value to your resume. Most NCAA programs look at a volunteer assistants as a gift - you can usually set your own schedule, don't have take the crazy road trips, cannot recruit off campus (against NCAA rules), you are not locked into the daily grind, yet you can put NCAA experience on your resume.

You would do well to consider the Junior College head coach eroute - now, JC's can be well paying jobs or part time stipend positions. Yet, my impression is there are a number of programs that pay surprisingly well, have full benefits and can become the stepping stone to NCAA head positions - it is not uncommon for successful JC coaches to make the jump to very good positions, just look at the new Texas Tech coach. Many people pass on applying to a Junior College because they are all chasing the NCAA job market and this could provide a nice entree into collegiate coaching.

My first suggestion is to apply to anything that looks attractive - odds are your resume will end up collecting dust, but a majority of applications are in the same position. I have a very good resume (I think), yet one year I interviewed for a power conference position, accepted an upper mid-major head coach job and was told by a lower mid-major that my qualifications did not meet their requirements. You just never know which school will find you attractive as a candidate.

My second suggestion is to move away from high school coaching - You have taken that part of your resume as far as it will go (save a state championship) and you need to add other coaching ingredients to the mix. USA Junior Volleyball Club coaching, serving on staff for one of the USA Volleyball regional teams, volunteering as an assistant at a NCAA program - find a way to get something more 'impressive' on your resume than high school.

One thing that athletic directors like to be able to do is have a press release that looks good for their new hire. I know of many positions which were not filled by the best coach, but rather the coach that had the resume that would 'sell' the best to anyone that asked. AD's, by and large, are going to hire the 2nd assistant from Ohio State before they will hire the head coach from Division II Columbia College because Ohio State and by inference, the Big 10 will look much better than a successful head coach who just happens to be at a uncommon school.

Apply and Build should be your focus.

Good luck and be careful what you wish for!