April 8, 2013

College Volleyball Coaches

I will let my VolleyFans 'behind the curtain' (what movie reference?) and this is a topic I don't think I covered in my best selling book, Inside College Volleyball - There was a certain point when I knew I was short for the college volleyball coaching profession.

A number of year's ago,  I was channel surfing in a Chicago hotel room, after watching another faceless, talented athlete who was probably not going to come to my mid-major DI school and I came across the movie, Man on Fire.

Sitting there watching that movie, I broke down in tears.  For some reason, I watched that movie and thought what am I doing in some random hotel in Chicago instead of being with my daughter watching her draw pictures and playing with her dolls?  Why am I trying to build a Volleyball program at a university which does not give a flying flip about my sport and since the athletic department devalues Volleyball, it is only natural that the student athletes are not invested in doing something special.

I broke down thinking why I am chasing fools gold, when what is priceless is sitting in her bedroom asking where I am?  At that moment, I knew that my salary was no where close to what I was sacrificing in my life.  If you make football coach money and can actually make more to get fired than to work, you suck it up, do your best and worst case, you can retire for failing.   But, 99.8% of college volleyball coaches are not in the fail to succeed definition, which accounts for the high turnover in the college volleyball coaching ranks.

At that moment, I could not explain to myself or my family, why I was sitting in a hotel room in Chicago (and it was a nice hotel room) instead of being with them.  I knew at that moment that long term college coaching was not going to happen. I realized that what I found of primal importance was just an afterthought to my school and my paycheck was minimal per my responsibility.

As a VolleyParent, would you be concerned that the individual who is responsible for your daughter's safety and development (not only from a volleyball perspective, but the influence of her development as a young adult) is being paid less than $10.00 an hour?  Just to torment myself, I once figured out my per hour pay and it came out to less than $10.00 an hour (for simplicity, I will dismiss the extraneous benefits of free clothes/shoes and meals at Chili's).  

In finishing the math, I thought about my daughter - less than $10.00 a hour?  I paid the babysitter $10.00 a hour.  The college coach who is physically and mentally responsible for your daughter on campus and on road trips, the individual who will make sure your baby girl is not taunted or harassed by opposing fans, the dude or dudess who dictates the hourly schedule of your student-athlete is getting paid less than the 15 year old kid I pay to play Barbies with my daughter!  That is bad math.

This is a cautionary tale for parents - As you go through the recruiting process, you will be interacting with coaches who are not getting paid an Alexander Hamilton per hour.  As a Father/Mother, you must understand the proportionality of value.  Your daughter and her safety/happiness is priceless for you; for the coach, it is less than $10.00 an hour.  Do not make the mistake of thinking that the coach also views your daughter as priceless - Just pull out a ten'er from your wallet to remind yourself of the value.  

Unfortunately, I am not the only coach which has had this Man on Fire moment.  During my travels to provide Education Talks for NCSA Athletic Recruiting, I catch up with a number of college volleyball coaching friends and way too many of them are referencing that they are now short for college coaching.  

These solid, good coaches are talking about how they are tired of the never ending travel, of the never ending recruiting, of the pressure within athletic departments and all the paperwork, and the reality that they don't make much money when they compare apples and oranges.  The apple is that the hourly wage and time away from home don't equate.  The orange is they see other lower titled coaches who happen to shag a different colored ball making 10 times as much as them and who don't put in nearly the amount of travel.

Every day, a college coach sees their own Man on Fire and thinks, "what am I doing?".  When a college coach thinks, your PSA or SA pays for that thought.

The simple math is that the coach who you are talking with now, statistically will not be your PSA's coach.

Please keep this in mind as you work your way through the college volleyball recruiting process.


  1. Thank you for your honesty , it is much appreciated.

  2. You don't even want to think about what the hourly equivalent is if you're a "part-time" coach like I was as a DI 1st Assistant. As if anyone could do that job and have another to make ends meet!

  3. Appreciate the honesty! It is also true especially in DII and DIII that some coaches are instructors in the university thereby subsiding their income.

    1. This makes the math even worse because these coaches now have an additional layer of responsibilities which have nothing to do with your daughter, but are being paid the same.

  4. Thanks for your insight. Not to diminish your moment of epiphany, I think for most parents of young children, it’s agony to be away from them for long periods whether it be travelling, or whether it be as a young doctor or young lawyer, whatever it takes to establish yourself. Not seeing their firsts or watching their personalities develop while they are still young is truly hard. And then when you have the time, they don’t have the time for you aka the teenage years.

    Coaches of sports are unique individuals. From my point of view as a parent, I believe you do it not for the money but for the love of the game. And some people are good with young children, or they love working with teenagers or enjoy inspiring young adults. So I for one salute coaches who make the sacrifices for our kids. Most are role models, mentors for our kids. I’m sorry you are only getting $10 for it so the only way you can do it long term is that you are paid in currency that fills the soul. Glad you got your fill, and wise enough to know when to move on.

    Thanks for what you do. I'll be more sympathetic if our college coach decides to move on.

  5. Just an FYI. Coaches can receive "gifts" or other things legally per the NCAA. You can send them iPads, hi-tech gadgets and all sorts of fun things that their salary or department won't provide them.

    Note to reader: these gifts will not guarantee playing time! ;)


Please stay positive or at the minimum present constructive criticism - Negative comments or attacks upon other reader's opinions will not be posted.