March 6, 2017

College Volleyball as a profession

Hi, my name is Shannon and I have 18 years of playing experience, as well as 6 years of coaching experience in volleyball. The coaching experience is both at the club and high school levels. 

I currently have a bachelor’s of Science in Architecture and work in the automotive field. I’d really like to switch careers into a more volleyball specific career and am wondering what colleges look for when hiring new volleyball coaches? 

My goal is to either run my own club, or coach at the collegiate level. Any advice is appreciated!


The transition into college volleyball is a challenge these days, as compared to 10-20 years ago.  The reason being that there has not been an increase indoor collegiate programs but a big increase in former collegiate athletes which are interested in becoming college coaches. Sand volleyball is still trying to get its legs underneath it, as to provide valid jobs for coaches (more than just the few which are full time and separate from indoor).

As in life, much of moving up is who you know and how you know them.  Often times, getting that foot in the collegiate door is through some connection.

It is good that you have been coaching at the club and high school level, because it allows you to build your resume.  

There is a difference between being a college coach and having a career as a college coach. I view a 'career' as something which is financially solid and allows you to satisfy your short term cost of living obligations, along with preparing for the future.  Many collegiate coaching positions, assistant and/or head coach, allow a person to be a college coach but the compensation is so low that it cannot be considered a career.  

Many of my coaching friends have to rely upon additional income from camps/clinics, club volleyball or a partner's job to financially continue as college coaches.  As I have written about before, college coaching can be a great second job for a family/couple;  good insurance plans, retirement, tuition remission and on campus entertainment/cultural enhancement opportunities.  But, these collegiate jobs could not solely support a family financially. I know, because I tried and I was dominantly in the Division I ranks.

Back to your question:
  • When hiring an assistant, the head coach is looking for someone to make their life easier and improve the program.  Specifically, they tend to want someone who can successfully recruit or can handle the office drudgery.  This means leveraging any/all club contacts and a lot of travel and recruiting communication.  Office drudgery is rather mundane; team travel, compliance forms, communication, ordering equipment, setting up camps/clinics, all the other 'additional duties' assigned to the staff by the athletic department.
  • There is so much diversity in the head coach hiring process, predicated by division, status, budget, geographic location, etc., that it would take an exhaustive separate post to clarify.  Just know that the more elite the college program, the more elite the resume needs to be.  Stanford hired the head coach from Illinois and some NAIA school you have never heard of will hire a high school head coach.

As to club, there are many former collegiate head coaches which have transitioned into the club realm and honestly, the wealthiest members of the volleyball in the USA are those club owners which also run large club tournaments.  The club volleyball field is saturated because the only barrier to having a club is court space; if you can secure courts, you can start a club.  

My suggestion specific to you:
  • Save a much money as possible right now; no initial college coaching job or club start up program will be paying a much as you are probably making now.  You need to bank some cash to buy you time to go down whatever volleyball avenue you wish.
  • Apply for everything and anything within the college volleyball ranks - The college volleyball jobs (all organizations, all divisions)  can be found on and clicking "Employment" down near the bottom of the page.
  • The responses you receive, or don't receive, will provide valuable feedback towards the possible collegiate coaching life.  
  • Understand you may need to take a low paying position, in a not optimal part of the country, to build up your collegiate resume, make collegiate connections and empower the next step up the collegiate ladder.
  • If after going through the collegiate application process, you determine this is not the response or opportunities you desire, look hard at the steps to start your own club.
  • There are two organizations which support club volleyball; USA Volleyball and JVA Volleyball/AAU Volleyball. Each organization has its strength's and weaknesses and each will have information on what it takes to start/manage a club volleyball program.
Good luck!


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