For many of us, the school season has just begun and we have only a few matches under our belts. We've finally gotten into a groove and are seeing our players grow and progress from those first hectic days of practice. Even though the end of the season seems ages away, it will be here before you know it. And that brings a scary realization: It's almost time to start coaching club volleyball! Now, school coaches do not always coach club ball, just like club coaches do not always coach school ball. There are many explanations for this. Time constraints are different, levels of pay vary, and much more. If you are coaching a school team now (or even not coaching at all) there are a few things you need to know about making the jump into coaching club volleyball.
1. Time constraints are drastically different
School ball: The season is only about three months long, including tryouts and pre-season practices. You will be at the middle school or high school every day when class gets out for around two hours (more for higher level teams) and go home to plan practice for the next day. You might have three or four tournaments a season, but most of your weekends are free unless you decide to have practice. You are very committed to your sport for a short period of time. Forget about weeknight activities.
Club ball: The season can be anywhere from five months to eight months long. That is a real commitment. However, instead of practicing or playing every night of the week, you only practice two or three nights a week. More nights off for you, but full weekends can be tied up for two-day tournaments. Depending on your team's budget and commitment to playing, you'll probably spend one or two weekends a month at a tournament. Less of a hurry to plan and improve, but your busy night and weekend schedule stays in place a lot longer.
2. Travel can be much more intense
School ball: Half of your games are at home, half are away. For the matches which are away, as long as you have a bus and a driver, you get to kick back and relax. Drive time varies based on geographic situation, but most bus trips for the average school coach should be over in an hour, with only a few exceeding that time.
Club ball: You might have one home tournament, but the rest of your days will be spent driving to tournaments which match your players against equally skilled teams. In my experience, this leads to significant drive times. Three or four hour drives might even mean staying in a hotel for a night or two. Unless you live in a metro area with many clubs close by, or are in a regional league, expect to spend more time in your car driving yourself to your tournaments. Carpool with another coach to at least give you company.
3. You will build deeper bonds with your players
School ball: You are spending three months with your players in practice and at matches, but they are dismissed right away and minimal time is spent with them outside of when you are coaching and they are playing. You build bonds and enjoy their company, but you don't get to know them on a relaxed or deeper level.
Club ball: You spend less time with your players per week, but get to hang out with your girls a lot at tournaments during down time. This is also when you get to know families of players. Not only do you get to just hang around the team while you're waiting for your next match, you also see them over a longer period of time. This means you can ask them how their spring break was, how did they end up doing in their Spanish class, and more personalized questions which come from just being around them on a more regular basis.
4. Compensation MIGHT equal your expenses
School ball: You get paid at a reasonable rate for your time. Sometimes a little less, but sometimes a little more. You're not going to make a living off of your stipend, but it offers a nice boost to your income.
Club ball: Depending on where you coach, you might end up paying more in gas for travel to tournaments than you make in pay. There are of course some clubs which will make it worth your while to coach for them, and if you are able to coach multiple teams you may even be able to make a decent amount of money coaching. But most low-resource clubs will not be able to provide you with a salary that you'll want to brag about.
5. You will see tremendous growth in your team's development
School ball: With such a short season, it is hard to step back and assess your team's growth from August to October. Sure, every player will be getting better from quality contacts on the ball, but giant improvements in skill and understanding of the game are hard to come by in just a few short months.
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Club ball: Because club ball allows time for mistakes to be corrected and concepts to be understood over a longer period of time, true learning happens. Quick changes aren't made, as in school ball, only to be forgotten the next week. Coaches in club are forced to make the most out of their practice times and players typically want to be there learning, so the focus and attention is improved as well. Overall, the growth of a team over a club season would impress most coaches who have only coached in a school setting.
Each coaching environment has advantages and disadvantages. I discuss the difference more in my book, "Coaching Volleyball: A Survival Guide for Your First Season." Now is the time to lock down those club coaching positions, so if you feel up to the challenge make sure you get your name out there asap!
PANCAKERS: What other similarities and differences have you noticed? And which coaching environment do you prefer? Would you rather coach club volleyball or school volleyball? Let me know below!