Sep 7, 2018
Saying Thanks

To survive a long season, all coaches need support systems. They may come in the form of athletes’ parents, administrators, and even other coaches. Relationships built on all give and no take eventually fall apart, which is why you should not forget to show appreciation for members of your support system.

“Your support net can be pretty wide, depending on how you define it,” says Vanessa Walby, Head Volleyball Coach at Washington University in St. Louis. “To thank people who support me, I write a lot of texts and emails and handwritten notes. I’m pretty big on personal messages, and I leave my assistant notes all the time.”

She sometimes even thanks her opposing coaches, and she remembers one instance in particular, after the 2016 NCAA Division III national tournament, where WashU advanced to the championship game and finished runner-up. She decided to send personal messages to the head coaches of two Elite Eight teams — including one that Walby’s team beat in the tournament.

“I was impressed with their players, and I wanted them to know that I noticed. That’s important,” she says. “Both coaches told me, ‘This is something I never expected, and it’s good to know what we’re doing is paying off. Thank you.’ It’s not an issue of winning at all costs. It’s about making volleyball better.”

Walby also publicly acknowledges parents, administrators, and other members of her support system in meetings and presentations. She shows gratitude to her assistant by giving her more responsibility. “I think she knows that’s my way of saying, ‘Thank you. I value you.’ It’s very much a partnership and not a hierarchy,” she says.

Even a verbal thank-you can go a long way. “The biggest thing is continuing to reach out and make sure people know you appreciate them,” says Austin Albers, Head Coach at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyo., who feels fortunate to have a father who is a former volleyball coach and now Athletic Director at Black Hills State University. “I talk to my dad once a week, and ask his advice. I also give my dad hugs and thank him. That seems simple, but it’s often something that’s overlooked.”

Kristen Pontes-Christian, Head Coach at Pitman High School in Turlock, Calif., is all about shout-outs. Her preferred method is social media via her teams’ Twitter and Facebook pages. Other displays of gratitude come during the team banquet and before or after matches through the public-address system. “Little pieces of gratitude are huge,” Pontes-Christian says. “It shows people that what they do matters.”

Zach Young, Head Coach at Lafayette High School in Wildwood, Mo., also makes sure to thank people publicly. “I try in every interview I do to remind people that it’s not me that makes this program successful,” he says. “The coaches, the players, and my life at home all contribute.”

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