First and foremost, life as a graduate assistant is not easy, I know this might not sound tempting right away but trust me it’s worth it. Late nights working on the film for your next opponent, coding the morning’s practice in order to get stats for the coach, and then working on homework for the next day’s Biomechanics class. These are all things I have done as a Graduate Assistant Volleyball Coach at Smith College, however, I would not change it for the world. I enjoy the late nights in the office working on the scouting report to see how we can try and beat different teams. I enjoy still being in a classroom learning about Leadership in Sports and Sports Psychology and how I can help build my own coaching philosophy for me when it comes to me finding a job down the road. Everything in the Exercise & Sports Studies (ESS) Program is done with a reason and a purpose. It is done to prepare us best for our next steps to come, so that after our two years are completed, then we can go on to achieve great things at our other institutions.
My experience might slightly differ from other Graduate Assistants in other programs. I have the privilege to work with Greg Walker, who is not only the Head Coach of Smith College Volleyball but also the Head Coach of the United States’ Men’s Paralympic Volleyball team. The technology Greg has brought with him to our team has been unmatched compared to any other Division III institution and I think it has given us a leg up not only in competition but also has also given me great experience in being prepared for my next job. Some other volleyball assistant coaches do not even have the experience, Savannah, the other GA and partner in crime, and I have just from our first year with Greg. He continues to push us day in and day out, challenging us to be the best coaches we can be as well as the best people we can be. Yes, there are times when I can become frustrated with things, but who does not, that is just life. I get to come to work with some of my favorite people every day and not have to sit in an office working 9-5. Yes, some people love that but I am not one of those people.
One piece of advice I have for anyone who is considering becoming a coach/graduate assistant is to enjoy every minute of it and be willing to put in the work. Do not walk into your position and think it is going to be a cakewalk because you have been a collegiate athlete and you know how everything gets run because the truth is you do not. There is so much more to coaching than just the X’s and O’s. It involves getting the team gear order ready and finding places for team meals after games among many other things. There are so many things that encompass being a coach and I think it is important for people to know what they are getting into.
I have been fortunate enough to experience so many different things as a first-year GA at Smith College. I traveled to many new places such as California, Oklahoma, Ohio and so many more to recruit student-athletes for our team. I have been fortunate to spend almost an entire week in Oklahoma with the United States Men’s Paralympic Volleyball Team and learn about the game of sitting volleyball from both watching and playing it. I have also been fortunate enough through this opportunity to pick the mind of various levels of coaching from the staff at the University of Georgia to the Head Coach at Emory University and everywhere in between. The number of people I have networked with and connected with for future opportunities and just to pick their minds as being a coach is unreal and I am so thankful for every opportunity I have gotten so far. You never know who you are going to stumble across or what you are going to do while you are a graduate assistant!
Overall, I have loved my time as a graduate assistant thus far and I still have one more year, which I think is the coolest part. The best part about all of this is the people you meet along the way and the people you work with. I have met so many amazing people in the Athletics Department here at Smith and they have all really helped open my eyes to different forms of leadership and different coaching philosophies. It has been a great experience here at Smith thus far and would highly recommend it to anyone!