Coaching duo Jennifer and Dan King know that it takes the right balance of hard work and motivation to build a successful volleyball team.
Head Coach Jennifer King began playing volleyball in 7th grade, and her passion for the sport has stuck ever since. King played volleyball at Siena College for four years before carrying her love for the sport over into a coaching career.
“I did everything when I was little. Soccer, softball, kind of standard stuff that everybody always does, but nothing ever clicked. But once I hit volleyball, that’s what really stuck,” Jennifer said.
Assistant Coach Dan King, Jennifer’s husband, grew up participating in marching band and beach volleyball. Dan started out as a high school volleyball coach and quickly worked his way up to the collegiate level.
“I started coaching high school volleyball first, and then I got my first college job from the same guy who helped me get my first high school job. Really, for me, it was a matter of being lucky enough to be around the people in the profession,” Dan said.
There’s no doubt that the pair makes an effective coaching team, and they owe a lot of their success to their ability to separate work from their home life.
Jennifer said, ““We really try to keep the areas of our life separate. When we’re at work, we’re working; we talk about work. Obviously, home comes up here and there, but the same way I would speak to any other assistant, I speak to him. Those lines are really important for us in terms of keeping consistency in what we’re doing, and at the end of the day, our philosophies are the same, whether in coaching or in life. It makes it easy to keep going every day when you have the same thought process in general.”
Dan went on to add, “We don’t treat it any differently than other jobs I’ve had. She’s head coach, and she makes the choices, and we’ve got a great staff. Our assistants are outstanding. The entire staff compliments each other, and we do our best to do right by our student athletes. So as far as how we get along together, it’s no different than any other job.”
A great attitude about work and an outstanding supporting staff aren’t the only things that have contributed to the Kings’ successful coaching careers. They’ve found that keeping positive attitudes and using multiple tools to motivate their team can really help athletes grow to their full potentials.
“We’ve been using ‘GR1T’ this year. It stands for Genuine, Relentless, 1 percent, Together. It’s been a big motivating thing for the group right now. But when it comes to motivating, what first has to happen is you have to know your athletes. I can’t motivate one athlete the same way I motivate the next one,” Jennifer said. “A lot of it is trying to be positive with them and speaking about how talented they are and the things that we’re doing well, while we’re still trying to improve and trying to fix things.”
Dan believes that understanding each athlete’s motivational needs on an individual level is important for both the players and the coaches.
“I feel like when it comes to motivation, it’s an individual thing; some kids are motivated differently than others, so what we do is compartmentalized. I may work more closely with some athletes than Jen or the other coaches,” Dan said. “Having the staff that we do really allows us to be focused on certain individuals and what that kid needs as opposed to what another needs. I feel like encouragement in the moment is a very individual thing, and our staff allows for that to happen.”
Both coaches believe that having highly motivated players will help the team in the long-run. Although the team is off to an incredibly strong start, going 10-2, Coach Jennifer is less concerned with statistics and more concerned with the team’s overall progress for the season.
Jennifer’s expectations for the rest of the season are focused on improvement.
“We just want to keep improving. We obviously talk about what our record is now because it’s a great start; it’s the best start in program history, and it’s very exciting, but one loss or one win won’t dictate what we do tomorrow. So the focus for us is always getting better, playing cleaner, being better teammates, being a better functioning unit, because at the end of the day, we want to play in the NCAA tournament on Dec. 3. It’s something that this program hasn’t done in a long time, and I think this group is capable of achieving that goal ― we just have to focus on what we’re doing and not about the winning.”
For both coaches, the most rewarding part of their job isn’t the record-breaking seasons or the conference titles; it’s the special relationships they’re able to build with their players.
Dan said, “The relationships that we get to build with these kids are a highlight. A lot of the relationships we build with former athletes are pretty special.”
For Jennifer, being able to help an athlete improve upon themselves is an incredible moment as coach.
“Anytime I see the little light bulb go off for a player, those are the best moments. When we’ve worked on something and tried and tried, and they finally get it, and it works, it’s pretty awesome,” she said.