The Scholarship Chase Chapter 3

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The Right Choice

In November 2016, Anne Kordes, who had been at the helm of a very successful University of Louisville women’s volleyball program for six years, announced her resignation from the position, effective at the end of the season.

Why would a coach, who had amassed a 133-61 record at Louisville, had led her teams to the BIG EAST championship in 2011 and 2012, the AAC and ACC championships in 2013 and 2015, respectively, and was named the conference Coach of the Year a total of eight times, decide to hang up her coaching whistle and find a new use for her clipboard?

One single word: family. Kordes, who has a 3-year-old daughter, Mary, says the life of a collegiate volleyball coach has been beyond rewarding, but the sheer number of hours it takes to be successful was taking her away from her family on a regular basis, and a decision was imminent. The choice was, to be sure, one of the toughest Kordes has ever made in her life.

Indeed, Kordes says finding the balance between coaching and “a life” has been especially problematic in the last three years since she became a mother. And Kordes, who had her first child, Mary, as a single parent (read all about her journey in the first installment of the 2015 AVCA blog “Family Matters”), is looking to welcome another baby into the family. As a result, her enthusiasm for the job has taken a back seat to her daughter and a potential new sibling. But her dedication to and appreciation for the profession of coaching has not wavered.

“Not only do I have a passion [for coaching],” Kordes explains, “but it has also done so much for me. It has been a dream come true for me to have had the opportunities I have for the last 20 years––and that is not just the collegiate part of it! It is the USA travel, the work with the AVCA and the mentorship I have received from other coaches that have carried over into my personal life. This job really puts you in a position to do a lot of other things, whether it is corporate recruiting, sales, or marketing. I feel at 41, it has given me the tools, experience and opportunities necessary to make a career change.”

Kordes, who is a native of Kentucky and grew up on the court with her father, Ron, who has been coaching volleyball for more than three decades (28 of them at the helm of the nationally-ranked Assumption High School girls’ program), is now a director for the Kentucky-Indiana Volleyball Academy (KIVA). Ron is known as the patriarch of volleyball in the Louisville area and has a storied history, not only with Assumption, but also as the KIVA founder. Now, Anne believes she is truly learning from the best.

“It’s definitely not a ‘woe is me’ scenario at all,” Kordes admits. “It’s not like I had to get out of coaching and couldn’t do anything else. This is something that I actually felt equally as passionate about, which is working with my dad and being a part of what he’s built and being able to learn from him.”

What, then, does Kordes’ decision to leave coaching and go into the family business have to do with the subject of this most recent AVCA blog series, early recruiting?

Indeed, the grind of a Power Five collegiate coach is relentless, and one of the major contributors to that grind is recruiting. And, during the past 10-15 years, the recruits have obviously gotten younger and younger. As an NCAA Division I coach, Kordes explains that in order to stay relevant, you have to play the “modern” recruiting game, which means finding potential talent, no matter the place and no matter the age. And if you play the game well, it takes time.

“If you are in the Power Five and you get the budget that we get, then you are uncovering every rock [looking for the best recruits]. Even when you don’t have a scholarship for a transfer, you are still checking out every kid who is transferring. Now that we are recruiting 14-year-old kids, we are just trying to get them interested in us, getting them to call or visit.

And that takes an immense amount of time and energy.

“[As a coach], when you get home from work, that is when the kids are coming off practice and they are getting home at the same time––and they are calling. You have to take those calls because you cannot call them back. I felt like I was coming home from a long day of work and I wanted to spend some time with my family. I would be at the dinner table with my daughter and if she reached for the phone, I couldn’t let her have it because somebody might call. Or, if I got up from the table to go to the bathroom and missed the call, I was literally in a panic, calling the kid’s coach right away and apologizing.”

Kordes admits she loves the grind and the competitiveness between coaches as they are vying for an up-and-coming recruit. However, now that Kordes is on the other side of the table at KIVA, she says she feels content with her decision to leave coaching and discover this new and unexplored territory. Being the die-hard coach, she has been observing the coaches at KIVA dealing with recruitment on a daily basis, fielding emails and phone calls basically non-stop.

To be sure, in the short time she has been out of the coaching ranks and into the administrative world, Kordes says she has seen her younger self in the coaches she works with on a daily basis, whether it be through the club itself or the various tournaments that take place at the Ohio Valley Volleyball Center, the indoor volleyball facility in Louisville where KIVA is headquartered. Running the OVVC is now part of Kordes’ everyday job. But other coaches are still seeking her advice, especially on recruits.

“I got a phone call about a month ago from a former colleague [who was interested in a KIVA player]. This is a sophomore [and I explained to this coach] that she played on the twos team last year (the B team in club) and I said she has definitely grown! On her high school team, she sat behind a couple of studs and played a little bit. A couple of weeks ago when club started it was her first time in front of college coaches. Now she just doesn’t know what is going on––her head is spinning and her parents are blown away. They are just trying to figure all this out and don’t know what to do. Are they supposed to write the 50 emails a day or call 50 coaches?”

In other words, this player, as a sophomore, had not yet committed to a school and Kordes was able to calm down her colleague when she realized the player was still available and this coach had not missed an opportunity to recruit her. The anxiety on the coach’s face was all-too-familiar to Kordes.

“That was me for five or 10 years ago and at this point it felt good not to be me! It felt so good not to be in that situation. It used to be the competitive recruiting push was between six months to a year at most. Now it is lasting two or two-and-a-half years. If you are trying to recruit 14-year-olds who are ready to go and then simultaneously recruiting the 16-year-olds who are not ready to pull the trigger yet [for whatever reason], the sheer number of kids you are trying to stay up on is staggering.

“The 30-year-old in me would have been ready to roll, but I didn’t have a kid and I was ready to kill the world. I think it depends on whom you ask and what kind of budget you have because the more budget you have, the more you will go watch freshmen and sophomores. When you have a restricted budget, you kind of wait around to make sure you are spending money in the right spot!

“Then, of course, you have to take into consideration the late bloomers! There is a kid who is 6-4 out of Indianapolis who hadn’t played much club and she wasn’t widely known. She committed early to a great –– but smaller –– DI school. Recently, I was standing next to this player’s [high school] coach, who said she just de-committed. Now she’s getting recruited by some big-time schools. I am not saying that is a better option for her, it is just nobody really thought she would come along [as well]. When you are early recruiting, you have to consider the kids that bloom late.”

As a result, Kordes believes early recruitment has sometimes led to buyer’s remorse on the side of both the players and the coaches. As with anything, that is a downside that nearly everyone has to deal with. Current proposed legislation is meant to alleviate some of that anxiety, but who knows if it will work? There are rules now regarding early recruiting that are full of loopholes.

However, Kordes does believe in the system and if some or all of the current proposed legislation is passed at the NCAA level (no verbal or written contact until September 1 of a prospect’s junior year, as well as no contact with athletics department officials/coaches on-campus until September 1 of the junior year), she has faith in her colleagues to follow the rules, no matter the situation.

“I do believe that we have an ethical coaching cadre. Yet, recruiting is the one place where if anyone wants to bend the rules that is probably where they are going to do it because of the stress of winning. But I don’t think you could last very long cheating without getting caught because you are dealing with young kids. These are people’s daughters!”

Undeniably, Kordes is happy to embark on this new phase of her life, thrilled that she still has a close connection to coaching and mentoring athletes. She no longer has to worry about fielding the phone calls from potential young recruits or missing an email outreach from a high school coach. Of course, she has new problems to worry about, from paying the OVVC mortgage and insurance, to as keeping the courts full on a monthly basis. But she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“My decision has been reaffirmed, to some degree. I am in the honeymoon phase right now [at KIVA]! I don’t have to make any of the hard decisions and if anybody is upset, they don’t come to me,” Kordes laughs. “I, for one, feel very lucky."

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