Brenau University Golden Tigers Volleyball Coach Jeff White has received support from the American Volleyball Coaches Association for a study he is conducting in connection with his Ph.D. studies at the University of Georgia on the effectiveness of the role of coaches as mentors in school athletics programs.
White’s specific interest in the study is to determine whether improving mentoring opportunities will help turn the tide on the sharp decline of female head coaches, even in all-female sports like volleyball, since changes in U.S. education regulations in the mid-1970s opened the door for wide competitive intercollegiate athletics for women.
White said the study also could provide important data and information for his dissertation thesis that “mentoring that is available for female coaches – or the lack of mentoring – is a significant factor in women’s intention to become head coaches.” He pointed out that the number of female head volleyball coaches at the NCAA Division I level has dropped from about 90 percent in 1975 to 55 percent in 2012.
“Mentoring is a hot topic in art and science or sports education,” said White, “but the definition of mentoring is vague. Most coaches and organizations do not agree on what mentoring is really about.” Although mentoring has proven impact on success of individuals in such fields as business, nursing and the military, “there has been very little research on the significance of mentoring among sports coaches.”
He conceded the irony in his doing the study as well as in the fact he has spent most of his coach career coaching girls and women and high school and college levels. Before coming to Brenau, White coached at club level and in suburban Atlanta high schools. He is the only Georgia coach to ever take teams from two different schools to state volleyball championship matches. One of his teams won three championships and another finished second. In the 2012-13 season the Golden Tigers improved their 12-18 record (3-12 in the Southern States Athletics Conference) to 20-11 and 7-7 in the conference.
White’s study, “Mentoring in Volleyball Coaching,” is part of a series of studies within the Sport Instruction Research Laboratory at the University of Georgia, where White is a candidate for a doctorate in sports pedagogy, which is the art and science of teaching. The laboratory over the next few months will conduct several similar studies in other sports, including football, basketball and swimming/diving in hopes of identifying factors that affect the mentoring relationships among coaches.
AVCA, which has a standing commitment to improve mentoring relationships among volleyball coaches, provides support for high school, club and college/university coaches with educational tools, networking opportunities, training methods and mentoring opportunities through their Coaches Mentoring Program. In approving White’s grant proposal, the organization provided him with extensive access to its 6,000 members via e-mail and at its annual convention in Louisville, Ken., in mid-December. It also provided White with an exhibitor booth where he could conduct the study as well as refreshments for participants.
“I think that we are exploring some uncharted territory in mentoring involving volleyball coaches,” White said. “Volleyball coaches not only will learn about important roles their mentor serves, but also they will be better prepared when they become a mentor.”