There is a definite connection between Twitter and the people that find their way into our "Five Questions" series. This is certainly the case with Purdue Head Coach Dave Shondell. Coach Shondell was engaging his Twitter followers one day on the subject of positive changes that could help streamline the game of volleyball. Some one had the crazy idea of putting chips on the shoes of players, not unlike the ones you see at marathons, to track substitutions. (Yes it was me...) He didn't dismiss the idea, so I thought he was a pretty nice guy! Since then I have watched with interest as the Boilermakers have made steady improvement each year. This, clearly, is a program on the rise in the very tough Big 10 Conference. I contacted Coach Shondell about being a part of this series and he was quick to respond with is thoughtful and thorough answers. Here is Jamming in Five Questions, Dave Shondell!
You recently completed your 12th season at Purdue in the very difficult Big 10 Conference. It has to be a point of pride to compete night in and night out in the toughest conference in college volleyball. Who would you say is your biggest conference rival, and where is your favorite place to play away from the home court at Purdue?
Our in-state conference rival is Indiana and this is a must-win match for our team every year. There is a great amount of pressure to win both matches each season – and this match has a traveling trophy (the Monon Spike) that our players take great pride in winning. Aside from this natural rival, I believe we have developed healthy rivalries with Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well. As a staff, we find ourselves competing for many of the same recruits and battling hard on the court as well. I have tremendous respect for each coaching staff in the Big Ten and these four teams are great examples.
All great coaches have had coaching influences from their past. Who is your biggest influence in volleyball and whose coaching do you admire in a sport other than your own?
So many wonderful coaches have had provided lessons and examples for me as a person and as a coach. My middle school baseball coach – the late Tim Thompson – introduced me to playing with spirit and passion. He was the master at finding ways for his players to love the game, but play with great discipline. My father, Don Shondell, is the finest man as I have ever met. He taught and coached with the highest integrity. His vision for building one of the nation’s first college volleyball programs at Ball State University and completing the task - is remarkable. My brother Steve may be the best teacher of the game in our country. His unique style has produced incredible results at all levels. His players love him and the game. He breaks the skills of the game down to elementary levels and has the patience to teach the finest motor skills daily. I was an assistant basketball coach at Daleville High School (near Muncie) for eight years. Daleville head coach Everett Gates was a Bob Knight disciple, but might have been a better coach. Gates was the master of discipline (see Gene Hackman’s character, Norman Dale, in the movie, Hoosiers). Gates could teach man-to-man defense and the motion offense like nobody else. He was a man of great principle and every one of his players became a better man because of him. Mike Hebert is a coach that I have learned a lot from, although he may not know it. His ability to adjust his team’s systems from year to year, based on his talent was always impressive. I believe in evaluating your personnel and designing your offense and defense around those players. Mike was the master of this approach. I have been exposed to so many great coaches over the years – from high school, club, and the college level. My younger brother John is one of the finest trainers in America. He creates new teaching tools and techniques every day and our players love him. I admire the coaches who make the job look easy, when we all know there is nothing simple about it. Russ Rose is a workaholic, but you would not know this by watching his demeanor on the court or recruiting trail. Russ’ ability to pull the best from each player may be his finest trait. It is important to realize that many of the best coaches are at the club and high school level.
We are all interested in "Growing Our Game". What can be done to get more television coverage, and what changes in the game would you make to streamline it to make it more media friendly?
The television exposure is growing rapidly due to the addition of so many new TV networks. The Big Ten, PAC 12, and SEC Networks are really bolstering the TV opportunities for our sport. ESPN is still lagging behind, but fortunately, volleyball fans can find our game on TV so much more than ever before. Regarding productive changes to improve our sport for media and fans, I would suggest doing whatever we can to keep the officials from blowing the whistle. I don’t mean that to sound derogatory. Instead, I think it is important to recognize that the longer the ball stays in play, the more enjoyable the rally, thus – the sport. Our game improved dramatically when the first contact became “off-limits” for officials. The second contact needs to be called less frequently as well. No set is improved by a bad contact. The penalty is in the poor location of the set. Unless the setter manipulates the ball in his/her favor – I would like to see the play continue. New fans and media do not understand the difference between a clean contact and a “double-hit”. Also, I would encourage our rules committee to reconsider the uniform rule. The new restrictions based on contrasting libero jerseys, eliminates the opportunity for volleyball uniforms to become more colorful and creative. Volleyball is a radical sport with big personalities. I never understood why officials had such a difficult time identifying the libero. As long as volleyball is a “best of 5-sets” sport, TV exposure is going to be a challenge. I know there have been many experimental attempts at scoring (or timed matches), but I would encourage coaches and administrators to continue to try new ideas to find a way to keep volleyball inside a consistent time-frame.
We were disappointed in Purdue's exclusion from this years Championship Tournament. Is the RPI system lacking and what changes would you like to see in the process of tournament selection? What factor is not under consideration by the committee?
I have enjoyed so many wonderful experiences through volleyball in my life, it is important to accept disappointment from time to time. We had opportunities to earn our way in to the NCAA field and failed to get the job done. Clearly, the NCAA committee’s decisions are based primarily on RPI. The committee needs to have a metric to fall back on. I understand this. This group does not spend all season watching volleyball on TV, evaluating teams, and eating / sleeping volleyball. However, I think the committee is forthright and they desire to do the best job possible. The question must be asked, is RPI the best measurement of college volleyball? Why not Pablo? Why not something else? Do the 60 college coaches on the AVCA board know anything about selecting the best teams? I would encourage the committee to look at more than one metric. Why not combine the RPI and Pablo – and respect the coaches’ poll? Our Purdue team did not finish the season strong. This is something the committee looks at. However, the committee should also look at the strength of schedule each team plays down the stretch. I knew as soon as our conference slate was released, that winning our last three matches – all on the road to good teams – would be tough. It was. The NCAA result for our team this year will serve as both a learning experience for our program and a great motivator.
This year you only lose two seniors to graduation, so this is a young team! Who are you expecting a "breakout" season from in 2015 and is there an impact player among your 2015 recruiting class?
It is really hard to know when your team is going to have a “break-out” year. Purdue participated in two Sweet 16’s and two Elite 8’s in the past four years. We had performed very well at the right time. I thought this year’s team might break-out. We were young with eight freshmen on our 16-player roster. These freshmen will eventually become the backbone of our program, but championships are seldom won by freshmen. Regarding next year, let’s just wait and see. I believe we have several players who can help take this team to great places. But in volleyball, it is the TEAM that determines your worth. We certainly need players who will take it upon themselves to be the best. We needed more of that this year. We have another terrific group arriving in 2015, but it is hard to become an impact player in our league. It can happen – and I think it will. But for now, I will watch things play out.
If you had a chance to coach another sport, what would it be? What compels you about that sport?
I have always considered myself a “ball-coach”. I was a Physical Education major. I played everything I could when I was growing up. I credit my father for making sure of that. When I was in high school, I played football, basketball, volleyball, and baseball. As a high school coach, I coached baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball, and track and field. I would enjoy coaching college basketball or baseball, but recognize that I have my hands full with the job I have. Baseball was always my favorite sport growing up and I feel like I have a great grasp for the game. Basketball is part of my heritage as well – I have lived in Indiana my entire life and absolutely love the game. I watch a ton of college hoops on TV and seldom miss the Boilermakers in Mackey Arena.