After seven weeks on the job and nearing the conclusion of South Carolina's spring practice period, first-year Gamecock head volleyball coach Scott Swanson sat down and answered some questions for GamecocksOnline.com.
Coach, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us. How has the welcome been so far into the Gamecock family?
Everyone here has been amazing and very accommodating. The people here are great to work with!
You've been running around a lot since getting the job. When do you think you'll catch your breath?
In about two years!
This is your second head-coaching job after a stint at Texas-El Paso that started 10 years ago. What lessons that you learned at UTEP have you implemented already so early into your tenure at South Carolina?
I have learned that patience and resilience are extremely important, both for the coaching staff and the athletes.
You come to Columbia after an extremely successful five-year tenure as an assistant coach then later the associate head coach for Minnesota beside legendary head coach Mike Hebert. What kind of advice has Coach Hebert given you since being hired?
Coach Hebert didn't give me a lot of advice, but he did give me five years to learn from him how to run a top level program, treat players and staff with respect, train athletes at an elite level and keep things in perspective. His advice may be find time to play some golf once in a while!
What are some of the things that you learned at Minnesota that have better prepared you for this head coaching opportunity?
I learned that team chemistry will always trump pure talent. I learned that allowing players to have ownership of "their program" will allow them to succeed as a team at a higher level, and I learned that successful coaching is all about treating people well and creating great relationships.
As recruiting coordinator for the Gophers, you brought in some top-five classes to campus. What is your philosophy in regards to recruiting?
I look for athletes that also have a great feel for the game or at least their position. I also look for what type of teammate they are on and off the court. Work ethic to me is a better trait than ability in a team sport like volleyball where you need to make others around you better to reach your team goals.
Talk to us about your experience with the U.S. National Team program.
I had the honor of working with the USA A-2 team in 2009 and got to learn from some great coaches and train some great athletes. It was a great experience to see how that many talented athletes from all different programs could come together and compete at a high level with only a week of training.
What during the interview process made you believe this is the place to be as a head coach?
The philosophy of Athletics Director Eric Hyman was the determining factor in my decision. He truly believes in the overall student-athlete experience and has a true desire to graduate every athlete that enrolls at USC. I also felt that we would be given the support we would need to get this program back to the NCAA Tournament and to national prominence.
You've filled out your staff for the year, bringing in Moritz Moritz from Idaho to join you on the bench. What are some of the qualities he brings that will help your teams?
Moritz brings a calm demeanor and great teaching style. He is a great tactician and has a very good rapport with our players. He is a very good recruiter and has an eye for talented players. Moritz is also an awesome person that I knew I could trust and have a great working relationship with.
And you've kept Michelle Collier on as the other assistant coach. What does she contribute to your staff? And how helpful is it to have someone who previously has been with the team?
Michelle brings a lot of very high level experience as a collegiate and professional player. She can still demonstrate the skills and show the players how it is done on the court, and she has a great knowledge of the game, which allows her to also be a great trainer in the gym. Michelle has been instrumental in helping with my transition and helping show me the ropes.
You've also added Shane Wilkinson to your staff as the director of operations. What do you see his role being for your team?
Shane brings a lot of experience from Ohio State where he has already been a director of volleyball operations for three seasons. Shane will help with our team travel planning, video and scouting break down, alumni relations, summer camps, and day-to-day operations in the volleyball offices. I am extremely lucky to have such an organized, hard-working person like Shane on my staff.
Tell us a bit about the style of play you plan on showcasing to Gamecock fans this fall and in the upcoming years?
We are going to play with a lot of effort and heart! We don't feel like we have to be real complicated in our offense, but we do feel that improving our ball control this spring will help us play a faster tempo offense.
In previous conversations with you, I remember the words "relentless on defense" being spoken many times. How will that be shown on the court?
It will be evident by the amount of effort our players will put forth on the court. I think that team chemistry will be really important in how our team will come together and work to make each other better at every opportunity.
What kind of improvements have you seen in the time you've had already with the team?
Learning rate and ability to change habits, ball control and blocking have really improved a lot since day one.
What are your thoughts on the Volleyball Competition Facility as the home of your squad?
The more fans we have and the louder they are can definitely contribute to our chances of turning this program around in the fall of 2011.
You've been an assistant coach in two of the toughest conferences in the country, at Arizona State in the Pac-10 before your UTEP stint and most recently in the Big Ten. Tell us where you see the Southeastern Conference ranking.
I believe the SEC is definitely one of the top three or four volleyball conferences in the nation.
Your wife, Erin, has yet to join you here. Doesn't she know she's missed the best time to move, when there was still snow in Minnesota while you were wearing shorts outside here?
She never wants to hear me tell her the temperature because it is always 50 degrees warmer here than Minneapolis.
What kind of help has she been to you in your career, as she's a former collegiate track athlete as well?
She has been the most supportive and amazing wife that a guy could ask for! Her experience as an athlete and an athletic academic advisor gives her a unique perspective on how to deal with young student-athletes at this level.
And you two are expecting your first child soon. What are you feeling about that right now?
I am feeling extremely excited, nervous, and proud all at the same time!
Do you know what you're having? And are names picked out?
We are having a girl and her name is Rylee.
Are you going to try to get a volleyball in the kid's hands before Erin gets some track spikes on her?
Maybe a mini volleyball to start, she will be pretty small for a while!
Now, let's try some rapid-fire questions.
What did you most recently load onto your MP3 player?
Who's your favorite kind of music?
Classic Rock, 80's and some new stuff like Jack Johnson, etc.
What's your favorite movie of all time?
Have you seen anything recently? If so, what is one of your recent favorites?
Who is your favorite athlete of all time?
What was your best moment in volleyball?
Beating Penn State last year when we came back from being down 2-0