MCGILL: Q&A with Volleyball Coach Mitch Jacobs
The Word on the Herd -- May 2, 2018
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. –Mitch Jacobs is the winningest active head coach and the second-longest tenured head coach at Marshall. The Thundering Herd volleyball coach has witnessed highs and lows during his 16-year run – the 2018 season will be his 17th at the helm – and last season qualified as a significant dip for a program that has sustained success over the years.
Jacobs has eight 20-win seasons on his resume, including a 22-8 season in 2016. Last season, the team finished 11-19. Next season, the team will have a completely new look. Jacobs unveiled seven newcomers last month, a group that will join three previously announced signees. As of the beginning of May, the roster features 15 players: 10 newcomers and five returnees.
The Word on the Herd sat down with Jacobs to get his thoughts on his program, recruiting philosophy and offseason.
Question: You were obviously disappointed with the 2017 season. How did you, as a veteran coach, approach the rebuild in anticipation of this coming season?
Jacobs: The biggest thing is that we start with the hard work of the players who return. Every one of them has improved this spring. Physically, they have all gotten stronger. Then, of course, there is recruiting. We worked really hard this offseason. We did a lot of traveling; we did a lot of getting to know kids and trying to find the right ones. We wanted to find kids who are hungry; kids who might have felt a little overlooked. We wanted to find junior college players who felt Marshall would be a great fit for them. When we put it all together with the three kids who were already committed, we have a group that understands that the culture is going to be hard work and you’re going to have to be accountable.
Question: You signed 10 newcomers. What was the recruiting philosophy this offseason?
Jacobs: One of the things we tried to do – and we couldn’t do it with every player because of logistics – we wanted every player we were recruiting to meet with the players we had coming back. We wanted their honest opinion of how the fit would be. We listened to them. They really took ownership and they saw we were listening. We wanted to know how they felt and we wanted honesty. We want to keep the barriers down between coaches and players because we want a family feel. This was about getting the right kids, getting talented players who can play at this level and have something to prove. The three junior college players we have coming in is a great mix with all of the freshmen we have coming in. We were honest with all of those recruits; here were our issues, here were our problems. I think we found the right kids who are mature enough to understand that they are coming into a situation that they can make a huge difference and go to a great university like Marshall.
Question: What did you learn about yourself during a challenging season?
Jacobs: One thing I learned was to not compromise on things that, at your core, you believe in. There are core values that you need to follow in this program and one of them is honesty. I know we have been successful for so many years because of core beliefs. That’s what this program has been about. We have so many incredible alumni that have come out of this program in the last 15 years, and just to get to see them when I’m out recruiting and going to their cities or towns … everyone who has gone through this program really believes that something in their life is better because of this program.
Question: Culture is important to you. Is that a point of emphasis for you with so many newcomers?
Jacobs: I want the players here to understand they can talk to me. Communication is getting better, and the new players coming in need to learn right from the start that there’s nobody that can help you more than our staff. I’m never too busy to take a call from our players. That’s what they’ll find out. If it’s important to the player, it’s important to me. We need to get back to that. We need to teach them how to be independent but they don’t have to solve everything by themselves. Once they learn they can trust me by coming to me and talking about things, and going through their life. This is not just about winning a volleyball game; it’s about winning in life. Marshall volleyball alumni will tell you they are winning in life right now. I want winners in life, and that’s what’s special about being here.
Question: What are your expectations this summer and leading into the opening of the 2018 season?
Jacobs: The expectations should be that everyone gets here healthy, everyone gets here in shape and everyone has a wide open mind to what this year is going to bring us. I really believe that if anyone on our team looks farther past the next practice, then we’re struggling. We’re going to run into problems. If we make a goal to win a championship, we’ve got problems. If we make a goal to start 6-0, we’ve got problems. If we have our mind set on the West Virginia match or the Ohio match, we’ve got problems. Right now we have to stay in great communication with the players and the players need to be having great communication with each other.
Nothing is defined right now as to what this team will be. We’re putting it together to go to battle against another opponent, and I think we have a group that is going to believe in each other. I really believe that to the core and I can’t wait until day one. I cannot wait until check-in on August 8, and to have that first meeting and start talking so we can start coming together as a team.