Sophomore Nathan Matthews has decided to spend the rest of his volleyball career warming the bench. His version of warming the bench, however, means standing beside it with a clipboard in hand as head coach for a local high school team.
Matthews, a former member of the Wittenberg Men’s Volleyball Team, is now the head coach of the men’s program at Miamisburg High School. He walked away from his position on Wittenberg’s team this season in order to pursue a dream he has had since he became an athlete, and a dream that he is now seeing come true.
“I’ve always had an interest in coaching,” Matthews said. “I’m very interested in strategy and what goes into coaching decisions.”
Matthews first became interested in joining a volleyball team when he watched The Ohio State University play in the National Championship in 2011, his eighth-grade year. When he entered high school, he joined the team, and eventually joined Wittenberg’s team in 2016, during its inaugural season as an official sport.
It was difficult for Matthews to leave his team in order to coach, but Miamisburg’s volleyball program would have been cut had he not taken the position.
“I felt like it was the right time to walk away from playing to give those kids an opportunity to play,” he said.
While he does not believe that being a good player makes you a good coach, Matthews says that his time on the court has allowed him to be more empathetic to his players.
“My playing career gave me a player’s perspective,” Matthews said. “I’m always thinking about that, and can empathize with how the things I am doing as a coach are going to be perceived by the players and how it is going to affect them.”
According to Matthews, coaching is about executing strategy in competition, teaching and motivating others and understanding the administrative side of things.
When he began coaching in the fall at Tecumseh, he had a year of coaching private lessons and a summer of coaching volleyball camps under his belt, but he says he was still unprepared. He got through it by emulating the coaches he had growing up. Matthews said his first season was all about learning, and asking his former coaches questions, even if it was over the phone in the hallway during a game he was coaching.
Now that he has had more experience, he feels that he has developed his own coaching philosophy. This philosophy is driven by the goal of helping all of his athletes love volleyball.
“I’d be lying if I said that having competitive programs wasn’t a desired outcome, but that is not the only emphasis,” Matthews said. “My goal for all of my programs is to first and foremost instill a love for volleyball. If players leave my program and we have won every game but they hate volleyball, then I have failed.”
On his team, Matthews works to make sure every player knows they are important, even the “benchwarmers.” He says that while the parents and spectators might not always know the impact that each player has, he gets to see that impact as a coach. To Matthews, each player does a part in improving the team as a whole.