Coach Josh Knapp on transition from player to coach

Whether it be as player or as a coach, you may as well consider Josh Knapp and volleyball inseparable. Knapp is in the middle of his first season as head coach of Liberty’s men’s volleyball team after a dominant five-year playing career.

“Being a player and developing my own craft has been a huge part of adding to the tools I have as a coach,” Knapp said. “I have put so many hours into the sport of volleyball and still do for my own game. It’s a passion of mine, and me being so close to the sport as an athlete means I get to continue to improve and adapt with the sport and always learn.”

Knapp definitely misses his time as a player for the Flames, but he enjoys how coaching keeps him involved with the sport and what he’s passionate about. He still plays grass and beach volleyball over the summers, but he misses playing for a competitive team working towards the same goal. He claims his time as a player has done nothing but add to his tactics as a coach.

The hardest thing about Knapp’s transition has been control of his team’s game plan, but he has little control over his team’s outcome of a match based on performance.

“As a player, I could control the court and have a tangible impact when it comes to me being a high-level athlete, but now as a coach, there is a sense of helplessness during matches where it comes down to the guys on the court and in the game,” Knapp said.

Liberty Men’s Volleyball takes on Virginia Tech in the Liberty Arena on January 24th, 2023. (Photo by KJ Jugar)

Despite missing playing volleyball for the team, he still enjoys many aspects of coaching. “One-on-one skills training or just team skills work is my favorite aspect,” Knapp said. “I thrive with the small details of skills and athletes’ form, but the rewarding part for me is the athletes seeing and feeling that change which leads to improvement… that is what makes this job worth it.”

Knapp highlighted how his time as a player has affected his relationships within his team, saying that it is both easy and difficult to handle the athletes that he has personally played with during his time playing for the Flames.

“They have been nothing but amazing and welcoming to this position and showing great respect when it comes to handling me,” Knapp said. “Where it becomes difficult is having to make decisions for the team and not the player. Having to bench a friend or sub them out is never easy, but in the end, they handle it great and know it’s not personal.”

“It’s not a sprint but a long race to that finish line,” is the message that Knapp has preached to his players this season. Knapp has prioritized working hard and buying in and realizing it takes time to see the results of hard work, but it will be worth it. He preaches this as he continues to build the program he has valued for a long time.

As this is only the first year of Knapp’s head coach journey, if his success as a coach can equal that of his playing time, the Flames should be in good hands. Knapp encourages others to keep an eye on the team for the 2024-2025 season, as it will be the first team that he has built from the ground up.

“From recruits to juniors that I would have trained for two years, that season will be one to watch out for,” Knapp said.

Willard is a sports reporter for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on Twitter

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