A Discussion With New Florida State Head Volleyball Coach Todd Kress
April 16, 2002
Florida State's new head volleyball coach Todd Kress sat down with Sports Information's Jeff Clark and discussed the direction in which he intends to take the Seminole volleyball program. In February, Kress was hired to replace longtime volleyball head coach Dr. Cecile Reynaud. He and his squad recently completed their spring season.
What has been the biggest change in coming to your current position at Florida State?
The biggest change in coming here from Northern is that at Northern I had my entire system in place. The players, assistants and I knew exactly what we were doing on a day-to-day basis. In the move to Florida State, we have introduced a brand new system. We are changing some things with our players, our team offense and some things we will do passing-wise. We will also be changing a lot of the fundamental concepts. There will not be any major changes, just a little tweaking here and there. Making adjustments with the players and incorporating our concepts have been the biggest things. The players have been very responsive to the changes and have worked very hard. The hard work from the players has made this a positive change so far.
How do you feel about the general attitude about the volleyball program at Florida State?
Everyone at Florida State has been very welcoming and has extended a hand to help with my adjustments. Charlie Carr (FSU senior associate athletic director) has gone to great lengths to help us out.
What are some of your current coaching philosophies?
My biggest philosophy is pretty simple. I want to get the most out of every minute. I want my players to get the most out of every minute. When we are in the gym, classroom or weight room, we should be working hard not to waste time. My next philosophy also encompasses goals. I want to make sure that we have a 100 percent graduation rate. I want my players to learn from each other as well as from me. We must all work together. If we do that, and the players are already exceeding our expectations, then this will be a very positive year for both our players and coaches.
How has your philosophy evolved as you have changed coaching positions?
When I first started out, coaching at the club and high school level, my philosophies were probably driven by some of the philosophies of the coaches I played under in college. As an assistant coach at Thomas Moore College, my philosophy was a little different than it is as a head coach. When I took over as head coach at Fairfield, I still wasn't separated from the players. I was young, mid-twenties, and only four years older than the senior athletes. I still wanted to be on the court playing. I would see a mistake on the court and not understand how the player could make such a mistake. I am now in my mid-thirties and I see things very different. Today, when I see a player make a mistake, I immediately look to see how we, as a team can correct the problem in practice. I believe mistakes are part of the learning process. Coming to the understanding that mistakes will happen and you must learn from them is just part of the maturation process as a coach. As you learn from the kids, other coaches and yourself over the years, you philosophy changes.
What are some of the components you have already or would like to incorporate into the existing program at Florida State?
We would like to run a little quicker offense based off our middles. We are going to run front slides and would also like to be a little quicker on the tempo of our sets. We want to attack defensively. We have to get better on the defensive end. We must want to improve defensively, because defense wins at this level and if we play great defense then we can win. The size and athletic ability is already in the program, we just have to utilize it. We need to fine-tune a few things, such as arm swings, the quickness of the offense and ball control. If we can improve on these things, we can take this team to a higher level and they will be successful.
What changes have you had to make in your recruiting efforts since you have only been at Florida State for a short time?
We have had to turn every rock. The late-signing period ends on April 10th and we hope to fill the vacant spots on the team. We really had to look everywhere. We looked regionally, nationally and internationally. We had to go from first to fifth gear in a matter of seconds. This class is very important for us and the 2003 class is just as important. These two classes will be the foundation of our program. We are going to have seven or eight of our own kids in here within six months, and that is 75 percent of the scholarship spots.
What were some of the factors that affected your decision to become a part of the Florida State family?
I was kind of caught off guard when I was called to come down for an interview. I loved my situation at Northern Illinois. Northern was ranked 23rd in the nation and the foundation was there. All but one of the starters was back. I wasn't looking to move, but I came to Tallahassee with an open mind. When I arrived, I fell in love with the campus. I met the team and saw that they were committed. They had their priorities straight. There was a sense of community within the administration. I really based my decision on the people I would be working with in the program, administration and community.
When recruiting, what are some of the qualities you look for in an athlete?
We look for athleticism first. I know many coaches go out and look for players to fill a position. It is my belief that you should first look at the sheer athleticism of an athlete. I ask myself if the athlete I am recruiting will be able to make the next step when they reach the college level. It is possible that the student-athlete has already peaked. I look to see where I believe a player is going to be during the middle of her freshman, sophomore and junior years. Once we have evaluated the players athleticism, then we begin to break them down into position.
What are some of your goals entering the 2002 volleyball season?
My first goal is to make sure that the senior class has the best possible senior year that they can have. It is always tough when you have a coaching change. I believe it is especially tough for the seniors. We want to wrap up the seniors' careers on a high note. We want their last experience at Florida State to be positive. Our next goal is to win an ACC Championship. With the talent this year, the work ethic, the commitment, the desire from the kids, administration and everyone, we can achieve that goal.
What are some of your long-term goals for Florida State volleyball?
We want to take it one step at a time. We want to look at winning the ACC Championship, be ranked in the top 20 or top 15, and make it to the Sweet 16 on an annual basis. Eventually, we want to advance to the Elite Eight and Final Four. We want to become one of the top teams in the nation. This won't happen overnight, this is a long-term thing. If we can build our foundation now and bring in quality athletes, this can and will be done.
What are some of your expectations for your team?
As a team, we will strive to win an ACC Championship. That is something these kids have never done. I want my players to be in the classroom, not missing class. They should be working hard in every practice, staying committed. They should be looking long-term and going about their tasks day-by-day.
You were successful at Northern Illinois and Fairfield, what adjustments have you made or do you intend to make to continue your success at Florida State?
I will do many of the same things I did at Northern and Fairfield. I do not plan on making many adjustments to my system just because I am at Florida State. We will come in and be very disciplined. We will work hard everyday in practice, in the weight room and in the classroom. This is all based on discipline. I think that if the kids are disciplined, it will lead to success. The players have been very receptive to new concepts. We just have to continue to bring in the same caliber of student-athletes that Cecile Reynaud and her staff brought into the program.
From your observations at practice, what do you feel is the strength of the 2002 Florida State volleyball team?
I think the biggest thing will be the intangibles. The team has great heart and desire. I am not going to break it down and say that we are going to beat the heck out of front slides, have teams out of system or have powerful serves, because I haven't had the opportunity to work with the team enough to know. I have seen the intangibles. This team is committed and work together. When you have people committed toward one common goal, and they are working together and supporting one another, you can accomplish anything. I think this will be the backbone and foundation of the program this year.
After losing only one starter, how do you feel about the experience returning on the team?
It is nice to have all the experience on the team. I couldn't ask to work for better people and couldn't have a better team as a first-year head coach. When I entered my position at Fairfield, we built from the ground up. At Northern, the previous coach had built a strong program, but when he left, he graduated four starters and took one with him to Wisconsin. We were forced to build from the ground level up again. Here at Florida State we have everyone but Norisha Campbell back. Campbell is a great player and a huge loss. She was a tremendous player and probably one of the best to ever wear the garnet and gold. It is very nice to have a junior setter and four seniors that contribute to the program. We have five returning starters that are very committed to winning an ACC Championship. It is nice to have a strong work ethic already instilled in the players. We will build off the experience of the seniors this year.