A Look inside the Howard program.
One of the largest differences between Howard and other HBCUs in comparison to other Division 1 volleyball programs is resources. This could range from budget allocations to equipment and space. Today we take a look into the Bison volleyball program.
Like many Division I volleyball programs Howard has a volunteer assistant and two full time assistant coaches on Shaun Kupferberg’s staff. The shocking thing is this was not always the case. “I didn’t have any assistants when I first came to Howard,” shared Kupferberg. “We were able to start having a little success which eventually led us to the opportunity to hire a full time assistant, then finally a second assistant.” The program does not have a director of operations. They are fortunate to have a team manager in Courtney Blanton, who has been very valuable to the program. Here is the Howard Volleyball staff
Entering 8th season at Howard University.
Overall record of 122-89
Interesting Fact: In his first season at Howard the team had a record of 1-22, the following season they went 21-11. He has now won 4 consecutive MEAC championships
Previous Coaching Jobs:
Head Coach Jacksonville University; Jacksonville, FL
Head Coach Northwest University; Kirkland, WA
Entering 2nd season at Howard University.
Also serves as the recruiting coordinator
Interesting Fact: Jones was a 4 year letter winner at Marquette University and was a member of the school’s first NCAA tournament appearance in 2011. She is also a member of the school’s hall of fame.
Previous Coaching Jobs:
Served as Director of Operations at Clemson University
Coached at Top Select Volleyball in Orlando, FL
Head Coach Edgewater High School in Orlando, FL
Entering 2nd season at Howard University
Interesting Fact: Won national championship as a member of the coaching staff at his alma mater, Springfield College.
Previous Coaching and Volleyball Positions:
Volunteer Assistant Coach at University of South Carolina
Volunteer Assistant Coach at Springfield College
Volunteer Assistant Coach at Cowan High School
“It has been very helpful to have two full time assistants in our program,” Kupferberg said in our conversation. “Just having coaches who have coached and/or played at high level programs has been great. It was a little of an eye opener to them early on considering where they came from but they adjusted and have proven to be valued assets to our program.”
Unlike most D1 schools, the coaches have to wear numerous hats. The coaches are the individuals responsible for supervising study hall at home and on the road. “We don’t have an academic support staff member assigned specifically to volleyball. We don’t have anyone that travels with us on the road, it is up to us to ensure they stay on track and are taking care of their studies,” added Kupferberg.
Small academic staff that covers all HU programs. They are hiring two additional full time staff members. Tutoring for the athletes is supervised through the university tutoring services. There are not any assigned to the athletic department specifically, the whole school utilizes the same tutors.
Strength/Conditioning and Athletic Training.
These services are also shared program wide however this summer the volleyball program will have their own trainer assigned to the volleyball program. There is one main training room utilized by all athletic teams with some “off shot” rooms located around the athletic facilities. The volleyball team tends to use the one closes to their locker room. The weight room used by all programs would be described as “small” to observers and the football team may echo those sentiments but according to Kupferberg it is great for the volleyball program.
The volleyball team plays in Burr Gymnasium on the campus of Howard University. The facility seats just over 2000 and can be found next to the football field. It is an older building but perfect for the volleyball environment. “We love the fact there are seats right next to the court which provides a level of intensity to our home matches,” Kupferberg said.
Like larger D1 programs you won’t find a large facilities team to ensure everything is set up and in order for the team. “We have a couple of amazing individuals who work hard to make sure we have what we need and we also have to do much of the heavy lifting ourselves,” noted Kupferberg. Associate Athletics Director for Operations Nicholas Latham and Assistant Director of Operations TaBrian “TB” Arnold can be found dry mopping floors, helping with chairs, or whatever is necessary on game days. Prior to the MEAC championship match hosted at Burr this past season, the ESPN producers were shocked but amused to find Shaun and Julian setting up their own nets prior to the televised match. “It’s just one of the many hats we wear at our program,” exclaimed Kupferberg.
The way Burr gymnasium is set up there is one large locker room that is split into different sections between the different sports to ensure everyone has their own space. You won’t find a nutrition bar or a huge team lounge now accustomed at many places but they have what works for them. “Our locker room is what you would describe as basic but it’s newer. We have a film area which is important and our definition of a team room is available to the girls,” Kupferberg mentioned.
The team also practices in Burr and rotates between the main courts and bottom court depending on what time of the year it is. Early on when basketball season started the volleyball team was often regulated to the bottom gym but with success it’s been a little easier to jockey some gym space on the main court. Regardless of court, they can set up one court unlike the two or more you may find at many other Division 1 programs.
Chartered flights have become the norm for Power 5s and even some mid-majors. “We will take a flight typically once a year in which we have to raise money for,” Kupferberg shared as we talked. “Early on, vans were the primary means of transportation for most of our trips but as we encountered some success it has provided for the opportunity to utilize buses now,” he added.
Until this year, Coach Kupferberg has handled a large majority of the travel plans. If it’s reserving the vans or buses, taking care of lodging, meals, or etc., he was the man. The other benefit of being able to add staff was now Julian handles most of those responsibilities. “We’ve made big strides in the area of travel over the years and that is a great testament to the work our young ladies have put in,” shared the Bison Head Coach.
Our next feature will look at the recruitment side of Howard volleyball.