Updated: Jun 25, 2020
On this week's Meet the Coaches series, we're excited to introduce you to Andrew Fuller, head beach volleyball coach at Stanford University. Andrew Fuller has been with Stanford University for 4 years now and has made a HUGE impact on the beach program. He has helped countless of talented athletes at Stanford make the transition from indoor to beach and has been so successful in doing so. Prior to coaching at Stanford, he served as the assistant coach at USC (where I had the pleasure of being one of his athletes!) and helped the program excel to great heights. He also served as the assistant coach for the Long Beach State beach volleyball program and guided them to second-place finishes at NCAAs. Not only is Andrew a tremendous coach, but he was also a highly successful professional beach volleyball player, claiming many top finishes on the AVP Tour. I cannot say enough good things about Andrew. He has helped me become the person I am today in so many ways and he was there for me as a mentor and coach at the early stages of my career. He helped me master my craft and reminded me to have fun and enjoy the journey! I am so grateful and thankful I had the opportunity to be coached by such an inspirational human being.
Please welcome Andrew Fuller!
Tell us about your career path leading up to becoming a college coach.
There was some pretty fortuitous timing. I was starting to find my groove as a professional player, having represented Team USA in the 2011 Pan American Games, which preceded the first Collegiate Beach Volleyball season in 2012. Professional beach volleyball was in a bit of a dip, and Lauren (Lauren Fendrick, my wife who also coaches at Stanford, and a 2016 Olympian) and I coached a USA Holiday Camp in January 2012 – roughly 2 months before the first competition of Collegiate Beach Volleyball. We had some amazing players at that camp and three of them happened to play at Long Beach State – Caitlin Ledoux, Tara Roenicke and Jocelyn Neely. I asked them who was coaching their team, and they said that they’d ask the indoor head coach at LBSU (Brian Gimmillaro) if I could help out with the season. So all of a sudden I was the volunteer assistant, we have a pretty good season, making the first final four ever in Gulf Shores, and it rolled from there! I fell in love with Collegiate Beach Volleyball that first season. I went to USC seeking more responsibility with a program, getting into recruiting and program management, and Anna Collier was really wonderful with giving me heaps of autonomy as an assistant coach. *Another plus – I got to coach Allie Wheeler! I started coaching on the FIVB World Tour and AVP Tour in 2013, and helped Lauren and Brooke Sweat qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. The Stanford job opened up during the Olympics, and I interviewed the week we got back from Rio. Four years later at Stanford, I couldn’t be more stoked!
What are you most looking for in an athlete you are recruiting?
Multi-sport athletes – there’s no need to specialize in beach volleyball until Junior year or later. Celebrate movement of all kinds, and build up a big account in your movement bank – move your body in a myriad of ways that you love because it feels good!
Unstructured play – there is tremendous value in playing without a coach, outside of practice and camp environments. Just go to your local court and play with anyone and everyone! You can learn something from older players, younger players and through playing co-ed.
People who seek out challenge – with each level that you grow into, it will get harder. Embrace the challenges and reap the rewards! Great quote: “It never gets easier. You just go faster.” – Greg LeMond.
Did you play on a court and net that was appropriate for your size? When you’re younger than 14 or 15, play on a smaller court and lower net. The earlier you can get used to hitting hard and blocking, the faster you’ll understand those skills at a high level!
What are your expectations for your current athletes?
Care Personally, Challenge Directly
Strive to have a Growth Mindset
Embrace the Challenge
How would you describe your coaching style?
I'm trying to fade into the background - letting the players take center stage, drive the team culture and performance. I really just want to create conditions for them to understand that good things come from conflict and struggle. Each player is different, and I try to accept them for who they are, while pushing them to be the best version of themselves.
What are the most common mistakes girls make when going through the recruiting process?
I think it’s important to acknowledge worst case scenarios – if you had to medically retire, would you still want to be at the school?
Recency bias is strong – who did you speak with last, what was the last campus you visited. Try to sit with decisions as long as possible before making final decisions.
Look at the whole experience – don’t look at a single factor. Will you be able to study what you want? What are the class sizes? Weekly schedule? How’s the campus food?
Best advice for someone going through the recruiting process?
Be persistent! Coaches are inundated with emails, so keep plugging along. Don’t take it personally if you don’t get an immediate response. Keep following up!
If sports don’t work out as a profession, will a degree from that institution further your goals?
Favorite books and/or podcasts?
Radical Candor by Kim Scott– in a nutshell: challenge directly and care personally in your relationships. It will cut through a lot of the miscommunication, misunderstanding and uncertainty of player – coach relationships.
Mindset by Professor Carol Dweck– this is the cornerstone of the Growth Mindset concept. Based on research done at Stanford University. Some of our beach volleyball student athletes have done research in her lab!
Coach Your Brains Out – a shameless plug for the coaching podcast that I host alongside John Mayer (Head Beach Volleyball Coach at LMU), Billy Allen (Pro Player + Coach) and Nils Nielsen (Pro Player + Coach).