FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – If one were to build a successful collegiate volleyball program based on the Jason Watson Recipe, the main ingredients would be: Trust, hard work and community engagement.
Those three elements, when combined with Watson’s proven track record of success at BYU and Arizona State, will hopefully result in positive change for a volleyball program that, according to Watson, is on the cusp of breaking through to the next level.
“Simply stated, our first goal is we’re going to be good to, and good for, the athletes that we coach,” Watson said. “There is more than one way to coach, and not just one way to teach the sport. What works for me is taking the time to understand the athletes that I coach.”
Building trust, according to Watson, is critical toward player development and an “enormous amount” of trust is required in order to obtain player buy-in of a coach’s vision for the team.
“Building relationships with my players is more significant than the way we practice,” Watson said. “What we do every day is ask a group of people to be incredibly uncomfortable because we’re asking them to train, to practice and to make changes. Those are all really uncomfortable things for them, and then we’re going to ask them to perform on a big and bright stage. If the athletes I’m coaching don’t trust me, then there is no possible way they will get better and be more comfortable on these stages.”
Once trust is established, what’s next? How will Watson be able to set Razorback volleyball down the path that leads to the NCAA Tournament? A quote from NBA coaching legend Phil Jackson, one that resonates deeply with Watson, provides some helpful insight:
“A lot of the time, as coaches and athletes, we get wrapped up in the outcome,” Watson said. “We want this outcome, and for me as a coach, what I need to be able to provide is a situation to get the positive outcome. It comes down to relationships, to systems, and to the little things we do day in and day out. And if we can create the best possible conditions for success that we can, the outcomes are going to take care of themselves. We have to create better conditions for [our student-athletes] to be successful.”
Watson said if he can get that right with his team, he thinks an immediate positive impact can be made. With his successful stints as head coach at BYU and Arizona State, it’s a safe assumption that the Watson Recipe will have a similar effect at Arkansas.
In eight years in Tempe, Ariz., Watson transformed ASU Volleyball from a perennial sub-.500 program into a postseason regular. Since 2012, the Sun Devils have averaged more than 19 wins a season and have appeared in the NCAA Tournament in four consecutive seasons.
In addition to setting new wins records, increasing Tournament appearances, and hitting ever-higher home attendance figures at ASU, Watson has also successfully involved the community in building his programs. And this strategy is another one he plans to bring to Fayetteville.
“It’s important to me that we engage with the local community, not just the volleyball community, as often and regularly as we can,” Watson said. “I think that builds some affinity with what you’re trying to do and it certainly builds your fan base. So we’re going to find and look for every opportunity we can to embrace the community, bring them into the fold, and to sell them on Arkansas volleyball, our staff, and our athletes. These relationships are crucial in developing a program.”
Razorback fans are poised to welcome Watson and his family back to the Natural State. Before assuming the head coaching position at BYU in 2005, Watson spent time at Jonesboro, Ark. as an assistant coach for Arkansas State.
With the full resources of Razorback Athletics at his disposal, the reputation of the Southeastern Conference as one of the best destinations for student-athletes, and the idyllic setting of the university in Fayetteville, Watson said he’s “humbled” to have been chosen for this position.
“I’m excited to be the new volleyball coach at Arkansas,” Watson said. “I’m ready to get to work and create a program that everyone can be proud of, and we’ve done that along the way here with some other stops. I see this as a program with tremendous potential for growth. I think if we get it right, it certainly can position itself to become a nationally prominent volleyball program.”
For more information about Arkansas volleyball, follow @RazorbackVB on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.