York Falcons’ Head Coach on soaring high and flying the nest

16th June 2020

York Falcons’ Head Coach on soaring high and flying the nest

Jack Deaton looks back and teases his next move after stepping down as the Head Coach of York’s NVL Div 2 Women’s Team. 

My volleyball journey started as a 14-year-old playing recreationally as part of a caravan club. I’d been playing on holiday in the south of France and was approached by Martin Wain, a prominent junior coach in the North East of England, and was told to pursue volleyball at home. Once I returned to the UK, I got in touch with York Volleyball Club. The rest, as they say, is history.

I went on to represent York VC at junior level and in the local league whilst also getting the chance to represent Yorkshire in the Inter Regional Championships. I have always seen volleyball as an enjoyable sport but I split my time between that and football right up to going to university at the age of 18.

First steps into coaching

When I moved up to the University of Sunderland, I had a wrist injury that meant I missed all of the football trials. However, the volleyball coach Eve Porter, who I met at the freshers’ fair, approached me in the October, once I had recovered, and asked me to play. In my second year I went on to become president of the university’s volleyball club and took on HEVO responsibilities. In my third year, due to a knee injury that was sustained in the Student Cup as well as a desire to make my first steps into coaching, I coached both the men’s and women’s sides. Coaching had always been a priority of mine.

On my return to York, I helped the club to put a women’s team (York Falcons) into the National Volleyball League for the first time and played the role of assistant under the long-term Head Coach Mike Turner. I was also the assistant coach to Simon Cowie at York Vipers before they stepped up to the NVL, as well as with the Yorkshire League side.

For me, this experience was invaluable because it gave me the opportunity to spread my wings and learn the ropes, all while taking on specialist coaching roles, mainly around setting, and looking at particular aspects during matches. This helped to grow my technical passion and expand my knowledge of pivotal areas of our game. Following Mike’s decision to move to San Francisco ahead of the 2015/16 season, I knew I would be leading York Falcons and I knew my own NVL journey would now begin.

The vision

When I took the job, I had a clear vision in mind: promotion within three years and a strong showing in the National Cup. Division 3 was a particularly tough division as we had to battle established teams like Wirral, Leeds and Manchester Marvels whilst also watching the elite team that was Nottingham University fly up the volleyball pyramid.

Years one and two saw us finish 4th and 3rd, respectively, before 2017/18 saw us lose only one game on the way to winning the league. The feeling of winning that title in Sheffield is something I will treasure forever. That same year we knocked Sheffield VC out of the National Cup, despite them being top of Division 1 at the time, and got the opportunity to travel to Newcastle to face Northumbria, at the time the number one team in the country. We then got our shot at two seasons in Division 2, finishing 4th in our first year and then 2nd in the 2019/20 season, which was cut short by the coronavirus.

Success, recognition and legacy

My proudest achievement as the Falcons’ Head Coach is a tough one to put my finger on. Winning the title was special as that group of players were phenomenal in everything they did. They trained hard, played hard and won well. With that particular group, the sky really was the limit. For me, I was never prouder than seeing a certain junior player of ours shine. Freya Newton had joined the club as a novice and was eager to progress and I really wanted to help her with this. Freya became an NVL middle and an integral part of the side that won the league just three years later. This, coupled with her growth as a person, makes me happier than any of my other coaching achievements.

I was also nominated for the 2017 Young Coach of the Year in Volleyball England’s Annual Awards, finishing in the top 3. The fact I was nominated by my peers gives me a huge amount of pride and, despite not winning the award, I felt as though getting any sort of recognition was a massive achievement.

I was Head Coach of the Falcons for five years, involved for six, and saw them go from a brand-new NVL side to a real challenger in Division 2, developing as players, people and friends. Despite a high turnover of squad members, especially in the last two seasons, with the help of my two assistant coaches, Andy Styan and Dan Soltysiak, we continued to improve and get results. Three pairs of eyes are better than one, particularly when it comes to statistics and analysis.

York VC has given me immense support and belief on my journey as a coach, especially during match days and throughout the season. Former chair Tim Godson and current chair Stewart Miller have helped the club to grow, culminating in being named Volleyball England’s ‘Club of the Year’ in 2018. Without the opportunity to coach the Falcons, I would have struggled to get my chance and I will always be thankful to them and what they provided me.

The next chapter

After six years coaching with the Falcons and 13 years with the club, I have taken the difficult step of moving on to try something new. This was a decision that gave me a huge amount of heartache – due to the coronavirus outbreak I had to break the news to players in what became a very teary-eyed video message. However, I have chosen to move on because I wanted to have a new challenge and push myself as a coach by stepping out of my comfort zone. I am very proud of my achievements with York and hope they continue on the same path as I left – knowing those in charge of the club, I’m certain this won’t be a problem.

I am really excited about the new project I’ll be pursuing and feel as though it is the right move for me. Change can be a good thing, and despite my roots being established in York, I look forward to seeing where my volleyball coaching journey goes next. Where will I be going? Well that is for you to wait and see.

Coaching is by far the most fulfilling thing I have ever done in my life. The feeling of seeing individuals develop and further themselves as players and people is indescribable. For me, I have most enjoyed watching and helping other coaches grow and gain experience. York gave me the chance to work with a great group of up-and-coming men and women breaking into coaching and I am excited to see where they go next.

I couldn’t recommend coaching more highly. The sport has a great community in England and I see that everywhere I go. I have made some wonderful friends on the way and competed against some top-quality coaches, all of which I have looked to learn from. This has helped me to have a real appreciation of what it is to coach and how it feels to be successful. Ultimately, to give somebody the opportunity to play volleyball is a gift, to win on the way is a bonus.

York VC is currently looking to fill two coaching positions within the club: one as coach of York Falcons, the club’s NVL Divisions 2 Women’s Team; and one as coach for the Men’s NVL Division 2 Team. If you are interested in taking on the challenge, please email yorkvolleyball.membership@gmail.com with your details and which team you are interested in coaching and you will be forwarded the role description along with details of the application process.

York Falcons’ Head Coach on soaring high and flying the nest