Adler Augustin is not in a rush.
When he arrived in Greenville from east Texas in July as a first-year NCAA head coach, he had no option but to prepare East Carolina’s volleyball players like they would be competing in matches in about a month.
The American Athletic Conference on Aug. 24 announced it was postponing volleyball, plus men’s and women’s soccer, to the spring semester to align with the revised NCAA championship schedule because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Augustin, that brought about at least some sense of relief.
ECU volleyball still practices on weekdays. The team, however, does it with a spring-like offseason mindset.
“As players and as coaches, we are so used to things being a certain way,” said Augustin, 38, who spent the last five years as an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches, Texas. “Now it’s having to refocus and recalculate on how are we going to progress in the fall and doing that without playing matches. ... There are all these things that you didn’t think about before, but you have to navigate, and also talking to the players and getting their opinion on things as well. They are the ones doing the work.”
Augustin has leaned on returning veterans such as Bri Wood and Natalie Tyson during workouts and to help him get acclimated to eastern North Carolina.
Like other coaches, Augustin is interested and invested in how college football might play out the rest of this year. The Pirates are playing only football for now, beginning with a home game Sept. 26.
“We all understand that football is a huge part of the economy of athletics,” he said. “We want and need football. I would say also they carry the most people, from players to staff. So if the sport that carries the most people could pull it off, then when you look at a volleyball roster that has usually 14-16 players on average and three coaches, then you feel good about it. They have 80 or 90-plus people and if they can do it, then you feel good we can pull it off as well.”
One of the breakthrough moments early in Augustin’s coaching career came at the University of Texas. It was not at the varsity level, but as the coach of the school’s club men’s and women’s teams. The women won consecutive national championships in 2012 and ‘13 as Augustin was concurrently learning how racking up wins can get a coach noticed.
“It’s not on the same level because we weren’t out recruiting players or funded the same way and don’t practice as much, but we were also ranked in the top five and top 10 in the country in club, and they still are,” Augustin said. “At least at Texas, we had kids who could have gone to a mid-major, but they wanted that big-school feel, so they would play on the club team. ... The players we had could play. That gave us the opportunity to win club national championships there and compete at a pretty good pace.”
Augustin coached club teams at Texas from 2007 until 2013. He later was a head coach for the Austin Juniors Volleyball Club.
“My thought going in was kind of helping out on the club team, but I just fell in love with it,” he said. “It was cool. I realized I would rather be in the gym than have my regular 9-to-5 job.”
The Pirates announced in March they were not renewing the contract of former head coach Julie Torbett.
Augustin broke into the NCAA ranks at Stephen F. Austin in 2015. The team made two NCAA tournament appearances during his five-year tenure, which included serving as associate head coach last year.
The Texas graduate also credits his background in kinesiology for sparking his desire to progress through the coaching ranks.
“I played volleyball, but early on, I didn’t think coaching was the natural path for me,” he said. “I kind of stumbled honestly onto the coaching scene, but I think there’s my ability to analyze on a coagulated level and I’m very into analytics. By any means, I was not a super coach when starting off, like most people. From there, it was just having conversations with people who I thought were good coaches and were successful and just started picking their brain and watch practices and watch matches and really take in as much information as I could. ... When I got to Stephen F. Austin, we started doing really well and by my third year, it just took off.”