National Careers Week | Kat Chen

National Careers Week | Kat Chen

During her playing career, Kat Chen knew the importance of combining volleyball with study and a life off the court.

However as her sporting career neared its end and the next chapter drew closer, volleyball kept drawing her back with opportunities that have seen her guide the Adelaide Storm women’s team as head coach, while now she is assistant coach for the Women’s Volleyroos.

We caught up with Kat ahead of National Careers Week to see how she has found her feet after her international playing days came to an end, and what advice she has for today’s crop of current and aspiring Volleyroos.

While you were playing, were you preparing for your career with any form of study or working other jobs?

Kat Chen: Yes I was. I have a degree in Bachelor of Exercise Science and Clinical Rehabilitation, whilst working part-time as an Allied Health Assistant in hospitals.

Given your area of study, was it ever an ambition of yours to get into coaching professionally? 

KC: No it wasn’t. I had never considered transitioning into coaching during my playing years.

I had coached school teams and in academies as a side job, and towards the end, I did think I would dabble in it with some club coaching, academies, Junior State Teams etc.

There’s a difference between dabbling with some club coaching and it becoming your livelihood – how did you go from picking up coaching gigs here and there, to it becoming a full-time job.

KC: It happened to be by chance that when I retired from playing, I was in Sweden and I received an offer to apply for a coaching role at their National Junior Training Centre.

My junior volleyball days are some of my most vivid memories and I now reflect on it as some of my most pivotal career defining moments.

When I was offered the role at the Swedish National Junior Centre, I decided it would be a great opportunity to give back. It was an amazing experience that opened another door to volleyball, and upon returning to Australia, I decided to pursue a career in coaching.

Your playing career took you to some amazing places, I’m sure. Are you excited that your professional career has the potential to keep you doing amazing things?

KC: Absolutely. I’m already returning to countries that I’ve already been to as an athlete, however it’s always a different experience as a coach.

This year alone, I will be traveling to the Philippines, Thailand, Japan, China, New Zealand, Vietnam and the United States.

Given your experience, how important do you think it is for players today to have balance, either through study or work, so that they are well-rounded mentally and also preparing for life post-sport?

KC: Very. I’m a big supporter of our young female athletes going to the college system, either in the US or Canada. Not only does it provide four more years of volleyball development and competition (before going pro), they also receive a free education, whilst living an amazing life experience and learning life lessons along the way. If they don’t want to go to college, most choose to pursue studies in Australia and/or via online so they can pursue a professional career. 

Women’s volleyball is partially self funded and so they enter the program with the knowledge that they need to work in some aspect. As difficult as this is, it does set them up with the knowledge of responsibilities, finance, and commitment. 

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