January 6, 2021 – By NJP
It’s always a great story when a local high school volleyball player rises up through the ranks and becomes the head coach of a New Jersey NCAA college program. Coach Jason Madsen exemplifies the essence of home grown talent with central jersey roots, a St. Joe’s Metuchen high school player experience, and even a Warren Six Pack involvment.
Jason has deep respect for the mentors and leaders of the game that helped him progress. This seems to be a big pattern in our research of volleyball in NJ with many coaches aiding other coaches to achieve their goals. Coach Madsen has had a short but very successful career thus far. He was named Head Women’s Volleyball Coach at FDU-Florham three seasons ago after spending one year heading the College of Staten Island program. The CSI opportunity was his first as a college Head Coach as he ran both mens and womens program there.
Jason started off his first year at FDU with a 27-9 record and reached the Championship game of the ECAC Tournament. The team was driven by a 13 game winning streak during the season. 2018 and 2019 were a bit more challenging on the win and loss side of things but he has high hopes moving forward.
Rutgers Newark is where Jason picked up a world of experience as an Assistant Coach. He was there from 2012 through 2016. In 2014, the Scarlet Raiders advanced to the ECAC Metro Semifinals, earning its first ECAC Tournament win in 13 seasons. Jason has also been a coach at Warren Six Pack during his career for several seasons as well.
Jason has a full roster of NJ grown talent on his FDU Devils team. He has cultivated mostly home grown players and has a world of talent from all over the entire state on the upcoming squad. Roster link here… https://fdudevils.com/sports/womens-volleyball/roster
Jason is the ultimate players coach. He creates a family with his team. When you play at FDU-Florham, you get much more than volleyball specialist who can teach you about the game. You get a mentor and an advisor who truly cares for each and every member of his team. You will work hard and be disciplined and reap the success of what that philosophy brings. But you will also be part of the positive spirit that Jason brings to his team. Enjoying the ride from start to finish…
Here is our interview with Coach Madsen…
Tell us a bit about yourself, Jason?
So, a little about me. I am from NJ and grew up in Plainfield. I started my volleyball career playing for the Warren Sixpack as a 13-year-old who had literally no idea of what I was doing. I was a little taller than most of the player at the time so I was thrown in the middle as sort of a trial by fire. Needless to say, it was a disaster. Luckily for me, volleyball was a family game for us. My older brother played as well as a couple of aunts and uncles. It didn’t take long for the game to become a huge outlet for me and soon it took over our family life year-round. More recently my life has taken a much happier and fulfilling role. Despite the pandemic, I was able to get married this December to my lovely wife Alison whom I went to grammar school with. I was fortunate enough to reconnect with her later in life and we got married on December 11.
What effects has the fall season cancellation had on your program?
As far as the fall cancellation it certainly was a negative thing especially for the student athletes. We were able to get time on the court, albeit in a drastically different manner. In the beginning of our fall practice season we were forced to work in smaller groups due to COVID restrictions. After a few weeks we were able to come together as a whole team to work as one large group. In my opinion, the impact was felt greatest by the incoming first year players who weren’t able to get the usual welcome to college experience. I think these adjustments were the most impactful as it took a lot of planning and coordination by all of our staff members specifically our excellent athletic training staff and our strength coach. Off the court the biggest impact has been on recruiting as you could imagine. The inability to physically see volleyball being played has taken a toll on me and my ability to connect with the players. Hopefully, in time, things will get a little better and the players will be permitted to participate in competition and we will slowly adjust to our new normal.
Tell us about what St. Joe’s Metuchen has meant to you as a player and coach and how Coach Miguel Cabrita has influenced your career.
I loved my time at St. Joe’s both as a volleyball player and as a student. As I said earlier, I have an older brother who was already enrolled by the time I started as a freshman all those years ago. He helped pave the way for me and made my transition to high school and to being a volleyball player much smoother and a little easier. Playing at St. Joe’s made me very proud because we were a great team. We had players all over the court at every position that made an impact. It also helped me because I was able to play every position on the court. While I ended up as a setter, I was able to get time on the court as a defensive specialist as well as an outside hitter which ultimately made me a better overall player. I can’t say enough about Coach Cabrita and what he did for me as a player. I’m certainly not trying to age anyone, but Miguel was my JV coach at St. Joe’s. I can honestly say the things that we did and the work ethic and effort that was required to get on the court is still with me today and has had a definite impact on me as a coach.
Can you tell us about your coaching experience at Rutgers and the influence of Coach Pedro Trevino?
My coaching experience at Rutgers was a great and it is something that I will never forget. I met Pedro while he was working at St. Joe’s some time ago. We hit it off almost immediately and our relationship grew from there. When he was hired as the men’s coach at Rutgers he asked me to join him on that journey and I gladly accepted. We had some ups and downs in the beginning. We still were competing in the EIVA with a very limited roster and no scholarship athletes. By the time we were exiting the EIVA for our transition to Division 3 we had taken some serious lumps on the court, but I also believe it prepared our kids for the D3 level. When we stepped on the court that first year of D3 competition we were confident that we could compete with anyone. Pedro and I worked very well together because we could always balance each other out. In addition, we knew that the way we approached the game and recruiting would pay off. It certainly did when we won the CVC tournament and earned our bid to the NCAA tournament. The following year we made a return trip while achieving a rank of #3 in the AVCA Coaches poll. I have great memories of coaching with Pedro and I can’t thank him enough for giving me the opportunity to coach with him. He is a great friend of mine and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
What are your hopes for the season at FDU in 2021?
My hopes for the 2021 season start with us being able to get on the court and compete, first and foremost. Once we get passed that hurdle I am looking forward to seeing what we can do on the court. I want to build a team that is competitive on the court that plays with discipline and energy. I want to see the team grow together and adapt to whatever challenges may confront them. Ultimately, I am looking to get us back into the playoffs and competing for the MAC Championship.
What is the biggest challenge that you have in putting together a successful volleyball program??
I think the biggest challenge that any D3 volleyball coach has is getting the prospective student athletes to understand that they can play high level, competitive volleyball at the D3 level. A lot of athletes are enamored with the idea or maybe the social media prowess of going D1. I think that is a great goal to have, but it isn’t for everyone. There are great D3 volleyball players out there who found the right fit for them. It is incumbent on D3 coaches to emphasize the best qualities of our schools and Universities and help the student athletes make the best decision for them and their families.
Tell us about the FDU program…
Our volleyball program is a fun program to be a part of. We try to emphasize ball control and discipline to all of our players. We work hard in practice and in the weight room in order to show off our skills during the matches. We have a family-oriented atmosphere that tries to showcase the best talents that our student athletes have. Personally, I try to take time to learn as much as I can about my players and their interests both on and off the court. Some of the best conversations I’ve had with players are about their major or their jobs or things they are looking forward to off the court. I try to make their experience an enjoyable one so that they feel relaxed and comfortable doing what they do best as players.
Do you have a tip for parents who are helping their child who desires to play college volleyball?
I would tell all parents to talk to their players about what they are looking for in a school or team. Sometimes the ideas or plans may not line up which could lead to some frustration or anxiety. All players and parents should know that there is a school and a team out there for everyone. Do your research and ask questions. If a coach isn’t willing to take the time to guide you through the process they may not be the right fit.
Can you share one tip for a current high school player to up their game?
I would tell high school players to not strictly play one position. Coaches are looking for players who can make an impact at every position or point in the game. If you’re not getting on the court at your desired position don’t give up or stop working. Try to find a way that you can make an impact. If that impact is coming in to serve 3 points a game, so be it. Find your spot on the court, no matter where it is, and fight for it.
What word of encouragement or inspiration can you offer current high school level players who aspire to play at the collegiate level?
I would tell all high school players to not get discouraged with the current times. While the virus has seriously impacted the way in which we practice and compete, everyone is in the same boat. What are you doing during this time to get yourself better? Keep working hard and putting the time in on and off the court and you will be rewarded. Also, as I mentioned before, there is a team out there for everyone. Do your research and try to find the best fit for you. Volleyball will end someday so you want to put yourself in a position to be successful once you leave college, not only during your time there.
How would you describe your coaching style? What kind of players do best with your coaching style?
I would say that I am a player’s coach. I like to have fun and try to run a relaxed, player focused program. I am very calm on the sidelines with the understanding that the players take their cues from me. If I am calm and composed on the sideline the team will follow suit. Players that fit my coaching style are competitors and players who have a short memory. Ball control is essential, as I preach to my team that the first contact is the most important. It sets us up for success in the run of play and helps set the tone in the serve/pass game.
Are there any rule changes that you would like to see to better prepare NJ High School students for college?
For NJ players specifically be prepared for the best 3 out of 5 format. Sadly, as you know, NJ only allows best 2 out of 3 which may not help condition for the collegiate level. That is something that is important especially for coaches like myself who want my players to be able to jump as high in set 5 as they did in set 1.
Tell us about your assistant coaches and other staff at FDU…
I have one assistant at FDU. Her name is Lauren Harris and I want to take this time to give her praise. I only do this because she would NEVER talk about herself in this way. I wouldn’t be able to coach and have the team that I want without Lauren. She is the all-time kills leader in FDU-Florham history and still is a great volleyball player. Her passion and dedication to the team and University cannot be denied and I am thankful that she came out here from the West Coast and made a tremendous impact on our team and me personally as a coach. She is a graduate assistant so she will be leaving after next season and I can only hope that I will be able to find another assistant that puts up with my jokes and sense of humor the way she does. Her impact on the team cannot be overstated and I am forever grateful to her and her parents for trusting me with helping her start her career after college.