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Coaching – The Parent Effect

Based on the title of this post, you may assume it is about the effect or influence parents have on coaching in junior club volleyball or even college volleyball, but that could be a blog all to itself.  Instead, “The Parent Effect” is an interesting phenomena about the learning curve of athletes.

I enter each club season armed with an arsenal of tools to help better volleyball players as a whole.  The tools include a nutrition guide, workout regimen, academic advice, discipline for their daily lives, responsible decision making, and similar pieces to “Teach Life Lessons through Volleyball”.  At the beginning of every season, the players are excited to be the best,  they gobble up this information willing to make changes in their lives.  Parents are amazed at the willingness of their children to suddenly “eat their vegetables” or get away from the computer to exercise.  The parents have been preaching these ideals to their children for years, but their children “never listen to them anymore”.  The influence of an outsider, a coach, which the player looks up to and wants to please, provides a catalyst to change.  I’ve come to recognize that being a coach is very powerful and a carries a great responsibility.

Ironically, I have learned the same “Parent Effect” is prevalent in coaching.  How many times have you said or heard a coach say, “I have told them to be in that position 1,000 times” or “Keep your elbow high on your swing” or “She doesn’t listen”.  The coaches have become the parents.  There comes a point in the learning curve of a player where the player hears a coach, but doesn’t process the words.  The words don’t become action.  This sometimes results in disciplinary action: push-ups, sit-ups, sprints, yelling, etc. to help resolve the problem.  The problem is temporarily resolved, but at the following practice or in a match, poof, the same issue magically arises again!

I have heard a few coaches call this time of learning the “plateau”.  A player stays at a certain level until something “clicks” and the player ‘suddenly’ starts doing those things you have been begging of them for weeks, months, or even years!  They move from one level of the plateau to the next level.  Unfortunately, it seems there is an inordinate amount of time on each plateau.

So what’s the answer to resolving The Parent Effect or moving up the next level of the plateau?  I only have a a few theories:

1.  It takes 1,000 repetitions before something becomes permanent.  Patience is oxygen for coaches.  We just have to continue to be reminders for our players.

2.  A positive result.  During a match or practice, the player makes a conscious effort to correct that fixable incident.  A positive result ensues and the player will continue during that segment of time to make the necessary change.  At the next practice, the player reverts to their old ways.  It is a reminder of the coach and more positive results, that will eventually help the player to change.

3.  Ron Larsen, Assistant Coach of the USA Men’s Olympic Team presented at the Carolina Juniors Volleyball Club.  He provided the coaches a simple cognitive training technique for the players to help process the words.  When working on a particular skill, simply ask the player the answer “Yes” or “No” if they performed the technique correctly.  If the player answered “No”, then they realize they did not do the movement.  If they answer “Yes”, but you, the coach, reply “No”, then the player realizes they did not make the movement correctly.  If they answer “Yes” and you reply “Yes” you are on your way to overcoming “The Parent Effect”.

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