It’s that time of year again, when new seasons start, new coaches are looking for advice on coaching. I typically get a flood of emails in August and hope this blog post will help provide some guidance.
I’ve been coaching for 8 years now. 5 years collegiality and 3 years on the high school and juniors club scene. There was a two year stint at East Valley Juniors in Arizona while I was at Arizona State, which could be considered coaching, as I learned a bit from that experience. I was the head coach of a team there and assisted with Jeff Nelson’s team (now University of New Mexico’s Head Coach) where Jenn Snyder (beach professional) was just a young pup. Oh how the times have change or maybe they’re all the same. I would though like to reacquaint myself with the great little players from my East Valley Juniors 14 – 2s Team. I’d love to know what they are doing, where they are, what they are doing in their lives…etc. I digress
I hope that my little website offers some direction and information, but I’d like to offer more tips for new coaches:
- Find a Mentor. I was lucky to unknowingly find a great mentor in Al Stern. Al is the Director Emeritus of Low Country Volleyball Club and Head Coach of Bluffton High School. He has 30 years of playing internationally with 2 Gold Medals and 1 Bronze in the World Masters games. He’s played with some of the greats of the games like Don Shondell and Jim Coleman. He has since compiled numerous Club and High School Championships. I was then lucky to be able to learn and mentor under Mike Hebert at the University Minnesota as a Volunteer Assistant Coach. I was more seeking a position at the time, but I think hard work and taking calculated chances creates good luck.
- The AVCA just started a great Mentor program that hooks up new coaches with veteran coaches. Check it out.
- Get Involved. Go to your local club and/or high school and just get involved. For three years, I volunteered my time at Low Country Volleyball Club and Bluffton High School to learn. Time and “money” well spent.
- Attend Clinics, Tournaments, Matches, Conventions, Camps, Practices etc. USA Volleyball has CAP Course, High Performance Courses, Webinars, and regional clinics. The AVCA offers two great conventions that surround the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Championships, as well as webinars, audio presentations, and clinics around the country. Gold Medal Squared has a unique perspective that I’ve become familiar with through Carolina Juniors Volleyball Club and Rob Larsen. Become a coach at collegiate camps. Go to a local collegiate match. Visit a local high school or college practice (ask the coach’s permission before attending). If you are in Anaheim, CA, I understand USA Volleyball’s Women’s Head Coach, Hugh McCutcheon will allow you to come to their practices!
- Educate Yourself. Read volleyball books by great known coaches and by the coaches you may not recognize too. Read non-volleyball sports related books like John Wooden, Anson Dorrance, and Sue Enquist. Read books that are completely non-sports related. I have subscriptions to Volleyball Magazine, Volleyball Coaching (from the AVCA), 3 Touch Volleyball (an English publication, just for a different perspective) as well as Wired Magazine, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur, Wall Street Journal, Mashable, and Harvard Business Review.
- Explore the Internet. Find all the volleyball websites you can and stick with the ones whose purpose is to promote volleyball (not strictly to make money). USA Volleyball and John Kessel’s Blog “Growing the Game Together” is an incredible resource. John’s been doing this for many more years than me and has collected much more material. He has a section for called “I’m a new coach“, AVCA, The Net Live, VolleyTalk (read cautiously), FIVB. View Junior Club Wesbites like TCA and TAV as well as each USAV’s region websites.
- Watch and Watch and Watch the Game. Loala1.TV (I can’t tell you how many late nights I’ve had watching this channel), YouTube, UniversalSports.com, ESPNU, ESPN2, ESPN3, find webcasts through collegiate websites, The BigTen Network.
- Drills. When I first began, I was always seeking the best new drill (volleyball drills on the internet), but I was surprised to learn that most teams use the same drill design with some minor tweaks. It is the focus and purpose of your drill that provides the best outcome. I have also learned that the best way to teach the game is to play the game. There are times for a little bit of breakdown, but motor learning skill is best learned from doing the entire movement. I love the sign in John Kessel’s gym “Use of the Court Without the Ball Going Over the Net is Prohibited“
- The Coach is the Weather. When the weather outside is sunny and beautiful, we are often in a great mood. What you bring to the gym each day for practice and matches will often dictate the mood of the practice. If you are having a bad day and bring it to the gym, the players will feel the emotion and will likely not have as effective a practice. The same for matches. If you are a nervous wreck before a match showing no confidence, how do you expect your team to react. It’s often said that a team is a reflection of it’s coach.
Enjoy what you are doing. It is hardly ever going to go perfectly or the way you planned. Don’t sweat the little things. When you are genuinely enjoying what you are doing, the players will as well. You can run a tight ship, but enjoy the ride of the uncontrollable seas.