Monday, 27 May 2024

A Journey in Coaching: Growing the Game Together

Just back from an enlightening coaching course in Milwaukee, where over 60 dedicated coaches gathered to share their knowledge and passion, I can’t help but reflect on the invaluable experiences and insights gained. As we delved into the art of coaching, I had the pleasure of engaging with the Badger Region Board of Directors and Junior Leaders, who are implementing innovative ideas to nurture the game of volleyball. And what a fantastic region it is, with a multitude of volunteer leaders driving the sport forward. Together with esteemed coaches Cecile Reynaud, Stu Sherman, and Tom Shoji, we pooled our collective coaching expertise, encompassing over a hundred years of wisdom, and explored the latest scientific advancements in the world of sports.

The venue, Waynze World, left an indelible impression. With its eight well-lit courts and ample space for each, it provided an ideal setting to foster growth and development. We shared many laughs and made lasting connections, but two key takeaways stood out amidst the camaraderie and passion that permeated the event.

Never Be a Child’s Last Coach

This belief has become one of my mantras, and I take immense pride in witnessing my players continue their volleyball journey long after their school days are over. Even more heartening is seeing them give back to the sport through coaching and officiating. Retention plays a pivotal role in enhancing this lifelong sport, and it is crucial for all coaches to reflect on the impact they have on their athletes. Recently, I heard a disheartening story about a talented player who, due to a negative coaching experience in college, decided to abandon the game entirely. This issue deserves more attention, and in the future, I will delve deeper into it. For now, I implore each one of you reading this to adopt a mindset where you never become an athlete’s LAST coach. Consider what that means for your own development as a coach and for the growth of the sport as a whole.

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Embrace Reality in Training

While guiding coaches towards a better understanding of the role of pepper drills, partner passing, and other traditional exercises in player development, I noticed a recurring surprise and resistance. The idea that utilizing the net throughout training is essential seemed to challenge the status quo. I often referred to Marv Dunphy’s mantra of “train in reality,” emphasizing the need to capitalize on every opportunity with the net and teammates. While it is true that kids will engage in pepper drills and partner passing in various informal settings, it is imperative for coaches to recognize the limited time they have on the court and maximize its potential. Neglecting the net for the first 10-30 minutes of practice undermines the cumulative effect and the reality of our training limitations. Furthermore, focusing on the development of positive mistakes, a concept often misunderstood, holds great significance. It is all too common to witness coaches spending excessive time correcting negative errors, but that is a conversation for another time.

On my flight back, I came across a quote by John Holt that resonated deeply: “We learn to do something by doing it. There is no other way.” This quote profoundly encapsulates the essence of our coaching journey. It reminds us that coaching is not a two-step process of “learning to play” and then “playing.” Rather, it is a seamless integration of both, where we continuously learn and grow alongside our athletes.

So as we embark on this new year, I extend my warmest wishes to all. Let us know how we can support you in your quest to grow the game. Together, we can make a lasting impact and elevate the sport of volleyball to new heights.

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