Saturday, 20 Jul 2024

Six Things I Learned as a New Coach

Being a first-year coach can be an exhilarating experience filled with a mix of emotions. From the excitement of leading a team to the nervousness and eagerness to make a positive impact, new coaches have a lot on their plate. As Kaitlyn Taggart and Clarence Hughes, marketing coordinators at USA Volleyball, reflect on their first season coaching volleyball, they share valuable lessons that can benefit future first-time coaches.

Rotation Locators: A Coach’s Best Friend

One of the challenges that new coaches face is keeping track of their team’s lineup during a match. Rotation locators provide a simple solution to this problem. By writing the lineup on a locator and spinning the wheel each time a different player serves, coaches can easily keep track of where each player should be on the court and when substitutions need to be made. This invaluable tool is especially helpful when coaching first-year players who are still getting the hang of rotations.

Coachability: An Underrated Quality

Coaching a player who is receptive to instructions and willing to put in the work is a game-changer. While it may be easier to coach someone with zero knowledge of the game, having a player who embraces coaching and seeks self-improvement is a true asset. These are the players who will go above and beyond, fighting until the last point of every game.

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Practice Plans: A Lifesaver in Planning

For first-year coaches, planning practice sessions can feel overwhelming. Creating a practice plan and incorporating specific skills that the athletes need to work on is the first step towards success. Whether it’s serving, defense against the block, or even practicing rotations and scrimmaging, coaches should prioritize these crucial elements in their plans. As the season progresses, coaches can adjust the practice plans based on the team’s performance in matches.

Always Have a Backup Plan

Flexibility is key for coaches. Sometimes, practice plans may not go as expected due to various reasons. That’s when having backup plans becomes crucial. Coaches should prepare alternative drills and techniques for players at different skill levels. By doing so, coaches can ensure that they always have a plan B or C to keep the practice session productive and engaging.

Patience: A Virtue for Coaches

As a first-year coach, it’s important to remember that not all athletes learn at the same pace. Some techniques and concepts may come naturally to certain players, while others may need more time and guidance. Patience is a virtue that coaches must cultivate. Being prepared to repeat instructions, find different ways to explain skills, and give athletes time to grasp concepts can make a significant difference in their development.

Handling Emergencies with Confidence

As an assistant coach, there may be instances when unexpected emergencies or situations require you to take full responsibility for the team. It’s essential to be prepared for such circumstances. Over-communication with the head coach is key. Having copies of lineups, rosters, and any other essential information will ensure that you can step up when the need arises. Even if you’re not the head coach, knowing the starting lineups, rotations, and substitution patterns of the team you assist is crucial.

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These are just a few valuable lessons that new coaches can learn from. However, the most important aspect of coaching is ensuring that the athletes have fun and enjoy their season. Remember, coaching should be a rewarding experience for both the coach and the players alike!


Q: What are rotation locators?
Rotation locators are tools that help coaches keep track of the lineup during a match. Coaches can write the lineup on the locator and spin the wheel each time a different player serves. This makes it easy to locate where players should be on the court and when substitutions need to be made.

Q: How important is coachability in a player?
Coachability is an underrated trait that should be admired in players. It is much easier to coach a player who is willing to listen and put in the work, even if they have limited knowledge of the game. Athletes who are open to improving themselves and working with their teammates and coaches are the ones who will give their all until the last point of every game.

Q: What should new coaches prioritize in their practice plans?
When planning practice sessions, new coaches should prioritize the skills that their athletes need to work on the most. Whether it’s serving, defense, or rotations, focusing on these key areas will help the team improve over time.

Q: How should coaches handle emergencies during a game?
Coaches should always be prepared for unexpected emergencies during a game. Over-communicating with the head coach and having copies of important information, such as lineups and rosters, will help ensure a smooth transition in case the assistant coach needs to take on the role of the head coach temporarily.

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Q: What is the most important thing for coaches to remember?
The most important aspect of coaching is to ensure that the athletes are having fun and enjoying themselves throughout the season. This applies to coaches as well. Creating a positive and enjoyable environment will not only make the coaching experience more rewarding but also help the athletes thrive on the court.


Being a first-year coach brings a mix of emotions and challenges. From learning how to keep track of lineups to understanding the importance of coachability, there are many valuable lessons to be learned. Practice plans and flexibility are crucial in ensuring productive training sessions, while patience is essential when working with athletes of different skill levels. Handling emergencies with confidence and over-communicating with the head coach are vital aspects of being a reliable assistant coach. Ultimately, the most important goal for any coach is to ensure that the athletes have fun and enjoy their season. Coaching should be a rewarding experience for everyone involved. So, step onto the court, embrace the lessons, and make a positive impact on the lives of your athletes.