Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Standing in Line: A New Approach to Coaching


Coaching youth sports is a delicate balance between teaching proper technique and fostering a love for the game. However, it seems that some coaches are missing the mark. In this article, we will explore a new approach to coaching that emphasizes learning through action rather than watching from the sidelines.

The Importance of Active Learning

When we say “let the game be the first coach” and “the game teaches the game,” we are emphasizing the importance of active learning. While drills can be useful, they must be game-like and promote guided discovery. Technique should be taught in a way that allows players to shape it to their own strengths and style. The goal is not to create uniform players but to celebrate individuality.

Breaking Tradition

Unfortunately, the tradition of standing in line persists in many coaching practices. For example, passing drills are often conducted in a circle, with players waiting in line for a coach-delivered ball. This not only limits active participation but also fails to replicate the dynamics of an actual game.

A New Approach

So, how can we change this? At a recent clinic in Dubai, we worked with coaches to break free from the standing-in-line mentality. Instead of static drills, we introduced fun relays and games that engage players and keep them actively involved. By organizing players into smaller training groups, we maximize the opportunities for learning through action.

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Increasing Contact and Engagement

Consider implementing the following strategies to enhance player involvement:

  1. Start with butterfly drills, where players have more control over their actions. Gradually increase the number of groups and decrease the group size, leading to more contacts per hour.
  2. Utilize walls for cooperative play. Players can pair up and engage in 2 vs 0 games against the wall, increasing their contact time.
  3. Experiment with different variations, such as alternating contacts or playing 2 vs 0 instead of 3 vs 0. These small adjustments can significantly increase contact time and skill development.

The Game in Action

To better understand how this approach works, let’s consider an example using hitting drills. With just two players, you can practice 3-meter line attacks and sets at varying heights. By gradually increasing the difficulty level, players can develop their timing and reading skills. The goal is to create a positive and supportive environment where players feel comfortable taking risks and making mistakes.

Success Stories

This new coaching approach has yielded impressive results. Youth teams that have embraced active learning techniques have seen significant improvements in their play. By focusing on off-the-net hitting and creating multiple lines for drills, we can minimize downtime and maximize engagement.


Q: How can I implement these strategies with limited training time?
A: Start small and gradually build up. Begin with a player-controlled butterfly drill and progressively introduce more groups. Remember, even small changes can make a big difference.

Q: Can this approach be applied to other sports?
A: Absolutely! While this article focuses on volleyball, the principles of active learning and engagement can be applied to any sport.

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Coaching is a journey of constant improvement. By reevaluating our methods and embracing a more active approach, we can create a positive and engaging environment for young athletes. Let’s break free from the tradition of standing in line and empower our players to become the best versions of themselves.

As always, thank you for your support in growing the game together.