Sunday, 14 Jul 2024

Stay Quiet and Let Them Play

Sometimes as coaches, we need to take a step back and see if our teachings have made an impact on our players, especially the younger ones. By allowing them some independence and staying quiet, we give them the opportunity to showcase their skills and prove their worth. This story by a coach about their first three days of summer open gym serves as a valuable lesson for all of us.

Day One

On the first day of open gym, only four kids showed up. Initially, it was just two players for 30 minutes, as the other two were attending a National Honor Society induction ceremony. Instead of immediately jumping in and playing with them, the coach decided to observe their interactions from a distance. Setting up the nets and providing the balls, the coach went off to do some exercises.

The session started with the players jogging a few laps around the gym, which was not a usual practice for their team. They then proceeded with some pepper drills without the net while waiting for more players to arrive. Soon, two more girls joined, and they began warming up and serving. After a while, they decided to play two-on-two, and surprisingly, the game wasn’t too bad. They even started incorporating jump serves into their gameplay. One of the girls, a freshman, struggled with ball control initially, but with the support and encouragement of the others, she showed significant improvement by the end of the day. Overall, it was a promising start, and all of them expressed their commitment to return and invite more kids next time.

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Day Two

The second day of open gym saw a significant increase in attendance, with 16 kids showing up, including five boys who were mostly baseball players. With so many players eager to participate, the coach set up a second net. Just like the previous day, the coach chose to stay in the background, silently observing and working out on a rower.

Day Three

The third day brought even more progress and excitement. The session began with a short warm-up, followed by the players engaging in a three-on-three Queen of the Court game. During this game, the team leaders emerged and started teaching the boys various techniques like serving and passing. Witnessing players becoming coaches themselves and sharing the knowledge passed down to them was truly inspiring.

Later on, they decided to switch to a six-on-six game, which turned out to be a bit disorganized. But despite the lack of clear leadership, everyone had a good time. The leaders then came up with an ingenious idea to make better use of the second court. They organized a three-on-three mini round-robin tournament, where everyone had the opportunity to play and switch courts. Laughter and excitement filled the gym as they hustled and played their hearts out.

Throughout the session, one player, the coach’s best player and senior setter, took the initiative to teach a ninth-grade girl how to consistently serve overhand. Witnessing the senior’s selfless act and the progress made by the ninth-grader moved the coach deeply. It was a testament to the dedication, leadership, and joy that can be found in playing the sport.

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By the end of these three days, the coach realized the importance of staying quiet and giving players the opportunity to learn and enjoy the game. The open gym served as an “Exploratorium” for the players, allowing them to take control of their learning and develop a love for the sport and their teammates. The coach eagerly looks forward to the upcoming open gyms, ready to provide guidance when needed but also ready to step back and let the players shine.


Q: How can staying quiet as a coach benefit the players?
A: By staying quiet and allowing players some independence, coaches can observe their progress and witness the players’ skills and worth firsthand. It also fosters a sense of responsibility and helps players develop their own problem-solving skills.

Q: Why is it important to let players take control of their learning?
A: Allowing players to be in control of their learning gives them the freedom to explore the sport, discover their strengths and weaknesses, and develop a love for the game. It creates a sense of ownership and empowers them to take charge of their own improvement.

Q: How can open gym sessions contribute to players’ growth?
A: Open gym sessions provide a platform for players to practice and play without the pressure of formal competitions. It allows them to experiment with new techniques, build camaraderie with their teammates, and experience the joy of playing the sport they love.


In this article, we explored the importance of coaches stepping back and allowing players to take ownership of their learning and growth. By staying quiet and giving players some independence, coaches can witness firsthand the progress and skills of their players. The story of a coach’s experience during three days of summer open gym showcases the power of observing, supporting, and fostering a love for the game. By creating an environment where players can explore and learn on their own terms, coaches can help them develop not only as athletes but also as individuals. So, to all the coaches out there, remember to stay quiet and let them play!

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