Archive for Volleyball Coaching Education

Thoughts from the 2014 Volleyball England coaching conference

As I mentioned in Tuesday’s post, on Sunday I attended the annual Volleyball England coaching conference. I went to the conference last year as well, with some of the takeaways from that event presented here. This year’s conference featured a combination of informational presentations, a discussion session, and a set of workshops. I’ll address each of those elements below. My comments will be critical in some respects, but nothing I haven’t already provided to the event organizers via a feedback form sent out earlier this week.

There were about 50 coaches in attendance, with a bias toward experience. I think a healthy majority of the group had at least 10 years coaching under their belts. I believe there were three of my fellow Level 3 coaching course attendees on-hand. No doubt being able to get in one of the three required CPD workshops we need for final certification was a factor in that.

The day started off with some informational presentations. They covered developments at Volleyball England (there’s been considerable office staff turnover in the last year), the investment zones, and individual membership registrations. To be honest, not a huge amount of value there. Some of the stuff was generally interesting, but I can’t help but think that a coaching conference wasn’t really the platform for the dissemination, especially when it wasn’t meant to be a discussion starter.

After that, we shifted to the workshops. Each attendee was signed up for one of three – Analyzing your coaching, How to deliver engaging sessions for young people, or Coaching the young developing performer. I was registered for that last one, but I’d done Coaching children and young people on Tuesday (more on that in a future post) and was told there was considerable overlap, so I shifted to the Analyzing one.

I suspect there was a fair bit of dissatisfaction with the workshops, which ran 3 hours in total. We were told at the start of the Analyzing your coaching session that it was actually meant for a less experienced audience than the one present, which certainly proved the case. My guess is the others probably were similarly biased, leading me to think that the value proposition of their inclusion didn’t end up being particularly high. Going beyond that, though, I think at a volleyball coaching conference it would have made more sense to have something volleyball-specific for that sizable block of time rather than general coaching workshops attendees could have taken elsewhere.

After the workshops, we had a bit of a discussion about coaching development. This was an interesting session in which the focus was on trying to generate ideas for ways Volleyball England could help facilitate coaching education and the like. There were a number of good suggestions made. Having more regional events was at or near the top of the list. Facilitating coaching observational opportunities in line with the sort of thing I did last year in the States and in April in Berlin was another one that came up. Not surprisingly, mentorship also came up.

The conference ended with a discussion of potential funding opportunities. At least I think it did. Things were running long and I had to leave before the official wrap-up to make my train.

Aside from my other issues with the conference, I was disappointed in the amount of time available for networking – specifically how limited it was. I was lucky to run into the members of the cadre in the hotel the night before and spend some time with them – several of whom I know – but during the actual conference there wasn’t a lot of time to chat with my fellow coaches. That is something I hope they address in the future. There were some conversations I would have liked to have had, but didn’t get the opportunity because of time constraints.

So basically my feedback to the conference organizers was:

  • More volleyball-specific coaching content
  • Much more networking opportunity
  • Less big picture informational sessions, though discussion sessions to elicit feedback are fine.

We’ll see where things go for next year and beyond.

Oh, and let me say that it was great to hear from a couple of folks at the conference that they know about this little blog – and they actually like it too! 🙂

Coaching assessment for certification done

At the end of May 2014 I had a call. It was for the assessment aspect of my Volleyball England Level 3 certification. Before the call, I had my assistant video me in action. This was during a training session for the Exeter university women’s team as they prepared for South West Championships. I also had to turn in a couple of individual player assessments and a 10-week training plan. You can have a look at what I wrote up here (PDF). The player assessments were for actual players, though with the names changed. I based the 10-week plan on the current team moving forward as if we had just gone through tryouts and were starting a new season.

The phone call came after the assessor reviewed the video and the written material. In part it was to judge things not seen in the recording, as well as to encourage a critical look at my coaching, both on a micro (single session) and a macro (coaching improvement needs) perspective. I was left to consider the question of what I want to/should do next in terms of personal development.

I think these sorts of conversations are always worthwhile. They are probably something most coaches don’t do enough of – especially in terms of having someone external to your team or program involved in the review. I rather enjoyed the process. It had me thinking of ways I could make it more of a regular feature of my coaching.

I had some paperwork to sign-off at the Volleyball England coaching conference which followed shortly thereafter to wrap up the coaching assessment part of my Level 3 certification. That just left the three Continuous Professional Development (CPD) workshops I needed to attend. These CPD elements were not volleyball-specific, but rather broader coaching themes (analyzing your coaching, coaching children & young people, etc.). Each ran about three hours.

AVCA Convention Day 4

My last day at the 2013 American Volleyball Coaches Association convention (see Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3) was all seminars. I went to four of them.

The first session was the only on-court one I attended. It featured USA national team setter Courtney Thompson. She gave a player’s point of view on setter training and development. She shared a couple interesting nuggets about coach feedback and setter-hitter communication.

Next up was a seminar on the Competitive Cauldron concept. That became quite popular in recent years. Basically, it’s a statistics driven approach to evaluate and rank players. The view was basically that while it has value, there are significant limitations. Do not use it in isolation.

Third was a session by coaching legend Mike Hebert. His book Thinking Volleyball was just released. I picked up a copy. I read his prior books Insights and Strategies for Winning Volleyball and The Fire Still Burns. Here is my review. The talk came basically right out of the book. It was quite good.

The final seminar was a panel discussion. It was titled “When Winning is Your Job – Designing Systems and Training What’s Important”. It lacked much about system design. There was, though, quite a bit on priority-setting and other aspects of managing a team and program.

The NCAA Division I championship match capped the day. I had a ticket to attend. I opted to watch it on television, though. Not once did I get more than 4-5 hours combined sleep a day the whole trip. I was out of gas!

Final thoughts? The content was good. I just wish there was more of a social element. But that was a personal thing, and not the event itself.

AVCA Convention 2013 – Day 3

The penultimate day of the American Volleyball Coaches Association convention (see Day 1 and Day 2) saw me attend three seminars. I continued work on the uniform vendor angle. Also, I ran into one of the coaches I met during my summer collegiate volleyball tour. The lack of a good night sleep due to jet lag caught up with me during the afternoon, but I managed to power through.

The first seminar was a big panel discussion. The subject was “Why We Win”. It featured a number of successful coaches – including current US women’s national team coach Karch Kiraly. There were some interesting points brought up in the conversation. Whether things went quite according to the theme is perhaps a bit debatable, though. One of the real thinking points was how we don’t often analyze our coaching when we’re winning. We only do so when we lose.

The second seminar was meant to be a games strategies and analysis session. That speaker was ill, however, so there was a reshuffle. It ended up an “If I knew then what I know now panel”. It featured John Dunning of Standord, Russ Rose of Penn State, and Terry Liskevych of Oregon State. Fun session with a lot of humor. One of the more interesting bits was the idea that even top teams can struggle to be fearless. That was something I was trying to develop in my uni women.

The third seminar I attended was on non-verbal communication and the influence it can have on your player interactions. If this is something you haven’t looked into before, you should do. I make it a habit of trying to always be aware of my tone and body language around the team.

The final seminar was one on motivating your players, though the main focus was on doing a personal DISC assessment. That was then used to talk about coaching style and further to look at how it ties in with the DISC assessments of players and the team. Good stuff that I planned to explore later for sure.

I wrapped the day up by having dinner with a former player from my Brown coaching days. She spent time playing professionally in Europe and even did a year in England.

Saturday was the big finale. I had 5 seminars marked down for attending. There was also the national championship match, though I thought I’d probably just watch that one on TV rather than attend.

Off to the Convention!

I’m heading back across the Atlantic – and then some! – today. I’m off to Seattle for the 2013 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) convention. It runs from Wednesday through Saturday, in conjunction with the NCAA Division I Final 4. That means along with the convention activities I’ll also be able to watch the national semifinals and finals – and even the open team training sessions if I like.

As for the convention itself, it’s looking like a few busy days! I’ve been invited to attend a education & publications committee meeting on Wednesday. There are some social events on the program, particularly the first night, and no doubt there will be several informal social gatherings as well. I hoping I’ll have a chance to meet up with one of my former players who lives in Seattle at some point along the way to catch up with her. And of course there’s loads of educational sessions to choose from throughout.

I’ll endeavor to post daily about my convention experiences, though I can’t make any promises. Who knows what the 8-hour time change is going to do to me! 🙂

Coaching course final thoughts

If you saw my posts from going through the Volleyball England Level 3 coaching course you know it covered quite a bit of different material. After the exam we took some time to talk about the course. The way the certifications are designed, things are meant to work this way:

Level 1: For coaches running drills and such in a supervised fashion. Think assistant coach.

Level 2: For coaches running training sessions unsupervised. This is meant to be the minimum requirement for coaching in the National Volleyball League (NVL) at the upper levels. It is not well-enforced, though.

Level 3: For coaches running teams over a full season. It has been suggested that this be the minimum requirement for Supers 8s coaches. Is I understand it, however, that’s not been moved on yet.

I’ve said many times that these sorts of structures are often not reflective of coaching reality at the local level. It’s been my experience that a lot of coaches end up leading teams (not sessions) because they are available and know a bit about the sport. Certification programs generally don’t reflect this reality that well. This is fine if the governing body is working toward developing a collection of quality coaches to work in the higher levels of the game. Alas, most coaches aren’t in that mix.

Anyway, it was an interesting mix of coaches in the course. Only half of them were native English. Just a few actively worked with youth players specifically, despite the focus of the program. Not a big deal there, though, as most of what we talked about in the course was generally applicable.

Personally, I was looking for something a bit more advanced than what we got, but overall I’m not disappointed in the experience. There was plenty in there to stimulate thoughts and ideas, and being able to be around the youth national teams in training and preparing for the NEVZA U17 tournament was a definite plus.

And of course it’s always great to talk shop with other coaches.

For some time I’ve been going back and forth over whether I should attend the AVCA annual convention in Seattle next month. It’s a major investment, especially with the travel from England. I think, now, though, that I will regret it if I don’t go.

Volleyball England Level 3 Coaching Course: Day 5

The final day of the Volleyball England Level 3 coaching course featured a morning that looked at transition and then the final micro coaching session. Four of us had to combine to develop and run a coaching session. It covered block & defense, plus serving. My bit was a combined drill that pulled elements of blocking and defensive positioning together. Probably would have been more interesting if I’d had a proper team rather than a bunch of coaches as participants. It went pretty well anyway, though.

After that it was exam time. Two hour test which covered the majority of what we talked about in the classroom sessions. That finished things off, with only a wrap up discussion at the end. From here I have to log my team trainings and then have an assessor come to a training session down the line to complete the whole set of requirements for full certification.

The day wrapped up with watching the first round of matches in the NEVZA U17 championships. The Norwegian girls had a really excellent setter.

See my reports on Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4.

Volleyball England Level 3 Coaching Course: Day 4

Just one day left in the Volleyball England Level 3 coaching course.

On this fourth day we covered blocking and defensive systems. There was a bit of setter training mixed in for good measure. Carrying on with the youth theme, the morning was spent looking at how strength and muscle mass develops relative to an individual’s peak height velocity (think growth spurt). That eventually led into looking at physical training methods and ways to evaluate some aspects of player condition (useful for non-youth players too).

Thursday is exam day. I know some of my classmates are sweating it. 🙂

See Day 5 here.

Volleyball England Level 3 Coaching Course: Day 3

I’ve survived three days of the Volleyball England Level 3 coaching course – and mostly with my self-esteem intact. Today we actually got out on the court a bit to run through a planned training session. It’s been a long time since I actually played, but I was surprisingly not horrible passing serve. Even got some praise on my platform from one of the other coaches – though with the additional suggestion I need to work on my footspeed. 🙂

The day started by returning to the subject of youth development. This time the focus was on the psychological side. It was a good discussion, especially in regards to ego-driven versus developmentally-driven personalities.

From there we moved on to looking at setting and offensive systems. At two different points along the way we spent time watching the England U16 and U18 girls, and U17 boys in action during training.

Two more days to go.

See Day 4 here.