Archive for Volleyball Coaching Resources

Report from AOC Forth Worth

I spent most of last weekend in Fort Worth, TX in the gym at TCU. I was there to attend the Art of Coaching Volleyball clinic. As you can see from the photo of my name tag, I had VIP status. ๐Ÿ™‚

This was my first time at an Art event. They got started during my hiatus from coaching. And of course up to a few months ago I was out of the country.

It was a working trip for me. I was there to interview the big three guys from Art – John Dunning, Russ Rose, and Terry Liskevych. It was a kind of cross-over thing between Art and Volleyball Coaching Wizards. As a result I didn’t get to see everything that went on during the sessions, though I got a pretty good overall feel.

I was asked a couple of times along the way for my impression. My initial reaction was probably not something you’d expect, though. It was, “Entertaining”. The guys have a good interaction with each other and generally have fun during their discussions and demonstrations. There was much smiling and laughter, both on the court and in the stands among the over 400 attendees (their biggest event so far).

The other thing that comes to mind is “fire hose”. I saw that because there are part of the clinic where the clinicians – in this case which also featured Jill Kramer (TCU), Christy Johnson-Lynch (Iowa State), and Tod Maddux (The Bishop’s School) – went rapid fire through drills and games that could be used for specific training desires (setting, hitting, competitive, etc.). It struck me as being a lot of ideas in a short period of time. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most clinics for newer coaches end up being like a fire hose of information.

Of course there were other sessions which had a single clinician focusing on a specific topic. The morning of the first day and the whole second day were all on-court. The afternoon of the first day a mixture of court and classroom. The court sessions featured Wizard Ruth Nelson doing BYOP sessions and Deborah Newkirk doing sessions included ways to get kids handling the ball on their own and on generating energy and communication. Because of the interviewing stuff I couldn’t attend the classroom sessions and could only pop my head in on the Saturday afternoon on-court sessions.

Attending coaching education events is always an interesting experience for me. I’m well past the point of learning a bunch of new stuff or picking up several new drills or games. Still, there are usually some little things along the way that get me thinking about stuff. This event was no different.

Overall, I think the attendees got a lot out of the clinic. As I understand it, the bulk of the group was in the high school and/or juniors category. The content was definitely well suited for that group and I would recommend it strongly for early-career coaches.

Book Review: Gender and Competition by Kathy DeBoer

I’ve had Gender and Competitionย  by Kathy DeBoer on my list of coaching books to read for a while now. As a male volleyball coach who has mainly worked with female athletes (though having coached a few male teams along the way), I have long been interested in the differences in how you need to approach coaching the two genders. Kathy’s book has come up many times in the discussions I’ve had with other coaches on the subject. That includes multiple Volleyball Coaching Wizards interviews I’ve conducted.

Bottom line? Read this book!

You’ll find it a pretty quick read. It comprises just four chapters that add up to a little over 150 pages. Kathy’s writing style strongly favors story telling. The book is full of anecdotes from her coaching and athletics administration career. Basically, it’s teaching by way of example.

There’s one key phrase that I’ve heard attributed to Kathy on the basis of this book. It goes something along the lines of, “Men battle to bond and women bond to battle.” While I don’t recall seeing that exact phrase in the book, certainly it is what is expressed when looking at the differences in how the genders approach competition. It’s something that comes out very early in the text.

The first three chapters look to describe the difference in communication style and general approach to life, competition, and cooperation between men and women. It also looks at the challenges they pose. This isn’t true just for cross-gender interactions, but even for same gender ones, as Kathy demonstrates in some examples of her interactions with her own female athletes. The forth chapter focuses on advice for how to deal with the differences from both perspectives.

I can tell you that a lot of what Kathy talks about in terms of how men and women approach competition and the differences in how the two genders view leadership ring very true to me. I’ve seen them in my own coaching and have heard similar views from fellow coaches.

I can’t recommend Gender and Competition more strongly. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a male or female coach. It doesn’t matter whether you coach male or female players. You will gain insights that will help you do a better job working with your athletes – as well as colleagues, supervisors, and everyone else in your life.

 

The value of personality testing with your team

As I mentioned in my recent coaching log post, last week the team did a session with a sports psychology specialist who took them through a basic DISC personality type analysis (Myers-Briggs is another popular one). This is part of a semester-long process of working with the team to improve chemistry and cohesion in the squad.

As is often the case, the findings of the tests were interesting. The gentleman who lead the session did a good job of not just providing information about what the different basic personality types represent, but also what they mean in terms of developing effective lines of communication across groups.

Obviously, this sort of testing isn’t meant to provide a detailed analysis of each player (and coach, in this case). And simply thinking in terms of individuals by their primary group would be a mistake. There’s a lot of overlap and nuance. Still, to my mind it’s a worthwhile exercise to streamline the process of figuring out the best ways to reach a given player and for players to communicate with each other.

Once isn’t enough
That said, just doing the test once and thinking that’s all you need to do is not really sufficient if you really want to follow this path.

Obviously, if you’re a club coach or otherwise in a situation where you’re basically starting a new team each season, then you’d have to do a new analysis every time. If you’re coaching a school or professional team then you need to account for the fact that you have players (and coaches) regularly flowing in and out of the team. That means new testing requirements and constantly changing team composition.

On top of that, just doing the testing and having the conversation one time is almost assuredly not enough for the lessons to stick. They need to be reinforced on a regular basis over time, in some fashion or another. That might be something the coaching staff can handle, or it might require having an outside expert making regular appearances.

Cost – Benefit
And of course there is usually some kind of cost involved.

At a minimum, there is a time requirement. This is something which needs to be considered, especially where something like NCAA weekly hour limitations are involved.

If you bring in someone from outside, there’s probably a financial cost involved. That means making a decision on the prospective gains to be had from the personality testing, or any other type of psychology work. Is it worth the investment? For some the answer will be, “Yes.” For others, either because of other priorities or because of limit funds, it’s a different story.

I think it is very worth us coaches understanding these sports psychology principles. We may not use them explicitly at any given point in time, but it’s always good to know what tools are available to us to accomplish what needs doing when the priorities line up and the resources are available.

Incorporating delayed video into training

One of the things I was able to incorporate into my training sessions at Svedala is a video delay system. It’s something I talked about using in my Coaching Log entries. I thought it would be worth sharing the specifics of what I was using – there and at MSU.

It starts with my iPad mini and the BaM Video Delay app. The app takes in video from either the forward or rear facing camera and allows you to watch a delayed video stream from it. You can set the delay to whatever you like. I’ll admit, I’m still learning the ins and outs of BaM, but it’s pretty easy to use and suits the purpose.

The most basic way to use video delay in this fashion is to put the tablet on a tripod. You can then have the players go to it after a rep to watch the replay. The more advanced approach is to send the video feed to a bigger screen that would be easy to see. That is what I’ve done.

In our main gym at Svedala there was a projection screen on one wall that we could send the video to so everyone can look at it without having to come off the court. To get the video there, we had to send it to the video projector via a VGA cable input located near the stands. It’s conceptually similar to running the video to a TV or monitor. You have to get the feed to a device which plus into the output system, or sends it there wirelessly if that is an option.

The solution I put together was to stream the video from the iPad to an Apple TV device. It accepts a mirroring feed from the tablet via either wifi or bluetooth. The Apple TV has an HDMI output, which can then be plugged in to most modern TVs and monitors. As I noted, though, the gym projector only takes a VGA feed, so I needed aย HDMI to VGA adapter to convert the signal to get it to the projector. Having the video feed transmitted to the projection system allowed me to put the camera anywhere I like, and to move it around as needed.

Of course there is always the question of where to put the camera – both for angles and equipment safety. A standard tripod is one option. I have found, however, that one of the flexible tripod provides more options in terms of placement. Using a tripod requires a mount for the iPod.

At MSU we did not have a drop-down screen. Instead, we got a 100″ projection screen, like this one. We combined it with a projector on a mobile stand with an extension cord. That let us put the screen just about anywhere in the gym we wanted.

Here’s the tricky bit.

In the gyms at both Svedala and MSU we ran up against issues using the Wifi. The networks were not open to mobile device to mobile device (e.g. iPad to Apple TV). Blue Tooth connectivity between devices was the option we went with at Svedala. At MSU, though, we opted for linking everything up to our own wireless router. It made for a much better signal and range than Blue Tooth.

This is not the perfect system by any stretch. For one thing, I’d love a somewhat better camera with more options in terms of zoom. We make do with the resources available, though.

Video delay is only useful if the players actually look at it, though. That’s something you’ll need to train them to do. Once they get into the habit, though, it provides excellent immediate feedback – and sometimes lots of laughs. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

What’s the greatest coaching book ever?

What’s the greatest coaching book ever?

Mark Lebedew flat out says it’s Phil Jackson’s Sacred Hoops. I won’t disagree that it’s a good book. I personally would not call it the best ever. Sorry Mark.

There’s no debating Jackson’s success. I’m going to ask the following question, though. How many rings would Phil have without having had the best players of their respective periods on his teams? This speaks to the degree of impact a coach really has in determining a team’s success, which Mark separately talked about.

Putting the question of Jackson’s coaching greatness aside, though, what generally ends up being the prime factor in someone’s choice of “best” tends to be its impact on that person individually. For me, Sacred Hoops didn’t have much impact. Were there some interesting bits? Sure. I’m relatively well-read in at least part of Jackson’s underlying (Zen Master) philosophy, so from that perspective there wasn’t very much new or novel. For others, though, there could be.

In terms of books with the biggest influence on me as a coach I would have to say They Call Me Coach by John Wooden – withย Training Soccer Champions by Anson Dorrance another one I can remember having an impact on me. I’m certainly not the only coach to have Wooden as an influence. His name always comes up when talking about on the subject.

What I realize, though, is that I read that book at a very pivotal point in my early coaching development. As such, it had considerable influence on me. There are definite parts of my coaching philosophy which match Coach Wooden’s, though at this point I don’t know what came from reading his book and what I either already had or developed myself along the way.

My point is that if I read that book now it would probably be far less influential. That’s just the nature of things. As you absorb more knowledge, any new material only provides incremental gains. As such, it’s hard to feel like you’ve read the greatest ever once you’ve been around the block a few times.

So what about you? What’s the best coaching book you’ve ever read?

New Volleyball Coaching Podcast Up and Running!

I’ve mentioned before (here and here) my intention to eventually get a volleyball coaching podcast going. It’s finally a reality!

The Volleyball Coaching Wizards Podcast went live on Monday. The first episode, which is dubbed Episode 0, is simply an introduction from myself and my co-host, Mark Lebedew from At Home on the Court. We share our own coaching histories, what motivated each of us to develop the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project, and some thoughts on interesting things that have come out of the interviews done so far.

Starting next week, the podcast win running on a weekly basis with regular episodes. They will each run about 30 minutes. The subject matter will mainly come from the Wizards interviews, though we’ll also mix in some interesting coaching and volleyball stuff we come across or hear about more broadly as well.

I know we’re not the first or only volleyball podcast out there. The Net Live is one both Mark and I listen to regularly. That one is very US-focused and covers a lot of ground between beach and indoor, college and international play. There’s a Canadian volleyball podcast with a similar concept at the Volleyball Source. There are even a couple of volleyball coaching podcasts that have started up in the last year or so. Technical Timeout is run by a former Canadian national team player. USA Volleyball technical guy Joe Trinsey also has one.

What’s life without a little competition, though! ๐Ÿ™‚

Sample volleyball team playing guide

After taking up coaching duties for the Exeter University Volleyball Club in 2012, I realized the need to put together a sort of playing guide. I was dealing with a lot of relatively inexperienced players. I was also working with players from an array of different countries (something like 25 all together). The guide was something to give everyone the basic structure in which we’d be playing. With only a couple of training sessions each week, and not much time between the conclusion of tryouts and the start of competition to get things done, it was a way to speed up the process of developing team play.

The guide goes over a few primary areas of focus:

  • Rotation-by-rotation set up for a 5-1 system.
  • Rotation-by-rotation primary serve reception formation (with notes and observations)
  • Rotation-by-rotation secondary serve reception formation (with notes and additional ideas)
  • Additional points of emphasis for serve reception.
  • Diagrams for base defense and notes
  • Diagrams for perimeter (middle back) defense against for attacks through zones 4, 3, and 2
  • Notes and thoughts on defense implementation
  • Free ball and down ball defense

Overall the guide is 9 pages long. Depending on the your team and players, you might find it useful in helping introducing the 5-1 offense and/or the basic ideas of the perimeter defensive system. I think it’s a pretty comprehensive look at things, but because it was written for a specific situation there may be things which are more or less applicable for you and your own team/program.

If you want a copy, fill out the form below.

New podcast finally in development

A while back I talked about having an idea to develop a volleyball coaching podcast. Well, that idea is turning into a reality, though not quite in the way I’d kind of originally envisioned.

Mark Lebedew and I just finished recording three episodes of the Volleyball Coaching Wizards podcast. They need to go through some editing and production work. They’ll be ready for consumption shortly, and I’ll get them up on iTunes for download.

The basic approach for this podcast is to take interesting elements of the interviews we’re doing and have a discussion about them. It should make for some interesting content. Each episode will be roughly 30 minutes long – a good length for a commute or a workout.

Look for more information shortly.

Volleyball Coaching Wizards now open!

Volleyball Coaching Wizards banner

I’ve mentioned Volleyball Coaching Wizards a number of times over the last couple months. If you missed it, basically it’s a project to interview the world’s great volleyball coaches – at all levels. I teamed up with Mark Lebedew of At Home on the Court (he coaches a pro team in Poland). We have a list of over 300 coaches taken from Hall of Fame lists and/or recommended to us. The work is still in the very early stages. A bunch of interviews with some really high profile and very successful coaches are already done. Numerous others are committed for the future.

We opened up access to the Wizards recordings publicly, which mean full access to each interview. They generally run 1.5 to 2 hours, and in them we talk about things like:

  • Coaching philosophy and how it’s changed
  • Team building
  • Training and season planning
  • Line-up decision and playing time
  • Managing expectations
  • Career development
  • and much more.

While Mark and I look to touch on basically the same basic coaching topics, each interview is different. They reflect the variety of coaching levels and circumstances, backgrounds and development paths, and personal philosophies and styles of each of these Wizards. The process of doing the recordings has been great, and what we’re hearing is really interesting – especially the common elements across coaches from very different experiences and backgrounds.

What’s really been awesome to hear from these coaches we’re speaking with is how great they think the project is and how it will contribute to volleyball coaching knowledge. They are as excited to listen to their peers as the rest of us!

Click here to learn more, see who we’ve already interviewed, and find out how to get access.