Developing young coaches in a club

While coaching in Sweden, board members of my employer club brought me into a conversation. Svedala has it roots in youth volleyball. In many ways it was still primarily a youth-oriented organization. It was facing one of the issues I think every youth/juniors club has. That’s attracting and retaining coaches to run training and manage the teams in competition.

The question posed to me was how to develop more coaches internally. In particular, how do you encourage older and/or more experienced players to be more active as coaches. The three Americans in the Elitserie team I coached all coached the younger players. It was part of their contract. Periodically, other members of the team also helped out at training as well.

The foreign players, though, turnover frequently at clubs like Svedala. They needed a more stable core group of coaches in the club. The board members asked me for ideas on how to facilitate creating such a cadre.

How do we create coaching cadre?

My main suggestion was to make it a regular feature that members of the older teams at least help coach younger players. For example, Elitserie player could help with the second team, the second team could help with the next oldest age group, and so on down the chain.

To my mind, there are multiple benefits to this kind of arrangement. Obviously, increasing the number of coaches is one of them.

The other benefit is providing the younger players with role models in their development. We want younger players to develop a connection with the older ones. It encourages them to be more involved as spectators at the older team matches. It also encourages them to try to be like their “heros”.

A further plus to having older players coach younger ones is that it makes them better players. The process of teaching is a great way to learn. I know I found that myself in my own coaching (when I was still young and fit enough to be an active player), and I’ve heard others say the same thing on numerous occasions.

On top of all this, creating a structure where players coach players can help to develop a stronger collective sense of club and community.

How do we implement that?

The follow-up question is how then to implement something along those lines. I like the idea of having a master coach who is in charge of directing training overall. The other coaches, who presumably are only in their early stages of coaching development, would then operate under that person’s supervision in running training sessions – and potentially in coaching teams during competition.

I think either way there needs to be some kind of coach development process in place. You can’t just throw a 15 year old in to coach a bunch of 12s and expect them to immediately know what to do. Guidance and support is required.

Above and beyond all of this, there needs to be a concerted effort toward coaching talent identification. I personally am always on the lookout for players who seem to have the right mixture of temperament and talent to eventually move into the coaching ranks. We need to foster these individuals in their development.

John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women's team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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