Fancy New Drill Syndrome – A Coaching Affliction

I don’t think there is officially something called fancy new drill syndrome (FNDS), but there should be. And it’s not something volleyball coaches alone can develop.

Basically, FNDS is a condition whereby a coach sees a new drill and immediately wants to use it. How strong that inclination is depends on where the drill was found and the “cool” factor associated with it. Drills from books tend to have low cool factors. Videos are a bit higher on the scale. Clinics sit at the top. This is especially so if they are high profile, like those at volleyball coaching conventions.

Layered in there is the profile of the person presenting the drill. If the presenter is someone few folks know and/or is from a non-elite team, then the cool factor is low. If, however, the drill is being shown off by Suzie Supercoach from We Just Won the National Championship University or Awesomecoach Arthur from the We Just Won the Gold Medal National Team then we’re talking major cool factor.

So basically, the more investment we’ve made in coming across the drill (time, money, travel distance, etc.) and the higher the profile of the coach telling us about it, the greater the chances we’ll be trying that drill the very first opportunity we get. This, of course, is hardly the way it should be. It’s human nature, though.

We’ve all been there. Newer coaches still in what I’ve heard referred to as the “drill collecting stage” of their development are particularly susceptible.

FNDS can result in two potentially problematic issues.

Ignored training priorities
When a coach is super eager to use a shiny new drill they oftentimes fail to consider the priorities they should have in place for a given practice. Taking a bit of time to try a new drill may not seem like such a big deal one practice. If you have limited time and training opportunities, though, it can potentially have a meaningful negative impact. This, of course, can be avoided. Simply make sure to only work in the new drill when it’s appropriate to do so. Don’t just plug it in at the first opportunity.

Practices brought to a grinding halt

Invariably, incorporating a new drill into your training will take some time to accomplish. The players will need it explained to them. They probably need to go through it a few times before they fully get a handle on things. This is especially so if it’s conceptually and/or mechanically complex. This learning process is very likely to drag the tempo of training down. If the drill does not work, you’re left with a bunch of time and intensity lost. This is always the risk when trying to incorporate something new. You can minimize the impact by making sure to really think about whether a given drill is appropriate to your players, though. Also, placing its introduction into your practice plan at a point where it’s likely to be least disruptive if things don’t work out as hoped is best.

Unfortunately, FNDS is probably not totally preventable. Even experienced coaches sometimes get caught up in the euphoria. This especially true when they feel the need to shake things up a bit in their practices. Diagnosed early, however, FNDS can be successfully treated by the simple application of common sense.

There can, however, be the occasional case of FNDS run wild.

Don’t be this guy!

The absolute worst case scenario is when a coach cobbles together a bunch of “cool” drills into a practice plan with no clear overarching objective or set of training priorities. I saw this extreme type of FNDS once in England. A young German coach ran a training session I observed. I watched him put the team through several different drills. In the proper context those drills each could have been quite useful. Instead, however, I was left wondering what he was trying to achieve with it all (other than maybe showing off what he knew).

From my perspective, the whole first hour or more of the 2-hour session was largely a waste of time. It did not addressed the sorts of things the team really needed to work on with a match coming up. When you only train once a week – as was the case with this team – it is borderline criminal to be as scatter-shot in training as what I saw that evening.

The scenario above was preventable. The coach simply needed to determine or be given by the team (he was just running that single session) one or more priorities for the practice and develop a training plan based on those priorities. He might not have been able to use so many “cool” drills in that case, but he would have provided the team a much better service.

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.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.