Do great players make great coaches?

My life experience includes multiple coaching-related activities over the years. As a result, I’ve come across different forms of biases toward favoring current/former high level performers as coaches or teachers. It happens anywhere credentials are evaluated in some fashion.

On the negative side of things, this bias is expressed as “Those who can’t, teach”. The presumption there is that if you truly knew what you were talking about, you’d be doing it. You would not just tell other people how to do it. Among other short-comings of this mentality is that it ignores the fact that it’s possible to both do and teach – at least in some fields.

Whether expressed positively or negative, however, there is an assumption in this bias. It says the talent and/or skills required to be a high level performer are the same as those required to teach or coach. To put it bluntly, they most definitely are not.

Clay at Open Source Volleyball wrote about this in a post a little while back. In it he referenced some research from baseball. It examines hitting coaches’ effectiveness. The finding is that at best a coach’s abilities as a hitter when they played has no influence on how well they do as a coach. In fact, it might even be a negative.

In other words, being good at “doing” doesn’t imply any ability at all for coaching.

And yet, what do we see in the promotional material for so many clubs and clinics? We see current and recently former players with strong on-court credentials highlighted as a major feature of the coaching staff. That shouldn’t be the case. Those running the camp/clinic no doubt realize the lack of coaching credential involved. They also know, however, it’s the sort of thing that impresses would-be attendees. Granted, it isn’t 100% about coaching.

The sad thing is that those looking to hire coaches also seem dazzled by playing credentials. Or maybe they just cynically look at them as a way to impress the masses. Not good either way.

That then begs the question. What makes for a good coach?

I share my thoughts on that in the this post. 🙂

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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