Learning from mistakes rather than fixating on them

A while back Mark Lebedew via his At Home on the Court blog introduced the idea of coaching failures. I gave Mark a bit of stick about not actually talking about any of his own failures (no, he’s not the “unnamed coach” referenced). Mainly he took an “even the greatest coaches screw up sometimes” angle to the piece. It got me thinking about my own coaching failures, though. I’m sure that was Mark’s real motivation.

Here’s the thing. I’m struggling to remember any of real consequence.

I’m definitely not a perfect coach!. For one thing, I’ve made line-up submissions errors on a much too frequent basis. One of the more amazing experiences of my coaching career related to that happened at the 2014 BUCS Final 8s. It was the Exeter men against Bournemouth in the last round of pool play. In this case, I actually put in the line-up correctly. Somehow, though, I managed to use the slip for Set 2 for the first set, and then used the Set 1 slip for the second. That got the down ref all turned around (he wasn’t the greatest to begin with). It was a huge mess that resulted in a major delay – to the point where the two teams just started playing a little cooperative game while the officials sorted it out. 🙂

In terms of something that I look back on and think “that costs us the set/match,” though, nothing jumps out. For sure there were times in the moment when I had a thought along those lines – shouldn’t have started in that rotation, should have flipped my OHs, should have changed starters earlier in the season, etc.

I think the issue with that kind of stuff is that all we really are able do is try to make the best decision we can at the time. After the fact we’re going to look back with additional information, making it easy to think “I should have….” but that’s not really useful, and I tend not to let myself go down that path. Once the decision is past, I can only move forward and deal with things as they are. Later, I’ll examine my original thought process to see if there were any faults with it, but  I look at that as a learning process rather than a judgmental one.

Maybe that’s why the mistakes I for sure have made in my coaching don’t really stand out in my head. I don’t fixate on them.

Or maybe I just have selective recall. 😉

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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