I previously mentioned an article on the coaching of horse riding as it related to coaching volleyball because of some common elements. That prior post looked at the lack of fundamental understanding which can come from just applying what we see as coaches rather than knowing what underlies the application of a drill, game, or coaching technique. This time I want to address another aspect of the discussion. Specifically the idea is that knowing the game is not the same as being able to teach it.

To quote the article:

A person is not automatically a teacher because he knows how to do something himself.

Let’s restate that in our context here. An experienced volleyball player doesn’t automatically make for a good coach.

Certainly, having experience as a player – especially at the level you’re coaching – is extremely useful. I think we can all recognize this. It makes understanding what it takes to succeed as a player at that level and relating to players easier. That’s as far as it goes, though.

To paraphrase the horse riding article:

The ability to teach is a gift and a talent. Instructors who lack the gift of teaching also lack the passion and ability to understand their subject and are unable to give their students a thorough foundation.

This is something which relates to what I said the post Coaches coach. Coaching, whether it be in volleyball, some other sport, or in other facets of life is not just about what you know. It’s about being able to share that knowledge – to teach (with a big side order of motivating).

I think anyone who’s had a collegiate education has either direct experience with or knowledge of a brilliant professor who just could not teach their way out of a paper bag. This is akin to high level athlete trying to coach. They have lots of knowledge, but don’t necessarily have the skills to share it effectively. That’s assuming they even understand what made them successful, which many don’t.

So the lesson is that just because you played lots of volleyball it doesn’t mean you’re destined to be a good coach. If you’re not already an experienced teacher you’ll have to do a lot of work to develop those skills. Without them you’re not going to be very effective.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Men's & Women's Head Volleyball Coach at Medaille College, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy (formerly Charleston Academy). His previous experience includes the college and university level in the US and UK, professional coaching in Sweden, and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. Learn more on his bio page.

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