Tag Archive for club management

Team policies – why you need them

Dan Mickle at The Coaches Mind wrote a while back about the need for clear, defined team policies. It is the core idea in a piece which begins with a discussion of “parents today” or “players today” and all the things we coaches are prone to complain about. Dan’s main argument is that we coaches – or program administrators – should have policies in place and, equally importantly, stick to them.

I’ll leave you to read the post for a broader discussion. The specific areas of focus Dan mentions for having written and communicated team polices, though, are:

Key areas for team policies
  • Playing time
  • Team Philosophy
  • Communication Rules
  • Practice Policy
  • Rules
  • Grievance Policy
  • Repercussions

Some of the above team policies will naturally come down from above. If you coach in a school, it or the athletic department dictates certain things. If you coach for a club, there are policies which come down from the club director or board.

team policies held reduce stressYour own team policies have to get in there as well. These, at least in part, should be based on your coaching philosophy. If nothing else, you don’t want there to be a conflict between your personal philosophy and the policies. Should there be one, it’s bound to cause a problem at some point. If you have a philosophical conflict with the policies coming down from the school or club then you probably shouldn’t be coaching there in the first place.

But back to the broader point.

The main motivation for having clear team policies that are communicated is to minimize both the frequency of issues with players and parents. Further, they reduce the amount of trouble they create if problems do arise. If you don’t have them, you should very seriously consider developing some – and Dan’s post is a good starting point for doing so.

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.

Coaching Log – Jul 3, 2015

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2015-16.

Right now the biggest thing on my mind is my future housing situation in Svedala. The club is in the process of trying to secure accommodation for me. Among the things I’m learning about Sweden, though, is that the housing market is quite tight. Svedala being a fairly small town, one would not tend to expect there to be tons of available housing in the first place, making it that much more of a challenge. I understand in the past the club owned an apartment for the coach, but at some point decided to sell it, meaning now they have to rent something anew each time around.

Adding to the complexity of the situation – at least on my end – is that I have to be out of the house in Exeter in three weeks. I could return on August 10th and stay until my contract with Svedala officially starts September 1st, but I’ve got an offer to return to Bühl in Germany (where I spent about 10 days with the men’s Bundesliga team last Summer) from August 9th through the end of the month. I’m inclined to accept, which would mean no return to England – at least from a living perspective (I’d have to return briefly for PhD-related stuff).

For the moment, what I’ll do from July 25th to August 9th is the open question. I’d like to at least spend a bit of time in Svedala over the summer to get a feel for things, meet some of the club folks and players, etc. The question is whether that can be worked out in a reasonable fashion. One of the returning players has offered me the use of her apartment as she’ll be back home with her family up north for much of the Summer. That’s an option that it looks like I’m going to go with – at least to start. We’ll see how things develop.

Getting to know the team
I continued my conversations with the returning players over the weekend and into this week. I’ve now talked with all of them, and one coming back into the team after a year away (see below). It’s been interesting getting a feel for their personalities. It’s just impressions at this point, though. I’m not going to presume that one Skype conversation each with these young women gives me a full sense of who they are individually. That process has only just barely begun. As additional players are added to the squad in the weeks/months ahead, I’ll look to have conversations with them as well.

Filling out the squad
I found out over the weekend that a player who’d been in the squad during the 2013-14 season has decided to return to Svedala for the new campaign. Although she trained with the team at times last season, her work/travel schedule precluded her from being fully in the squad. That situation has changed, though, and she’s eager to get back involved. Based on what I’ve heard from others, she’ll be a good addition in potentially a few different ways.

There is also another player from the 2013-14 squad – another starter – who would like to come back as well. There are some hurdles which I’m told need to be overcome, though.

I was told the other day that we’re 99% sure of signing a pair of players two fill two of our three spots. This is the “package deal” I mentioned in the last log entry. Terms were agreed with their agent, and contracts were going out. Once things are signed I’ll provide more information. That will leave one more foreign position to be filled.

Competition Schedule
A tentative league schedule has already been put out. Because a team dropped, the women’s Elitserie is only 9 teams this season. That means a standard home-and-away round-robin would only add up to 16 matches. To get that up to 20 the clubs have agreed to a plan where the league is split into 3 geographic groups of 3 teams each. Those three clubs will play each other an addition home-and-away series, adding four matches to the total, bringing the count to 20. I’m not overly keen on the idea of having two teams being over-weighted in where we sit in the standings, especially since one of them is the defending champion, but it is what it is.

I talked last week about the Gran Prix as a potential secondary competition the club could compete in, depending on our performance over the first half of the campaign. The Sports Director yesterday told me there’s something in the works which could add an interesting additional competition to the schedule as well, comprising six more matches. It’s not a done deal, though. If it develops I’ll post the details.

Coaching Log – Jun 26, 2015

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2015-16.

The off-season work continues along three major focal areas I talked about in the last log entry.

Understanding the situation
On Wednesday, as part of the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project, I had the opportunity to interview a highly experienced and successful coach from Sweden (Ismo Peltoarvo). While the focus was on coaching and not Swedish volleyball per se, as background and coaching context information I was able to ask a number of questions. The answers provided me with quite a bit of useful information and insights into volleyball in that country from several different perspectives. It’s stuff I will definitely be able to use moving forward.

Along a similar line, by chance the other day I came across a blog by an American player who was in the Svedala squad during the 2013-14 season. It basically documents her experience over the course of the campaign, though does cut off before season’s end. It provides an interesting perspective on things. Lots of talk about food! 🙂

Actually, one of the things I learned from that blog is about the annual Gran Prix event. I’d heard of it, but wasn’t sure what it was. In many countries there is a cup competition running alongside the primary league campaign. This cup is a knockout tournament into which teams are randomly drawn. If you are familiar with something like the FA Cup in English soccer, it’s the same sort of idea. In Sweden they don’t have a full Cup competition like that. Instead, they have Gran Prix. I don’t know the details for the full thing, which involves multiple divisions in one big weekend event in January. Part of that is a 4-team bracket tournament for the four highest placed teams in the top division (the Elitserie) as of some specific cut-off date. Svedala actually won the Gran Prix in 2013, but failed to qualify for the 2014 edition.

Funnily enough, as I was composing this entry one of the WordPress plug-ins I have working actually pointed me to what looks to be some interesting general information about Sweden that I’m going to have a look at to aid in my broader cultural understanding. I’m also going to start using Duolingo to learn at least a bit of Swedish. The club doesn’t provide language lessons, probably because there are so many English speakers in the country and the short-term stay of most of us foreigners limits the value of that kind of investment.

Getting to know the team
I mentioned last week giving the returning players a little exercise in which I had them think about what they like and dislike about playing volleyball. I started collecting those thoughts and feelings this week, which helps me to both get to know each of them a bit and to start forming a picture of the team overall. Obviously, the roster is a long way from being set (see below), so there remains much to be done still on that front.

I also have have conversations with some of the players, with more to come in the near future. It’s interesting to compare the difference in the interactions with young players vs. older ones. Perhaps not surprisingly, the more experienced ones have more questions about things like how I coach.

The Svedala player blog I mentioned above is also a potential source of insights. That’s from two seasons back, but a few of the players in the current squad were on that team. If nothing else, there may be some interesting stories. 🙂

Filling the foreign player slots
Between my own contacts and the club’s agent interactions, several more players got on my radar this week. My Sports Director and I had a bit of a disagreement on the issue of player height in one respect, but nothing of any real consequence. We continue to generally agree on player assessments

It’s really interesting to get to understand the dynamics of things and how the various considerations come into play. I’ve previously talked about how the signing process has similarities to college recruiting, without the NCAA rules and admissions restrictions. While it’s true there aren’t grades and test scores to worry about, there are financial and other considerations.

For example, one of the things I learned this week was that in Sweden the tax rate for those who are 25 years old and above is twice that of younger people. That obviously has budget implications.

How the agents fit into the process is also interesting. One agency seems to be responsible for most of the Americans on our list. This creates a funky dynamic where we have to think about how the agent might be looking to play things across multiple clients – for example if we’re considering offers for multiple of that agent’s players in one position.

Related to that, we had a situation come up where a player package deal was indicated to us as a potential worth considering. An agent informed us of a pair of former US college players who want to play together professionally. Each of them has offers separately, but we were told that we might be able to get them at something of a discount (from what they would command if signed individually) if we signed both together. One of them is someone for whom we’d already put in an offer. The other is someone we’ve only just been told about. Individually, the second player is one we might have put behind a couple of others in her position, but being part of a package deal – especially in that combination of positions – shifts things a bit.

Coaching Log – Jun 19, 2015

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2015-16.

The season remains a long way off, but it’s been a busy week or so since my initial update. My efforts and attention have been focused in a couple of areas.

Understanding the situation
It’s important for me as I set my coaching priorities to understand the priorities of the club and the environment I’ll be working in. I had exchanges with the Sports Director on what the club’s purpose and what it is looking to achieve, which is basically a combination of development and competitive success. Obviously, this is important from the perspective of knowing how my performance as coach will be graded by the club. It’s also important, though, in terms of making decisions on team composition from the perspective of signings. I had a lengthy exchange about that at one point.

Another consideration here is what I will have by way of resources at my disposal. I’ve been asking a lot of questions related to that. It’s not about saying I want this or that, but rather just trying to understand what’s on-hand and what could potentially be brought in. That lets me start thinking about how certain assets can be employed and what limitations I might need to work around.

Getting to know the team
After I was officially announced as the new head coach last week, I started to reach out to connect with the returning players in the Svedala Elit team over the weekend. That was first by introducing myself in the Facebook group the team manager set up, and then by asking the players to set up 1-on-1 conversations with me (which I will look to do next week). As part of the latter, I also gave them a short exercise of writing down their motives for playing, plus what they like and don’t like about playing. I did this with one of my players at Exeter last year and thought it would be a good way for me to start to develop a picture of the personalities and motivations in the team.

There are a couple of players from last year who have not yet decided one way or the other if they will be coming back this season. One of them was the team captain. Some of the potential reasons for her hesitation were suggested to me. I reached out to her individually to offer to have a conversation, which we did the other night. As much as it was suggested that I should try to convince her to stay on, my focus was on giving her a chance to get to know me to see if she felt I would be able to help her get what she would want to get out of her experience in the team. It was a good conversation and we’ll keep the lines of communication open. Through the talk I got to learn a little bit more about the team and the club.

Filling the foreign player slots
At this point I’ve watched video on 35-40 prospective signings for next season. These are players from all over the world, though the largest concentration is American. It’s a similar process to recruiting for college programs in the States.

  • Use information sources and contacts to identify potential recruits.
  • Assess a player’s qualities relative to your team needs.
  • Figure out whether a player is actually someone you can get (in this case, in your price range from a salary perspective).
  • Keep track of who’s committed elsewhere.

My Sports Director is told of players by agencies and other contacts, which he passes on to me. I similarly have feelers out to my own contacts and have had players recommended to me that I then also pass in the other direction so we are both doing evaluations of each player.

The other day I went through and ranked the players by position (In this post I talk about my approach to doing that). I shared those rankings with the Sports Director so we could be sure we were both on the same page, which we basically were. From this point it will be easier to evaluate new prospective signings in comparison to those we’ve already looked at. We already scratched a few players off the list because they’ve either already committed elsewhere or we can’t match their salary expectations.

As part of the process I’ve had email exchanges with a couple of the now-former NCAA players. One clearly is new to the idea of playing professionally, but the other two clearly have given it a fair bit of thought and so are more advanced in the process overall.