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Tag Archive for coaching education

Book Review: Legacy by James Kerr

Legacy, by James Kerr, is a book that often comes up when coaching book recommendations are discussed. I want to stress up front that this in not a coaching book. Amazon at this writing has it listed in Sports Psychology, but that doesn’t fit either, to my mind. I think the book description does a pretty good job of saying what it’s really about.

In Legacy, best-selling author James Kerr goes deep into the heart of the world’s most successful sporting team, the legendary All Blacks of New Zealand, to reveal 15 powerful and practical lessons for leadership and business.

Focus on that last part about lessons for leadership and business. That is most definitely what the author provides.

As for the rest of it, I have my issues. The description makes it sound like the story of the All Blacks is the core material. In particular, the team’s transformation after a period of uncharacteristic under-performance is meant to be the main focus. While that story provides a framework, that’s about all. You can perhaps work out the time line of that transition, but it’s presented piecemeal. One of my problems with the book was that at points I didn’t know where the author was in the All Blacks history when he shared certain stories. It was rather annoying.

Also, the All Blacks are not the only references the author makes. He includes ideas from the likes of Phil Jackson and Bill Walsh as well, in terms of sports. There are a number of non-sports references too.

Obviously, I have no problem with references to all-time great coaches. Sometimes the language of the text is a little too stereotypical of leadership books, and there is too much repetition of certain elements for my taste. Overall, though, the “lessons”, concepts, and explanations are quite worthwhile.

Overall, I’d say this is a book worth reading if you go into it with the right set of expectations.

Are we trying to solve the wrong problems?

A member of the Volleyball Coaches and Trainers Facebook group posted something I think is worth a broad share. Here’s the snippet that really hits on the main point.

“…how far back do we coaches look for the fundamental and underlying errors in our coaching philosophies that make it difficult to find effective solutions? Are we, in fact, trying to solve the wrong problems.”

The volleyball angle

There are a couple of different angles on this. One of them relates to how we work with our teams and players. Are we trying to fix the last contact? Or are we trying to look at why there was a problem with the last contact?

For example, our libero in Position 5 shanks a ball attacked in their direction. Are we trying to fix what we perceive as the reason the libero shanked the ball (usually something mechanical)? Or are we looking to our block and realizing that it was badly placed or formed? Maybe we’re going back even further to see that our blocker’s footwork and/or initial positioning weren’t right.

You see where I’m going with this?

I’ve often told the story of my own development as a newer coach. I can remember an almost physical sensation of feeling my awareness of the court and the play expand. Like so many, I’d been fixated on each individual element. I wasn’t seeing the whole. As a result, I didn’t see root causality for the errors made on the last contact. At some point, though, my vision expanded.

I’m not saying that all at once I went from just seeing individual contacts to seeing the whole volleyball ballet. It was a progressive thing as I gained better understanding of how elements linked together. Watching a lot of volleyball with a critical eye helped a great deal too. I believe that was all part of my shift away from being very technically oriented as a coach to putting more emphasis on the mentality and structure of play.

The coaching angle

Let’s return to the piece that started this whole discussion. The bigger picture of our coaching is the other angle to consider. That’s the more direct focus of the quote above.

We see something “wrong” with our team or our coaching. Naturally, we want to fix it. As with the issue of only seeing the final outcome, though, are we only seeing the end result rather than the whole chain of causality getting there?

To once more quote the post, “If we were able to move back in the chain of events that have lead us to this point in our coaching and fix that one errant assumption, would coaching suddenly become much easier and more effective?”

So are you doing that? Do you try to work backwards from where you are at with a series of “Why?” or “How?” questions to figure out how you reached your current point? If not, it’s definitely something worth considering.

What is wanted when hiring a head coach

Volleyball Coach

A while back Terry Pettit (who I interviewed for Volleyball Coaching Wizards), wrote an article outlining what he looks for in a head coach candidate. Terry mostly works with colleges and universities, so that is the focus perspective. I think the points he makes are pretty universal, though.

Top of the list, head coach experience

The very first thing Terry mentions on his list of what he looks for is prior experience as a head coach. His point is that until you are head coach you don’t really have final decision-making responsibility. That is a very different sort of thing that being an assistant coach. It is really the difference between being the leader and a follower.

Fellow Wizards interviewee Mick Haley has a very similar point of view. When I asked him in his interview what his career advice would be for developing coaches he specifically recommended getting some kind of head coach experience. He called the experience of having the decision-making responsibility key to a coach’s development.

By the way, what Mick said applies even to those aiming for assistant coaching positions. You will be a much more effectively assistant if you know what it’s like to be head coach. You are better able to anticipate the head coach’s needs.

Make sure it’s a good fit

The second big thing Terry talks about is the need for there to be a good fit for both sides. This is crucial. If the fit isn’t there, things simply aren’t going to work out well. I can tell you that from personal experience. It was pretty clear to me relatively early on in my time coaching at Svedala that it wasn’t a great long-term fit. Predictably, things didn’t work out there.

Of course, judging fit is not always the easiest thing in the world. You for sure should do your research about the school or club. That will at least give you a basic sense for whether the broad structure is a fit. That means the type of institution and its philosophy, the location, the academic standards, and the other things you can judge at least to a degree from outside.

The trickier part is trying to gauge the more internal aspects of fit. What are the ambitions of the organization. What is the management style of the Athletic Director? How is the administrative and financial support? Is it a collegial staff? These, and other fit type questions are only likely to come to light during the interview process. You’ll probably have to ask some questions of your own to get the best sense for it.

Good character

Terry’s third factor is the coach’s character. To quote, “I will not forward a candidate who has a history of bending rules, physically or mentally abusing athletes, or not interacting with peers in a professional manner.” I don’t think I need to add much to that, really.

A collaborative leader

Fourth on the list is that a head coach should work well with others. Terry focuses on assistant coaches, but I would add in anyone else associated with the program. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to running a team. Just as they would with a starting lineup, a good coach looks to use their staff in a way that highlights their strengths.

Curiosity above all else

While Terry puts curiosity last on his list, he calls it the most important trait he looks for in head coaching candidates. I might have used the word “reflective” instead, based on what he seems to be getting at here. It’s all about evaluating things, positively and negatively, and using your assessments to further yourself and your program. He describes someone who is basically always looking for ways to learn.

Additional thoughts

Terry has outlined the broad framework for what he considers a good head coaching position candidate. I generally agree with it. These are the higher level things you’ll want to get right. Of course, there are also finer details that become more or less relevant based on the position(s) you’re pursuing. Some of this relates to fit, as note above.

Some of it, though, is just technical and managerial skills you can develop. For example, most university head coach jobs require a master’s degree. High school jobs very often require first aid certification. Some jobs involve a fair bit of fund raising. Many positions require you to regularly interact with the media. You’ll want to do research into the requirements of the sorts of job you’re after to find out exactly what you need on your resume to make yourself a legitimate candidate.

Coaching for aggressiveness, reduced errors, and other stuff

There’s an interesting article at Volleyball Toolbox from long-time high school coach Tom Houser. Nominally, it is the response to a question about helping create more aggressive teams that make fewer errors. It covers a few different ideas, though. I think they are worth reviewing.

There’s no replacement for experience.

Just about the first thing Tom talks about in the article is how he struggled early in his career to help players. He compared his knowledge of what his players needed to “Swiss cheese” because there were so many holes in it. The first reason for this is his lack of experience, and it’s a very legitimate point.

I mentioned in my coaching stages post how early-career coaches often think they know a lot, but really don’t. Sure, they might know a whole bunch about playing volleyball, but coaching is a different skill set. And tied in with that is the amount of volleyball you watch, particularly from a coaching perspective.

Learn from others, but understand context

Another thing Tom talks about is his learning process as a developing coach. He says he was never an assistant coach, thus didn’t have a mentorship experience from that perspective. Obviously, that’s a disadvantage.

As with many of us, Tom turned to books and videos to increase his knowledge and grow is toolkit. He notes, though, that much of what he saw was presented by national team and NCAA Division I coaches. He struggled to relate those drills and such to his high school players’ level. Tom called them “nearly useless”. I respect that he was thinking of the context differences. I think, though, that was probably a bit harsh. Most drills and games are adaptable to different levels. Not all, but most. But then doing so usually requires some experience, so see above.

Much coaching communication you hear is useless

Tom talks in his article about coaches saying things like “get low,” or “snap,” or “move your feet,” or “call the ball”. We hear phrases like that all the time. We’ve probably said them ourselves.

The point is in most cases those things don’t actually address the root cause of the problem, so they don’t actually address anything useful. Just like when parents yell them from the sidelines. 🙂

Coaching for aggressiveness

Moving on to addressing the question that inspired the post, Tom provides a relatively simple way to coach it. “All you have to do is ask your players to perform the drill WITHOUT punishment/consequences/eye-rolls for making a mistake performing the skill.”

This definitely matches my own philosophy. Aggressiveness will result in errors at times. You cannot encourage the one without accepting the fact of the other.

Also, Tom said he basically sets up games that require certain types of aggressiveness to win. Pretty simple, really.

Reducing errors

Having said that about the errors, Tom also shares his thoughts on keeping them to a minimum. One is the understand their source. Are they bad decisions, or are they bad execution. See what I wrote related to this breakdown in Coaching from a solutions perspective.

For the first type of error, it’s our job as coaches to teach better decision-making. In terms of the second type, Tom credits his teams making fewer mistakes on encouraging players toward simple, efficient mechanics.

Those are the major points. Definitely give the article a read and see what you takeaway for yourself.

Report on my Europe trip

This is a little more delayed than I’d intended, but here goes.

As previously reported, I spent a week in Poland observing the Australian Men’s National Team training camp. My friend – and Volleyball Coaching Wizards partner – Mark Lebedew was named head coach of the Aussie team in the latter part of 2016. This was his first camp and it’s focus is on prep for World League. Their first round of play will be in Slovakia. That being the case, and with many of the Aussie guys playing on club teams in Europe, it made sense to have camp there. Mark arranged for his club in Poland, Jastrzębski Węgiel, to host.

I’ve never been to a national team training. Also, I’ve only ever seen Mark coaching in the latter parts of a season when things were pretty well established. I was curious to see what he’d be doing with a new team from the start. So off I went to Poland!

Here’s photographic proof. 🙂

This was actually my second time in Poland. The first time was back in 2014. I was in Berlin at the time and Mark had a spare ticket to Men’s World Championships. So I tagged along with him to Wroclaw.

The training

I arrived late on Tuesday, so my first day in the gym was Wednesday. The team had the weekend off, and I was there through the following Tuesday, so I sat in on five days of work. The team did 2-a-days. The afternoons were team sessions. The mornings were split, however. How that worked varied a bit.

During the first three days I was there, the receivers started on the court. They worked with legendary coach – and future Wizards interviewee – Andrea Anastasi. After about 45 minutes they went to lift, then it was time for the middles to have the court. They worked on blocking with former German national team player and current Lüneburg head coach Stefan Hübner. Mark gave Andrea and Stefan complete control.

Andrea and Stefan left after Friday, so things were a little different for Monday and Tuesday. Mark took charge of the receivers, and they still worked on passing each morning before lifting. This time, though, the second group was the setters. They worked with an experienced professional setter named Mishkin. The afternoons were still team sessions.

I will follow up with a couple of posts that talk more specifically about stuff I saw. There were some interesting ideas and approaches. As you may have seen, I already posted a warm-up game Stefan used one day.

By the way, Mark told me in advance that I wouldn’t be required to help out at all in practice. He’d have more than enough help, he said. Somehow, though, I still found myself collecting and feeding balls.

The social stuff

Watching Mark and the others run court sessions was, of course, only part of the experience. Along with Andrea, Stefan, and Mishkin, there were a number of other coaches on-hand. One was Mark’s club team assistant from last season, Luke. He actually is the coach who preceded me at Svedala, and was recently named the head coach at Berlin. He’s an Aussie, and a member of Mark’s national team staff.

There were two other Aussies there as part of the staff. Lauren Bertolacci is a former Aussie women’s player. She currently coaches a men’s team in the Swiss league. It’s pretty rare to see a female coach at all, never mind for a men’s team! I’ve known of Lauren for a while, but this was the first time we got to meet.

The other coach was Liam Sketcher. He spent the last couple years coaching at Marienlyst in the Danish men’s professional league.

There was plenty of down time, so I got to speak quite a bit with everyone. And Andrea regaled us with many stories! 🙂

Unfortunately, my friend Ruben from TV Bühl had to cancel his planned visit. I spent time with him during his club’s pre-season in both 2014 and 2015.

The rest of my trip

After I left Poland I spent a week bouncing around. Most of my time was in England, but I also spent a couple days in Germany. In England I mostly did non-volleyball stuff. I spent a day visiting with an old friend in Ipswich and then a day in Exeter with my PhD supervisor talking about our on-going research efforts. While in Exeter I also had lunch with the guy who got me into coaching the university teams.

After Exeter it was off to Husum in Germany where I met up with Oliver Wagner. He is spearheading the effort to bring a team from the area into the German top men’s league – the Bundesliga. That club is WattVolleys. We talked A LOT of volleyball over the two days I was there.

The final part of my trip before returning home was a visit to the University of Essex. Former England national team and professional player Alex Porter runs the volleyball performance program there. Essex is one of the senior academies designated by Volleyball England. Alex showed me around the campus and we talked a lot about the university and coaching.

Report: 2017 USA Volleyball High Performance Coaches Clinic

Back in 2015 I attended my first USA Volleyball High Performance Coaches Clinic. I wrote a report about the experience. I just attended the 2017 edition, along with the Level III Coaches Accreditation Program (CAP). Here’s the report on that one.

Day 1

As per usual, the program began in the evening with a social and USAV presentation. The presentations focused on 2016 developments in the various national programs. We heard about what was happening in the High Performance program from its director. Karch Kiraly took us through things for the Women’s National Team, and Nate Ngo from the Men’s staff did the same for them. We also got to hear from Bill Hamiter on the performance of the sitting teams. The last part featured Kathy DeBoer (AVCA), Jerritt Elliot (Texas), and Alexis Shifflett (women’s sitting team player) sharing short personal stories. After that it was just mingling and socializing.

Day 2

The first full day began in the gym. Jerritt Elliot went first. He focused on middle blocker transition. In particular, he concentrated on the transition from the net to attack readiness being as quick and efficient as possible. Keegan Cook (Washington) followed up with a session on transition offense. He shared some interesting heat maps and stats related to passing targets and other things. The third court session was from Beth Launiere (Utah) on serve receive offense.

Following the normal pattern, the court sessions were followed by breakout groups. Attendees are divided into a number of groups (6-8 people) in advance for these. They are then assigned members of the clinic cadre on a rotating basis. This is to allow for follow-on discussion guided by those cadre. Unlike in 2015, I did not get any of the higher profile small group leaders.

The last two morning sessions were in the presentation theatre. Nikki Holmes (North Carolina State/Girls’ Youth National Team) and Jesse Tupac (Denver) talked about data collection and statistics use. The other session was by Jimmy Stitz, the sports psychologist and strength & conditioning coach for the Women’s National Team.

After lunch, Dr. Andrew Gregory (Assistant professor of Orthopedics and Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University) did a good session on injury prevention and supplement use. Bill Hamiter came next with a more detailed exploration of the Women’s Sitting Team’s build up to the Paralympics and performance in them. Wrapping up the trio, Karch did a talk about transitions. Small group breakout sessions followed.

There was a “mic’d up match” that evening featuring Keegan and Beth leading teams that evening. I did not attend, though.

Day 3

It was back in the gym for two sessions to start the day. Beth did her session on blocking. In particular, she talked about differentiating in-system vs. out-of-system schemes. She also talked about how blockers could prepare for transition. Keegan did the second session. It was titled “Practice to Performance”. It looked at ways of doing some basic stats in practice and how those could be applied. Small group break-outs followed.

Back in the lecture theatre, Aaron Brock (USA Men’s Athletic Trainer) did a talk focused largely on recovery. After that, Shelton Collier (Wingate) and Jonah Carson (Mountain View VB Club) did a joint session on coaching mentorship. In particular, they focused on efforts in the High Performance program to develop the coaches there.

After lunch, Matt Fuerbringer (Men’s National Team) did a court session on transition work. Karch came after that doing his own session. It didn’t really seem to focus on any one thing in particular. Karch just coached a practice session with the demonstration players and everyone watched. Again, small group sessions came after.

The final two sessions were once more in the theatre. Kathy DeBoer did a DISC-oriented presentation. The main thrust of it was understanding differences in personality types and how that impacts communication and interaction. Finally, there was a panel discussion. It featured five members of the Women’s Sitting team talking about their experiences.

Thoughts and Observations

The demonstration team was a groups of 14s. Apparently, they were a last minute fill in. This created some challenges for the coaches presenting court sessions. On the one hand it made things less efficient than would have been true with older, better players. On the other hand, many of the attendees were club coaches working with players in similar age groups. That made things more directly translatable for them. Also, they couldn’t say stuff like, “That’s all good, but it doesn’t apply to my level.”

I’m to the point where on-court sessions don’t really do a lot for me anymore. There were a couple of interesting nuggets, but mainly I was waiting for them to be done so I could get out of the uncomfortable bleachers. Some of the theatre sessions were repeats of material from CAP III, but mostly it was interesting.

For me, though, the biggest benefit to the HPCC is the location and what it allows. The event is at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. That means there are dorms available and a common dining hall. I didn’t stay in the dorm this time around (did in 2015), but once more the meals were great. They are excellent opportunities to talk with other coaches – from national team staff all the way down to local area youth coaches. This makes for a different type of event than something like the AVCA Convention.

I’m not saying the HPCC is necessarily better than the AVCA. The latter is much more college oriented, while the former caters more to Juniors coaches. I do think, though, that the single track and common dining help to make it a bit more intimate.

USA Volleyball CAP III

Each year USA Volleyball runs the High Performance Coaches Clinic (HPCC). In conjunction with it, they run all three of the Coaches Accreditation Program (CAP) courses. While the CAP I and II courses are run multiple times each year in different locations, CAP III is only run alongside the HP clinic.

I just got back from attending the 2017 edition. Here is the schedule for the course.

As you can see, the course ran Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday. They were all very full days. The days in between were HPCC sessions, which were also quite packed.

Cadre (in order of presentations)

Bill Hamiter: Director of USA Sitting Volleyball and Head Coach of the women’s sitting team (gold medal at the 2016 Paralympics).

Rob Browning: Head Coach at Saint Mary’s College.

Marouane Jafir: Club Director at Delaware United.

Todd Dagenais: Head Coach at Central Florida.

Sue Gozansky: Volleyball Coaching Wizard.

Joan Powell: Coordinator of Officials for PAC-12 Conference.

John Kessel: USA Volleyball Director of Sport Development.

Bill Neville: Volleyball Coaching Wizard.

Dan Mickle: Former professional beach player and current sports psychology specialist.

Day 1

We began with an initial all-levels introduction encompassing CAP I, II, and III groups. After that, though, we split off into our own cohorts. Our first session was on prioritization. Bill Hamiter was the presenter. He shared his very detailed 52-week program for the national sitting team with us. We were also given a copy of Periodization Training for Sports-3rd Edition. After that Rob Browning spoke with us about mindset work. It was largely based on the Carol Dweck book. I’ve read it, so not a lot of new material there.

Our first on-court session was lead by Todd Dagenais. We were put into groups and told to develop a serve reception organization for a 3-Middle line-up based on a given situation. We presented them to the group and had to work through variations based on changing issues. For example, “What if your OH can’t hit on the right?”. Basically it was an exercise in critical thinking and creativity.

After lunch we went back into the classroom. Sue Gozansky led a discussion of gender related issues in coaching, with Bill Hamiter adding his thoughts. John Kessel then talked with us about a variety of false beliefs and failures in conceptual understanding in volleyball. Those included the myth of the wrist snap and realizing how little time players actually spend touching the ball (one study calculated it was about 27 seconds during the 2012 Olympics).

Bill Neville took us back on-court after that. We presented favorite drills and games for analysis by the group and cadre. From there it was back into the classroom for a sports psychology session led by Sue Gozansky. After the dinner break there was some sitting volleyball play with the CAP II and III groups mixed together.

Day 2

The whole morning was in the classroom. A group of the cadre talked with us first about developing team culture. After that there was about an hour of open Q&A with Todd and Rob. That was supposed to be about talent identification, but the guys figured we probably knew enough about that already. Recruiting was a big focus of the questions.

Next up was a really interesting session on nutrition given by Dr. Jackie Berning. It focused mainly on the timing of athlete meals and their nutritional content. She shot down a number of common public concepts (think paleo diets and the like).

After nutrition we did a DISC small-group exercise led by Dan Mickle. As I have been through a few of these sessions before, there wasn’t a lot new in this one. Maybe there was more new material for others, however.

Once more to the classroom after lunch. This time conflict resolution was the focus, with Bill Hamiter in the lead. From there we went back out on the court for more sharing of favorite games and drills and constructive criticism of them. We were also assigned into groups of 2-3 to develop practice segment plans for presentation on Day 3.

The last session was presented by Aaron Brock. He is the lead strength coach for the USA men’s team. He talked with us about strength and conditioning, with a heavy emphasis on rest and recovery.

Day 3

This day was largely spent on-court. It began, though, with Todd presenting on stats. He shared his findings on where teams needed to be in certain areas from his own research. For example, in the women’s game you should target a sideout rate of about 63%. He also shared some methods for collecting key stats when you’re by yourself.

Most of the rest of the day we presented and critiqued a variety of games and drills for warm-up, skills work, systems training, competitive play, and cool down. After that wrapped up we went back into the classroom. John Kessel and a lacrosse coach who works with USOC talked about Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD). The last session was a presentation of everyone’s ideas for their outreach projects. More on that below.

Post-Course requirements

The single biggest thing we need to do following the in-person portion of the CAP III course is our outreach project. This is basically something with a focus on growing the game in some fashion. That could be bringing more participants into the sport, expanding coaching education, and stuff like that. We met with members of the cadre during meal breaks to talk about our ideas to help get them refined. Then, as noted above, we shared them with the entire group to get additional thoughts, ideas, etc.

The other post- course requirement we were told about was to develop a set of questions from the periodization book I mentioned above. They will be used for future CAP exams, presumably.

Thoughts

Inevitably, I compare doing CAP III with going through the Volleyball England Level 3 certification. Their main focus is very similar, namely working with teams over time. The V.E. course ran 5 days total, which is longer on the face of it, but when you add in the HPCC mixed in here (everyone attended both), they are comparable from that perspective. The V.E. post-course requirements were a bit more involved, though. Nominally, there was a CAP III requirement to video yourself coaching for review and discussion, but that never actually happened in this course. We also don’t have to do a coaching log. The outreach project is something V.E. doesn’t have, however, nor is there an ongoing education requirement in order to retain your certification.

I think I’ve written elsewhere of my dislike for the participants in these sorts of courses also being demonstrators. Some people love getting out on the court, but I’m well past those days myself. More meaningfully, however, if most of the attendees are on-court they tend to be more focused on playing than on learning the concepts being presented. Also, the level of play of the attendees can be quite variable. Further, when you don’t know what you’re going to have for demonstrators it can be hard to come up with appropriate games and drills to run the group through.

My only other bit of feedback would be to watch out for overlapping content between CAP III and HPCC. There were a couple of sessions during the latter we’d already gotten from our CAP presentations.

Note: I’ll update this after our course follow-up email is received to make sure I have all the post-course requirements correctly noted.

 

Looking back on 2016, and ahead to 2017

This time last year I did a review of what had been a really interesting year of 2015. It’s interesting to look back at that, and in particular the things I had in mind for the new year, and compare it to what actually happened. That being the case, here’s a similar look back for 2016 and look forward to 2017.

Education

Well, I finally completed all my PhD requirements. It ended up taking about 3 years and 4 months. I submitted the finished version of my dissertation in January and received notice of the conferral of my degree in February. Here’s the letter I received. The picture is from when I was reading it on my phone as I waited for my baggage at LAX.

I did not actually attend graduation in July (I think I was doing camp), but they sent me a copy of my diploma. One of these days I might get around to framing it or something. 🙂

On I guess you could call a related subject, I taught my first college course during the Fall semester. It was a volleyball activity class, so not exactly something academically rigorous. I did have them take a midterm and submit final papers, though.

Job

This time last year I was in Sweden coaching the women’s team at Svedala in the country’s top league. The team finished the first half of the 2015-16 season on top of the standings. We had also done well in the Oresundliga, and had won a pre-season tournament in Denmark. For that reason, perhaps the biggest news of the year – or at least one of the most surprising developments – was that I was let go in early February.

After a brief job hunt, I landed at Midwestern State University (MSU) in Texas. It was an interesting new challenge from my perspective. I joined a program in the early stages of a rebuild, with a coach just off her first season with the team. MSU is a Division II program, which is a level I had not coached before. It was also not only a new locale in terms of places I’ve lived, but also in terms of being in a place where volleyball is a big sport.

Travel

In 2016 volleyball once more took me to a bunch of places – most of them new.

With Svedala I got to visit a very cold Upsala for Gran Prix in early January. I then got to see some of Stockholm while there for a league match about a week later.

When I was hanging out in Long Beach between jobs, I attended a men’s NCAA match for the first time ever. Not that I really had to go far. The Pyramid was just across town from where I was staying.

Of course with MSU I toured all over Texas, as well as to places in Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico for matches during the season. I made a couple of trips to Dallas for recruiting in Spring. I worked a couple of High Performance try-outs there as well, and I spent a weekend in Forth Worth on the campus of TCU for an Art of Coaching clinic.

As you may have seen, my last volleyball trip for 2016 was to the AVCA Convention. I was there to present, but took in plenty of seminars as well. It was my first time ever visiting Columbus, OH.

Writing and publishing

I don’t think I had any volleyball articles published in magazines in 2016. At least if I did I can’t remember them as I write this post. Of course I did have a book project – the very first Volleyball Coaching Wizards book. That took up big chunks of my Summer and early Autumn time!

I also developed a volleyball try-outs course. This is something I’d had in mind to do for years. I finally sat down and got it done. The response to it was really positive, so it was definitely worth the effort.

This has nothing to do with volleyball, but I twice submitted a paper for consideration toward publication in an academic journal. This is from my PhD research. The first time we (my PhD supervisor and I) aimed quite high. We didn’t expect an acceptance, but hoped for some good feedback. As anticipated, we got a rejection. It did come with a bunch of useful comments, though. We used them to revise the paper and submit to a new, slightly lower ranked journal. At this writing we are waiting for a response.

The blog

It was another record year for the blog in 2016. For the year there were about 161,000 page views from more than 86,000 visitors. That’s about a 25% increase over 2015 figures in terms of pages, and almost a 50% bump in visitors.

As you can see from the map, once again there were visitors from just about everywhere.

No surprise that the US dominates the readership.

As has been the pattern, August was once more the largest traffic month. In 2016 it accounted for nearly 13,000 visits and almost 25,000 page views. September was also above 20k views, making it the first time with two months crossing that threshold.

Interesting, the biggest single day ever for the blog came in early May at just over 2900 views. The Teach them how to throw post went viral. For the month it garnered over 4000 page views. Honestly, that surprised me. I didn’t really think of that as more or less interesting or insight a post than many others. Just goes to show that like the Rules for coaching volleyball from John Kessel post from late 2015, sometimes you just hit it right at that particular moment.

In line with prior years, search engine traffic was by far the single largest source of readership. Facebook once more led the social media sources by a large margin.

Since its inception in June 2013, the blog has now had nearly 178k visitors and over 365k page views. The post count now exceeds 825.

Looking forward to 2017

This is probably something I can say at the start of each new year, but I go into 2017 with a mixture of uncertainty and plans. There’s something in the works in the background that would be a big development for me, though it’s a long way from being concrete. As such, I will leave it for later discussion if things move in the right direction.

One of the things I can say with high confidence is that I will once again attend the USA Volleyball High Performance Coaches Clinic in February. As you may have read from when I attended in 2015, I found it to be a great experience. This time I will add the CAP III course to the mix as well.

My partner Mark and I will continue to develop the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project. We definitely want to produce more books from the content we are collecting. I think we’ve decided what the next book will be.

I also hope to produce a new edition of Inside College Volleyball. That’s the college recruiting book I developed several years ago with another (now former) coach. It’s overdue for a revision and update.

Of course things will progress at MSU. The head coach is expecting her first child in April, which could make for an interesting Spring season. We are working on plans for a team trip to Argentina in August. That’s going to mean a big fund raising effort in the months to come.

Away from volleyball, I need to produce at least one more academic paper for potential publication. I’m scheduled to teach my second semester of the volleyball class as well.

 

 

Why coaching education fails

Volleyball Coach

Mark from At Home on the Court a while back flagged a really interesting article which criticizes common practices in coaching education and development. In particular, it lists the “ten really dumb things we do and call it Coach Education.”

That list is:

  1. Basing coaching education on sports science
  2. Failing to align coach development with athlete development pathways
  3. Believing competency based training is the new messiah
  4. Running workshops and conferences largely based on sports science, gimmicks, fads, and short cuts
  5. Giving token attention to mentoring programs
  6. Teaching outdated periodization processes
  7. Focusing more on teaching “what” and not “how” and “why”
  8. Creating courses based on the past, not the future
  9. Allowing course presenters who lack high level teaching, education, and communications skills
  10. Too much classroom-based coursework

I’m going to speak to a couple of points of particular focus for me. I encourage you, though, to read the full article.

I’ll just quickly touch on the sports science bit from #1. The main idea to that point is that as coaches we spend only a very small proportion of our time on this area of our work (the author suggests about 5%). In other words, it’s not a developmental area that is likely to have the biggest impact on our overall ability to do a good job as coaches. This is particularly true if you are – or intend to be – a full-time coach (or at least run your own program).

I especially like #4. It’s something that as a key part of Episode 3 of the Volleyball Coaching Wizards Podcast. We had a trio of interviewees share their views about the importance of how you react to presentations at conferences and clinics, and what you see other coaches do with their teams. I would add to that the fixation in those educational venues on games and drills and other technical/tactical elements. Think “How do I fix ….?” (see You don’t need a new drill).

The mentoring point of #5 is something that was among the first subjects I took on in this blog. I think it’s a major area in need to development in volleyball coaching circles, as too many of us don’t get that kind of guidance. Instead, we are thrown into things without much in the way of direction, advice, etc.

The idea of shifting from “what” in #7 is something which very much hits home to me. I used to be a very technically focused as a coach. At some point, though, my mentality started shifting. I began to realize that what’s going on between a player’s ears was the bigger issue which definitely gets into the “why” of things.