I’m back in England at last!
Over the course of just over three weeks in the States I spent a total of eight days watching various teams go through their training and two other days taking in matches. It was a fantastic experience, made me some positive new connections, saw me reinforce old relationships, and was great for reconnecting me with US collegiate volleyball after several years away.
As you might expect, sitting in on 13 different training sessions from 5 different collegiate teams (URI, USC, Long Beach State, CSU San Marcos, and UCLA in that order) saw me pick up some new ideas for drills and training methods. I’ve already posted a few of those in the Drills and Games categories in the last couple weeks and have several more coming in future posts.
Drills and game ideas can be found in many different sources, though. For me it was more interesting to see a couple of different things. One of them was how certain aspects of the game have changed in the last few years. In particular, it was clear to me that there’s been an evolution in jump float serve mechanics and the use of the libero, among other things.
The other was seeing the ways the various programs operate and the different types of managerial styles. Teams have different levels of resources allocated to them, and that can play a part. For example, USC has a fantastic training facility and loads of staff on the one end, while CSU San Marcos has to play its home matches at a local high school and only has a part-time assistant coach on the other. Some head coaches are more supervisors and big picture overseers, while others are very hands-on in training either through requirement or personal coaching focus. I also saw variation in the way warm-ups were handled, practice uniforms, and generally the vibe of the teams in training (though that was largely subtle).
Needless to say, I jotted down quite a few notes. I also recorded several bits of video to help me recall things and to provide visual and auditory support to my players of the things I’m trying to teach them.
Actually, some of the most rewarding time was actually getting to talk with the coaches. Some of the coaches were folks I already know, and we had all sorts of good conversations. Even those I was meeting for the first time, however, were generally quite willing to chat about what they were doing and answer questions. Some even shared things with me on related subjects with no prompting whatsoever.
I definitely recommend this sort of experience from a lot of perspectives, including a mentorship type of angle along the line of I wrote about in Making Mentorship Part of the Process. In fact, it may be something which can lead to finding yourself a good coaching mentor. Even if that’s not the case, seeing other coaches in action – particularly well-experienced ones – can get you seeing things from different perspectives. That’s never a bad thing.
So get out there and do it! You don’t need to make a 3-week trip like I did to learn some new things. Just find a good coach in your area and see if they’d be willing to have you come along and observe. Chances are they’ll say yes.
I’ve already had some thoughts about what I might do next summer. 🙂
In the meantime, look for the drills, games, and other observations I made during my trip in posts to come over the next few weeks.