Your players must be comfortable taking risks

In this post I referenced something on Volleywood which brings up a handful of no-nos for players. In that article I focused on players remaining switched on and active at all times during play. This time I want to concentrate on a couple of the other items listed. They are about not being afraid to take risks in close matches and not being shy about practice mistakes. If you followed my coaching log from when I coached at Exeter you know I spent a considerable amount of time on it with the women’s team.

I actually link these two items together. Players who uncomfortable taking risks in training will have a hard time remaining confident and aggressive in a match. This is especially so when it gets to crunch time. That’s why it’s so important for us as coaches to make sure we foster an environment in the gym which allows players to take chances and make mistakes. If we’re on them for every little error – or allow them to get down on themselves when they make mistakes – they will never develop the ability to shake off a bad play and the confidence they need to play their best. And this can’t just be an individual player or a coach-to-player thing. The whole team environment should be supportive of each other taking chances and not critical of mistakes.

Just because players feel comfortable going for it in training it doesn’t mean it necessarily translates into game time, though. It’s natural for players to get tight when it really counts. I see it happen all the time in matches. Players get tentative because they don’t want to make a mistake, but end up making an error because it led them to fail to execute the skill properly.

This is where the supportive element really comes in. Teammates can help each other get over mistakes and be encouraging of taking chances. We as coaches can as well, but not in the same way because we aren’t on the court with them. This is an aspect of team chemistry which must be developed and fostered for a team to really reach its potential.

Easier said than done, of course!

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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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