If you haven’t seen them already, here are my updates from Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4 of the virtual version of the 2022 AVCA Convention. In this post I’ll share the sessions I went back to watch after the Convention ended.

Youth VB Practices: Strategies & Drills to Build Confidence and Survive the Chaos

This was a pre-recorded session by Kathy DeBoer and Becca Just (Education Specialist at the AVCA). Kathy doesn’t normally present at the Convention, aside from the stuff you’d expect from the Executive Director of a coaching federation. As such, I was interested to see this one.

Kathy started off by sharing the growth of volleyball at the high school level. She also mentioned that growth in the sport is really being driven at the younger age groups. In particular, she noted that the 13-and-under age group was the largest at AAUs last year, with over 700 teams.

From there the presentation featured Kathy talking about something, then Becca offering on-court examples. A big feature throughout was Kathy talking about the value of blocked training, in particular as related to player confidence. I have a lot to comment on about this one, but have to do that elsewhere. It would take up too much space here.

Coaching Juniors in the Japanese Way

This was another pre-recorded session. The presenter was Sei Kawabe, the Executive Director for the Japanese equivalent of the AVCA. He talked about the way things go in youth volleyball in Japan. A clear criticism he spoke of is an extreme focus on winning because tournaments there are strictly elimination. You lose, you go home.

One of his more interesting comments was that in his mind technique is about controlling the ball, while kill is about controlling the game. A chunk of the video (only about 35 minutes total) focused on coaching spiking. He specifically talked about teaching youngsters how to throw, and also shoulder alignment. Toward the end he shared clips of one club’s training that featured some more general athletic movements with volleyball skills.

Learning Lab: Setting

Like the other Labs, this was a zoom. The presenter was Paco Labrador, from the Naval Academy. It being an open Q&A means the questions covered several different topics. Kind of like Chris Tamas from Day 2, Paco talked about not being fixated on specific technique, particularly with footwork.

Recruiting the Club Recruiting Coordinator – What to Do and What to Avoid on Calls to a Club

This was a panel discussion featuring a group of juniors club recruiting coordinators. The focus was on how college coaches can do a better job of working with clubs in the recruiting process. There was a lot of talk about the communication side of things – both to the kids and the recruiting coordinators.

Maximizing the Transfer Portal + Preventing YOUR Players From Entering It!

Dan Tudor did this presentation, which was a live seminar. Dan is the president and founder of Tudor Collegiate Strategies, which advises colleges on recruiting. When I was at Medaille, the department used his services. He talked about the difference between recruiting transfers and high school athletes, among other subjects.

Championship Behaviors

This was Hugh McCutcheon’s talk based on his new book by the same name, though with a slightly different spelling. You can read my book review here. The first 10 minutes or so was the story of how the book came to be. One of the funnier parts of that was when Hugh found out his book was #1 in Volleyball – and was quite excited – then realized what else was in the top seller list and was less impressed. This is related to something I wrote about here.

Out of System Offense: Creating Your System

Retired LSU and AVCA Hall of Fame coach Fran Flory ran this on-court session. She started with an exercise I’ve seen in a lot of pro team gyms where players bounce the ball then set it to one of the pins like they were setting an out-of-system ball. Fran challenged the attendees to spend much more time working with young setters setting from off the net rather than perfect balls.

A Balancing Act: Physical Trainings Loads, Skill Development and Mental Health

This was a seminar session. It featured David Gil from VERT and Lauren Steinbrecher from James Madison. You may recall that I had the two of them on one of my Coaching Conversations. Much of what they talked about was similar to the content from that Conversation.

Something really interesting that David brought up had to do with the impact of fatigue on learning. Most of us understand that we should do the more teaching oriented (skill acquisition) parts of our training toward the beginning of a session when the mind and body of the athletes are relatively fresh. David noted, however, that we can’t just look at it in terms of today. He said research suggests there’s a carryover effect from a heavy load day to the days after it. So if we had a hard day on Tuesday, we probably don’t want to try to do much skill acquisition work on Wednesday.

Managing Your Team Before, During and After a Game

Canadian Women’s National Team head coach Shannon Winzer presented this seminar. She said from the start that the title wasn’t the best for what she wanted to talk about. Basically, she talked about getting from where you are to where you want to be in terms of team performance. She talked about how they examined the deficiencies they saw in the Canada team (what she called Gap Analysis) and what they did in training to address them. She then went into scouting and what they look at/for.

Building a Better Learning Environment 

Trevor Ragan from The Learning Lab presented this session. His focus was on creating/sustaining the right environment within our teams. A prime example of this is how we react to mistakes. He also talked about how Karch asks his players how he can do a better job coaching them as an example of modeling a learning-based mentality and behavior. Importantly, he did make the observation that the inherent competition for playing time within a team works against the concept of have a safe psychological environment. It’s just something we have to acknowledge.

A Simple Planning System for Winning Your Days

This was a pre-recorded session by Mandy Green from Busy Coach. The basic thrust of this presentation was helping coaches manage their time better. She made two observations at the beginning that I really liked. The first was “Coaches think ‘busy’ is equal to ‘value’. The second was “Coaching are patting themselves on the back for the number of hours of work they are putting in”. Both are so true. I see it regularly, especially at the college level.

Why Branding Matters for Leaders in Sports

Laura Barnard of BREAKTHRU Brands presented this pre-recorded seminar. It was primarily aimed at women leaders. While it brought in corporate brands by way of example, the focus was on coaches developing their personal brand.

So You Think You Want to Coach? Managing the Transition from Player to Assistant Coach to Head Coach

This was a panel discussion featuring four women at different points in their careers. It covered a lot of different aspects of the transitions from role to role. Having been in those positions myself, I found myself agreeing with pretty much all they said.

Minds, Hearts & Wallets: The Secrets to Engaging Donors

Beth Launiere ran this session, with the help of Leo Hopf who is her co-author on Stop Competing and Start Winning. They also had a woman who donated for an endowed coach’s chair at Utah, where Beth coaches. She actually came up and shared a lot of insights from her side of things. Another donor followed who talked about how she’s now a planned donor, meaning the program will get money from her estate after she passes.

You CAN Handle the Truth: Fostering Honest Relationships with Your Athletes and Staff

This was a panel discussion at the very end of the live convention. Chris McGown moderated it, with Karch Kiraly, Luka Slabe (North Carolina State), and Beth Launiere. As the title implies, relationships was the main focus. There was a lot of discussion of good communication.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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