John Kessel wrote an article on the subject of coaching feedback. You should definitely take some time to give it a read.

The main thrust of the piece is that the sort of mechanics feedback/coaching I’d venture to say most of us have long engaged in (left foot there, elbow up, arms in this position, etc.) isn’t the best way to go about things. In fact, it may be counter-productive. The better approach is to talk about things from a kind of desired outcome perspective. The former approach is called internal while the latter is external.

I couldn’t help but chuckle at the first example of the difference between the two John provides – elbow high (internal) vs. swing fast (external).

You see, I was coaching in Sweden at the time and the night before I read that article I overheard my young middle talking about how her last coach had spent two years telling her to get her elbow up. It didn’t really work. 🙂

I later had a conversation with my OPP about her blocking technique. She commented on how it didn’t really help to have people talk about what she should be doing with her arms, feet, hands, etc. It wasn’t useful feedback for her because she couldn’t translate that into something actionable. In part that was because she needed to see what she was doing (advocating video use). It was also because those verbal cues didn’t have any resonance with her in terms of desired outcome.

If nothing else, this discussion of internal vs. external highlights the need to find key words or phrases or cues that work with each individual player. At some point we have to recognize that saying the same thing over and over isn’t working.

Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing repeatedly expecting a different result?

If so, many of us coaches could be said to at least have bouts of insanity. That’s above and beyond our decisions to become coaches. 😉

Anyway, give Kessel’s article a read. I could change how you think about the way you coach the technical elements of the game.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Volleyball Director for Nation Academy (formerly Charleston Academy). His previous experience includes the college and university level in the US and UK, professional coaching in Sweden, and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. Learn more on his bio page.

    1 Response to "A different approach to training mechanics"

    • Avatar Kelly Daniels

      I guess John I can say I am guilty of this. I’m coaching a 13s developmental team and it’s tough for me not to say how to do it in regards to body parts. Just last night I’m trying to figure out how to covey to one of my athletes to step with her left foot when serving. In six practices I’ve repeated the same thing. “Left Foot.” Or “One step, left foot.” She will for a few serves step with her left foot, but it eventually goes back to stepping with her right foot just before lifting the ball.

      I’ll be reading the book offered in John article.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.