This was the start of my third American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) annual convention since starting this blog in 2013. The first was in 2013 (Day 1, 2, 3, 4). The second was in 2016 (Day 1, 2, 3, 4). I was supposed to go last year, but fell ill.

This year’s event is in Pittsburgh. I’ve never been here before, aside from maybe transiting through the airport.

As is the pattern at this point, there’s a pre-conference clinic on Wednesday before the official start of the convention on Thursday. This year’s edition was “The Coaching Eye – It’s Not What You Look at But What You See” by Jim McLaughlin. Jim retired a little while back. He won a national championship on the men’s side with USC, and on the women’s side with Washington.

I actually debated whether to attend this session or the Advanced Career Education (ACE) seminar “Competencies Needed to Keep Your College Head Job”. In fact, this seminar comprised of two separate sessions, each 90 minutes long. They were “Building Your Brand on the Recruiting Trail: How to Create a Unique and Consistent Message to Get the Recruits You Want” and “Developing and Managing a Championship Level Staff: Strategies for Delegation and Maximizing the Skills and Talent of Your Support Staff and Coaches”. It was a hard choice. I’d have gone to both if I could.

I have to say, McLaughlin’s presentation was a bit different than advertised. Here’s how they promoted it.

It takes time for a coach to develop a well-trained eye, seeing all aspects of the game and creating the correct visual picture. We will answer these questions: How do coaches develop their coaches’ eye? What should a coach look at and what should they really see? How does what you see takes precedence over what you know? Coaches from every level will leave this presentation with a better understanding of how to “see the game” and strategies for teaching this skill to your players.

I reality, the first half to the presentation, in a seminar hall, had basically zero to do with the coach’s eye. And the on-court second half didn’t really do much better.

I’m not saying Jim didn’t share a lot of good stuff in the 3 hours. He definitely did. The main theme of the first 90 minutes was generally speaking on the job of the coach. Jim talked a lot about having a set of principles from which you operate, and drove home the need to continuously work on fundamentals.

Jim is closely linked with Gold Medal Squared. He also worked quite a bit with Carl McGown. As a result, it was no surprise to hear a lot of GMS-related concepts.

The on-court session was kind of all over the place. There was some continuation of the first part, then Jim ran a dozen participants through an exercise. Nominally, he started it with a focus on blocker’s watching the setter. It kind of spun all over the place from there, though.

It was kind of like the lack of focus I see from coaches. 😀

Again, it was an enjoyable session, if not exactly the one I thought I was getting. It’s been my experience that content vs. advertisement disconnects happen quite often. Sometimes it’s fine. Other times it’s disappointing.

Perhaps the best quote of the session from Jim (probably because I totally agree with it!):

Teach ’em to be a volleyball player.

The day ended with a kick-off party.

I ran into a few people that I knew around the event, and a blog reader from the Pittsburgh area. So that side of things got off to a good start. I also had a meeting regarding a future Volleyball Coaching Wizards project. More on that down the line.

Click here for my Day 2 report.

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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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