I came across the following question that I thought was worth addressing.

What is the best teaching platform to help coaches who are newer? GMS, AOC, CAP, something else?

First, let’s make sure the acronyms are clear. GMS is Gold Medal Squared. AOC is Art of Coaching, or more correctly, the Art of Coaching Volleyball. Finally, CAP stands for Coaches Accreditation Program, which USA Volleyball runs. At this writing there are currently 3 active (non-honorary) levels of CAP. [Note: USAV has since changed the coaching education system to a new Coach Academy format.]

I previously reviewed a Gold Medal Squared clinic, as well as one run by Art of Coaching. I also reviewed my experience doing the CAP III certification. Unfortunately, my CAP I and II experiences long pre-date starting this blog, so I don’t have reviews of them to offer. 🙂

Personally, if a newer volleyball coach asked me this question I would likely tell them to do GMS first. This isn’t because I agree with or go along with everything they teach. Nor is it because I necessarily think GMS is the best overall.

The reason I lean toward GMS is because they provide a comprehensive platform. They go through all the parts of the game and provide their approach and philosophy to teaching skills and playing the game. They are also proponents of a science- and evidence-based approach to coaching. It encourages a questioning mentality, which I think is something everyone should have.

As I said, I don’t agree with everything GMS teaches – particularly when it comes to playing the game. They do, however, do provide a cohesive approach. That is something I think newer coaches can use as at least a template for their own coaching. It gives them a framework they can fill in and fill out as they learn and gain experience.

There’s one possible exception to the above. That’s for folks with little competitive playing experience. For them, CAP might be the best starting point. When I took CAP I it struck me as being somewhat less useful for experienced players because it was more an introduction to all the skills. I don’t know if that’s still the case, though I suspect there is at least still a strong element of that. As such, I think it’s probably a good starting point for new coaches lacking much of a volleyball background.

This isn’t to say I don’t think CAP overall has little value to someone with a lot of volleyball experience. It’s just that you have to suffer a bit through the basics in CAP I before you can get to the meatier stuff in CAP II and III.

As for AOC, I think it can be quite useful from more of a problem-solving perspective. It will give you a lot of ideas on how to address specific things – like training your serve receive offense, as an example. Where I see GMS giving a new coach a framework, I see AOC providing the elements that can fill out that framework into an overall individual approach. The same is true of CAP (especially the latter stages), going to things like the AVCA Convention and other coaching education events, and getting out and watching and talking with other coaches.

So those are my thoughts on the subject. I’d love to hear yours.

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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.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.