I had Coaching Volleyball: A Survival Guide For Your First Season by Whitney Bartiuk on my to-read list for a while. What finally got me to get a copy and give it a read is my Volleyball England role. I wanted to see how someone else addressed new volleyball coaches.

I’ll give this book a mixed, but largely positive rating. I think the first chapter about deciding to coach is largely unnecessary. After all, most likely people picking this book up have already committed to coaching. It does have a section on developing a coaching philosophy, but doesn’t really spend a lot of time on it.

From there, Bartiuk has the following chapter progression:

2. Preseason Preparation looks at connecting with your new boss (head coach, A.D., etc. depending on position), getting the necessary paperwork done, and buying any necessary equipment/gear.

3. Tryouts looks at setup, skills to evaluate, structure, decisions, and announcements.

4. Beginning of the Season brings in the subjects of parent meeting, paperwork, culture, discipline, and practice design

5. Your First Match or Tournament talks about the logistical practicalities, warm-ups, lineups, playing time, and refereeing (particularly for club)

6. Making Decisions Through Data, as it sounds, focuses on taking and using stats.

7. Mid-Season Reflections is about evaluating progress and keeping things going in a good direction

8. Major End of the Year Events is about ending the season in a positive way

9. Celebrations and Awards covers things like team banquets and awards

10. Final thoughts wraps things up

As you can see, the book covers a lot of ground. The print version is only 180 pages, though, so it doesn’t go into a lot of depth in a lot of areas. That can be seen as both a positive and a negative. Some readers may want more, while others will be happy to find more specific resources in topics of interest.

The chapters on stats is an example of where I see it being weak. Bartiuk does a decent job of pointing out things worth tracking and how you can use that data in decision-making and practice planning. Something not really addressed, though, is having benchmarks. Experienced coaches have a sense of what good stats look like. New coaches likely don’t. Without guidance they can therefore end up going down the wrong path.

On the flip side, the tryouts chapter has some useful info in terms of what to test and how to do it. Also, how to make decisions and tell the athletes. I particularly like how she talks about the limitations on the value and usefulness of physical testing.

The one other thing I’d comment on is the juniors vs. school perspective. Bartiuk talks about things relevant to both, but sometimes addresses a topic more from one point of view than the other without clarifying the difference. An example is in the tryouts chapter where she talks about selecting 9-10 players. That’s common for club teams, but school teams tend to be 12+.

I also found it a bit funny that she recommends putting weekly ads in the local paper to promote tryouts. Definitely not the highest reach strategy these days, but this book came out in 2016, so it’s a bit behind the times.

Overall, I’d say if you’re looking for an easy to read guide to the major things you’ll have to deal with as a first time coach, Coaching Volleyball: A Survival Guide For Your First Season is a good resource. It’s thin on coverage in places, but there are other resources out there to fill the gaps.

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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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