Utah coach Beth Launiere teamed up with management consultant Leo Hopf to write Stop Competing and Start Winning: The Business of Coaching, which is a book focused essentially on all the stuff that happens off the court for a volleyball program. Of course “program” in this context relates mostly to colleges. There’s plenty in this book for other types of programs, though. And even for use outside the athletic realm as well.

First, for the sake of transparency, Beth sent me a copy of the book. She even personalized it! This is after we had her on an episode of the MasterCoaches Weekly Buzz to talk about the book. Beth and Leo also presented on material from the book in the 2020 AVCA Virtual Convention.

The book is a bit over 300 pages and comprises 13 chapters. The first two essentially lay the foundations, with the meat of the content beginning in Chapter 3. That’s a discussion of the different types of contributors any operation has – stars, solid performers, and “C” players.

Chapter 4 focuses on the subject of delegation, and features some quite useful advise. This was actually a feature of what Beth talked about in the Buzz discussion mentioned above. Chapters 5 and 6 focus mainly on staff – management, development, and selection.

I found the Chapter 7 discussion of how to hire and train staff quite interesting and informative. Definitely some good ideas there! I also personally found the conversation about fans and donors in Chapter 9 really useful. In between the two, Chapter 8 looks at recruiting and how you work with the athletes once you have them (in a non-volleyball way).

Somewhat surprisingly to me, Chapter 10 is very current events oriented as it has a big focus on COVID and how it impacted things. My initial thought was that could mean the chapter ends up having a short shelf-life, but I think Beth and Leo did a good job in using the pandemic to speak to the subject of crisis management. This flows in to Chapter 11’s exploration of dealing with the changing environment.

Chapter 12 turns the focus to the subject of leadership. Part of me feels like this could/should have been put toward the beginning. The following quote from the early part of the chapter really jumped out at me:

Management without leadership creates efficiency but not effectiveness.

I’ll leave you to mull that over. 🙂

Chapter 13 wraps things up and provides key takeaways from the prior chapters. It also includes the following comment about Beth:

People ask her how she has been able to stay at one school doing the same job year after year. She tells them it has never been the same job. Every year has been different, and she is constantly looking for new and innovative ways to improve her coaching and design her program to win.

This stood out to me because for many years I’ve told people how much the dynamic nature of college coaching appeals to me. The annual cycles mean you are regularly shifting focus to different things. At the same time you have a steady flow of incoming and outgoing personalities shifting the landscape.

This reminds me of the comments from a pair of Volleyball Coaching Wizards in their interviews. Teri Clemens talked about how every season you’re dealing with a new team, even if you have few or no personnel changes. Meanwhile, Tod Mattox talked about coaches having 30 years of experience vs. those who coached the same season 30 times.

I’ve commented in other reviews that for me the thing that really indicates a useful non-fiction book is how often it triggers my thought to go running off on some interesting thread. Stop Competing and Start Winning certainly had me doing that! If you’re running a volleyball program – or aspiring to someday – it’s definitely worth reading.

By the way, if you’re interested in the topic of program management and development you’ll probably find From the Ashes interesting as well.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Men's & Women's Head Volleyball Coach at Medaille College, as well as Global Director for Volleyball 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.

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