A reader left a comment on the Level does not determine coaching value! post that reads:

If you are truly a good coach, you can take any team and have success with them (no matter the level).

I have mixed feelings about this statement.

On the one hand, I do strongly believe that coaches coach, no matter who is in front of them. A good coach is about developing whatever players and/or team they’re working with at the time.

On the other hand, as I suggest in the Judging coaching greatness post, coaches do have niches in which they tend to operate best. For example, a coach who is really good at teaching fundamentals to a bunch of 12-year-olds new to the sport isn’t the same as a coach who can get a team of professional players to the league championship. The skill sets involved are different.

What is success?

And this is where the definition of success comes in. There isn’t just one, after all. We need to know which one applies in a given situation.

Let’s take the example of a coach who is really good at driving player enthusiasm. Players love playing for them. A coach like that can likely have success at any level if that means a happy squad. If, however, success for a given team means winning the championship, then a happy group isn’t enough. If that coach doesn’t have the additional skills required, then ultimately they won’t succeed by that metric.

And you can flip that around.

I once had a conversation with a former schoolmate of mine from both high school and college well after our school days were over. She was an All-State player on the girls team in high school and an All-American in college. We both had the same coach in high school because she coached both the girls and boys at times. Her programs – especially on the girls side – were consistently successful in terms of winning a lot, including state titles. That schoolmate – who went on to do some high school coaching herself – noted a shortcoming of that coach, however. Basically, she said that while our old coach was very good at teaching the game, she wasn’t great at skill development.

So, success in one area, but perhaps not in another. That’s why I think the quote above is a bit tricky to simply agree with, even though I like the spirit of it.

What do you think?

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Assistant Volleyball Coach at Radford University, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His previous 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. Learn more on his bio page.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.