Archive for Volleyball Coaching Education

AVCA Convention 2016 – Day 1

The 2016 edition of the AVCA Convention is in Columbus, OH. This was the scene when I arrived on Tuesday.

First snow seen after leaving Sweden!

Day 1 of the convention was mainly pre-convention programming. Not surprising, the focus was the 2016 Olympics. It was a 2-part set-up. The morning session (about 2.5 hours) was on-court stuff. The afternoon session was basically a review of the Games. The presenters for the sessions were USA Men’s coach John Speraw, USA Women’s assistant Tom Black, and Netherlands Women’s coach Giovanni Guidetti. Due to travel considerations, though, they ran Guidetti’s portion on Friday afternoon.

The on-court session was the usual mix of games and drills. Speraw talked quite a bit about small-side games and over-the-net pepper variations. The afternoon session I found more interesting and meaty. Black focused on technical and tactical stuff. Speraw went more into organizational and managerial things. He said some really interesting things about team chemistry, and I think some will be in a Volleyball Coaching Wizards podcast.

The first official session for all attendees was presented by Sue Enquist. That was in the late afternoon. Sue won 11 national championships as the head coach of the UCLA softball team, though she is retired now. She focused on coach relationships with players.

Thursday was the first full day of the convention proper, and was also the NCAA Division I semifinals. I presented on Friday. Saturday was the last day of the convention, and the Final was that night. I did not buy match tickets this time. Instead, I planned to watch on TV. I wanted to boost ESPN viewership. 🙂

If you think you’re a great coach, you’re probably a poor one

People Who Think They’re Great Coaches Often Aren’t. That’s the title of a recent article from the Harvard Business Review. Got you thinking about whether you’re a good coach? 🙂

The scenario at the very beginning of the article I found really funny.

Basically, a person describes themselves a pretty good coach. When asked why, the response is they “…attended a coaching course and learned many of the techniques of good coaching.”

This story reminds me of a very early Volleyball Coaching Wizards interview I conducted. In it, Portuguese coach Paolo Cunha talked about people thinking they were coaches just because they’d done a course or gotten a certification as we discussed issues with coaching education.

Getting to the main point of the article, researchers did a test. They had people assess their own skills. Then they had others assess them. About a quarter of the folks involved overrated themselves. Not only were they not as good as they thought, but they actually ended up in the bottom third based on the external assessments. This is pretty classic overconfidence, which is something l looked at a lot while doing my PhD.

To summarize the findings, “…if you think you’re a good coach but you actually aren’t, this data suggests you may be a good deal worse than you imagined.”

The article continues on, suggesting…

“Bursting the bubble of your illusion of superiority could be highly advantageous to your continued development as a leader. In fact, this is the best reason to find a way to obtain honest feedback about your coaching skills.”

So what are the problem areas? The article provides a list I encourage you to read. Not surprisingly, communication and working with others rank high. Integrity is in there as well.

Interestingly, the people who underrated their own abilities scored above average in their assessed ability (57% percentile). What do you make of that?

I think it speaks to an attitude of continuous development. Coaches who do not think they are great are more likely to keep learning. They look at their weaknesses and seek to improve upon them. Sounds like a good mindset to me!

Being an emotionally intelligent coach

Apparently, being on vacation gives Mark from At Home on the Court time to find all kinds of interesting stuff, like the one I spoke about in a prior post. Here’s another one he came across on the subject of emotional intelligence, this time from the New York Times.

Basically, we’re talking here about four primary areas of focus: self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and relationship skills. Let me take on each individually.

Self-Awareness

This is about understanding your own strengths and weaknesses. In a team context – being as a player or as a member of a coaching staff – that factors in to knowing how to work with others to maximize collective effectiveness.

Also in this category is having a good emotional insight. In other words, you understand your feelings and know what can trigger them – anger being a prime example.

Self-Management

This includes resilience, emotional balance, and self-motivation. A lot of this has to do with handling adversity and overcoming setbacks. These are things we hope to see (or develop) in our players. We must be good models for them. Emotional balance in particular speaks to not allowing negative outcomes to cause negative emotional reactions – like yelling at your team for losing a match.

Empathy

Here the focus is on being a good listener and being able to view things from other people’s perspectives. Part of this relates to being able to deal with people as they are, which was the topic of Episode 18 of the Volleyball Coaching Wizards Podcast. Another part is being able to read someone’s feelings for more effective communication. A third is taking in what others are saying and not trying to make things about you or your views.

Relationships Skills

This covers two main concepts. One is being able to be persuasive and clear in your communications. Legendary coach Julio Velsasco has described coaching as selling. You are trying to sell the players on what you want them to do and where you want them to go. In order to do that, you need to communicate with them clearing and persuasively.

The other primary concept in this area is being able to work with others. In this instance, however, the focus is on how people feel around you. Are they relaxed? If so, it’s more likely you’ll be able to work effectively with them.

How’s your emotional intelligence?

I know mine has gotten much better over the years. Could still use some work in places, though.

 

Why coaching education fails

Volleyball Coach

Mark from At Home on the Court a while back flagged a really interesting article which criticizes common practices in coaching education and development. In particular, it lists the “ten really dumb things we do and call it Coach Education.”

That list is:

  1. Basing coaching education on sports science
  2. Failing to align coach development with athlete development pathways
  3. Believing competency based training is the new messiah
  4. Running workshops and conferences largely based on sports science, gimmicks, fads, and short cuts
  5. Giving token attention to mentoring programs
  6. Teaching outdated periodization processes
  7. Focusing more on teaching “what” and not “how” and “why”
  8. Creating courses based on the past, not the future
  9. Allowing course presenters who lack high level teaching, education, and communications skills
  10. Too much classroom-based coursework

I’m going to speak to a couple of points of particular focus for me. I encourage you, though, to read the full article.

I’ll just quickly touch on the sports science bit from #1. The main idea to that point is that as coaches we spend only a very small proportion of our time on this area of our work (the author suggests about 5%). In other words, it’s not a developmental area that is likely to have the biggest impact on our overall ability to do a good job as coaches. This is particularly true if you are – or intend to be – a full-time coach (or at least run your own program).

I especially like #4. It’s something that as a key part of Episode 3 of the Volleyball Coaching Wizards Podcast. We had a trio of interviewees share their views about the importance of how you react to presentations at conferences and clinics, and what you see other coaches do with their teams. I would add to that the fixation in those educational venues on games and drills and other technical/tactical elements. Think “How do I fix ….?” (see You don’t need a new drill).

The mentoring point of #5 is something that was among the first subjects I took on in this blog. I think it’s a major area in need to development in volleyball coaching circles, as too many of us don’t get that kind of guidance. Instead, we are thrown into things without much in the way of direction, advice, etc.

The idea of shifting from “what” in #7 is something which very much hits home to me. I used to be a very technically focused as a coach. At some point, though, my mentality started shifting. I began to realize that what’s going on between a player’s ears was the bigger issue which definitely gets into the “why” of things.

Report from AOC Forth Worth

I spent most of last weekend in Fort Worth, TX in the gym at TCU. I was there to attend the Art of Coaching Volleyball clinic. As you can see from the photo of my name tag, I had VIP status. 🙂

This was my first time at an Art event. They got started during my hiatus from coaching. And of course up to a few months ago I was out of the country.

It was a working trip for me. I was there to interview the big three guys from Art – John Dunning, Russ Rose, and Terry Liskevych. It was a kind of cross-over thing between Art and Volleyball Coaching Wizards. As a result I didn’t get to see everything that went on during the sessions, though I got a pretty good overall feel.

I was asked a couple of times along the way for my impression. My initial reaction was probably not something you’d expect, though. It was, “Entertaining”. The guys have a good interaction with each other and generally have fun during their discussions and demonstrations. There was much smiling and laughter, both on the court and in the stands among the over 400 attendees (their biggest event so far).

The other thing that comes to mind is “fire hose”. I saw that because there are part of the clinic where the clinicians – in this case which also featured Jill Kramer (TCU), Christy Johnson-Lynch (Iowa State), and Tod Maddux (The Bishop’s School) – went rapid fire through drills and games that could be used for specific training desires (setting, hitting, competitive, etc.). It struck me as being a lot of ideas in a short period of time. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most clinics for newer coaches end up being like a fire hose of information.

Of course there were other sessions which had a single clinician focusing on a specific topic. The morning of the first day and the whole second day were all on-court. The afternoon of the first day a mixture of court and classroom. The court sessions featured Wizard Ruth Nelson doing BYOP sessions and Deborah Newkirk doing sessions included ways to get kids handling the ball on their own and on generating energy and communication. Because of the interviewing stuff I couldn’t attend the classroom sessions and could only pop my head in on the Saturday afternoon on-court sessions.

Attending coaching education events is always an interesting experience for me. I’m well past the point of learning a bunch of new stuff or picking up several new drills or games. Still, there are usually some little things along the way that get me thinking about stuff. This event was no different.

Overall, I think the attendees got a lot out of the clinic. As I understand it, the bulk of the group was in the high school and/or juniors category. The content was definitely well suited for that group and I would recommend it strongly for early-career coaches.

Going to coaching seminars is exhausting!

As I reported last week, I spent Thursday through Saturday doing an FIVB technical seminar on outside hitting and serving, and then Sunday attending the annual Volleyball England Coaches Conference. I’m completely wiped out!

It all started with a 8 hour trip from Exeter to Kettering. Now part of that was a lengthy layover in London because when I booked my train tickets I was expecting to have a meeting in there, which I ended up not having. Still, it was an early start and a mid afternoon arrival. I later met up and had dinner with Mark Lebedew, my partner in the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project, and the FIVB instructor for the seminar. My roommate for the rest of the week – an experienced coach from Belgium – arrived later that night. That would end up being the night I got the most sleep.

The seminar started at 9:00 the next morning. You can see the smiling faces of all us “delegates”, instructors Sue Gozansky (who ran a parallel setting seminar) and Mark, and the Volleyball England staff running things here. As you’d expect, England had the highest representation, but coaches from a couple other nations were also in attendance. Each day started around the same time, and we went until about 5:00 or 6:00 PM each day, but then over dinner and several hours in the hotel lounge area continued to talk volleyball and coaching until late at night. That, combined with not sleeping particularly well, had me (and others) running on willpower at times toward the end.

Several of the seminar attendees – as well as Mark and Sue – carried over for Sunday’s conference. This one was different from the first I attended in 2013 or last year’s. I think it represents a transition based on feedback and expressed interest. The 2013 conference was largely focused on talking about where V.E. was looking to take things, with only a small technical element at the end. The 2014 version had a bit more technical, but still had a bunch of conversations that were more organizational in focus. This year’s edition was clearly designed to focus more on the actual coaching side of things. It started with Sue & Mark doing a great 45-minute Q&A on team building concepts. After that there were technical sessions on transition hitting, block & defense, season planning, and strength & conditioning. I skipped out on the last hour or so in order to be able to make my train back.

I’ll get into some of the finer points of what was discussed in future posts (I’m also hoping to get a report on the WEVZA coaching seminar held in Valladolid from a couple coaches I know who attended that). For now let me talk about something related to a question I was asked the second night of the FIVB seminar. That was, to paraphrase, “What were you looking to get out of the event?”

I got that question from one of the Volleyball England staff during the evening when a bunch of us were hanging around in the hotel lounge. I mentioned one or two other things, but my initial response was, “This.” By that I meant connecting and interacting with other coaches – some of whom I knew before, but most of whom I did not. For me, that aspect of attending events like these is the most valuable. In part it’s networking – which from a career perspective can be very important. In part it is about getting different perspectives on things.

As a side note, I was again surprised at the number of coaches who told me they read this blog. I got a lot of congratulations on landing the new job I mentioned in my log post the other day (more on that soon, too). I also had several coaches talking about the Wizads project. It was cool to hear they are as excited about it as Mark and I are.

More volleyball coaching education this week

This should be an interesting week.

On Wednesday I head off to Kettering. I haven’t been there since last summer when I helped out with England Girls Juniors and Cadet trials. This time around the focus will be on coaching development. Nominally, I’m attending the FIVB coaching seminar on Outside Hitting and Serving. There is also a setting seminar going on at the same time. It was a tough choice picking between the two. I ended up going with the hitter one because I’ve spent less time focused on those area in my coaching career than on setting. Also I’ll get to heckle my Volleyball Coaching Wizards partner, Mark Lebedew, who is presenting the seminar. Sue Gozansky, is running the setter one.

After the FIVB seminar, on Sunday, will be the Volleyball England annual Coaches Conference. Sue and Mark will both take part in that as well to talk about team aspects. There are also a couple of technical seminars and it looks like one on strength and conditioning. This is the official agenda.

During the week I’m hoping to have time to get Sue’s interview for the Wizards project recorded, and maybe a couple of others as well. Honestly, being able to interact again with my fellow coaches is at least as big a motivation for me as the educational sessions. Look forward to a report.

Question everything

Last week when I was interviewing Mark Lebedew for the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project I asked him what his advice would be for relatively new coaches. Mark is an FIVB coaching instructor, so he’s done his fair share of working with developing volleyball coaches. His response was, “Question everything.” That includes all the stuff he said himself in the interview. 🙂

When Mark said that, I immediately thought of Mike Hebert’s book Thinking Volleyball. Mike too offers the advice that coaches should always be ready to challenge what they are seeing or hearing from an educational perspective as it relates to their own situation, even when it comes from the so-called experts.

You won’t be getting any arguments from me!

Coaching seminar decisions

I’ve got a bit of a conundrum.

Volleyball England is hosting a pair of FIVB coaching technical seminars the first week of June – one on setting, the other on outside hitting/serving. The former will be presented by Sue Gozansky, and the latter by Mark Lebedew. They run over three days, from June 4th to the 6th. The following day will be the annual V.E. Coaches Conference, which I’ve attended the last two years. I’ve had these events marked on my calendar for a while as I think it will be a good opportunity to learn and connect with other coaches.

The other day, though, I found out about another seminar going on at the same time. The Western European Volleyball Zone Association (WEVZA) is hosting a 3-day event June 5th to 7th in Valladolid Spain. It’s featured speakers will be Stelian Moculescu of VFB Friedrichshafen (2015 German men’s champs); Miguel Ángel Falasca of PGE Skra Bełchatów in Poland (Champions League Final Four), and John Kessel of USA Volleyball. I know people who went to this event last year an had good things to say.

Tough decision!

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