Archive for Volleyball Coaching Education

Coaching course final thoughts

If you saw my posts from going through the Volleyball England Level 3 coaching course you know it covered quite a bit of different material. After the exam we took some time to talk about the course. The way the certifications are designed, things are meant to work this way:

Level 1: For coaches running drills and such in a supervised fashion. Think assistant coach.

Level 2: For coaches running training sessions unsupervised. This is meant to be the minimum requirement for coaching in the National Volleyball League (NVL) at the upper levels. It is not well-enforced, though.

Level 3: For coaches running teams over a full season. It has been suggested that this be the minimum requirement for Supers 8s coaches. Is I understand it, however, that’s not been moved on yet.

I’ve said many times that these sorts of structures are often not reflective of coaching reality at the local level. It’s been my experience that a lot of coaches end up leading teams (not sessions) because they are available and know a bit about the sport. Certification programs generally don’t reflect this reality that well. This is fine if the governing body is working toward developing a collection of quality coaches to work in the higher levels of the game. Alas, most coaches aren’t in that mix.

Anyway, it was an interesting mix of coaches in the course. Only half of them were native English. Just a few actively worked with youth players specifically, despite the focus of the program. Not a big deal there, though, as most of what we talked about in the course was generally applicable.

Personally, I was looking for something a bit more advanced than what we got, but overall I’m not disappointed in the experience. There was plenty in there to stimulate thoughts and ideas, and being able to be around the youth national teams in training and preparing for the NEVZA U17 tournament was a definite plus.

And of course it’s always great to talk shop with other coaches.

For some time I’ve been going back and forth over whether I should attend the AVCA annual convention in Seattle next month. It’s a major investment, especially with the travel from England. I think, now, though, that I will regret it if I don’t go.

Volleyball England Level 3 Coaching Course: Day 5

The final day of the Volleyball England Level 3 coaching course featured a morning that looked at transition and then the final micro coaching session. Four of us had to combine to develop and run a coaching session. It covered block & defense, plus serving. My bit was a combined drill that pulled elements of blocking and defensive positioning together. Probably would have been more interesting if I’d had a proper team rather than a bunch of coaches as participants. It went pretty well anyway, though.

After that it was exam time. Two hour test which covered the majority of what we talked about in the classroom sessions. That finished things off, with only a wrap up discussion at the end. From here I have to log my team trainings and then have an assessor come to a training session down the line to complete the whole set of requirements for full certification.

The day wrapped up with watching the first round of matches in the NEVZA U17 championships. The Norwegian girls had a really excellent setter.

See my reports on Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4.

Volleyball England Level 3 Coaching Course: Day 4

Just one day left in the Volleyball England Level 3 coaching course.

On this fourth day we covered blocking and defensive systems. There was a bit of setter training mixed in for good measure. Carrying on with the youth theme, the morning was spent looking at how strength and muscle mass develops relative to an individual’s peak height velocity (think growth spurt). That eventually led into looking at physical training methods and ways to evaluate some aspects of player condition (useful for non-youth players too).

Thursday is exam day. I know some of my classmates are sweating it. 🙂

See Day 5 here.

Volleyball England Level 3 Coaching Course: Day 3

I’ve survived three days of the Volleyball England Level 3 coaching course – and mostly with my self-esteem intact. Today we actually got out on the court a bit to run through a planned training session. It’s been a long time since I actually played, but I was surprisingly not horrible passing serve. Even got some praise on my platform from one of the other coaches – though with the additional suggestion I need to work on my footspeed. 🙂

The day started by returning to the subject of youth development. This time the focus was on the psychological side. It was a good discussion, especially in regards to ego-driven versus developmentally-driven personalities.

From there we moved on to looking at setting and offensive systems. At two different points along the way we spent time watching the England U16 and U18 girls, and U17 boys in action during training.

Two more days to go.

See Day 4 here.

Volleyball England Level 3 Coaching Course: Day 2

Day 2 of the Volleyball England Level 3 coaching course is now in the books.

Today started off with a review of yesterday’s subject matter. I, of course, have already provided you with that in yesterday’s post. 😉

We then shifted into a discussion on the subject of “talent”. A lot of it had to do with the difficulty in identifying talent and the sorts of indicators we can look at (which reminded me of my US collegiate recruiting days). That eventually transitioned into a look at the physical development of children – largely from the perspective of growth. For a lot of us this acted as a reminder of stuff we’ve picked up previously, though with a bit of additional insights here and there.

We focused our technical/tactical work for the day on serve receive. Both receptions formations/systems and individual skills were looked at.

Two members of the group then did an hour’s worth of a planned session assigned last session. They used the England U18 girls to do so. We’ll all have the opportunity – in pairs – to do the same thing.

The day finished by looking at the England U16s training with an eye toward assessing serve receive based on the technical standards set forth.

See Day 3 here.

Volleyball England Level 3 Coaching Course: Day 1

So here’s the skinny on the first day of the Volleyball England Level 3 coaching course from when I took it in 2013.

The day started off with a discussion of coaching philosophy and the importance of developing one. That carried into looking at the types of skills and attributes required of and found in successful coaches. It seems as though there will be regular revisiting to these topics at later points in the course.

After that we had a discussion about ensuring team balance when developing a line-up. That can be viewed from any number of perspectives, individually or in combination. That then spun into a look at playing systems.

From there we got into a conversation about the importance of the Performance -> Observation -> Analysis -> Planning -> Performance cycle. As part of that we considered the things which restrict our ability to properly observe our players objectively, and how we can go from big picture to small picture in analyzing the source of things we need to address. Part of the analytic discussion had to do with the way the match score sheet can be helpful in looking at points by rotation.

There was also a talk about how coaches often fall into using systems and methods they played as players themselves or that they saw used by those they respected or admired. You may recall me talking about this in Understand what you’re learning before you teach it.

From there we had a talk about practice planning. I’ll talk more about that later.

The primary part of the training ended with some work on the skill of tossing the ball for setter training.

See Day 2 here.

Extending my volleyball coaching certification

This post comes from early in my second year in England.

Today I’m starting the Volleyball England Level 3 course. It was supposed to run back during the first week of August. That would certainly have made things easier on my schedule, but they had to postpone. The result is that I’m going to miss several training sessions and a pair of matches for the teams I coach. If you’re a typical coach, you’ll know how much that bothers me.

My coaching certification process began years ago while taking USA Volleyball’s CAP I course. These courses naturally change and adapt over time. Based on these observations of the program these days, though, at least some of what I learned then has stuck. In particular, these foundations are a major part of how I coach today.

  • The game teaches the game.  Skills are transferred best in game-like situations. 
  • Principles matter more than methods.
  • The pleasure of competition should always exceed the pressure of competition.
  • Effective coaches will tell their players what they want to see them doing, not what they did wrong.
  • Teach the whole rather than the part, for example teach the full spike rather than breaking it down in parts.  
  • A team’s practice must be deliberate and focused.
  • Specificity is a key in motor learning. Give students specific cues such as “Good job reaching for the ball.” This is more helpful than being a cheerleader and saying, “Good shot.”
  • There is a greater transfer in skill in random training rather than block training.

I had a chance to take the FIVB Level 2 course, which runs immediately following the VE 3 one. It’s 2 weeks long, though. No way I can miss that much time away from my teams – not to mention by PhD studies!

Anyway, my plan is to provide daily updates on how the course goes, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, here’s the course outline provided to me to give you an idea of what we’re covering.

Update: Here are my thoughts from Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, and Day 5 of the course.

Playing experience doesn’t mean you can coach

I previously mentioned an article on the coaching of horse riding as it related to coaching volleyball because of some common elements. That prior post looked at the lack of fundamental understanding which can come from just applying what we see as coaches rather than knowing what underlies the application of a drill, game, or coaching technique. This time I want to address another aspect of the discussion – specifically the idea that knowing the game is not the same as being able to teach it.

To quote the article:

A person is not automatically a teacher because he knows how to do something himself.

To restate that in our context here: An experienced volleyball player doesn’t automatically make for a good coach.

Certainly, having experience as a player – especially at the level you’re coaching – is extremely useful. I think we can all recognize this. It makes understanding what it takes to succeed on the court at that level and how to relate to players easier. That’s as far as it goes, though.

To paraphrase the horse riding article:

The ability to teach is a gift and a talent. Instructors who lack the gift of teaching also lack the passion and ability to understand their subject and are unable to give their students a thorough foundation.

This is something which relates to what I said the post Coaches coach. Coaching, whether it be in volleyball, some other sport, or in other facets of life is not just about what you know. It’s about being able to share that knowledge – to teach (with a big side order of motivating).

I think anyone who’s had a collegiate education has either direct experience with or knowledge of a brilliant professor who just could not teach their way out of a paper bag. This is akin to high level athlete trying to coach. They have lots of knowledge, but don’t necessarily have the skills to share it effectively – assuming they even understand what made them successful, which many don’t.

So the lesson is that just because you played lots of volleyball it doesn’t mean you’re destined to be a good coach. If you’re not already an experienced teacher you’ll have to do a lot of work to develop those skills. Without them you’re not going to be very effective.

The drill collecting stage

I don’t remember who said it, but a while back I heard someone call the early part of a new volleyball coach’s development “the drill collecting stage” and thought it extremely apropos. It hits the mark very neatly, and I’m guessing it’s not something confined to volleyball coaches.

Basically, what we’re describing here is the phase of a new coach’s development where they are learning different ways to teach skills. They are answering for themselves “How can I train … ?” or “What’s the best way to teach …. ?” It is a necessary period of learning for any coach as it creates the foundation for being able to develop priority driven training plans and to be able to dynamically adapt practices as required.

The eagerness and enthusiasm of this stage in volleyball coaching development can get a little carried away, though, and result in what I referred to early as Fancy New Drill Syndrome. It can also take a coach down the path of just compiling a collection of drills, games, and coaching methods which they don’t necessarily understand as fully as they should.

As members of the volleyball coaching community, and the broader volleyball community in general, we really don’t want to be tamping down the enthusiasm of new coaches. We need all of them we can get and more! This stage, though, is where mentorship can be extremely valuable in helping provide guidance.

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