I recently ran a survey on the subject of coaching education, for which there were over 200 responses (much thanks to those who took part). I was looking to gain better insights in a few different ways.

  1. What does my audience look like in terms of experience, coaching level, coaching position, and the like?
  2. How do coaches prefer to get and consume their coaching education?
  3. What are the areas of coaching they want to get better at?

I’ll start off by sharing some basic demographics of survey responders. Probably not surprisingly, nearly 80% indicated they’re from the USA. At least 38 different states are represented (might be more, but 4 people failed to indicate their state). California and Wisconsin topped the list as the two with double-digit participants. Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Virginia were all in the upper single digits. Somewhat surprisingly, there were only 6 from Texas. That seems like pretty small representation for a state were volleyball is HUGE – at least on the girl’s/women’s side.

In terms of international responses, it probably won’t surprise anyone to hear that English-speaking countries account for about 60% of non-US participants. Canada takes up half that total. European countries fill out most of the remaining 40%.

Level and experience

Now let’s shift to their coaching situation. The vast majority of folks said they currently coach mainly high school or juniors, which fits pretty well with the pyramid structure of participation in the sport. There are a lot more kids’ teams needing coaches than adult teams. When you add in that blue slice in between on the chart representing Middle School you get more than 75% of coaches working with players in the 12-18 year-old age range. On top of that, quite a few of those folks also coach secondarily in that age group (e.g. high school coaches who also coach juniors). Plus, a number of college and other upper level coaches also coach juniors.

It’s a pretty mixed bag when it comes to how long people have been coaching at their current primary level.

When it comes to how much experience people have overall, I was a little surprised that more than half are at 10+ years. And the biggest portion of that is 20+! My suspicion there is that my content broadly appeals to folks who are past the drill collection phase of the early years of coaching. They understand more what they don’t know.

Things get interesting when we look at coaching role. The vast majority of those who filled out the survey are primarily head coaches. No big surprise there given the big age group focus of the group. Every team needs a head coach. A lot of teams don’t have assistants.

Notice below, though, that in contrast to how long people have been coaching overall, they haven’t been in their current role all that long. That definitely helps explain why the would be looking to expanding their coaching skills and knowledge.

This is backed up by their coaching aspirations. The majority are content to stay at their current level, clearly with a desire to be better in that context.

How do coaches like to learn?

After getting a sense of their coaching background and situation, I had participants share their views on how they prefer to consume coaching education.

The first question was which style of coaching they prefer, asking them to pick the top 3 at most. As you can see in the table below, clinics and other similar in-person group events are a favorite for most folks. Some kind of individual observation, like watching a practice, is next on the list, with self-paced and self-directed learning options a bit further down. Virtual group learning isn’t a big favorite, which probably isn’t a surprise. At the bottom of the list is 1-on-1 work, which I find interesting. Maybe that’s because it’s just not something many people have had the opportunity to do. Or perhaps they have in some way, but just don’t think of it that way.

From there we drilled down on coaches’ preferences for different content types. As we can see in the following table, video is strongly preferred. No shock there as it’s easier to watch drills, games, tactical explanations, etc. than to try to work them out from audio or text. After that, text seems to beat out audio, probably because you can at least include visuals.

Additional comments

At the end of the methods and content types section of the survey I provided folks with a place where they could share additional thoughts. Specifically, I asked:

If you have any strong views on the subject, I’d love your feelings about what works and/or doesn’t work – or what you think could work really well – in terms of the presentation of coaching education.

About 50 people offered their views. Here are the points of commonality where multiple people said the same thing or something similar.

First, stuff that is quick to consume is preferred. This is a pretty common view across all fields these days, so no real surprise.

Second, high school/juniors coaches feel like a lot of what’s out there is more aimed at the college level. Or at least it isn’t presented in a realistic way relative to their level – for example by using high school players rather than college athletes.

Finally, there is definite room for improvement when it comes to videos. Just having someone talking while there’s an activity going on – as an example – isn’t good enough. They want more detail and explanation. Use the technology to add text overlays, slow things down, etc.

Generally, there’s a feeling that all kinds of presentations can be better. Be more aware of the audience. Go into further detail about the why. Use multiple approaches to teaching just like you would with players. Structure things effectively.

OK. That covers the Who and How aspect of the survey. This post has already gotten fairly long, so I’ll cut things off here. In Part 2 I cover the What part.

If you have any thoughts on what I’ve shared up to this point, feel free to leave them in a comment below. Always happy to get more thoughts on these subjects.

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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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