This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2015-16.

The season remains a long way off, but it’s been a busy week or so since my initial update. My efforts and attention have been focused in a couple of areas.

Understanding the situation
It’s important for me as I set my coaching priorities to understand the priorities of the club and the environment I’ll be working in. I had exchanges with the Sports Director on what the club’s purpose and what it is looking to achieve, which is basically a combination of development and competitive success. Obviously, this is important from the perspective of knowing how my performance as coach will be graded by the club. It’s also important, though, in terms of making decisions on team composition from the perspective of signings. I had a lengthy exchange about that at one point.

Another consideration here is what I will have by way of resources at my disposal. I’ve been asking a lot of questions related to that. It’s not about saying I want this or that, but rather just trying to understand what’s on-hand and what could potentially be brought in. That lets me start thinking about how certain assets can be employed and what limitations I might need to work around.

Getting to know the team
After I was officially announced as the new head coach last week, I started to reach out to connect with the returning players in the Svedala Elit team over the weekend. That was first by introducing myself in the Facebook group the team manager set up, and then by asking the players to set up 1-on-1 conversations with me (which I will look to do next week). As part of the latter, I also gave them a short exercise of writing down their motives for playing, plus what they like and don’t like about playing. I did this with one of my players at Exeter last year and thought it would be a good way for me to start to develop a picture of the personalities and motivations in the team.

There are a couple of players from last year who have not yet decided one way or the other if they will be coming back this season. One of them was the team captain. Some of the potential reasons for her hesitation were suggested to me. I reached out to her individually to offer to have a conversation, which we did the other night. As much as it was suggested that I should try to convince her to stay on, my focus was on giving her a chance to get to know me to see if she felt I would be able to help her get what she would want to get out of her experience in the team. It was a good conversation and we’ll keep the lines of communication open. Through the talk I got to learn a little bit more about the team and the club.

Filling the foreign player slots
At this point I’ve watched video on 35-40 prospective signings for next season. These are players from all over the world, though the largest concentration is American. It’s a similar process to recruiting for college programs in the States.

  • Use information sources and contacts to identify potential recruits.
  • Assess a player’s qualities relative to your team needs.
  • Figure out whether a player is actually someone you can get (in this case, in your price range from a salary perspective).
  • Keep track of who’s committed elsewhere.

My Sports Director is told of players by agencies and other contacts, which he passes on to me. I similarly have feelers out to my own contacts and have had players recommended to me that I then also pass in the other direction so we are both doing evaluations of each player.

The other day I went through and ranked the players by position (In this post I talk about my approach to doing that). I shared those rankings with the Sports Director so we could be sure we were both on the same page, which we basically were. From this point it will be easier to evaluate new prospective signings in comparison to those we’ve already looked at. We already scratched a few players off the list because they’ve either already committed elsewhere or we can’t match their salary expectations.

As part of the process I’ve had email exchanges with a couple of the now-former NCAA players. One clearly is new to the idea of playing professionally, but the other two clearly have given it a fair bit of thought and so are more advanced in the process overall.

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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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