An American coach abroad once observed what she saw as the difference between coaching in France and coaching in the States. I actually had the captain of the Exeter women’s team at the time, who’s French, give the article a read. These were her comments:

It is all very true. Sport for kids is not valued as a possible career or an enhancement of your learning/profile for the future, it is seen as an obstacle to education. There is zero school competition, the notions of varsity or sport scholarships are not available in the French Sport vocabulary.

I would not say all sport kids have that ethos but until your more ‘elite training’ that is what you get, agreed 100%.

In most sports, especially for a woman, to get in an elite academy (except football who are entirely self-funded by their federation, i.e. zero public funding needed) all athletes have to maintain grades above average, and get dropped out of the programme if they drop their grades, from one year or semester to the other. Schools are VERY reluctant to welcome sport kids. Thank God, they are free and open for all until reaching 16. After that good luck finding a college or university accepting you on a sport contract!

I have my own first-hand experience with unreliable athletes and commitment issues. I saw it as an issue with a number of different teams and clubs in my time in England. There, as in France, there isn’t the same sort of scholastic link to sports as there is in the US. Additionally, in the UK they don’t have a professional volleyball structure either, which France does at least have.

So I get it. And to be honest, I’ve seen similar issues with club teams in the States.

At the same time, though, I can’t help but feel like developing the right expectations in the team would help with those attendance issues. There was a major difference in how things went my first year coaching the Exeter women and my second year. Expectations changed and attendance was radically better. That carried over into my second year.

I won’t claim that it’s all about coaching, of course. The players have to create the expectation among themselves. The coach can influence that, though. After all, one of the first rules of coaching beginners is to design things to encourage them to come back for more! There’s no reason we shouldn’t have the same attitude coaching non-beginners.

So how do you deal with late players?

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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.

    2 replies to "Cultural differences or coaching?"

    • Kelly Daniels

      I just watched this documentary on NetFlix last night called Undefeated. It’s not about a team going undefeated. It’s about a intercity HS program in Tennessee. It addresses the issue of attendance and learning to put team & others before self. If you have NetFlix it’s a good view.

    • Swags

      Hello Coaching Volleyball!
      Thanks for reading and responding to my article. I have found that the teams that understood the expectations -> that I could communicate in French <- were much easier to coach. But I've seen good French coaches, who can obviously communicate easily, still have to deal with youth attendance and tardiness.
      A lot of the attendance/lateness issues stem directly from the devaluing of time in Latin culture. A kid would show up 30 minutes late and blame it on the bus. I would ask, "Yes, but why couldn't you take the earlier bus?" Way too wild of an idea. 🙂 I have much younger kids this year, so we're just focused on having fun and celebrating small successes!
      Have a great year coaching in the UK!

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