I came across a sort of question/discussion topic on a Facebook coaching group that brings up an interesting subject.

How can we, as a coaching staff, offer our teams greater value than the sum of our parts (SUM > PARTS)?

There were some interesting responses, such as:

  • Have a diverse staff with different backgrounds
  • Let the assistants do what they do best
  • Involve the assistants more in the decision-making

I’ll be honest. A lot of the comments on the thread struck me as more about how we get the staff to equal the sum of its parts than being something beyond that. Think about it. If you’re saying you want everyone doing what they do best then basically you’re just trying to get the most out of each individual based on their capabilities. By definition, that’s a sum of their parts approach.

Don’t get me wrong! I think maximizing what you have is super important. I’m not sure you can really get to SUM > PARTS if you aren’t first using each part to its fullest. Or at least something close to it.

As I mull this idea over I find myself thinking about our teams. We have (or should have) a similar SUM > PARTS mentality there, assuming maximizing competitive performance is an objective. We look to develop systems and ways of playing that attempt to not only get the most out of each player, but also to see the coordinated actions allow the individuals to go beyond what they could do acting of their own accord. This is the whole idea of playing as a team.

So I think it’s not enough to simply divide up coaching tasks based on who will do each on best. That might be a great starting point, but it’s not enough. To really get the SUM > PARTS effect we need to look at how what one staff member does can improve the performance of others. And you don’t have to stop at coaches when considering staff in this context.

What are your thoughts on that?

On this subject, you may find my The Head Coach – Assistant Coach Dynamic Conversation interesting.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Men's & Women's Head Volleyball Coach at Medaille College, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy (formerly Charleston Academy). His previous experience includes the college and university level in the US and UK, professional coaching in Sweden, and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. Learn more on his bio page.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.