The following came from a visitor to the Facebook page.

I wanted to get advice on how to brush up on volleyball where it is now? I’ve been out of the loop and was just offered an opportunity to get back into coaching, but I feel that I’m not as knowledgeable as I was 10 years ago. Any suggestions.

I was actually in this situation when I coached in England. I left NCAA Division I volleyball after the 2006 season and worked in the financial markets until 2012. During that period I watched volleyball on TV, but only attended two live matches. One was UCLA vs. Stanford when I happened to be at a conference at UCLA, and the other was Harvard vs. Princeton at the invitation of the Princeton coach. That’s it before heading off to Exeter to start my PhD.

I offered the person who posted the query above two pieces of advice with that experience in mind.

Watch volleyball at that level

The first thing I suggested was watching some matches at the level they were going to coach. It’s always a good idea to watch matches as a coach. In this case, though, it’s about familiarity with the level of play in question. I also suggested they watch those matches in-person, if at all possible. You can pick up technical and team play elements from video, but it can be hard to really get a feel for the physicality and emotion that way. Best to be there on the sidelines watching.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have this opportunity in Exeter. Until we started our schedule, I had no chance to watch any matches for our level of play. That means all I could really do was just work on us getting better. Not surprisingly, my second year was a better one from a coaching perspective. I knew the competitive environment so I could guide things in certain ways much better.

Attend a big coaching clinic or conference

My second piece of advice was to attend a coaching education event. Specifically, I suggested going to one featuring multiple coaches with different perspectives. This could be something like the AVCA Convention (see my reviews for 2013 and 2016). It could also be an Art of Coaching or Gold Medal Squared type of clinic. The idea is to hear the perspectives of a bunch of coaches and to see where the thinking about things has progressed.

In my case, I didn’t have any real opportunity to do this until the Summer of 2013. Before starting back up for my second season at Exeter I spent a couple weeks in the US visiting the pre-season sessions for several college programs. Early in the UK season I also attended the Volleyball England Level 3 coaching course. Of course I read a bunch of books too.

So basically get out and watch volleyball and check out what other coaches are thinking and doing.

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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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