Former Eastern Michigan University coach Kimi Olson has a post on LinkedIn that’s worth considering. She starts it with “A new era of #coaching is here”, then goes on to talk about how we are no longer working in a “win at all costs” environment. Basically, it comes down to an understanding that coaching these days is about knowing how to treat people properly.

Arguably, that should have always been the case, but I get her point.

I respect what Kimi has to say and agree with her sentiment. There’s an element of it, though, that I do have an issue with. That’s what happens outside the team – outside the coach-player relationships.

I’m talking about supervisors and others who judge coaches – the folks I wrote my Open letter post for. Supervisors in particular (the Athletic Director in Kimi’s case) determine the priority. They decide whether winning is the main focus. They decide whether “treating players like pawns is over” and whether “coaching by fear is over”. So long as they continue to hire those sorts of coaches and rate those kinds of qualities positively (or simply ignore them), the old era won’t be over.

I’ve witnessed this sort of thing myself. I saw a college Athletic Director and their search committee hire a coach who ended up creating an environment of fear because they thought they needed a “tough” coach to succeed – to win.

We live in a world where college coaches especially are very often not hired and/or supervised by people with meaningful head coaching experience (never mind volleyball experience). Athletic Directors these days tend to simply be administrators. That doesn’t mean they can’t be very good managers, as they certainly can be. The problem, though, is lack of understanding of what drives coaching success.

In the old days Athletic Directors were mainly former (sometimes current) coaches. That meant head coaches were managed by someone who knew what they were going through and who could potentially mentor them. Not so much anymore. The result is we now have people hiring and supervising coaches who don’t really know what good coaching looks like in practice. This is especially true when it comes to less experienced administrators.

By the way, this sort of thing applies to the pros as well. In volleyball especially you don’t have many former coaches running clubs. The result is sometimes completely inexplicable coaching hiring/firing decisions.

So while I like Kimi’s message, I think we need to target it at those who hire and supervise coaches.

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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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