I previously outlined what I think are the factors which drive coaching success, and how I define success in this discussion. In this post I address one of those factors – competition management.

What is competition management?

In this category I’m including everything that related to what you do during and around matches. Also, how you prepare for them.


How each coach prepares for an upcoming match varies based on their level of play and their situation. Some coaches don’t worry about the other team at all and just focus on their side of the net. Other coaches spend time watching video, reviewing stats, and coming up with scouting reports for the players. This section is obviously for coaches more in the latter category.

Chances are the preparation phase of competition includes some kind of work in practice. So from that perspective it ties in with what I talk about in the training post from this series. It could also link with the team organization aspect of things. To the extent that scouting reports are presented to the team, it additionally brings in elements of player and team management.

An important skill in all this is understanding how much you can and/or should talk about the other team. You may find that with some teams it’s best to work on things for an upcoming match without actually talking about the opponent, while with others they want to know.

With respect to scouting reports, there is a definitely tendency to overdo them. Player attention spans are only so long. At the same time, there’s only so much they can retain and use during play. That dictates being really focused in your scouting reports, and sticking to the more meaningful elements in the presentation.

In fact, a part of your preparation could be how you reinforce scouting report elements during the match.

Line-up decisions

For the most part, coaches do line-up decisions as part of the team organization aspect of their work. There might be some decisions to be made on match day with respect to starting rotation, though. That’s if you have match-up considerations.

The follow-up consideration is the use of substitutions. Some of that, of course, will be part of the team’s normal system of play. Who to use when a starter underperforms, if you want to use a serving sub, etc. is also a consideration here, though.

Timeouts, pre- and post-game talks

Team talks – and 1-on-1 conversations – certainly fall into the category of player and team management with respect to their influence on psychology and the like. To the extent, though, that they include information taken from the match it brings in the ability to properly analyze play and develop strategies on the fly. Or to incorporate pre-planned strategies not already in use.


A lot of a coach’s work with respect to a match day (or tournament day) comes in normal training, team selection, and the like. Still a coach who is able to analyze the competition, deploy their team well, and adapt to changing match conditions can make a difference.

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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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