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 – training.

What is training?

When I use the word training here, I mean all aspects of the term. That means skill development, strength and conditioning, and the mental aspects of the game on the individual level. Also team play.

Let me take them one at a time.

Skill development

This aspect of coaching gets massive amounts of attention – probably much more than it deserves when considering all that goes into coaching success. It’s something I wrote about here in reaction to an article I read.

This is in no way me saying skill development isn’t important. It’s just that the focus given to drills and games and technique doesn’t seem to match the amount of influence it has on team performance, and by extension coaching success. This is especially true when considering teams above the more beginner levels (where I would argue that winning and losing – the focus points of our success discussion here – probably shouldn’t factor into things in any significant way).

Think about all the books, videos, clinic sessions, etc. out there. What percentage of that content do you think relates to this subject? Now, how much do you think relates to all the other aspects of successful coaching I’m talking about in this sequence of posts? Pretty imbalanced, right?

Now, that said, we do still have to talk about skill development. All else equal, the coach who does a better job of building their players’ skills will go further. To that extent we want to employ good motor learning based methods.

Strength & Conditioning

Making players quicker, stronger, more explosive, and capable of surviving long matches (or long days of tournament play) is obviously something that can improve our chances of success. I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about this subject here. I will, however, make two points.

First, volleyball conditioning is best trained by playing volleyball. It’s hard to replicate the type of energy system use involved in other ways. And frankly, it’s not very efficient to try to do so. Instead, do it in practice, which is quite easily done.

Second, make sure any other stuff you do aimed at developing strength, quickness, etc. actually relates to the sport. Remember the concept of specificity of training. To quote the book Peak, “… there is no such thing as developing a general skill.”

Think about something like running a ladder. Coaches have used them for years to work on quickness and footwork. But does it actually have anything to do with volleyball? Is there any volleyball related specificity in there? The science would argue no. In fact, the science would argue that you’re just training those specific footwork patterns since that work doesn’t generalize out.

Also, keep in mind that the bigger gains with respect to quickness tend to come from better anticipation of events than from physical gains. That means improved reading skills.

Mental skills

As I’ve written before, training the mental part of the game is just as important as – if not more important than – training the physical side of things. Your training has to develop player decision making, problem-solving, and reading skills.

It also needs to train the players in how to respond to challenges, adversity, pressure, etc. – both individually and collectively. In other words, what many would refer to as mental toughness. This, in part, links to fatigue. The rest of it, I contend, is state-dependent. That means you need to be tough in the context of the situation you’re in – reception, going for a kills, making a good serve, delivering a good set, etc.

All of this has to be trained in game-like situations. Making players do a bunch of sprints only develops the ability to run sprints. It won’t help them deal with being targeted by the opposing server when it’s 14-15 in the 5th set.

Team play

This is about training the playing systems, the seam responsibilities and related decisions, and the communication that goes along with all the things I talk about in the team organization part of this sequence.


One of the things the late Carl McGown used to talk about is how small the margin often is between teams in a conference. He did this in the context of talking about how being just a little better in your training each day than the next coach can make all the difference. This means using training methods (and the skills which facilitate them) that produce better results and accomplish more in the same amount of time – even if only marginally so on a day-to-day basis – can make a big difference in a coaches success over time.

And you want to be as efficient as possible at all times, which might be as simple as naming your drills.

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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.

    1 Response to "Key to Coaching Success: Training"

    • Arlene B. Herrera

      Have a Good day coach Forman , Training is the very important part of a team , as we teach a person they will learn the techniques the timing how to hit the ball, but the thing is the communication that the team needs to build. What I’m saying is the players need to be bond to each other so its easy for them to make a play or communicate during the game. And not overnight to work for it, its a year or more to be bond to get the perfect practice winning team that we want. So the Coach its self need to understand that everything need to works hard also how to motivate his self to pass it to the players how to be patients for learning for all that you given to them. And try to lisen how they feel if the understand or not what the practice on that day teaching.

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