A while back, Mark from At Home on the Court flagged an article (no longer available) about then US Soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann on his Facebook page. It is critical of the American sports culture of having overly controlling coaches (and parents) in terms of what’s happening on the court/field. Basically, they aren’t willing to just allow players to learn and figure things out for themselves. It got me thinking about my own coaching philosophy and how I developed as a player myself.
I only ever played one season of volleyball with a proper coach. That was back when I was in high school. When I was on the club team at university the captain ran training. Occasionally, the women’s team coach gave us some input. For one season we had a little help from one of the local high school coaches. I played in a lot of open-gym sessions and all summer long played doubles. As a result, I was largely self-taught as a volleyball player – figuring things out for myself along the way.
Maybe that contributes to my own coaching style. I tend to shy away from giving my players specific instructions during play. I noted this in my post about calling service targets. Instead, I see my roll as more trying to help them recognize situations. I want them to come up with the solutions on their own. Those lessons are much more likely to stick than if I tell them what to do.
Then again, maybe it has nothing to do with my development as a volleyball player. Maybe it’s more to do with my general orientation as an educator. When I was in my high school Computer Science class I once spotted an error in the program the teacher wrote on the board. I raised my hand and told him the program wouldn’t work. He looked and spotted the mistake. Then he laughed and told the class, “John will make a good teacher because he makes you figure out your mistakes,” or something to that effect 🙂
Circling back … is it an American thing to be overly controlling in a sporting context? I need more evidence. You have to look at the way coaches in the popular sports in other nations work. In the US, football and baseball coaches are extremely involved from a play-to-play basis. It’s different for basketball and hockey where the action is more continuous. Plus, we have to consider the training context as well as the competitive one.
In any case, it’s also worth thinking about adding unstructured play.
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