It’s about more than just the coaching

Observing other coaches isn’t just about seeing what they do on the court.

It’s more than just watching the kind of drills and games they run. It’s more than seeing how they structure their training sessions.

Granted, it’s fine to want to look at those things, especially if you are a developing coach. They provide ideas you can evaluate for use in your own coaching. Even experienced coaches can take something away from doing that sort of thing.

If all you’re doing is making notes of the practice plan and the activities it encompasses, though, you’re missing so much other stuff. Here’s just some of the additional things you can watch during a training session:

  • How the coach interacts with the players during the down times
  • How the coach communicates during the activities
  • Where the coach stands and how they move around
  • Positioning and involvement of the assistant coach(es)
  • How the coaching staff interacts among themselves
  • The composition of the player group
  • The general environment of the session
  • The tone and energy of the players and the training

With a bit of thought about your own team’s training environment and processes you could probably think of a few other things someone from the outside could potentially observe.

Aside from being additional sources of insight, inspiration, education, and the like, taking all these other things in provides context to what we’re seeing in terms of what the coach has the players doing. No two teams operate the same way. A lot of that has to do with the combination of personalities (player and coach) and the environment which are involved. You must consider the context in which something is being done, especially by an experienced and successful coach. If you don’t, you are likely to misapply what you’re seeing in your own efforts. Check out this Volleyball Coaching Wizards Podcast episode for more on that subject.

Also consider another layer of what you can potentially take away from spending time with other coaches. Here I’m talking about the more day-to-day sort of stuff they do to manage their teams. What do they do off the court? How do they interact with management or administrators? What is their recruiting process?

These aren’t the sort of things you are likely to see just going to watch some training sessions. You need to spend time with other coaches away from the gym. When I took over a professional team for the first time at Svedala, as much as the on-court stuff was interesting, the off-the-court area was where I felt I had more pressing developmental need.

That’s a big part of why I decided to return to Germany that August before getting things started in Sweden. I could talk with the coaches, and even members of the management team, about a wide array of non-training things in the context of what they were doing with the team, and generally see how they operate.

The point is, while it’s definitely a good idea to get out there and watch other coaches in action and interact with them, it’s important to use the experience to go beyond the Xs and Os and to take a deeper look at things.

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John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women's team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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