I walked into the gym once when I coached at Exeter and saw one of the players on the women’s team working on jump serves. As a coach, any time you see your players doing some extra work on their own it warms your heart. This is even more interesting coming after the season is effectively over and ahead of what was just a joint play session with some of the guys from the men’s team.

We really didn’t work on jump serving that year. Largely, that was a function of training in a very small gym with no service area. I asked the player (a first year) about her motivation. She said it was what she saw at Final 8s over the weekend. There weren’t many female players jump serving. I think only Durham and Northumbria featured athletes with that skill level, though there were quite a few jump servers on the men’s side, as you might expect.

Jump serving isn’t the focus of this post, though. Rather I wanted to bring up the value of getting our players exposed to higher levels of volleyball. This player – already one of the better ones in the team – got to see exciting new things first hand and it motivated her to try to get better. I think that direct exposure is so important. Watching stuff on video is quite valuable, of course. Actually being in the gym to see good players in action is a whole different thing, though. It’s something we coaches should try to do as much as possible.

And if you can have your athletes play with or against those better players, that’s as good as it gets! It motivates players in ways we as coaches just can’t.

I think this is also why it’s such a good idea to have events which feature teams from different levels that allow younger players to see older, more experienced ones in action. The Gran Prix my Svedala team played in during my year in Sweden is an example. The top four men’s and women’s pro teams where there. So too was a group of juniors teams. Great for the kids. In England they do Cup Finals weekend where 11 matches take place from U15 up to the Super League. Even bigger!

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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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