I came across the following observation from a volleyball coach.

So I noticed something last year coaching and then it just happened again last night at a clinic. Coaches are calling drills player-centric but what they have done is take a coach-centric drill and have the players run it. So last night I watched a 3 hour clinic where coach centric-drills were run by the players. The net was used only twice in the 3 hours… The drills would be 8 players tossing balls and 4 players passing. It was all about “ball control” but not a single ball came from over the net, and I felt like I was in a gym from when I started coaching in the 90’s.

This coach is conflating player-centric with game-like. Those are two different concepts.

Player-centric means the players are the ones primarily in control of the activity. They are the ones serving, hitting, tossing, etc. This is as opposed to the coach being the main driver. Generally speaking, you want as much of the former as you can have. After all, it’s the players who should get the reps, not the coach. Also, if the coach is in the middle of the action it’s harder to fully observe and provide feedback. But sometimes the latter is the best choice.

Making things game-like is about how close the activity mimics actual game play. Starting each rally with a serve over the net and playing things out is fully game-like. Tossing the ball to a passer from the same side of the net as described above is not game-like.

Here’s why we shouldn’t mix up these concepts. If a coach serves to start a rally, that is coach-centric in its initiation, but fully game-like. Flipping that around, players tossing to passers is player-centric but not game-like.

The ideal, obviously, is that we make things both as game-like and player-centric as possible.

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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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