Do you have a season-long plan for your team’s training and development? Do you think you should?

Personally, I think it’s a good idea.

Before you agree or disagree, let me clear something up. I’m not talking about knowing exactly what you’re going to work on every practice the whole season. While some people might really like that idea, it’s impractical. If nothing else, things happen during a season that mandate adjustments which could cascade through the whole rest of the calendar.

Instead, what I’m talking about is having something you’re working toward, with an outline of how you’ll get there. This provides the big picture framework for the work you do during the season. It all starts with a question.

Where do I want to be at the end of the season?

Now, your immediate response to that question might involve some kind of accomplishment. For example, winning a championship or reaching the conference tournament. That’s not really what we’re looking for here. Think instead of where your team needs to be to be able to accomplish that objective.

Here’s an example.

The 2013-14 Exeter University Women’s team I coached had as its season goal reaching BUCS Final 8s, being held in Edinburgh that year. From a coaching perspective I had to translate that achievement objective into a target level of competitive play. Having attended Final 8s at the end of the 2012-13 season, I had a good sense of what that was. Reaching that level was thus the “where I want to be at the end of the season”.  I looked at where we were at the start of the season, compared it to where we needed to be, and prioritized our areas for development.

There are two ways you can think about your plan from there.

First, prioritize your work on what will have the biggest impact. Basically, the idea here is to first tackle the thing that if accomplished will move you furthest toward your goal. Once that’s taken care of, you move on to the next biggest item on the list.

The second way to look at things is in terms of building blocks. These are elements of the team’s play that contribute to bigger picture objectives. For example, you may decide that you need to feature your middle attack more to increase your offensive efficiency. Building blocks to that could be better passing, more aggressive decision-making by the setter, improved setter-hitter coordination, etc.

I should note, these two ways of thinking are not mutually exclusive. You can certainly think in terms of building blocks and then prioritize which block to work on first in terms of impact. In fact, I’d say that’s a pretty good way to go about things.

And this whole process is a kind of fractal thing. By that I mean you should use the same basic thought process as you move to shorter time frames. That’s where you take the bigger picture plans and start to fill in more detail. As an example, you could decide that serve reception offense is your prime focus for the next two weeks. From there you develop your individual practice plans so they work to develop the skills and tactics required.

The overall point is that you should always be moving in a defined direction – and short-term direction should be defined by the longer-term intent.

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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.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.