Pete Wung, who authors his own blog, shared a post from The Daily Coach which delves into the idea of sustainable values vs. situational values. In short, sustainable values, in this context, are ones related to the long-term wellness and success of an organization (and/or those in it). Situational values, in contrast, are about what’s best in the moment, often with a bias towards what’s best for the individual(s) making the decisions.

I think we can broadly agree that we want to work in the realm of sustainable values. The problem is there tends to be strong incentives for us to operate at more the situational level.

Consider the situation of young volleyball players (10s, 12s) at the club level. There’s a lot of support for the idea that avoiding specialization is beneficial for their long-term health and development. Also their enjoyment. Same with limiting the degree to which competition is a central focus. Those are sustainable level values.

There are situational ones, though, that influence coach and club decision-making. That is especially related to winning. Coaches have egos. Winning strokes those egos. Clubs want to attract and retain players. Winning tends to help with that. It also tends to reduce parent complaints. As a result, there is a strong incentive to have successful teams. Successful teams, of course, tend to focus on competitiveness. And as this post speaks to, they often also mean more specialization than would otherwise be desirable.

Where else do we see these conflicts?

How about professional clubs who only focus on winning this season? What about a college coach who makes line-up decisions for this year because they think it will help them get a better job? Then there’s any organization (club, school team, etc.) that caves in to a noisy parent simply to mollify them.

Our world – both volleyball and wider- is full of these long-term vs. short-term conflicts. The challenge we all face – especially those in administrative positions – is how to shift the balance. How do we move the bias away from thinking about now and toward thinking more about the long-term?

It’s not an easy thing. That’s for sure!

If we want our sport to continue to evolve and growth – and to eventually be as significant as our participation numbers suggest it should be – we need to think about these sorts of things.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Men's & Women's Head Volleyball Coach at Medaille College, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy (formerly Charleston Academy). His previous experience includes the college and university level in the US and UK, professional coaching in Sweden, and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. Learn more on his bio page.

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