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Coaching youngsters like college players

There’s a good article in the this edition of the AVCA member magazine, Coaching Volleyball, by Leon Blazer. It’s titled The Great Divide: Lessons Learned from Coaching at the Club Level. The author is a guy who was a collegiate coach, but who found himself coaching 12s for his local club. I found a lot of what Leon wrote about to not only be very good for coaching his current age group, but for older players as well. There’s one particular aspect I address in another post because it also relates to an email I received.

Here’s my one issue with the article, though. Why is he specializing these kids? At that age group they should learn to be all-around players, not setters, middles, etc.

Sure, specialization may lead them to more wins. Blazer is clearly proud of having achieved quite a bit of success with the team in that regard. This, though, is where I think coaching them like a college team is inappropriate.

Mostly, college coaches tend to think of their team as the last stop in any given player’s career. That means they aren’t thinking about an individuals long-term development. Instead, they are focused on getting the most out of them in the present (which obviously isn’t to suggest they don’t develop them as well). This is one attitude which cannot be taken at the youth volleyball level. Kids are still physically developing. You simply cannot know with any real certainty where they will be in a few years.

Were I in Leon’s place I would want to do all the things he’s doing in terms of attitude, training, mentality, pushing them, etc. I would just have everyone set, everyone hit in all front row positions, and everyone play defense. In my view, this is a mandate that should be coming down from the leadership of the club – potentially even from the USA Volleyball and/or the region in which the club competes. I know Volleyball England talked about doing something along those lines.

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