Tag Archive for team management

Team policies – why you need them

Dan Mickle at The Coaches Mind wrote a while back about the need for clear, defined team policies. It is the core idea in a piece which begins with a discussion of “parents today” or “players today” and all the things we coaches are prone to complain about. Dan’s main argument is that we coaches – or program administrators – should have policies in place and, equally importantly, stick to them.

I’ll leave you to read the post for a broader discussion. The specific areas of focus Dan mentions for having written and communicated team polices, though, are:

Key areas for team policies
  • Playing time
  • Team Philosophy
  • Communication Rules
  • Practice Policy
  • Rules
  • Grievance Policy
  • Repercussions

Some of the above team policies will naturally come down from above. If you coach in a school, it or the athletic department dictates certain things. If you coach for a club, there are policies which come down from the club director or board.

team policies held reduce stressYour own team policies have to get in there as well. These, at least in part, should be based on your coaching philosophy. If nothing else, you don’t want there to be a conflict between your personal philosophy and the policies. Should there be one, it’s bound to cause a problem at some point. If you have a philosophical conflict with the policies coming down from the school or club then you probably shouldn’t be coaching there in the first place.

But back to the broader point.

The main motivation for having clear team policies that are communicated is to minimize both the frequency of issues with players and parents. Further, they reduce the amount of trouble they create if problems do arise. If you don’t have them, you should very seriously consider developing some – and Dan’s post is a good starting point for doing so.

Coaching Log – Jun 26, 2015

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2015-16.

The off-season work continues along three major focal areas I talked about in the last log entry.

Understanding the situation
On Wednesday, as part of the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project, I had the opportunity to interview a highly experienced and successful coach from Sweden (Ismo Peltoarvo). While the focus was on coaching and not Swedish volleyball per se, as background and coaching context information I was able to ask a number of questions. The answers provided me with quite a bit of useful information and insights into volleyball in that country from several different perspectives. It’s stuff I will definitely be able to use moving forward.

Along a similar line, by chance the other day I came across a blog by an American player who was in the Svedala squad during the 2013-14 season. It basically documents her experience over the course of the campaign, though does cut off before season’s end. It provides an interesting perspective on things. Lots of talk about food! 🙂

Actually, one of the things I learned from that blog is about the annual Gran Prix event. I’d heard of it, but wasn’t sure what it was. In many countries there is a cup competition running alongside the primary league campaign. This cup is a knockout tournament into which teams are randomly drawn. If you are familiar with something like the FA Cup in English soccer, it’s the same sort of idea. In Sweden they don’t have a full Cup competition like that. Instead, they have Gran Prix. I don’t know the details for the full thing, which involves multiple divisions in one big weekend event in January. Part of that is a 4-team bracket tournament for the four highest placed teams in the top division (the Elitserie) as of some specific cut-off date. Svedala actually won the Gran Prix in 2013, but failed to qualify for the 2014 edition.

Funnily enough, as I was composing this entry one of the WordPress plug-ins I have working actually pointed me to what looks to be some interesting general information about Sweden that I’m going to have a look at to aid in my broader cultural understanding. I’m also going to start using Duolingo to learn at least a bit of Swedish. The club doesn’t provide language lessons, probably because there are so many English speakers in the country and the short-term stay of most of us foreigners limits the value of that kind of investment.

Getting to know the team
I mentioned last week giving the returning players a little exercise in which I had them think about what they like and dislike about playing volleyball. I started collecting those thoughts and feelings this week, which helps me to both get to know each of them a bit and to start forming a picture of the team overall. Obviously, the roster is a long way from being set (see below), so there remains much to be done still on that front.

I also have have conversations with some of the players, with more to come in the near future. It’s interesting to compare the difference in the interactions with young players vs. older ones. Perhaps not surprisingly, the more experienced ones have more questions about things like how I coach.

The Svedala player blog I mentioned above is also a potential source of insights. That’s from two seasons back, but a few of the players in the current squad were on that team. If nothing else, there may be some interesting stories. 🙂

Filling the foreign player slots
Between my own contacts and the club’s agent interactions, several more players got on my radar this week. My Sports Director and I had a bit of a disagreement on the issue of player height in one respect, but nothing of any real consequence. We continue to generally agree on player assessments

It’s really interesting to get to understand the dynamics of things and how the various considerations come into play. I’ve previously talked about how the signing process has similarities to college recruiting, without the NCAA rules and admissions restrictions. While it’s true there aren’t grades and test scores to worry about, there are financial and other considerations.

For example, one of the things I learned this week was that in Sweden the tax rate for those who are 25 years old and above is twice that of younger people. That obviously has budget implications.

How the agents fit into the process is also interesting. One agency seems to be responsible for most of the Americans on our list. This creates a funky dynamic where we have to think about how the agent might be looking to play things across multiple clients – for example if we’re considering offers for multiple of that agent’s players in one position.

Related to that, we had a situation come up where a player package deal was indicated to us as a potential worth considering. An agent informed us of a pair of former US college players who want to play together professionally. Each of them has offers separately, but we were told that we might be able to get them at something of a discount (from what they would command if signed individually) if we signed both together. One of them is someone for whom we’d already put in an offer. The other is someone we’ve only just been told about. Individually, the second player is one we might have put behind a couple of others in her position, but being part of a package deal – especially in that combination of positions – shifts things a bit.

Coaching Log – Jun 19, 2015

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2015-16.

The season remains a long way off, but it’s been a busy week or so since my initial update. My efforts and attention have been focused in a couple of areas.

Understanding the situation
It’s important for me as I set my coaching priorities to understand the priorities of the club and the environment I’ll be working in. I had exchanges with the Sports Director on what the club’s purpose and what it is looking to achieve, which is basically a combination of development and competitive success. Obviously, this is important from the perspective of knowing how my performance as coach will be graded by the club. It’s also important, though, in terms of making decisions on team composition from the perspective of signings. I had a lengthy exchange about that at one point.

Another consideration here is what I will have by way of resources at my disposal. I’ve been asking a lot of questions related to that. It’s not about saying I want this or that, but rather just trying to understand what’s on-hand and what could potentially be brought in. That lets me start thinking about how certain assets can be employed and what limitations I might need to work around.

Getting to know the team
After I was officially announced as the new head coach last week, I started to reach out to connect with the returning players in the Svedala Elit team over the weekend. That was first by introducing myself in the Facebook group the team manager set up, and then by asking the players to set up 1-on-1 conversations with me (which I will look to do next week). As part of the latter, I also gave them a short exercise of writing down their motives for playing, plus what they like and don’t like about playing. I did this with one of my players at Exeter last year and thought it would be a good way for me to start to develop a picture of the personalities and motivations in the team.

There are a couple of players from last year who have not yet decided one way or the other if they will be coming back this season. One of them was the team captain. Some of the potential reasons for her hesitation were suggested to me. I reached out to her individually to offer to have a conversation, which we did the other night. As much as it was suggested that I should try to convince her to stay on, my focus was on giving her a chance to get to know me to see if she felt I would be able to help her get what she would want to get out of her experience in the team. It was a good conversation and we’ll keep the lines of communication open. Through the talk I got to learn a little bit more about the team and the club.

Filling the foreign player slots
At this point I’ve watched video on 35-40 prospective signings for next season. These are players from all over the world, though the largest concentration is American. It’s a similar process to recruiting for college programs in the States.

  • Use information sources and contacts to identify potential recruits.
  • Assess a player’s qualities relative to your team needs.
  • Figure out whether a player is actually someone you can get (in this case, in your price range from a salary perspective).
  • Keep track of who’s committed elsewhere.

My Sports Director is told of players by agencies and other contacts, which he passes on to me. I similarly have feelers out to my own contacts and have had players recommended to me that I then also pass in the other direction so we are both doing evaluations of each player.

The other day I went through and ranked the players by position (In this post I talk about my approach to doing that). I shared those rankings with the Sports Director so we could be sure we were both on the same page, which we basically were. From this point it will be easier to evaluate new prospective signings in comparison to those we’ve already looked at. We already scratched a few players off the list because they’ve either already committed elsewhere or we can’t match their salary expectations.

As part of the process I’ve had email exchanges with a couple of the now-former NCAA players. One clearly is new to the idea of playing professionally, but the other two clearly have given it a fair bit of thought and so are more advanced in the process overall.

Get others involved

I want to share one other bit of advice that came out of the “If I knew then…” seminar I talked about previously. It’s the need to get others involved in your team/club/program. I think this subject deserves its own space as it’s probably something many of us don’t do nearly as well as we could or should. I know I often fall short myself.

Delegation

The first part of involving others is the ability to delegate. In terms of a volleyball coach that generally means giving assistant coaches responsibility for certain facets of coaching and/or administration. If you look at a collegiate program in the States you’ll see that the various assistant coaches have different duties. There is often some coaching specialization – one may work with the setters, another on blocking, etc. One assistant may be the recruiting coordinator, while another may handle all the team travel. On match day one assistant may have stats duty while another pays attention only to the opposition side of the court.

Obviously, in a smaller club environment, or in a situation where one is short of staff, there’s less opportunity for pure specialization. The coaches must all wear multiple hats. One way to help spread the responsibility around in those situations is to delegate to the team captain(s). This can be a very good way to develop their leadership skills along with helping you get things done as efficiently as possible. I think you get the idea.

The key to delegating, of course, is matching skill sets to the necessary jobs. This goes for the fun stuff as well as those duties no one really wants to do. You may want to shuffle some drudge work off to an assistant. If you actually are the best for the job, though, then you’re actually not helping your cause at all. Focus on apply everyone’s strengths as best you can.

Enlisting External Help

The other part of involving others is bringing in support from those outside the coaching circle. Running a team or program involves any number of tasks. A coach must do some of them, but willing volunteers can do plenty of things. Generally, these are going to fall into the administrative category – fund raising, equipment purchases, travel arrangements, etc. Volunteers can even handle some on-court stuff, though. For example, if you go to a big Juniors club tournament in the States it’s not unusual to see fathers of the players on the court during warm-ups retrieving balls to keep things moving so the team can focus on getting in their reps.

Of course you do need to be cautious in who you bring in to help you out. You don’t want someone who is going to negatively impact the culture or chemistry of your team or the dynamics of your staff. Parents are often a very delicate thing. They can be quite willing to help out, but it comes in many cases with biases, so you generally need to give them very specific, very narrow responsibilities.

Inventory Time!

Take some time and list out all the various responsibilities associated with managing your team or program. Then list out all the resources you have available to you currently in terms of personnel who can help out, along with the strengths and weaknesses of each. Once you have both, match the strengths of your resources with the responsibilities.

Can you match them all up? Can you do it, but only if you stretch things a bit? Are there places where you have someone doing something when they would be better suited to do something else? That’s where you need to try to take a wider look at what’s available to you. Maybe you can use people connected to your team in new ways. Maybe you need to bring someone else into the fold.

What’s your experience?

I’d be interested to hear your own strategies for enlisting additional help, and any stories you have about doing so. Feel free to use the comment section below or start a conversation Facebook.

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