This is the first entry in my log as Technical Director for Charleston Academy for the 2018-19 season. I started writing coaching log entries back in 2013 while I coached at the University of Exeter as part of my Volleyball England Level III coaching course requirements. It was such a useful exercise for me that I’ve kept it up ever since.

I previously described what the Technical Director position entails and why I took the job in this post. In this series of log entries I’ll share the things I do in that role. Most of it won’t be direct coaching. It will no doubt be heavily coaching oriented, though.

So here’s what I’ve been up to so far.

Staffing

Obviously, in order for me to oversee a coaching staff there actually needs to be one. From the time I committed to joining CA I was involved in the selection of coaches. The club leadership had done preliminary conversations with those who applied before I signed on, but I took part in all of the final interviews. All but one, that is. He’s someone I recommended.

We were initially looking at I believe five prospective head coach hirings. Such has been the development of things that we’ve ended up with three, plus two assistants. It’s a very solid group with a common set of coaching principles.

Tryouts and selection

We ran our tryouts last weekend on both Saturday and Sunday. Each day featured two 90 minute sessions – one for 15-and-unders and one for 16-and-unders. South Carolina high school playoffs finished on Saturday, so there were some kids missing. We didn’t plan our tryout dates with that in mind, but the hurricane that came through in September pushed the whole high school schedule back a week.

Two weeks prior we’d planned to run tryouts for the 14-and-unders and younger. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough interest, so we ended up scrapping them.

When the dust all settled we ended up with just a 15s team. We always knew that was going to be the primary group this first year. So while it is perhaps a bit disappointing not to have more (we also have some 16s that we hope to supplement enough to form a team for that age group), it’s early days. Starting a new club is never easy, especially when you don’t have locally established coaches.

Start of the “coaching the coaches” role

My first coaching related activity as Technical Director was to formulate a plan for the first day of tryouts on Saturday. That was mainly coming up with a flexible framework that could accommodate an uncertain number of players. We talked it over as a staff before things got rolling, but it mainly went as I scripted. On Sunday I talked with the lead coaches for the two age groups before their sessions to go over things in terms of what they specifically wanted to see that day that maybe they didn’t the day before. We then came up with a plan for their session.

On Saturday I was a fairly active participant in running the tryouts – mainly feeding balls in to keep things moving while others evaluated. On Sunday I was more an observer. I took on more of the roll I expect to take moving forward. That’s to be an external set of eyes to help with ongoing evaluation and to ensure the sessions run well.

I had an interesting conversation with Alec, our designated 15s coach, after Sunday’s session. He asked me about the sort of role I expected to take during practices. Basically, it came down to him really liking what I did that day. Namely, I offered suggestions and/or reminders along the way. For example, it could be something as simple as saying a certain player hadn’t played back row yet.

Of course I’m also there to provide player feedback. So long as it’s consistently focused, it’s hard to have too much of that kind of thing.

Coaching

I actually had to do some coaching this week. Alec had a prior commitment this week, so could not attend the team’s three practices. That means it was down to me to run them, though I did have help from the team’s assigned assistant coach (former college player) and from the couple we have lined up to coach the 16s. It’s been a while since I worked with that age group, but I think it went well.

I’ll share with you separately the sessions that I ran. The main interest of their coach was on assessment. I personally also wanted to get them working on the “whose ball” aspect of playing together. After the first session I also put an emphasis on aggression, especially in serve and attack.

Administration and Organization

As you can imagine, especially with a new club, there are a lot of things that go into getting things rolling for a new season. I’m not directly involved with a lot of the administrative stuff, though I do offer thoughts and suggestions. A lot of what I’ve been thinking about and looking at is some of the bigger picture and longer-term stuff.

For example, one of the things the club is interested in doing is bringing in foreign players to supplement the local ones. Charleston is currently not the strongest, deepest talent pool. We obviously are looking to change that, but in the interim we think having some experienced foreign players can fill the gap. I’ve been reaching out to my international coaching contacts to talk with them about ways to do that.

Something that will be a BIG focus for us moving forward is outreach – especially once we have our new facility up and running. That should be in February. It will feature 8 courts, which obviously provides a lot of opportunity to do a variety of things. The new coach I recommended – who I worked with at Midwestern State – will take the lead in developing youth programs to start building a pipeline for the club. We also want to develop boys volleyball. Unfortunately, they don’t have high school volleyball for the boys in SC yet, so it’s something we’re probably going to have to run mainly in-house at first.

The other big picture thing I’m giving a lot of thought to is anything that can help raise the profile of the club. It’s the stated goal of the club that it becomes a recognized brand, so I’m looking to come up with ways to help facilitate that.

 

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently Technical Director for 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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