Alexis from Coaches Corner posted an article on the Volleyball South Australia website. It features some takeaways from a sport science conference he attended. There are a couple of different subjects, but the one that really grabbed my attention came from his first set of bullets.

  • We feel first, then we think
  • The advantage we ignore:
    • Detrimental coaching climates are a huge limiting factor to development
    • Athletes in a fear response can’t learn
    • Safety is a critical part of a good learning culture. Athletes have to feel safe.
    • Tone of calm engages the receiver’s brain to listen
  • We over-rep physically!
  • Would you have learned maths better if someone was in your face screaming it at you?
  • Coaches need to understand how athletes learn
    • If coaches understand learning they get less stressed
  • “If you don’t perfect talent, it doesn’t matter that you identified it”

These bullets come from a presentation by neuro-scientist Dr John Sullivan, author of The Brain Always Wins.

Think about the implications of especially the set of four sub-bullets. They relate directly to yelling at players and creating and environment based on fear of failure. I’ve written before on the yelling subject, so my feelings are well established, and these observations back them up. How you talk about errors matters a lot.

I was struck when I read the article in question because of how closely it mirrored what I heard from inside a program with a new coach who yelled a lot. The program was set back because the new coach created an environment of fear and uncertainty – even in the staff.

Also, make note of the final bullet. Basically, it says that recruiting and player selection only takes you so far. If you can’t develop players from there then you will never maximize your team’s potential.

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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.

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