An article on LinkedIn talks about what the author describes as “Second Year Syndrome”. It’s got a clear objective to get consulting business, but nevertheless brings up interesting points. Specifically, it looks at something that can happen when a new coaching staff takes over a team right before the season. The focus is on when the prior staff is fired. I think, though, there are parallels for a voluntary departure.

The reason the author focuses on the “fired” situation is culture. Here’s what she says.

“When a coach is hired close to the start of their season they do not have the time they need to develop the relationships necessary to accurately assess the team culture.”

This is certainly true. I’ve been in this situation a couple of times. Not following a fired head coach, but nevertheless taking over a team with no clear sense of the culture. That’s how it was my first year at Exeter. The same was true at Svedala.

The first season

I previously shared some thoughts on working with a new team from a session of the 2013 AVCA Convention. Culture did not specifically come up by name, but developing trust was. I think, whatever the situation, that’s key. No matter the culture you take over (and the assumption is when following a fired staff that it’s bad), trust is critical.

The challenge when taking over a team late like that is you tend to have a lot on your plate. You’re trying to learn all the in’s and out’s of the new program. You’re trying to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of your team. Chances are you don’t have a lot of time before competitive matches start, so you’ve got that to worry about as well. It’s very easy to forget the culture stuff. The article points out that this cannot be the case.

Here’s the thing, though. As the culture chapter from Volleyball Coaching Wizards – Wizard Wisdom indicates, culture is in everything you do. That includes what you do on the court in practice. It’s all about having the proper awareness of the work you do.

Heading into the second year

The idea in the article of the “Second Year Syndrome” concept is what happens if you don’t get a good handle on the team culture in the first year. Basically, the author believes the opportunity might be gone. She says outside help is probably the only way out in that case. But then she’s a coaching consultant, so of course she says that.

Will some outside help work? It might. Problem is actually getting it. Not always easy to find someone with the availability to spend the time and the observational skills to provide meaningful insights.

So what if you don’t have an outside perspective?

Not much choice. You just have to do the work. Keep getting to know the players and developing trust. Get rid of the players who won’t go along with the new program. Continue ingraining the culture you want in everything you do. Read the chapter from the Wizards book I mentioned above. It will for sure give you something to think about.

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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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