Mark Lebedew once shared a video clip on his Facebook page. It featured USA and UCLA men’s coach John Speraw talking about how errors are handled in coaching volleyball. Unfortunately, the video doesn’t look to be available anymore, so I can’t link to or share it.

Basically, John talked about the importance of addressing the subject of errors with players and the team in a way that avoids them being afraid of making mistakes. Instead, coaches should encourage risk taking as part of the development process. This is something I’ve written about before. It’s one of the first things I talk about with any team I take charge of when we have our initial meeting. Perhaps more importantly, I keep reinforcing that message.

Key in this whole process is consistency of messaging. If we preach risk taking in practice, but then tell players not to take risks in matches it defeats the whole purpose. This can happen both explicitly and implicitly. The former is when we outright tell players something like “Just get it in.” The latter is when we do something like sub a player out for making errors.

Having said all this, part of encouraging risk taking is also teaching players to make good decisions.

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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.

    5 replies to "The importance of how we as coaches talk about errors"

    • Jorge Rodriguez

      Hi, the link to the videoclip is not working, would you be able to share it?

      • John Forman

        Sorry Jorge. Looks like the video isn’t available anymore. I tried searching for it, but no luck.

        • Jorge Rodriguez

          Ok, thanks for the answer!

    • Ken

      Ok, so subbing because of errors. How do you handle when a player just can’t correct the errors, such as there getting served over and over and not making the changes we’ve worked on and stressed? Particular example – I have 2 liberos, 1 is on and struggling to serve receive. Other team is going on a run. Do you swap? How long do you let the player that’s “in their head” struggle?

      • John Forman

        Ken – My philosophy in a situation like that is if the player just isn’t playing like themselves – in their head, frustrated, distracted, etc. – then I’ll pull them to at least give them a bit of a break to reset. No sense in leaving them in to get beat up if they just aren’t in the right head space. Important to talk with them when they come off to explain what you’re doing, though.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.