The more you talk, the less they train

One day the Exeter university club I coached for did the first of its taster sessions for the new year. It was Fresher’s Week, which is a bit like Orientation for colleges in the States. As part of it the various student organizations put on events to encourage new members to join up. For volleyball it’s a question of having them come into the gym and do some drills and games and stuff.

These taster sessions can be quite big affairs. The prior year both sessions had over 100 people. That’s a lot for what we had available to us in terms of gym space. This time we probably only had about half that number because it was so early in the week. We had others later on that were better attended.

One of the problems with these sessions, aside from the large numbers in general, was that a sizable fraction of the players are beginners. It was great for the sport and for the club, of course, but it created a challenge. They needed to be taught and couldn’t really be mixed in with the non-beginners. Actually, the non-beginners weren’t generally miles ahead of their peers, but that’s another discussion.

Rookie coach mistake

Anyway, the club was structured such that experienced members took on the role of coach for those in the lower levels – Beginners and Intermediates. One of the players who was on the women’s team the prior two years took charge of the beginner group that day. She made a rookie mistake. She started by talking to them for quite a few minutes before getting them started. Coaching stuff aside, that’s not something you want to do in a taster session when you’re supposed to be selling new people on joining your club and getting involved in volleyball.

Later in the session I had a chance to talk with this player. I told her she needed to spend less time talking and more time letting the players get on with it. Her response was not surprising. She said, “But they’ll do it wrong!”

Yup. They’ll do it wrong. You know what? They’re going to do it wrong anyway. You have to let them. That’s how they learn.

I told her, do a demonstration to show them how, then let them get on with it. From there you can go around and make individual corrections. Maybe you need to bring them back to reinforce something to the group if you see most players making the same mistake. If so, make it quick and then get them back to work.

The more time you spend talking, the less time they spend training. So consider seriously when you interrupt things.

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John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John most recently coached for an NCAA Division II women's team. That followed a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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