For a while now I’ve been thinking about doing something.

I know. I probably need a new project like I need a hole in my head, but this seems to be my pattern.

Anyway, I actually can’t take credit for the idea. It’s something that Mark Lebedew, my partner on the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project, brought up during a discussion. It’s not something Mark’s really in a position to get up and running himself, so I thought I should at least think about doing so.

That idea is a global association of volleyball coaches.

The Motivation

In the US there is the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA). The AVCA started out as the Collegiate Volleyball Coaches Association in 1981, but changed its name and expanded its focus to include high school and juniors coaches in 1986. Now the AVCA reports it has nearly 7000 members. It is a valuable resource for US coaches. The annual convention is the largest volleyball coaches gathering in the world each year.

Outside the US, however, coaches mostly don’t have anything like the AVCA. Some of what the AVCA does in terms of education is taken on by national and/or regional federations. There just aren’t many independent associations out there, though, where coaches can come together, exchange ideas, and work toward the betterment of the sport and our profession.

This is where the idea for a new group came from.

I’ve talked with a number of coaches from different parts of the world about this global coaching association concept. Without exception they thought it was a great idea.

So we’ll be forming the Society of World Volleyball Coaches (SWVC).

Please note that the idea is not to in any way supplant the AVCA. Rather, what we’re looking to do is to take the basic concept of the AVCA and apply it to the rest of the world.

The Mission

The simple mission of the SWVC will be to drive the betterment of the volleyball coaching profession globally.

Pretty straightforward, right?

How will we do it?

At the end of the day the members will determine what the SWVC does. Here’s what I have in mind, though.

  • Act as a meeting place where coaches from around the world can interact, collaborate, and share ideas.
  • Provide a platform through which coaches can collaborate within countries and/or regions to address specific issues. It would also allow the sharing of good ideas between and among those countries/regions.
  • Collect high quality educational content from all around the world, translated into a variety of languages.
  • Support top level volleyball-related research into areas such as motor learning and performance analysis
  • Develop a career center where coaches can get useful job market and career development information, which could potentially be used to link employers to coaches.

I can see the SWVC sponsoring regional conferences, but having a big unified convention each year like the AVCA would be tough. That said, some kind of virtual online conference is possible. It could be a rolling event featuring presenters from across the global time zones.

The structure

Again, this will be something the membership decides, but I have an idea for a basic structure.

  • Global board with representation from all the regions to determine the overall direction of the Society.
  • Regional committees to focus on topics specific to their part of the world.
  • Specialized committees to work on particular things, such as events, education, and research support.

Obviously, the Society will need people for its day-to-day operations. Someone will have to be director, which I suspect at least in the beginning will be me. We’ll need editors for the various languages involved to make sure we get high quality content, that translations we have done make sense, and to get content posted.

Ideas to get it started

Of course, getting the SWVC up and running is going to have a cost. We’ll need a website, and for that we’ll need to get some kind of branding created (logos, etc.). We’ll also want to set up a proper legal structure for the society.

To that end I had a few ideas.

  1. Ask for donations, which could potentially be converted into memberships once the SWVC is formally launched.
  2. Have prospective members pre-register for membership
  3. Get one or more sponsors (Mark offered this idea)

Of course, we could combine 1 or 2 with 3.

Open to suggestions

The main point of this post is to solicit thoughts and ideas. It could be about the concept overall. It could be about the structure or what the SWVC is to do. Suggestions on how to fund its initial phase are very welcome. I’m even open to thoughts for a better name.

Basically, any and all feedback is greatly appreciated.

Please use the comment section below. Hopefully, we can develop a useful dialog and generate some good ideas.

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.

    9 replies to "The Society of World Volleyball Coaches"

    • Rocco BRUNI

      I think the idea is fantastic, maybe we could even call it dreamers, but coaches have to be a bit of visionary dreamers. I am very interested in myself as an Italian coach. Let’s Go John

      • John Forman

        I might not say dreamers, but coaches definitely have to be visionary.

    • Steve

      You might want to consider pro-bono/in-kind sponsorships as an option for funding the start up. In our part of the world (New Brunswick, Canada) many of our coaches are professionals in IT, lawyers, engineers, accountants aside from traditional teachers.

      I have been volunteering as our club president for the past 22 years but have also worked provincially. Coaching development is poor at best and appears to be beyond the capacity and capabilities of regional and national leadership.

      Secondly. We need a voice in shaping our sport. Where officials are paid, coaches are typically not (at least here in Canada). But when it comes to building and shaping our sport, coaches are rarely consulted on issues. This needs to change. A global group with advocacy would also be of great benefit.

      • John Forman

        Yeah, there’s definitely value in trying to crowd source from the membership at least some of the start-up and/or on-going requirements. Though I would like it to fairly quickly become a professional organization which doesn’t rely solely on volunteers. There will always be a role for them, of course. But I think it will need something at least approaching full-time oversight which doesn’t have to worry about other priorities getting in the way of ensuring work gets done and things are going in the right direction.

        That direction definitely includes properly valuing the time, effort, and contribution of coaches.

    • Jan Boshoff

      This is a great idea! I’d love to be part of it.
      I am an English speaking coach based in Hong Kong, and would definitely derive benefit from a resource which could happen in my language and be represented locally. Co-ordinating regional conferences would definitely be beneficial, I know many coaches who would love to (and definitely should) be able to both share their skills and experience and also learn from other coaches. Providing a forum to arrange local meets and perhaps even create workshops would be amazing.
      Of course, in terms of funding I think paying for membership would be fine, and different levels of membership for individuals and organisations such as colleges and schools would make it easier to pay the bills. However, getting some corporate sponsors would be essential and really take it to another level.
      Considering that coaches help their players to find gear from shoes to ankle braces, uniforms to training bands, there should be some value we can offer to the right brands.

      • John Forman

        I agree with you 100% on helping coordinate regional conferences and going after sponsorships, business partnerships, etc. My one push back on the idea of tiered membership levels is that I’d be inclined to want that to reflect the value coaches at the various levels get from the community. For example, in the US the AVCA prices college coach memberships higher because they do a lot more to promote the college game (polls, awards, etc.) than they do for other levels. This does bring up the question of the possible need to price membership at different levels to reflect regional economic realities, though.

    • Martin

      Hi John, sorry for my English, I am writing fast and with the help of a translator, trying to avoid mistakes.

      The idea is interesting and also very difficult to implement.

      First, there is resistance from coaches themselves, either because they don’t think a coaches’ association is necessary, or because they fear reprisals from National Federations (NF).

      As far as I know, there’s nothing like AVCA outside the U.S. and no one can know if something is good or bad if they don’t know it. Coaches outside the U.S. should be well informed (with an emphasis on benefits) to overcome their resistance and generate in them the need to organize. Coaches within the U.S. should also be well informed, but I will explain this point later.

      In countries with long tradition in the sport of volleyball, there is usually a Technical Commission appointed by the NF, which is responsible for training, certification and keeping coaches up to date. If the NF feels threatened (these activities are also a source of income for many NFs) it can withdraw the license of the coaches who are part of the association, which would prevent them from working.

      Then there is the issue of nationalism. In some countries, national coaches reject foreign coaches just because they are foreigners. And too often, coaches visiting a country do not understand cultural differences and generate rejection of national coaches. But these issues are complicated and this is not the place to deal with.

      The list of reasons why NOT to create a coaches’ association could go on, but I don’t think it’s worth focusing on.

      To implement the idea, IMO, it might work: 1.) reverse the approach (bottom-up instead of top-down), 2.) not to start from scratch and, 3.) citing roughly Bernardo de Chartres, “be perched on the shoulders of giants, to be able to see more and farther than them.”

      1.) An international association needs a solid base, a recognition by coaches from all countries, or by associations of coaches. As I mentioned earlier, associations like AVCA in the U.S. do not exist in other countries, so it would be very difficult to get recognition. And I think that’s the main problem with the top-down approach (first international association, then national associations).

      Using a bottom-up approach would take advantage of the interest of some national coaches to create associations in each country. They know better than anyone else the activities they can develop, when a conflict with the NF may arise, and when it is possible to negotiate with the NF. They can also inform other national coaches, convincing them of the importance of a national association.

      As national associations are consolidated in each country, they can unite to create larger and larger associations. That would give an international association a solid foundation.

      2.) Start from scratch is, IMO, the worst. We don’t take advantage of the knowledge and experience that already exists, and we often “reinvent the wheel.” To implement this idea, the knowledge and experience of existing national associations, the national associations that are being created, and the national associations that national coaches want to create must be harnessed. Are they few and small? Yes, but Rome was not built in a day.

      3.) Finally, it would be helpful if coaches from all over the world can “be perched on the shoulders of the giant.” Or rather, the giant allows coaches from all over the world to carry him on their shoulders. I mean, the giant is AVCA. Coaches who understand English language can “perch on the giant’s shoulders.” And coaches who don’t understand English language, can’t do that.

      I think AVCA could expand its operation outside the U.S. and offer services in languages other than English. It also could provide support and advice for creation of national or regional associations, which would be responsible not only for translations, but also for offering services in local language, organizing events, congresses and any other activity that does not conflict with the NFs.

      And what would be the benefits to coaches within the U.S.? I guess more interaction with coaches from other countries, that always contributes to learning. For example, I remember a post by Mark Lebedew saying that there is virtually nothing about Julio Velasco’s philosophies, theories or work in English. You can say, “but AVCA or USA Volleybal can invite Velasco as lecturer.” Yes, they can (in fact, Velasco made a presentation at the USA Volleyball High Performance Coaches Clinic in 2015), but many more coaches within the U.S. could take advantage of his knowledge and experience (and those of Tillie, Bernardinho, Zé Roberto, Heynen and a lot of professional coaches most people have never heard of) if English literature is generated.

      • John Forman

        Let me address this in parts.

        I agree with you that there are many potential reasons not to do something like this, but that doesn’t mean it’s not something that should be done. And there will always be coaches who don’t see the need. Clearly, such an organization is not for them (though perhaps they are exactly the type of coach it should be for).

        With respect to the AVCA expanding globally. I have a hard time seeing that happen because of how strongly it is focused on the US collegiate game, growing the sport here, and things like that. It would take a major shift in focus to make their operation international. I definitely agree with the idea, though, that we can take a lot from how the AVCA operates (no reinventing the wheel). And I certainly see no reason why the two organizations couldn’t collaborate.

        I think what you’ve said about building the Society up from the bottom has a lot of value. I can see a kind of two track approach.

        On one track the Society forms as a global educational resource that shares content from all over the world in a variety of languages. Some percentage of members probably would only be interested in it from this kind of educational perspective, so we go after them in that way.

        On the other track, the Society forms as a collection of regional associations. While you could do this the way you describe – forming local associations and progressively merging them into larger ones – I think taking a different approach is more efficient. We find coaches in different regions to form those groups under the Society’s overall structure from the start so they are immediately part of a merged association. This way the regional groups have access to shared resources rather than having to develop them each individually.

        Of course the two tracks can be mutually supportive. Coaches who start off interested in only the educational material may eventually become involved in their local group. Meanwhile, the local groups can be a source of educational content for the full global community.

        To your point about needing a recognition, I think that’s very true for both the tracks I’ve outlined above. Clearly in terms of creating local associations we’d need coaches involved who can bring together their peers. And from the more general education perspective, we need coaches involved who have a good profile and who are well respected.

        As for the federations, they are certainly a factor – though definitely more so in some places than others. The Society’s general education efforts are unlikely to pose a risk in that regard since we would not be doing anything to supplant licensing and things like that. In fact, we could even support it. The regional groups are more likely to have to be aware of potential issues here. So long as they avoid areas the federation claims as its own, though, they should be able to operate in a positive fashion. And they might even be able to exert some influence on their federation through collective action.

    • Lenny Barry

      Hi John
      Apologies for being late replying to this… is a very interesting idea.

      First up, I am FIVB II qualified, Level 4 with Scottish Volleyball and coach National League in England!

      I know you coached in England and will likely agree that the sport is not as strong or as well developed in the UK as, say, in the US or many European countries.

      Countries that have the benefit of high volume of participants or professional leagues will generate a demand for coach qualifications, coach education and CPD in different formats.

      Where there are lower numbers of coaches then the National Governing Bodies have real difficulty in funding and supporting educational programmes. Which can create a Catch 22 insofar as that lack of opportunity and lack of community can lead to frustration and stagnation.

      It is possible that coaches from countries not benefiting from the infrastructure will seek development online from other countries. Language may be an obstacle as well. I access a number of sources in the US, for example.

      Some online communities are beneficial, some can be voluminous and time consuming to search what you may be looking for.

      Many countries will have a Coaches Association, even by the fact that they have an annual licence from the Governing Body. Would some become defensive/ protective if their members were joining “external” associations?

      But coaches would be doing that if their NGB was not meeting their needs?

      Volleyball is a major global sport but can also be quite small for some?

      Volleyball benefits if the sport grows in any country. The global benefits can reflect on other countries. England does not play in VNL, but the global media coverage could be used to sell benefits to potential sponsors etc.

      The concept you are floating would appear to have real merit.

      I have often wondered what FIVB Development Committee does….is this something that could be worked up into a proposal for them to ponder?

      Anyway, just a few quick thoughts, and I look forward to seeing what others have to say.

      Best wishes and happy Holidays!

      Lenny Barry

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