The two biggest jobs of a coach

When it comes to coaching a team there are two main responsibilities. I’m not talking about off-court administrative requirements. Those can vary considerably between teams and organizations. I’m talking here about on-court, in the gym. That’s the common ground for all coaches. Those two responsibilities are setting priorities and deciding who’s on court during matches.

Setting priorities

As coaches, one of the most important things we do is assess our teams and players, and set training priorities. We decide which skills and/or tactics to focus on in practice. We decide which part of a player’s game we want to get the most attention. These priorities then filter in to how we develop practice plans and where we concentrate our feedback. At least they should!

You may be the best in the world at technical training. If you don’t pick the right skills to develop, though, you’re wasting time and effort.

Think of it this way. The first thing you have to do as a coach is decide where you want the team to go. That might change along the way, but you always need to have a destination in mind. Once that’s in place, you then map a course to get you there. If you have no destination, who knows where you’ll end up.

Playing time

When it comes to match-day coaching, the most important thing we do is decide who’s playing and in what role. That’s a combination of starting line-up and substitutions.

Obviously, there are things you can do in terms of strategy, managing the team’s emotional state during play, and the like. All of that, though, follows on from your team selection. If you don’t get the personnel on court right, the rest of it probably won’t matter too much.

Yes, there is more to it

Of course there is more to successful coaching. For example, recruiting is extremely important in the college and professional levels. Keeping kids academically eligible is important in any school team situation. There’s scheduling considerations and any number of other off-court details that need to be managed.

When it comes to on-court stuff, however, good prioritization and line-up decisions are the key factors in coaching success. Everything else comes in to play from there.

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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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