As I mentioned in Tuesday’s post, on Sunday I attended the annual Volleyball England coaching conference. I went to the conference last year as well, with some of the takeaways from that event presented here. This year’s conference featured a combination of informational presentations, a discussion session, and a set of workshops. I’ll address each of those elements below. My comments will be critical in some respects, but nothing I haven’t already provided to the event organizers via a feedback form sent out earlier this week.

There were about 50 coaches in attendance, with a bias toward experience. I think a healthy majority of the group had at least 10 years coaching under their belts. I believe there were three of my fellow Level 3 coaching course attendees on-hand. No doubt being able to get in one of the three required CPD workshops we need for final certification was a factor in that.

The day started off with some informational presentations. They covered developments at Volleyball England (there’s been considerable office staff turnover in the last year), the investment zones, and individual membership registrations. To be honest, not a huge amount of value there. Some of the stuff was generally interesting, but I can’t help but think that a coaching conference wasn’t really the platform for the dissemination, especially when it wasn’t meant to be a discussion starter.

After that, we shifted to the workshops. Each attendee was signed up for one of three – Analyzing your coaching, How to deliver engaging sessions for young people, or Coaching the young developing performer. I was registered for that last one, but I’d done Coaching children and young people on Tuesday (more on that in a future post) and was told there was considerable overlap, so I shifted to the Analyzing one.

I suspect there was a fair bit of dissatisfaction with the workshops, which ran 3 hours in total. We were told at the start of the Analyzing your coaching session that it was actually meant for a less experienced audience than the one present, which certainly proved the case. My guess is the others probably were similarly biased, leading me to think that the value proposition of their inclusion didn’t end up being particularly high. Going beyond that, though, I think at a volleyball coaching conference it would have made more sense to have something volleyball-specific for that sizable block of time rather than general coaching workshops attendees could have taken elsewhere.

After the workshops, we had a bit of a discussion about coaching development. This was an interesting session in which the focus was on trying to generate ideas for ways Volleyball England could help facilitate coaching education and the like. There were a number of good suggestions made. Having more regional events was at or near the top of the list. Facilitating coaching observational opportunities in line with the sort of thing I did last year in the States and in April in Berlin was another one that came up. Not surprisingly, mentorship also came up.

The conference ended with a discussion of potential funding opportunities. At least I think it did. Things were running long and I had to leave before the official wrap-up to make my train.

Aside from my other issues with the conference, I was disappointed in the amount of time available for networking – specifically how limited it was. I was lucky to run into the members of the cadre in the hotel the night before and spend some time with them – several of whom I know – but during the actual conference there wasn’t a lot of time to chat with my fellow coaches. That is something I hope they address in the future. There were some conversations I would have liked to have had, but didn’t get the opportunity because of time constraints.

So basically my feedback to the conference organizers was:

  • More volleyball-specific coaching content
  • Much more networking opportunity
  • Less big picture informational sessions, though discussion sessions to elicit feedback are fine.

We’ll see where things go for next year and beyond.

Oh, and let me say that it was great to hear from a couple of folks at the conference that they know about this little blog – and they actually like it too! 🙂

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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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