Here’s one of the big differences between US college volleyball and what you see internationally.

Assistants standing and coaching the players on the court.

Sometimes even assistants talking to the officials, though rules have come in to curb that. Honestly, that always surprised me when I saw it, though you’d think I’d have be used to it.

I know all of this bothers my international coaching friends. Under FIVB rules only the head coach may stand. And for sure only the head coach may address the officials. Since domestic leagues generally follow FIVB rules, the same applies at the professional and sub-pro levels.

I came up in the US college system, so standing assistant coaches never really bothered me. In fact, I became one myself after initially sitting for the early part of my career.

The standing part still doesn’t really bother me. What does, though, is the frequency of coaches talking to players between plays.

Actually, what I find interesting is how often you see the head coach sitting (relatively) quietly on the bench while the assistants are bouncing around. It’s generally not the head coaches that do all this between-play talking. It’s the assistants. At least at the upper levels where you have bigger staff anyway.

I strikes me as watching young coaches who haven’t figured out yet that they can’t control things on the court. And really shouldn’t try to.


Edit: Terry Pettit, who I interviewed for Volleyball Coaching Wizards, spoke on this subject in a podcast (about the 27-28 minute mark).

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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.

    2 replies to "Too much coaching during matches?"

    • Sam Cahill

      I coach a much younger level of club volleyball (12U to 15U), so maybe my perspective is different than a college or international coach, but I think this is a lesson on maturity. I think young coaches have a tendency to “over-coach” during matches because they feel a need to be in control, and especially when a match isn’t going well, silence feels like not caring, or not knowing how to correct the issues.

      As I’ve matured, and coached longer, I’ve seen the value in letting players fight together, rely on one another on the court rather than the coaches, and solve some problems on their own. That doesn’t diminish the coaches value of in-game strategic decisions like targeting weak points in serve, but giving the “drop the shoulder to the target, move your feet, swing high” type of correction is counterproductive during a match. As an extreme, I’ve seen coaches give so much feedback that players are still looking at the sideline as the next ball is served!

      In short, technique style correction is probably best saved for practice, and as I’ve grown, I realize that less-is-more on game day when it comes to feedback. Coaches have full control during practice, but game day is time to let your little chick-a-dees fly and become eagles!

    • Justin

      As a head coach of a younger club team (anywhere from 13-16), most of my coaching to them while they are on the court occurs between plays. That coaching consists of feedback on skills (I.e. hands when blocking, set location, etc.), strategy (open spots on court, weak opposing players, set such and such, etc), and positive reinforcement. It’s no longer than 1-2 quick sentences unless a player responds with a question. If I have someone on my bench, they are only giving positive reinforcement from the bench. During pregame/timeouts I do go into strategy more in-depth with what we are trying to accomplish.

      For the most part, this has worked out really well for my teams, the players are able to make adjustments and improve the overall quality of the match on our side.

      The biggest issue I encounter is players who are either resistant to making an adjustment or feel like I am targeting them which both leads to poorer performance of the team and an attitude from the player that is not wanting to be seen. With those players, I tend to work on mentality with them over anything else because volleyball is such a mental game.

      These are my thoughts! Thank you.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.