Came across the following question from a coach taking over a new team.

First day of practice. What do you do? Start fast and set the tone for practice expectations, go over team rules, paperwork requirements?

Let me take this in pieces.

Don’t waste gym time

Most of us only have a limited amount of court time with our teams, for one reason or another. I would not waste any of that on paperwork, team meetings, or anything that doesn’t involve a volleyball. I even want my warm-ups to be as productive from a volleyball perspective as possible. Do the administrative and other non-volleyball stuff outside of gym time.

Set the tone?

The author of the question above mentions starting fast and setting the tone for expectations. While I do think establishing expectations from the outset is important, that doesn’t have to come from a fast start. In fact, a fast start might not even be advisable. Depends on your situation. To reduce the risk of injury you don’t want players going from little in the way of high intensity work, straight into a heavy load. Better to build into it (see this edition of my Coaching Conversations series).

Straight at it or build it up?

Depending on your situation, you could either go right into working on team things the first practice or take a more measured approach. If you have a lot of returners and/or only have a short amount of time before your first match, jumping right in is probably the way you want to go. In that case, you’ll think about running a fairly standard practice based on your key priorities.

If, however, you need to do a bit more in the way of assessment you’ll probably want to take a different approach. Same thing if you are integrating a bunch of new players into the team. This was the approach I took to my first practice session coaching in Sweden. I used that session to get my first real look at the players and to start them getting to know each other as players. You can also check out these three short practices I did with a juniors team.

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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.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.