January 17, 2011

Volleyball Drama

I am conducting my post season player meetings - I like to have a large block of time after the conclusion of the season to decompress and not let my emotional hangover from a long campaign influence my evaluations and feedback provided to my players.

To summarize my biggest frustration from this past year, and the feedback from the players, is team drama. As of late, and maybe it is just my team but I keep getting the same feedback from friends in the coaching community and from the readers of this blog, but the prevalence of team drama is just ruining good seasons and good experiences.

I can't say if it is just a cyclical thing, or a residue of the club mentality (common excuse for spoiled, entitled athletes), or I have not paid enough attention during the recruiting process, or us coaches are not stamping out instances of this occurring or we are just hoping it eventually goes away like a bad cold. Whatever the reason, I am just amazed by how immature and self absorbed so many college volleyball players have become.

Seems like the reality show drama of the season is more important than winning and losing. The she said this and she said that, and she looked me this way or made this face, overwhelms the responsibility of focusing on team success. Trying to manage such situations as a coach, without becoming an overt dictator, is like being a pre-school teacher - I swear the same things kids say in pre-school are said in the beefs and griefs which college players have with each other.

Unfortunately, the old saying that one bad apple can ruin the barrel is correct. All it takes is one dramatic, immature, selfish player to start (unconsciously many times) pushing the buttons of other players to create this chain effect like one ping pong ball setting off all the mouse traps.

I wish I had the correct answer about how to fix this as a coach and I find myself trying to balance being heavy handed, with trying to treat my players as young adults, but either way, it is very frustrating. As unsupportive as this will sound, I am now leaning towards just moving players off the team that even put a toe across the team drama line. It is tough enough to win high level matches, and to try and do so with a fractured, drama laden team is nearly impossible.

If you are a college coach reading this, cut out the bruise before it ruins the fruit. No spoiled SA, no matter how talented of a player, is worth a good, happy season. We don't get paid enough to manage drama for wins.

If you are a player reading this, do not waste a day on drama. You only have the briefest of windows to play elite level volleyball and once that window is closed, it never opens up again ever. Focus on the success of the team, focus on what positive physical and verbal actions you can provide, and do not support or accept negative, selfish behavior from any on the program. No argument or slight or pettiness is worth the sacrifice of this time of gold. It is clearly a conscious decision to support or encourage team drama.

If you are a parent reading this, use your influence to guide your daughter in being a positive team mate. Do not tolerate those actions on and off the court which you know are not positive and team oriented. You are the adult, you know when your daughter shoots someone the stink eye, you know when your daughter is whispering trash about her team mates, you are the one who needs to step up and shut it down because when your daughter gets to college, the college coach will shut it down by removing her from the team. Don't expect your club coach to do this, she/he is watching 12+ athletes, while you are really only focusing on one!

Long rant, but I just cannot stand the drama.


  1. As a teenage volleyball player myself, I know exactly what you mean when you say 'team drama.' There are so many players that go through the volleyball circuit and waste 90% of their time complaining, causing problems with other players, or just simply being a pain. I have unfortunately always had two or three girls (at least!) on my teams that are obnoxious to say the least, and make the overall volleyball experience hard to enjoy. My freshman and sophomore years of high school were spent on volleyball teams, and every time I ended the season wondering why I bothered to play with so many hard-to-deal-with girls on my team. But the truth of the matter is that these girls are actually a blessing in disguise. If I didn't have those 'dramatic' girls on my team, I would not have learned that ultimately it is up to YOU to control your situation. Regardless of how annoying they are, you can decide whether or not they will affect you or not. When I stopped letting them control me, I played better, retained more, and was a happier individual. Although I may only be eighteen, I took more life lessons out of the experience than I did volleyball skills, these lessons turning into my first book, The Bench Sitter. If you're a coach who is having a hard time understanding why their players act the way they do, or are a player who feels like they're the only one who has to deal with this 'drama,' then The Bench Sitter is for you.

  2. My daughter is in her first month of college volleyball. She is having trouble with a couple girls on the team, talking about her, making rude comments when she leaves the room, whispers. Not including her at residence, I'm trying to help my daughter. But don't really know why she doesn't just call them on it. My daughter says i don't understand, that will cause more drama. Any suggestions.

  3. Unfortunately, your daughter is just experiencing what has become a common occurrence; selfish players more interested in drama than success. Best thing she can do is just stay away and above it - If she is living with drama queens, then move into a different apartment. If she is in or around a conversation which is negative and critical, stay positive and/or walk away. The reality is that she or the coach will not be able to undo the 18-20 years of learned behavior displayed by her team mates. What the parents did or did not do, is manifesting itself in college.


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