April 4, 2011

Club Coaching Poorly

As a result of watching so many Club Volleyball players, I watch a lot of Club Volleyball matches which includes watching many Club Volleyball coaches.  Either because it is the Wednesday of the Volleyball recruiting season, or I had basically completed my evaluations of our PSA's, or my coffee wore off after lunch time, but there were a number of areas which struck me recently within the realm of Club Volleyball coaches/coaching.

Let me preface the critical observations below by saying these examples are not applicable to every club coach and in fact, a number of coaches might just display a shadow of a particular trait.  I try to observe Club coaches in the light of learning from them, both the positives and the not to replicate negatives, for my own coaching abilities.

Yelling - No long term good will result because of yelling.  It is a caffeinated shot of adrenaline which has a short term lift and a long term crash.  Being positively loud is diametrically opposed to yelling at a team or a player.  Yelling is not coaching, yelling is selfishly venting frustration on or towards your team.  Good coaches always coach, even when it would be easier to just verbally unload.

Positioning - Too many club teams I watch are out of position; serve receive, defensive base and transition attack.  These are areas which must be constant and must be reinforced by the coach.  If a player is out of position by three feet on defense, then the entire defense will break down because the Volleyball gods are cruel and will always have the ball go to where the player should have been.  Rally Score Volleyball is about minimizing the mistakes, not maximizing the great plays.  Giving up points because of a positioning mistake is just silly.

Technique - Coaching Volleyball is a challenge because it is a technique driven sport.  It is not easy to teach and reinforce correct Volleyball technique.  Even though everyone gets focused on the goal of trying to win the Volleyball match, it is during matches that correct technique must be critically emphasized.  Coaches must be vigilant in keeping players focused on good technique, because it is within the competitive environment that good technique is stamped into the PSA's Volleyball psyche.  A coach getting caught up in the winning of the match and losing focus on player skill sets, is doing their team a disservice.

Dressing - When did coaches of Volleyball start dressing so poorly?  I must have missed the memo that said it was OK for college coaches to wear faded jeans and nylon zip ups found at the bottom of the equipment box;  we are the grown-ups, we should look like it.  It is not a good sign when the VolleyFamilies dress more appropriately than we do.  As for club coaches, wearing a baseball hat backwards on the bench is not cool and it does not make you look like Turtle in Entourage; it just makes you look like a hack.  Cargo shorts and a faded t-shirt is not a coach attire; it does not lend authority and leadership.  If we are getting paid to participate in Volleyball, then we should look professional at every level.  Looking like garbage will just result in being treated like garbage.

Free Balls - When your team has to send a free ball over the net, it should always go into zone one or zone two (the right front/back of the opponent's court). It "boggles the mind" (Good Morning Vietnam reference) when I see teams putting free balls high and soft into the middle of the opponent's court!  This is a Volleyball standard.....bananas w/a banana split, sunblock at the beach, don't drink and drive, momma loves you and send free balls to zone 1 and 2!

Sprinkler Setting - Once setters hit the 16's year of Club Volleyball, they have to move away from sprinkler setting and start to set an offense.  Coaches need to develop the cognitive ability of their setters to set the appropriate hitter, at the appropriate time and not just set who is next on the list.  Even though rally score has virtually eliminated the ability of setters to run a long term offensive strategy, coaches need to direct/manage setters to set the right person at the right time (even if it is after the fact).

Gift Points - There are only 25 points needed to win a rally score game and because of this small amount of rapidly scored points, every rally matters.  When an opponent gives you the gift of a point, you must take that gift and not throw it away.  A gift is when you are given a free ball in the dead center of the court and your Libero is the one to pass it - Throwing away that gift point is having the Libero pass the free ball 12 feet off the net, so now the setter can only set a high left side attack.  A gift is when your opponent misses a serve at 23-23 - Throwing away that gift point is having your player miss the next serve.  Good coaches teach their team to take those gift points and reinforce those opportunities during the course of a match, not to be indifferent to them.

Prepare for College - A motivation to play Club Volleyball is to obtain a college playing opportunity, with a corresponding scholarship.  The club's responsibility, whether it is addressed next year or in 3 years (18's versus 16's in Club Volleyball), is to prepare Club Volleyball players to succeed as College Volleyball players.  College Volleyball has become much more 'cut-throat' and the patience window is very small, so the importance of clubs preparing their players for College Volleyball is even more important.   When I see good players, from long standing club teams, make continuous key mistakes and not witness the club coach address these mistakes (like, you know, coaching them), I know this player will have a tough first year of college.  I can't say this strongly enough; with the accelerated time frame of recruiting and the newer comfort level college coaches have with not renewing scholarships, a Club Volleyball team not focusing on successful, basic mental and physical Volleyball skills will only place the PSA in a precarious first year existence on their college team.

Platoon Games -  Instead of trying to capture playing time in each game by having everyone going front to back with each other, have them play in alternate games.  This relates to preparing PSA's for College Volleyball.  Outside hitters in college must pass and if they are not allowed to practice passing as Club Volleyball outside hitters, then they will get lit up once they step into the big girl's gym.  Having the OH's front to back with the DS's and not practice passing all around just hurts their skill sets in preparation for College Volleyball.  Plus, it is no fun playing for three rotations then coming out to chit-chat on the bench.  It is comical to see club coaches blow their top when the team is not in sync and can't sustain acceptable play.  The PSA's can't get into a rhythm because most of the team only plays half the game.  Accomplish the equal playing time goal by alternating games so the players who are playing can play the entire game.

Good Mistakes - These are acceptable and should be acknowledged.  A good mistake is trying to hit line against a two person block when the set is not perfect; that is a good skill to have and one which must be practiced in game like conditions.  Hitting the ball out cross court, against a two person block when the set is not perfect, is a bad mistake.  Missing a serve by inches in the the serving zone called by the coach is a good mistake; missing the serve by inches outside of the serving zone called by the coach is a bad mistake.  Rally Score Volleyball does not allow for mistakes without penalties (one of the main reasons I don't and won't ever like rally score), so coaches must build in the mechanism to encourage the allowance for good mistakes.

Verbal Repetition - Coaches are very aware of repetition when it comes to Volleyball training.  We like to make sure a player gets 1,000 sets or 500 serves, all done with the correct technique and the technique is always the same.  We should have the same philosophy when it comes to our language as coaches, our verbal repetitions.  If we are constantly changing our verbal feedback, our personality, our tone, our information, then we are not providing that necessary repetition for the players to get better.  Players need to hear the same verbal mantra each time, they need to have consistency from their coaches, they need to know what to expect as they mature in their Volleyball abilities.  Club coaches must be very aware of what they are verbally expressing to their players and this expression must be consistent.

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