May 27, 2011

Club Volleyball Coach Concern

My daughter, who is 12, absolutely loves volleyball.  So much so that we decided to put her in a small club in our town to see how she would like it.

The great parts:
Ø  She loves the game even more than she did before
Ø  She has learned a tremendous amount about the game
Ø  She has taken the initiative herself to become better, and works hard to do so
Ø  She has gotten better….way better
Ø  The head coach has done a superb job of prepping the team, improving their skills, and building team unity

The crummy part:
Ø  As good as the head coach is during practice, she is the exact opposite during game time.

It’s heartbreaking.  The team has an unusual amount of good talent, and this observation comes from parents of other teams, other coaches, and what we think we see (when we try to be objective).  But come game time, the coach of all people is the first to crack under pressure at the slightest mistake.  Missed your serve for the second time?  You’re not serving again that day (or maybe for a month for one poor girl).  Bad pass?  You will be lambasted from the sideline.  Let a ball hit the floor next to you?  You’re coming out right now.  Lost a match you should have won?  You’re all running lines in front of the other team as punishment.

We parents don’t know what to do.  The girls play scared to death.  They’ll start a tourney doing well, beating teams that are ranked well above them and dealing ok with the constant micromanagement over every single ball touch during the match from the side.  But inevitably they hit a rough patch and negative energy from the coach pours out like a fountain, leading to tears, resentment, and looks of “I think I want to go home” on every face. 

I’ve tried to casually mention to her that “it sure seems like they’re ready to start evaluating and working out a little bit of their own mistakes….that’s a testament to your coaching this year”  Of course, that was met with a look of complete non-recognition.

Should coaches be throwing out constant feedback, negative or positive, after every single volley?  The girls all look to the sideline after every point.  A good one warrants a comment on how they could have done it better with a “good job” statement if they are lucky.  A bad one could lead to instant removal.  Shouldn’t they just be allowed to play sometimes?  What is the proper amount of input that a coach should be providing during game time?

Thanks!  Love your site. J.

Rally Score Volleyball is so fast, that the coaches can feel compelled to micromanage every single touch.  This could be the result of rally score judging every single play and every negative play results in a point for the other team.  Coaches, even college coaches, have to fight the tendency to "coach" every touch.

One of the things I enjoyed about my college coach, was that we were allowed to play Volleyball without having to digest constant feedback.  We got the majority of our information in the huddles and very rarely was something expressed to us during the action.  This was during Side Out scoring, a format which allowed for coaches to make adjustments during the huddles because the games took longer to complete.  Current Rally Score games are 'pointing out' to around 7 to 8 points per game under the old Side Score.  Now, if I played Side Out games to 8, I bet my coach would have provided much more in-game feedback! 

I would guess the proper amount of in-game feedback is the balance between allowing the players/team to grow in their abilities, but also provide some quick strategy or skill feedback to improve competitive results.  It is a balance and I tend to tilt a bit towards letting the players grow because I think the end 'pay-off' will be greater.

2 ideas:

1.  Film the coach during matches to illustrate your point and quietly provide her the tape - Nothing makes me more aware of my shortcomings as a coach than seeing myself on tape during matches.

2.  Be thankful you have good practice instruction this year, finish the season, and don't play on a team she coaches next year.  You don't want your daughter to stop enjoying the game because of some crazy coach!

There are some coaches which are great training coaches, while others are great game time coaches.  Sometimes VolleyFamilies get lucky and have a coach who is great at both.  

A positive about Club Volleyball is you can change teams easily.  If you don't like the way a Club is run or don't wish to play for a certain coach, then you have the ability to take your monthly fee to another team.  

The VolleyFamilies I feel the most for are those who have bad high school or junior high coaches.  Unless you are going to join a private school or move to another district, when you have a school coach who is bad, you are really stuck!

If your Club coach won't change, then you will need to. Even though the regular club season is over, try to spend some time exploring other club teams and what their coaches are like, so your future VolleyPSA can enjoy the best of both Volleyball coaching worlds!

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