July 7, 2011

Club Volleyball Coach Concerns

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:

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

The crummy part:

-     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.

It sounds like a Catch 22 (classic movie by the way) with your club situation - Very good practice coach and very poor match coach.   This situation can easily replicate itself all the way up the totem pole to the Olympic team.  Some coaches are better in matches while others are more comfortable in practice situations.  What happens many times on the college level is that the good practice coaches tend to assume long term assistant positions while the good match coaches are typical head coaches.  

The rough part in college is when these natural attributes are switched in assignments; this is when you have messed up programs with messed up players.  I was very fortunate that my college coach was a very strong match coach, but was comfortable having the rudimentary skill training handled by the assistants.

To answer your questions:

1)  Rally score volleyball is so fast that 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; but we should not be feeding commentary after every rally.

2)  Absolutely they should be allowed to play.  Sometimes the best thing a coach can do is sit down, shut up and try not to make faces.  I think a great web cam idea would be to 'face focus' an entire match on the head coach.  I would be AFRAID to watch such a video, and I am very aware of trying to stay positive to neutral with my expressions!

3)  Tough to say what the proper amount of input should be.  It has taken me awhile to get to the point of providing the bulk of 'coaching' during the time outs or in between games.  During the match, I will make small adjustments or tactical changes based upon opportunities, but I still find myself providing too much 'feedback' to players.  The old saying, "Less is More" is what I try to do.....but it is tough.

In closing, I suggest two things:

-  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. 

-  Be thankful you had 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!

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