Love the blog...great resource for us greenhorns!
I have been coaching volleyball for just 3 years now after 12 years of coaching boys. Girls are different! But, I have been working extremely hard after realizing that I was a horrible High School JV coach my first year.
Since that first season I have found a former college coach to mentor me, coached year-round through the club seasons, read everything I could get my hands on, Got my CAP1 certification, and done numerous local camps and clinics to build a local network and club interest in my rural area. Yes, I am an over-achiever. I am in my 2nd year as varsity coach now and I have a very talented but entitled junior class.
The biggest problem is that they knew me when I was....well awful. We have grown together, but respect is definitely an issue. To be fair, I do run a loose ship at times, but I feel strongly about my girls not playing tight and knowing that it is ok to make mistakes as long as they are trying to make a play. Many times they feel that they can say whatever they feel like saying whether or not it is constructive. Additionally, when I try to correct a misconception in a constructive spirit they simply dispel the thought with "well I just don't see it that way" and there is no learning or growth. Sometimes I just want to shake them!
But inevitably I take the high road and try to focus on volleyball. This strategy seems to lead to more entitlement on their part and more frustration on my part. So I swallow hard and try to draw a line in the sand and enforce some consequences when I see a genuine concern. Naturally this is met with resistance on their part which adds to my frustration. They sense this and it often feels like we are at war. I am passionate about this team and care deeply for my girls. I have worked very hard and have successfully cultivated very good individual relationships with all of my girls, additionally we have done numerous team bonding activities and they get along very well together. Yet somehow the team dynamic is out of whack.
This shows itself as we do very well against weak and mid-level teams, but we fall apart at the critical moments against good teams. We are literally 0-6 against the 3 best teams we have faced and 13-1 against everyone else, including some decent teams. We have made strides this year, but I am concerned that we have peaked because we seem to have lost our desire to improve. What am I missing here? I need tangible suggestions...
Frustrated with second place....
This is the joy of coaching. I am facing a very similar situation with my college program, in terms of rising up and playing with passion against superior teams. Like you, I run a less structured program (but my credentials are such that I have some weight behind my words), but the player's today can be rather spoiled and entitled, willing to accept any excuse or rationale for losing, instead of looking inside and accepting responsibility.
My suggestion is to work them harder, but not in a mean spirited or "punishment" mentality. Make the warm-up a conditioning period, make the routine hitting drills have push up and sit up penalties for errors, make the players do 5 dive and rolls whenever they don't go to the floor after a ball in anything from a simple two person pepper drill to a team scrimmage, and absolutely do not accept any questioning of your authority or directions during practice or match.
A coach is a benevolent dictator but still a dictator. If a player shows you attitude, then they should immediately be pulled from the match and if it is in practice, they should be sent to the side of the court to start running and if it happens more than once, they should be sent home. The coach is the authority figure and makes the final decision, period.
One of the best things I have done as a college coach, is to stop lazy, entitled practices and kick my player's out of the gym - I tell them they are wasting my time and now it is time for them to leave. Another example, Penn State. When Penn State emerged in the late 90's and early 00's as a national power, I was in the Big 10 at another school. As I know Russ Rose, he allowed me to hang out and watch one of their visiting team practices and when one of their players did not go after a ball or was lazy, the assistants or Russ told them to do 5 rolls or 10 sprints immediately and these players did it immediately with no hesitation.
If the #1 team in the country is making their All American players do this, then I think we all are OK to do the same because Coach Rose is a quality, intellectual coach who does not act without reason or mandate crazy things.
Use statistics as your friend; if a star or upper classmen player is not producing (the stats show poor hitting %, poor passing %, low digs per game) then make them sit the bench and use another player, who may be less talented, but more respectful and hard working. I am actually sitting two of my Sophomores now who played significant matches as Freshman; they think they can just cruise through practice and matches without being intense because they started last year.
I was using a number of different line-ups early in the season because I have a lot of talented, but young players, which resulted in everyone getting to play because no one was outstanding enough to hold down the spot. Well, we are at the point, with statistical support to see who needs to be on the court, versus who used to be on the court and got the benefit of the doubt because of potential upside talent.
To paraphrase John Wooded, the bench is my best coach. Take away what the spoiled players want, which they cannot get from Mom-Dad or Club, which is high school playing time. Taking a couple of losses to send a clear signal about who runs the team and how players will behave, by putting hard working and respectful kids on the floor is a smart use of the season.
Hope some of my ramblings helped and I am glad you like the site.