Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The "Lincoln" Coach

If you haven't had a chance to see it yet, spend some quality coaching education time and watch "Lincoln", Steven Spielberg's new movie about the 16th president.

Watching "Lincoln" is a microcosm of many positive coaching qualities:

  • The ability to get "buy in" from those who may not agree with you
  • The vision to see the bigger picture in the future instead of the smaller one in front of you
  • The trait of humility 
  • The quality of not panicking when things aren't going your way

Flagstaff High School took a 41-0 record into their State Final match against Arcadia November 6th for the Division IV. The Flagstaff Eagles and their coach, Beth Haglin lost the first two sets 23-25, 24-26 and trailed 8-18 in the third set. As you watch the match though, what you never see from Haglin is panic which clearly translates to her team who chip away point by point, making big plays at key times. The Eagles would go on to win the third set 25-23, the fourth by the same score and secure the State Championship 15-10 in the fifth set.

Arizona State is headed to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006 with three freshman in the starting lineup. They started the season 13-3 but the campaign seemingly ran aground when the Devils lost 7 of their next 8 matches. A drought like that can cause coaches to adjust, change line ups, rethink everything they are doing. Coach Jason Watson and his staff stayed his course and the team responded by winning 6 of their last 9 PAC-12 matches including sweeping #6 ranked USC, topping #5 ranked Washington and beating the University of Arizona in their final regular season match despite losing the first set 13-25.

It takes courage to trust your players, your system and work through the rough spots without panicking. At the club level, your players, your parents and even club personnel can get anxious with an 0-3 tournament or a rough go at a qualifier. These are the moments as a coach you look at your coaching philosophy and decide to continue to follow it or abandon it for the quick fix. At the collegiate level, with jobs and careers at stake, it's an even harder decision.

With the 13th amendment to abolish slavery and the conclusion of the Civil War crashing in on him at the same time, "Lincoln" portrays one of our countries greatest leaders showing his commitment to his principles, his ability to sway others his way and a knack of doing it while staying out of the limelight and giving credit to others. With never a hint of panic, Lincoln works through the problems and in the end, secures the future of a healing nation.

It's a coaching lesson for us all.

Speaking of Coaching lessons, the Arizona Region has secured 10 FREE USAV Online IMPACT classes. If you have read this blog and either YOU or someone you know wants one of the 10 free classes, send an e mail to before December 7th. Instructions will be e mailed to you on how to get this $50 value free. This is on a first come, first serve basis.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Time Spent with GCU Men's Volleyball

Joshua Meyer is the girl's head volleyball coach at Sunrise Mountain High School and has written the following guest blog for the Region.

I've been blessed with the privilege to spend time with the Grand Canyon University (GCU) Men’s Volleyball team and coaching staff. In my hunt to learn more and more about the game of volleyball, Jeremy Price opened up his gym so I can see how men’s volleyball is played and coached at the NCAA level. When starting my observation I was looking forward to getting ideas for new drills and new techniques to use. Instead I received affirmation of the importance as a coach to understand the pulse your team.

From the start of my coaching experience I've understood the importance of managing the highs of attitude, energy, etc. Understanding this and being successful at managing are two completely different skills. Talking with Jeremy Price, GCU Men’s Volleyball coach and his staff they explained how they not only identified their team’s moods from day to day but also how they manage it. Being able to understand the energy a team has during a practice or during a particular drill can lead to have a successful week or not.

This is the case in any sport but in volleyball the importance is amplified because of the 6 moving parts we have on the floor at the same time all working towards the same goal. Volleyball is a true team sport where individuals don’t exist. Sitting down with the coaching staff we talked about how managing the emotions and energy of a team can dictate whether a team will be successful or not. As coaches we must be identify the pulse of a team and make changes accordingly. While observing a practice the team as a whole was playing flat. Not showing a lot of emotion and went through the motions during warm ups. Talking to Coach Price and his assistant Ryan Woodworth they knew they had to make a change. “If you see a team is flat or if practice needs to change tempo we (coaches) need to be prepared to change plans to make it a better practice.”

In both the high school season and club season there are times where we walk into practice and we can tell that the energy or the tone of practice is not going a productive one. The ability to quickly identify this and change up a practice plan is essential. In the example with the GCU Men’s team they went quickly into a 6 on 6 competitive drill to drive up the tempo of practice.

Sometimes a competitive drill may not work. We've all been in a gym where sometimes a little fun is needed to get a team going. Understanding your team and what they need is a learning process with ever new team but should not go overlooked. Don’t walk into each season thinking you can do the same thing to get a team working together or motivated.

While there are clear differences coaching the Grand Canyon University Men’s Volleyball program and a junior girls club team I was able to draw some very clear similarities. 

Understanding tempo and how to manage the pulse of a team is vastly important no matter what level of volleyball you are coaching. Being able to adjust a practice with a new drill or changing a lineup in a match to pull a team together is one of the most overlooked coaching skills that are needed. Being able to do this is not found in a book or learned from a class but instead by in person experiences. Watching the GCU Men’s Volleyball program manage this during their fall season has shown me a lot regarding these skills and I strongly recommend spending time with other coaches to not just steal drills from each other but gather a greater understanding on how to manage the ebbs and flows of your team. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New coaches life long clipboard....

As the first weeks of this new Club season begin, questions start to flood in from new coaches.

Senior Sports Psychologist at the U.S.O.C., Sean McCann, PhD. recently said in a seminar on Mental Imagery that good coaches are life long learners. We here at the Arizona Region want to help create better coaches AND life long learners but do it in a way that helps fit your busy life and schedule.

So here are a few resources for you, as a new coach, to gather and learn from:

The Little Book of Talent by Daniel Coyle. At a scant 122 pages, this little book delivers huge advice and ideas toward coaching in general. It's 52 tips are applicable to just about any level of coaching.

Also, check out Coyle's blog, The Talent Code which the idea of THIS blog is partly based! Again, rich in content for coaches entering their first week or 15th year on the sidelines but easily read in a few sips of your morning latte.

The Grow the Game news letter is in just its second issue but it is full of useful information and links and easily digested in just a few minutes.

The FIVB, the world's volleyball oversight organization had posted technical videos from the London Olympics. Check them out here and watch how the best players in the world perform skills, drills and even practice. Most of the clips are less than a minute long.

Finally on the U.S.A.V. website, under the Grassroots  link, a page just for you: I am a New Coach features articles and resources for you to use in growing your knowledge  philosophy and teaching skills.

We realize how busy and time critical your days have become so use these quick and easy resources to help you achieve your coaching goals.

As always, if the Arizona Region can be of help, don't hesitate to contact us.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

PAC-12 Coach Gives Tips for Club Volleyball Success

This is a guest blog from Coach Christy Naughton, a coach for Club One in the east Valley.

It’s not very often we have the opportunity to pick the brain of a PAC-12 volleyball coach, but Arizona State University’s Jason Watson doesn't want that to be the case. In a collaborative effort to foster discussion and idea sharing, Watson recently spent about two hours with a small group of coaches from Club One, formerly Barcelona AZ.

“If you want to win, there are three battles. You must serve, you must receive and you must play left side,” said Watson who recommends club coaches incorporate these skills into a substantial amount of their practice. With limited court time during the club season, as few as four hours per week, game-like situations are key to a successful practice in the short term and a successful season in the long term.

While basic skills like serving and passing shouldn't be neglected, Watson is confident that club coaches don’t need more then five or six good drills in they’re repertoire. “From there you can create so many variations,” said Watson. “You should want your kids to get good at them.”

Forcing the team to work as a whole to accomplish the goal, or perhaps even fail, is the basis of any sport and even relates to the “Part vs. Whole Learning” argument that exists in education, music and even athletics.

“Athletes have a limited ability to process information,” said Watson. “It’s important to keep them in the ‘part’ until they kinda get it, then bring it back together.” Volleyball coaches face this dilemma at every practice and during every tournament, whether they know it or not. The decision to stop an entire drill, the “whole,” to focus on the individual, or the “part,” is made all the time.

So how can coaches be confident that they’re not spending too much time on one and not enough of the other? “We need to coach at the pace of the learner, not the pace of the coach,” said Watson who recommends planning practices at least one week at a time. Preparation is important to the athletes in order to provide consistency. While anything can happen during a practice to shed light on another skill that needs focus and distract from the original goal, having a set plan can keep coaches and athletes on track.

One struggle that coaches face is planning an appropriate amount of time for skills and drills. “In the sport, each point scoring opportunity last about 30-45 seconds,” said Watson who recommends using that as a frame of reference to build your own drills and adjust from there based on age and skill level as the season progresses.

Watson, who shares a quote at the beginning of his ASU practices to help the team focus in, appropriately referred to this quote that day: “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

Monday, November 5, 2012

Our Best Feet Forward....

The third week in October saw 34 coaches from 33 countries representing 13 different sports descend upon the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for weeks 4 and 5 of their program, the International CoachesEnrichment Certificate Program put on by the USOC and the University of Delaware.
The coaches spent the first two weeks at UD, a week at either Penn State or Princeton, (depending on their sports) and finished the last two weeks up in the Springs.
The coaches were to put together a program for their sport in their country that fit a particular problem they were having, present and implement the program in their homeland and report back on the successes in March of 2014.
Four volleyball coaches were in the mix. There was Nedzad Osmankac from Serbia who was working on a thesis entitled, “Modeling Tactics Based on Statistical Analysis of Volleyball Games.” He was 266 pages into his work.
Then there was Steve “Hutch” Hutchinson from Texas who runs very popular camps and clinics in the Dallas area but once a year goes to Kenya to work with their coaches and athletes.
The other two coaches were Marjane Malikumu Malikumu from Zambia and Eardley Martin from St. Vincent and the Grenadines. These two talked about the game and their programs; identifying and keeping their talent playing, raising the level of the coaches in their country and a surprising issue both of their programs lacked.

They both talked of high tariffs on American goods compounded by the “open palms” that wanted their cut in order to get the shoes and other new equipment to their athletes. Eardley said a Molten volleyball would finally get to him at a cost of over $100 U.S. and Marjane explained that a pair of high quality athletic shoes, like Adidas, would cost $250 to buy in her village. Not too practical for a country whose median income is roughly $400 a year. Hutch pulled out his cell phone and showed us a picture of a volleyball timeout in Kenya, with a few players barefoot.
The only options these athletes have are no shoes or thin soled shoes with little ankle and heel support that would resemble ‘Vans’ or ‘Keds’ shoes in the U.S.
However, there is another option. Used shoes are NOT subject to the tariffs and “open hands” that the new goods are.
This is where we come in.
The Arizona Region is hosting a shoe drive. With club starting and high school and middle school ending, we know many of you will order new shoes and throw your slightly worn shoes in the back of your closet or your trunk. How about we send them around the world instead?
We will put a bin in the Region office to collect your shoes, in good condition and tied together. Feel free to stick a note in the toe of the shoe with some contact information on it to see where your shoes wind up. You may get a thank you e mail from Zambia one day!
If you have a box or more of shoes, Region Outreach will come pick them up from you. The Region will be mailing the boxes as we get them to the three countries and others that may also be in need.
Former U.S.A women’s Olympic coach Hugh McCutcheon often spoke of “A rising tide lifts all the boats.” Help us show our global neighbors that our Region is involved and for the good of the game worldwide anxious to put our best feet forward.