Sunday, May 19, 2013

First Year Coaches: "The Friction between us...."

In our series of blogs from first year coaches, here is the narrative of a coach who struggled with the delicate synergy of head and assistant coaches. In this case, it affected both the coaches, the team and the season. 

At the beginning of my club season our director thought, since it was my first year coaching club, it would be a great idea to have me co-coach with a young 19 year old female who was an assistant last year. I thought to myself I am open to anything since I really didn’t know what to expect. On the other hand I have been coaching sports for over 20 years but not club volleyball. Needless to say the beginning was great and we got along really well. The parents got together and decided to go to the Festival Fiesta in February and that is when things started to go downhill. The first day of the tournament our director had to put a head coach in the sign ups so he put her in. Well it was unfortunate this went straight to her head and from that point on she was the “head coach”. 

During Festival my logic was very simple. All the kids should play equally since the tournament did not affect our region tournaments. She had different ideas such as taking into account the flow of the team and didn’t want the girls to get confused. As the games went on I grew more agitated and it showed on the court. She started arguments in front of the kids and would just try to take over the whole team. I did not want to argue in front of the kids so I really didn’t say much until after the tournament. I did say something but she insisted everything was great. As practices and region tournaments went on we, as a team, went downhill. We started to lose and some practices were a nightmare. She would tattle on me to the assistant director about complaints from parents that she was getting. In turn the assistant director would tell the director who would then tell me so I was hearing everything last.

The worst part of this was she was telling me on the court that I was teaching them wrong when I was instructing their form and this was in front of the kids. I took her aside and asked if she would stop. Well it did not stop. I thought I could take care of the situation myself but the practices became worse and games got worse. The friction between us was obviously affecting the kids’ play during games. Practices were unorganized as were rotations.

At the beginning of the season I took the advice of a friend who said white boards are great. So I would write down everything we would do during the practice with a few words of encouragement as well. After the Festival Fiesta Tournament she did not like this idea as she felt I was trying to take over the team. I would call other clubs wanting to scrimmage and set those up however she wanted me to call her to ask her before I set up any scrimmages.

We finally had a meeting with our director. I never once threw her under the bus as I am not that type of person and never will be. I only told my director that she has great potential and gets along with the girls. As far as our season goes, I thought we did o.k. but should have done much better. The friction between us caused our team to slip and our girls never meshed as a team.

Coaching indoor volleyball has been a challenge since I am a beach player. After learning by taking classes, watching other coaches, researching online, the game became easier and it flowed better for me. The best part of this experience was to coach and teach these young ladies the fundamentals of the game. Since most of the girls already knew the basic skills it was easier to teach more complicated skills. Teaching girls to jump serve that they’ve never tried before and to watch them succeed at it made me feel that I accomplished what I set to do. My daughter was also on this team which made it fun and challenging at the same time. I felt I was hard on her the most but warned her at the beginning of the season what was expected.

I felt so attached to the girls and actually tried to stay away from the parents as much as I could. I would speak to my girls individually and get there feedback as to what their goals are. I thought getting to know them on a personal level is important such as what there favorite animal or food is. They would always have fun even though some practices were tough and long. I really liked their honesty with me and they trusted me to help them reach those goals they set.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

First Year Coaches; "Of course I can't say that!"

As the Arizona Region season has ended, we asked a few first year coaches to give us their best and worst of their first seasons. This first entry is from a coach of a 14's team. There is equal value for both coaches and parents in this and we will post it on both blogs for this reason. Thank you to this coach for sharing with the Region.

As a new coach I was of course very stoked about finally getting to coach and a bit nervous as well. I have been through many seasons with my daughter, but as a parent. So I was not really sure what to expect being on the coaching end of it.
When everything started, it was a bit slow, trying to figure out who is who and where they would play but that worked itself out and things started rolling more smoothly. But of course when the tournaments started and some girls weren't getting equal playing time, the emails from the parents started coming in. I addressed them, being professional of course and told them it is still early and I was still in the experimenting process.

As time went on and the parents began to see I did know what I was doing and I wasn’t some guy off of the street, the emails became fewer but there is always that one parent it seems. She always had to question my methods or ask why her daughter was getting subbed out and other girls weren’t. This particular girl was a decent player but not always consistent. The girl behind her was really improving so I started playing her a bit more. Well of course this Mother didn’t understand this. I just finally explained to her in a nice way that everything I do is for the team. If someone is doing better at a certain time she will be playing. But I really wanted to tell her to please shooosh and that this other girl was really improving and deserved to play over her daughter. Of course I cant say that.

I did speak with this player about her playing time and what she needed to do to improve. So the emails seemed to stop but there were still some here and there asking about playing time and issues with other players. I was at a loss because I didn’t really know what to tell her without her wanting to strangle me. So I did get some advice from a coach who had been around the rodeo a few times and he just asked me, “Are your girls having fun and improving?”  I said yes. He said, “That's all you can do.”

That really helped me with coaching because when you hear so much white noise going on around you, you can become distracted and then you can start second guessing yourself. That is death for a coach. So that advice truly helped me to stop hearing all of the negative and just to concentrate on my team. The director was very supportive of me as well. 

The thing I most enjoyed this season was watching the girls bond, new friends made, and their volleyball game improve. As an older male coach with a daughter of my own, sometimes I find myself being Dad because I really started to care about these girls. They were all really great kids! Sure there were times when they messed around or some drama would happen, but overall they were an awesome group of girls! 

 The season is long and I can definitely say coaching club isn’t for everyone. It can really be draining physically, mentally and emotionally but I can honesty say I loved every minute of it, good or bad, and I am looking forward to next season. I am already thinking of things I can improve on and what I can do to make myself a better coach. I love this sport and hope to be coaching for a very long time.