Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Calm Down...........

Dear Coach,

Calm down.

We watched you this weekend at the Fiesta Classic over the MLK holiday weekend; the panic, the unrest in your eyes, red from no sleep and worry.

Coach, it’s volleyball. Calm down.

Sure, you didn’t win the tournament this weekend. In fact, you didn’t win much at all. You are questioning everything you have done for the last two months and wondering why your athletes don’t listen, don’t care, don’t try.

Coach, they do listen when you give them something concise and relevant to listen to. They do care when you give them a reason to care. They do try when you make their effort a point of pride for them.

It’s January 20th.  Regionals aren’t until May 3rd. Calm down Coach.

They are looking to you for answers, for leadership. Panic and anger and disappointment isn’t leadership. Blaming parents and officials and teen drama won’t help your team, it will only divide them.

Coach, ask this question. What can I do in practice tonight that will help make my team better and help my team succeed on the court for my next tournament?

The game is serve and serve receive. That’s a great place to start. Does that mean the team should serve for 2 hours? Probably not but ask yourself this:

  • When you practice serving, is there athletes on the other side of the net working on serve receive?
  • Are your drills starting with serves or are you tossing a ball in?
  • Does your team need opportunities practicing hitting out of the back row?
  • Do you give them those reps in practice or are you stealing contacts from them?  

Reps = opportunities for coaching feedback = learning skills better and faster.

Coach, do you have a coaching philosophy that helps guide you through tough tournaments and the inevitable highs and lows but guaranteed tough times that are ahead when you are dealing with teenage athletes?

Are your practices fun? Do your practices flow or are they choppy because you are stopping drills constantly to address one error or talk to one player while the rest of the team is standing around? Are they laden with drills and little to no play? Would YOU like your practices if you were a player?

Coach, how much value do you place on the work and effort your players put in? Some players will put in more than others. Are you calling out those that are working hardest, even if they aren’t your best players? What do you, as a coach, value from your players? Is this what you praise and give positive feedback for during practices and matches?

Coach, it’s January 20th. Calm down. You have lots of time to right a ship you perceive to be broken but maybe they just had a bad weekend. Maybe they were just intimidated as it was their first big tournament. Maybe it was their first tournament of the season.

Maybe you do need to tweak your practices a bit, making them more efficient and giving your players more touches and more feedback.

It’s not the Titanic as much as you might have thought it was this weekend. It’s volleyball, a game. It’s not life or death but it IS admirable you care so much about doing a good job and how much you care about your athletes. Thank you Coach.

But please, calm down. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Outside the Box, Passion and Teamwork in Odd Places....

Coaches look for examples of what makes their teams and players great in all sorts of places. We come across examples of these characteristics in places we may not expect but with open eyes and open minds we can use these examples to help us, our athletes and even our parents better understand those characteristics.

Take this video entitled Pro Infirmis.  It’s outside the box in it’s thinking to be sure. But it’s also an example of empathy and compassion. It’s an example of how athletes and sport isn't a cookie cutter industry. Of the top 50 golfers in the world, how many have the same swing? We are all built differently, have different dimensions and have physical strengths and weaknesses. This kind of outside the box thinking is a great lesson for coaches, athletes AND parents.

Rich and Tracy live in Colorado and one night a week, they gather around the kitchen table, civil war history books and scripts in hand, and they record a weekly podcast about their favorite subject: the Civil War. They spend vacations taking pictures and studying the landscape of battles. They are on podcast 57, with each one going between 15-30 minutes tackling subjects such as artillery of the war, the ammunition and of course battles and famous generals and personalities of the war. They spent 38 podcasts before they got TO the war talking at great length about what led to the Civil War! They have recommended book readings at the end of every podcast, a blog  that offers up pictures and videos and articles and a face book page. It will be a wild guess to think how many total podcasts Rich and Tracy will do before they get to the end of the conflict.

Why talk about this; Passion. The passion Rich and Tracy show for this subject is epic. It’s not the most polished podcast you’ll ever hear and the jokes are often times awful in both content and delivery but it’s hard not to like this podcast with two people, who are so obviously passionate about this subject.

How often are we as coaches, looking to impart that passion we have for the game on our players? Or perhaps you are the coach that has lost some passion for the game or for coaching. Can you get it back? Maybe sitting around your dining room table once a week with a tape recorder will do the trick!

Ever heard of the International Consortium for HealthOutcome Measurement (ICHOM)? Chances are probably not, but it’s maybe one of the greatest examples of team work we have seen in the medical profession in some time. 

Co founder of ICHOM, Stefan Larsson spoke at length about the idea and implementation of ICHOM in this Ted talk

From their own website, “ICHOM organizes global teams of physician leaders, outcomes researchers and patient advocates to define Standard Sets of outcomes per medical condition, and then drives adoption to enable health care providers globally to compare, learn, and improve.

Egos are put aside and a common goal is put front and center. In just its first year, ICHOM has tackled hip replacements, local back pain, localized prostate cancer, cataracts and coronary artery disease and has put together recommendations for each. Team work has trumped ego and profit and every coach in the world of sports longs for this kind of team first mentality.

Sure, these are outliers, but there are these kinds of examples all over our world. Pull them out, let us know about what you’ve come across so we can share with other coaches. E mail us at outreach@azregionvolleyball.org.