Joe Rogan, Spotify and Coaching Volleyball?

I guess that Joe Rogan offering opinions or listening to others offer their opinions does not sit well with some contributors to Spotify. Rogan hosts an opinion-based and a pretty popular podcast on Spotify (12 million listeners to each show). Rogan’s opinions, or those of his guests, did not sit well with singer Neil Young. Young issued the ultimatum to Spotify that either Rogan’s show is removed from Spotify or Young’s music would not be available to Spotify listeners. Not wanting to miss any politically correct bandwagon, fellow singer Joni Mitchell and others supported Young’s request. Spotify looked at the numbers of listeners to Rogan’s show and bid farewell to Neil.

I don’t have a dog in this fight. I don’t listen to Rogan, and I’m not on Spotify. I like Neil Young’s music but can certainly go through any day without missing the tones that compare to someone singing in the shower. I do find the effort to cancel opinions that we disagree with tiresome. Unfortunately, the cancellation of opinions impacts the ideas we share in volleyball coaching.

Psychologist Carol Dweck studied and popularized the term growth mindset. She described growth mindset as; “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point.” Coaches especially espouse the importance of having their athletes develop such a mindset. Coaches and teachers are in the business of encouraging their troops to work hard and pursue challenging goals. Sadly, the term has morphed chiefly into a cliche. While most coaches agree with the concept, few will practice a growth mindset in their daily activities.

I am sadly amused when a coach who is not versed in trench warfare, that is, social media, will question the most efficient method to construct a volleyball practice. The innocent question might be, what are good drills or lead-up activities designed to get better at some aspect of the game. They are met with a crescendo of experts who voice with 100% certainty that drills or any form of “blocked” activity constitute a waste of time. Most believe this is true because the loudest voices in the room ascribe to this approach, will use their confirmation bias to quote a study or two, and all discussion is squashed. The poor soul that initially posed their question or opinion quickly learns that ascribing to the group-think is imperative.

It is much like the old Star Trek episode where if one did not ascribe to the will of Landru, they would, unfortunately, need to be eliminated.

Captain Kirk and Landru

Too many coaches focus on the “looks” of a practice activity rather than the “why” of a particular activity, the desired outcomes, the types of feedback provided, and how the activity fits into an overall scheme of player or activity team development.

One of the learning experts I place on a pedestal is psychologist Dr. Paul Kirschner. He doesn’t get into the relative merits of random vs. blocked instruction; however, he feels strongly about other aspects of teaching and coaching. In an interview, Dr. Kirschner spoke about the keys of teaching that he values.

“First is: Don’t just do, but think about and understand what you’re doing. It’s more important to know and understand why and when and in what situations things may work or not work than just being taught what to do. You want teachers and researchers to be reflective practitioners; to think about:

Dr. Paul Kirschner
  1. What and why they’re going to do something.
  2. Why does what they’ve done work out in a certain way.
  3. How they might do it the next time to be more effective and efficient.

The second is that learning results from processing what you encounter. The goal of good learning and instruction is to optimize this information processing which involves, among other things:

  1. Knowing how to prepare learners for learning (e.g., prior knowledge, feed-forward).
  2. It is knowing how to facilitate that process (e.g., via dual coding, scaffolding, mathemagenic behaviors, cognitive load theory, employing study strategies such as spaced practice, retrieval practice, and variability of practice).
  3. Knowing how to follow-up the learning experience (e.g., feedback, feed-forward, assessment for learning).
  4. Creating a proper context for learning (e.g., situated cognition, social learning, cognitive apprenticeship).

A bonus third, related to the second is a quote from Ernst Rothkopf: “You can lead a horse to water, but the only water that reaches his stomach is what he drinks.” Create learning situations that get your students to drink! Many teachers, teachers-in-training, and even psychology and education undergraduates miss the foundation that they need to understand and reflect upon not the ‘how’s,’ but instead the ‘why’s’ of what good teaching is.”

There is so much more to quality instruction than random vs. blocked activities. A particular drill or activity is not the key to effective teaching. The teacher must have a sound knowledge of what they are attempting to accomplish, the methods used and critically evaluate the results. As teachers, we must constantly be making an effort to improve our methods.

Two coaches for the USA Women’s Team, current coach Karch Kiraly and former coach Toshi Yoshida couldn’t be farther apart relative to their philosophy of training. Yet both are very successful. Who’s to say one way is superior? Coaches need to be willing to experiment with different methods, improve their tactical and technical coaching expertise, then make their calls on how they feel to best proceed with their players. Knowing things is not the same as understanding them.

Getting back to a growth mindset, should someone present information or references research that is contrary to what you believe instead of thinking, “that’s garbage,” think “that’s interesting.” Then go do some research to check out this new information. Give a new way a try in your gym and draw your conclusions. Approach the new method with an open mind instead of assuming it’s wrong because it’s not your way. If the research is valid and supported by other evidence-based findings, embrace the new knowledge (new to you anyway). It is not an insult to you or your intelligence.