“Coaches Journal” 4.3.23

A Journal Focusing on Education and Coaching

Quote for the Week – I’m no genius. I’m smart in spots—and I stay around those spots.” ~Tom Watson Sr., Founder of IBM

Blog Post This Week – Our focus is on serve-receive this week. The ability to sideout effectively will directly impact winning and losing sets. The ability to consistently and successfully receive serve will correlate with the effectiveness of your sideout offense. A team can still win even if they aren’t great passers. But reception errors must be kept to a minimum. In the blog, I list several critical aspects of serve-receive. READ MORE

I Highly Recommend this Book! – Susan Cain has authored an excellent book I wish had been available thirty years ago to assist in my coaching career. Although not necessarily a book for coaches, the content will allow you to be a better coach. The book focuses on the 40%-50% of the population considered introverted and how these people can succeed in a world that tends to reward those with outgoing personalities. From a coach’s perspective, this book provides a roadmap for bringing the talents and leadership qualities of those introverts on your team to the forefront.

A Coaching Thought – Coaches focus most of their statistical attention on their own team’s performance. However, statistics are relative to the performance of your opponent. If your sideout percentage is 62%, but your opponent sides out at 65%, you will probably lose that set. If your attack efficiency is 27%, and the opponent hits 23%, you have a good shot at winning. By placing part of your focus on “relative” statistics, you can determine the reasons for the win or loss. It also enables you to focus on practice priorities. “We had a sideout percentage of 63% which is excellent for us (nice job!), but our opponent sides out at 67%. So, next week we focus on serve and defense.”

Nadal and Swiatek, How to Develop Agility, Tracking Skills and Footwork – The benefits of being a multi-sport athlete have been well documented. I’m always amazed at the number of younger-aged club players that only play volleyball. Here are two of the best tennis players in the world (Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek) that have developed their all-around athletic skills by doing more than just hitting a tennis ball. A creative volleyball coach can develop these skills as a component of their warmup. You can search for soccer ball control activities and find all you need.

Iga Swiatek Shows Her Soccer Skills

The Impact of Groupthink on a Coaching Staff– When the term “groupthink” is tossed around, generally, it has negative overtones. It is not unusual for groupthink to infiltrate a coaching staff. Groupthink is “a psychological phenomenon in which people strive for consensus within a group. In many cases, people will set aside their own personal beliefs or adopt the opinion of the rest of the group.” The development of groupthink begins in the hiring process. The typical process is for the head coach to prioritize candidates who approach the game like the head coach. Subsequent staff meetings intended to think creatively often foster an atmosphere where the assistants defer to the head coach. Inside this environment, innovation and creative ideas might suffer. How might a staff avoid the dreaded “groupthink”?

  • Assign a staff member to be a “devil’s advocate.” The assigned staff member will explain why the consensus opinion will not work. With this approach, the devil’s advocate can be a contrarian without fear of going against the head coach.
  • Have the head coach be last to offer an opinion. The assistant coaches are challenged to develop and offer opinions. If the head coach offers an opinion first, it is not unusual for the assistant coach to “go along, to get along.”
  • If an assistant coach comes up with an innovative idea that is put into action, the head coach should ensure credit is given when in a team scenario.
  • The coaching staff should pursue an additional “set of eyes” when problem-solving. I firmly believe in inviting an outside resource to offer thoughts on a specific area or to provide an overview of current practices, both on and off the court. Of course, the head coach has the final and most important opinion, but seeking different perspectives should be viewed as a strength, not a weakness.

Articles That I Found Interesting

Miami Boosters Splashed the Cash—and the Hurricanes Have Two Teams in the Elite Eight – I must say this article was unsurprising. I thought it was cool that both the men’s and women’s basketball teams at the University of Miami made a deep run into the NCAA basketball tournament. I was naive in thinking this was a Cinderella story unfolding. Come to find out that “the Hurricane women’s team features Haley and Hanna Cavinder, twins who transferred from Fresno State last spring. They arrived in South Beach with their 4.4 million TikTok followers and an estimated value north of $850,000, according to data from recruiting website On3. On the men’s team, Pack is an $800,000 player. Shortly after he transferred from Kansas State, he signed a two-year endorsement deal with Ruiz’s healthcare company, LifeWallet, that pays him $400,000 annually. He has been Miami’s go-to 3-point shooter this postseason. His teammate Isaiah Wong, the Hurricanes’ lead scorer in 2022-23, is also making six figures.” I’m trying to ascertain the difference between collegiate and professional athletes. READ MORE

Northwestern University Wants to Build an $800-Million-Dollar Football Facility – Although not a done deal, Northwestern University is pursuing a rather expensive upgrade of its current facility. There will be battles ahead, but it indicates the importance of competing with the other teams in the conference both on and off the field. READ MORE

The Feyman Technique for Better Learning – Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman wants to simplify the learning process. The foundation of his approach is to simplify the material as if you’re teaching a sixth grader. “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.” It is not unusual for coaches to complicate what they want the players to do on the court. The challenge is to have players understand challenging concepts because the coach has simplified the material. READ MORE

“A ground-breaking work! Jim’s book provides a unique blueprint to practice planning and execution – a MUST for every coach’s library.” – Terry Liskevych, Former Head Coach, USA Women’s National Team

That’s all for this week! Happy Easter to all!