Quote for the Week: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” -Theodore Roosevelt
Blog Post This Week: It is easy for coaches to repeat the cycle every year. The practice format stays the same; the drills are the same, and it works, so why change? It takes a degree of courage to try a new approach. Think of the scene in “The Dead Poets Society,” where the students are challenged to look at things differently.
This week’s blog examines the teaching methods of an American soccer coach living in Japan. Tom Byer, a native New Yorker, has found his way to Japan and has initiated a youth development program for the Japanese Football Association. Tom’s philosophy of prioritizing ball control fundamentals for younger players has been a driving force in establishing the Japan national team as one of the top teams in the world. Many of his developmental concepts are worth a look by American youth volleyball coaches. A cornerstone of Tom’s program is the importance of parental involvement, which is not the norm in this country. READ MORE
A Highly Recommended Book – Eric Metaxas has written an excellent biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer that I cannot recommend highly enough. Although it’s a long read, I found the book a compelling chronicle of an author, pastor, theologian, and spy. In the book, Metaxas chronicles Bonhoeffer’s life as a dedicated Lutheran pastor involved in the famous Valkyrie plot to assassinate Hitler and “Operation 7,” a plot to smuggle Jews from Germany into Switzerland. His discipline to stay true to his faith while fighting a murderous dictator was inspiring. Hitler’s troops executed Bonhoeffer in the final days of WWII.
Develop Practice Priorities – Volleyball schedules do not align with the athlete’s best interests. Here in Colorado, teams play matches after only a week of practice. As a coach, make sure you have a vision for your team and avoid getting caught up in the mindset of having to win every match. I would encourage coaches to focus less on the short-term upcoming competition and more on developing the skills for success in the second half of the season. One thing that I found helpful was, on a bi-weekly basis, writing down two to three skill or system priorities. I wrote these priorities at the top of each practice plan for those two weeks and made sure I hit those items in every practice.
How Do You Finish Up Practice? – Shane Davis, head coach at Northwestern, once told me he finished his daily training sessions with one set to 15 points. Reason? He wanted his athletes to be comfortable playing a fifth set to 15 points. So, when you are playing a match that goes five sets, there is no reason for the players to be anxious; they do it every day. Make sure the players approach this set with a winning mindset. As with most 5th sets, you want to reduce errors, side out at a good percentage, and work with your setter on making good setting choices.
Creative Genius of Taylor Swift – I’m not a “Swiftie” (I’m not even sure I spelled that correctly?). I’ve never listened to one of her songs for the entire duration. But I saw a replay of the opening few minutes of a recent concert performance, and I had to admire the creativity and the advanced tech she has placed into her concerts. From the light-up wristbands to the graphics and visuals, you have to admire the show. I’m unsure about the music, but it seemed like the audience knew all the words. Undoubtedly, college programs will get their creative juices flowing and jazz up their introductions.
More NIL Madness – The BYU men’s basketball program lost one of their better players because they didn’t or couldn’t pay him enough money. Of course, this occurrence is commonplace in Division 1 athletics. What I found disappointing is how much time BYU coach Mark Pope spends daily on NIL fundraising. “I’ve got to do a better job right now. Probably 35-40% of my day is trying to win over the hearts and minds of anybody that will listen in terms of helping us with this collective.” I’m unsure what the future of college sports and the NIL will be. But, from an outsider’s perspective, incorporating the collectives responsible for the NIL money into the university and athletic department would be an excellent start to reigning in a portion of the madness. READ MORE
How to Give Young Coaches Head Coaching Experience? Let Them Be a Head Coach – Mike Vrabel, Head Coach of the Tennessee Titans, gave assistant head coach and defensive line coach Terrell Williams some head coaching experience during a recent NFL pre-season game. Along with the actual contest against the Chicago Bears, Williams took control of the entire week of practice leading up to the game. With high schools competing in summer team camps and collegiate programs playing in pre-season scrimmages, these are opportunities where head volleyball coaches might facilitate their young assistant coaches a chance to gain head coaching experience. READ MORE
I’m looking forward to the high school and collegiate seasons beginning. For colleges, this weekend will kick things off. Stanford and Kentucky are in town this weekend to play in a tournament hosted by Colorado State University. With the support the Rams get for all home matches, they should give both teams a good match. I wish good luck to all the coaches with the start of their seasons.