Posted in Coaching

Playing for Sheep Stations

One of the things that all coaches come across at various times is an athlete or parent who thinks the competition that they are playing in is the most important thing in the world. The issue can be that the parent or player doesn’t understand that they are meant to be having fun and getting exercise. A colleague of mine makes the point that if its not Senior World Champs or The Olympics, it really doesn’t matter. At the end of the day they are not playing for sheep stations and its not their livelihood.

One athlete in my team has parents who are very demanding and have high expectations for performance. The only real issue with this is that they are unrealistic as to the end goal of their daughter. She won’t be representing Australia in the senior national team, and even if she did, they wouldn’t be competing in the Olympics. Really they should let her play and enjoy the competition that she gets rather than trying to interfere and suggest what would be best for their daughters long term prospects.

I have been fortunate enough to be involved with numerous different program levels within volleyball. I have played an coached in high performance and also in recreational levels. At the end of the day, the competition you are playing in is the one that you need to be concerned about. You can keep in mind what other things you might need to do as well, but you can’t control what other people are going to do.

Another athlete in a team I am coaching is set on a USA college scholarship. This means that she needs to sit the SAT’s for her entrance requirements. unfortunately both times that the test is being held occurs on days where we have preliminary tournaments in the lead up to national juniors. While I have mentioned that the team will do better with her there and it would be best for her to come along to the tournaments, I also have mentioned that there are bigger picture decisions that need to be made. I think it is inappropriate when coaches of junior teams and amateur competitions do not accommodate greater life decisions that their athletes need to make. While the team will lose out, at the end of the day it is just a game, and it isn’t the end of the world if one person has to miss out for a reason that you have no control over.

I hope to one day be involved in a full time professional volleyball team, but until that day, it simply isn’t important enough to hold back the development of my players by refusing to accommodate their other lifestyle needs.

Posted in Coaching

Selecting a Captain

Every team whether it is u5’s or national team has some kind of process for selecting a captain. Typically this is an arbitrary process and the actual captain is quite trivial, but players in a team find great significance to who it is.I believe that a captain needs to earn their position and that it should not simply be a popularity contest, but often with junior teams they want to pick their friend more than a good leader.

In previous years for my junior ACT volleyball teams that I have coached I have used one of two processes. Either I pick the person who deserves it most, in that they do what is asked of them and put in the extra time to do things that will help out the coaches and the team, or I let the players have a vote and decide who the captain will be. In both instances I have had various problems with the selection. Whether it is that the captain is of no help to the coaching staff and team, or that the players do not respect the person chosen and feel animosity towards them for any of a number of reasons.

This year I have decided to combine my two previous processes. I have selected a “leadership group” of 4 girls who I see strong leadership potential and good team attitudes. My plan is to now announce to the team that these are the leadership group, and that the rest of the team is able to vote for a captain to be selected purely from these 4. To me this should get buy in from the team as to who their captain is, due to the voting process,  but there will not be a surprise or problem with who the captain ends up being.

As the team is selected as a two year bracket (girls born 95/96) I have also selected my leadership group taking into consideration that I wanted to have some from both years. Fortunately this decision wasn’t too difficult and I ended up with 2 1995 girls and 2 1996 girls. Although their actual responsibilities will be quite small, it does enable me to split the team into smaller groups where one of the leaders is in charge if each group.

I have no doubt that there will still be some issues with this process, but in the end the important thing is that the team will get some benefit out of it, and some of the girls will be able to develop further leadership skills in the environment. I can only see how it goes and decide later if it was the right decision.

Posted in Coaching, Sport Coaching Pedagogy Classes

Who’s In Your Truck?

After our tutorial today I was having a brief conversation with Keith regarding how groups are formed. We started discussing injured players deciding to continue in the game at less than 100% and it was suggested that being willing to stay on the field without stating your impairment suggests that you are fully fit and your performance should be treated as such. This however then led to the question how do you choose who to take and when?

The analogy was based on fire brigade, once the alert is sounded the first 5 to get there, get into the truck and go to the emergency, regardless of their skill or experience. This mentality is almost entirely different to the way that teams are selected which is much more along the lines of wait and see who you get later. Eventually however it gets to a point where you have to choose, and your “5 in the truck” are selected from those that have made themself available. In most cases it is a case of keeping places available in case someone new and better shows themself at a later date.

Often when teams are being selected the main focus is on who is the best and who will win the game, but often times this can cause other issues. In the case of the fire brigade the single highest priority is speed of response, and as such whoever is there will do. When selecting a team, or even when putting a playing team on the pitch, you need to know what your priorities are and how you are going to set out to achieve them. Every coach knows that a group of the best individuals will not necessarily make the best team.

So how do you choose who should be on? This is where your philosophy as a coach and team priorities come into play. If you clearly set plans and expectations where people need to meet certain criteria, then these are the criteria that you should use for selecting your team.

Recently Australian cricket has undergone a change in its philosphy surrounding exactly this. Michael Clarke recently wrote an article published in The Daily Telegraph saying “We have to address a culture in which some people from time to time have cruised and taken short cuts.” This meant that they had to make decisions based on who was fitting into the mould of what the coaching staff and captain believed to be best for the Australian cricket team, even at the risk of having a lesser team put on the pitch. “There will be no room for slackers, underachievers or pea-hearts. His culture is embrace the vision, buy-in or leave.”

I completely agree that there needs to be an underlying philosophy that a coach (and the players) should not be willing to compromise on. Although different teams will have different priorities, there always needs to be something they are accountable to, otherwise there is no chance of the team succeding. In some cases this may simply be to perform in matches and get results. When this is the case, players who play poorly are taken off and players who are winning stay on, regardless of the other things they do. NBA basketballer, Allen Iverson is well known for an interview where he asked “how the hell can I make my teammates better by practice?” In this scenario the priority of the team was results and there was no need to worry about how they were achieved. In other teams, as with the Australian cricketers, being part of the team and doing everything you can to support that is more important.

Personally I believe that a champion team will always beat a team of champions, and that is the way that I select my team, and determine who deserves to be on court. When people aren’t doing the right things to support the team, they then miss out on time spent on court, unfortunately this sometimes means that the team as a whole misses out.

Stephen Covey wrote this in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In essence this is talking about for each of us, there should be a main thing, somthing that motivates us, and keeps us engaged and interested in life. The main thing could be anything, a state of mind, a life-long dream, a career path. Regardless of what the main thing actually is, you should always strive to keep the main thing, the main thing. This is also true in a coaching environment. When you are planning a training session, a season or a long term goal, you need to ensure that you have a particular goal in mind, as well as having a particular area of focus. It is easy to go off on tangents because someone asks a question or because it is easier to work on something else, but when you have a specific “main thing” that you want to work on and achieve then it is much easier to maintain focus on the task infront of you.

When I am planning a training session for one of my teams, I always refer eback to my broader season plan. The season plan will typically only outline a general area to work on at that stage and so the individual session plan is still flexible with the specifics that should be done in it. When that session plan is being written then it is important to make sure that all of the drills planned keep the main thing, the main thing. Another famous quote by Covey is “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your
priorities” which fits in with this same mentality of having a particular focus and then making plans to support it.

Currently being the start of the training program for my ACT U19’s team, I have a high focus on fitness as well as generall ball control. This means that my sessions incorporate physically demanding drills in amongst those which require considerable control over basic skill, with very little technical specificity. This focus needds to change with time as the skills amongst the team develop and the team improves and as such “the main thing” will change with it.

While each session has its own main thing, and each phase of training has its main thing as does the season as a whole. As long as at each stage this main thing remains the main thing, the chances of success and overall improvement are much more likely to occur.

The Main Thing

Posted in UCU

Brumbies vs Waratahs

rUCkus crew - George

These are what the shirts look like. Just head into the UC Life office.

$20 and you getGame entry into the South Bowl where the Party will be
Shirt (with one of your favourite Brumbies on it)
4 drinks vouchers
and a great night out supporting the UC Brumbies

Posted in Coaching

Team Selection Dramas

Since I last posted regarding the notification process, I have already had some drama’s with girls not being happy regarding their potential roles in the squad. One girl doesn’t know if she wants to continue training as she will not be participating in the final competition and another simply isn’t happy with the likely role she will play in the team. It’s a shame that the time spent on these players always takes away from more beneficial things that could be done instead. All of this is happening before the first officil training for the squad as well; mind-boggling if you ask me.

Personally I’ve always been of the opinion that any opportunity you get will be beneficial, so to have a girl ask me if it is worth her coming along t0 continue training as a “shadow” member of the squad really frustrates me. If you didn’t make the team this time, how will not continuing to train with the squad improve your chances for next time? I guess the reality is that these are the people that don’t become elite athletes as they simply can’t handle the adversity that comes with competing at higher and higher levels.

The other girl that has been having issues isn’t happy with the particular position that I suggested she may be playing…the issue she doesn’t seem to realise is that by not wanting to play as a libero she will get far less court time at the competition. If I was in that situation (which I have been previously) I would take it as a challenge to show that I deserve to play in my preferred role every time I get a chance, instead of being upset that there is another position that the team could benefit from.

Fortunately for me this isn’t an uncommon problem. After all of 30 seconds of searching I found a reasonably good article (albeit targeted at the athlete) . In it there is discussion of how “you can choose to get motivated or de-motivated” and “you can choose to maintain a positive attitude in practice and at games or you can put on a cloak of negativity and “share” it with all those around you” Hopefully I can find a way of taking this advice and verbalising it to the squad as a whole without causing further distress. The best piece of information is in the closing statement “The problem is most often how you choose to react to the lack of Playing Time”

I guess these are the problems that come along with coaching teenage girls, I wish I could just tell them all to toughen up, but instead I’m going to have to help them through the issue.

Posted in Coaching

Team Selection Notification

Yesterday was the final trials for the ACT U19’s Women’s Volleyball squad which I am coaching for nationals later in the year. Apparently this year Volleyball ACT has decided that the best process to use for announcing the team and notifying the players of their position is through their website. While in theory this is a good concept it seems to have been more of a concern for most of my team, and like the other teams going through selections.

I let all the girls know that this was the case, but also gave them the option of coming to me and having a one on one discussion regarding their place in the squad (or not). When given this option all bar 3 of the girls trialling (that were present at the final trial) came to me wanting to know if they made the team and also wanting more information about their roles or personal expectations.

This made me wonder what the best option for letting people know if they have made a team or not. While the logic behind an online notification process is sound; it means that there will be far less confrontation between girls that selected or not, it also limits the information that they can be given to further progress in the future. I have since decided that the best way is to now add in a individual letter to each of the girls. This would mean for the girls that are selected for the competition, those that just had a train-on role in the squad and those that were not selected to continue training. This way they can be given feedback (or feed-forward depending on your perspective) regarding what they should improve in the future so that they gain selection, or the skills that they need to develop before the competition. It will also give the opportunity to maintain lines of communication with those that may otherwise fall away and not return in the future which is once of the biggest issues in women’s volleyball, and female sport in general.

Having selected my team, I am confident that those continuing in the squad are the most likely to succeed at the competition and develop into the future, and hopefully those that missed out this year will be motivated to improve and come back next year to trial.

Posted in UCU

rUCkus crew

Luckily for me as a member of the UCU board I get invited to fun things like the Brumbies launch dinner. Having already heard plans for some of the things happening this year it was great to also hear about the new “rUCkus crew” plans for the UC supporters for the Brumbies. Unfortunately I cant find any of the specifics about it to add to the blog, but when I do I’ll make sure I put it up. Basically for the Brumbies – Waratahs game next weekend they are planning on having 500 UC students wearing special supporters shirts in a section of the crowd getting rowdy and supporting the Brumbies.