Posted in Coaching

On court vs Off court

Recently I have had to deal with a number of issues with one of my teams that has been completely unrelated to the sport itself. Instead of improving technical and tactical abilities of the team we are managing player behaviour (or staff in some cases) and persionality clashes. I have noticed this is a common theme in every team that I have beeen involved with, as a player or coach. This is normal and some player management is going to be necessary in all teams, however a problem arises when the coach spends more time on these issues than they do on the on court performance.

I personally have never found the line as a coach where I felt the need to remove a player from the team because the off court drama’s detracted too much from the on court performance. This becomes very taxing as a coach, so maybe the line needs to become more definite. Every team, whether social or professional, beginner or expert, has people that take up a lot of time while others take up minimal amounts of time, but where do you draw the line?

Late last year Pat Rafter made the call as captain of the Australian Davis Cup to to not consider Bernard Tomic for selection, based on his off-court actions and behaviours. In his opinion it is necessary “part of the commitment that we make to athletes and athletes make to the sport is they always put 100 per cent commitment and effort in competing for their country”, and this took priority over selection based on playing performance.

I am not sure that there is a specific ratio of time that needs to be spent on each of these areas of coaching, however in recent times I have noticed that more and more of my time is used dealing with off court dramas, and typically these occur with athletes that are not going to make a significant difference to on court performance. When do you stop trying to control a situation by helping a player and when do you cut your losses and move on?

One thing I can say is when an athlete is not conscious of their behavior, they can have a direct impact on the team, as well as themself. Bad attitudes at training, or not showing up, poor sportsmanship and disrespect tend to prove to a coach and the team, that playing at your best and improving your team are not really a high priority.

Posted in Coaching

AUS Junior Women in Thailand

I was fortunate to be invovled in the recent Austrlian Junior Womens volleyball tour to Thailand as head coach of one of the teams. This trip involved girls from the 1996/1997 age group (U18’s) from all around Australia, and there were two Australian teams, however these were split relatively equally and there was no first/second team distribution. This Thailand tour was a challenging and demanding trip, but at the same time a fantastic opportunity for the touring squad to develop their Volleyball skills on and off the court to the standards required to compete at the International level, in particular the ability to deal with the environmental demands of competing in Asia.

The squad trained together where possible, but the two teams had separate trainings during the competitive phase. Unfortunately neither team was able to progress beyond their pool due to the high quality of the opposition they came up against. Both teams had 4 competition matches, and the Gold team which i was involved with had an additional training match against the Thai national junior team (1994/1995 born) that will be competing at world junior championships later this year. After the competition we had an internal match, where the two teams where changed around, and then from this internal match 21 players were selected to compete against the Vietnamese junior team (1996/1997 born). In the final match of the Thailand Development Tour, the Australian composite team gave their all, but were edged out in a thrilling five-set match.

The biggest focus for this tour from a coaching perspective was to teach and delivery “The AUS way”. The style of volleyball that we want to represent and achieve. The biggest part of the AUS style is:

Represent Our Country: Representing Australia with pride, passion & what it means every time we put on our AUS uniform. Value that we are representing our sport, our HP system, people back home, past coaches, past teammates, friends & families.

Compete: Be absolutely prepared for “the battle”, the Physical battle, the Mental battle, the Emotional battle. Have a crack! and risk losing to win by playing strong with a clear plan and purpose and work hard on and off the court to be able to achieve this.

These along with a number of other factors are the major things that the coaching staff wanted the atheltes to take home from the tour. The results of the competition were secondary to teaching the style of game that we want to be able to play. These trips offer an opporunity to the Australian junior volleyball athletes to see the standard of competition overseas, and show the requirements of what they will need to be able to do to compete with national teams in the future. This is one step in the junior program which ends with Asian Juniors late next year (unless the final team successfully qualifies for world juniors the year after). Forunately, on this tour there were a number of girls who displayed the attiributes that we want, and when they did this, the teams gained success.

The squad was also privilaged enough to be on tour for ANZAC day in Thailand. We were offered the opportunity by the Australian Embassy to go to Hellfire Pass, a site from the Thailand-Burmese railaway, for a dawn service, and then to Kanchanaburi War Cemetery for another rememberance ceremony. This offered the girls an opportunity to meet the 7 remaining POW’s from WWII that were present at the services. These POW’s were part of the 13000 Australian prisoners that were forced to work on the railway. There is a description of the events of the day as written by one of the junior squad members that can be found at[cat]=25&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=1821&tx_ttnews[backPid]=31&cHash=06f3ef6c81

These tours are an integral part of the development of the Australian Junior Womens Program, and they are an invaluable learning experience for these girls. They are a great experience for both volleyball and personal development and i hope that we are able to continue such trips in the future.