Fall 2014 Blog – Post #1

Dearing Leadership & Coaching Academy

Fall 2014 Blog – Post #1

Aug 24   BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND – part one ( The Coaching Staff – “same page” )

“Begin with the end in mind”. I have had a working outline for an article to submit for publication under this title for a few years. I have decided to use at least some of those thoughts over the first few weeks of a season long commitment that I am making to Fall of 2014 Volleyball Coaches with this blog. The “price is right” for you, as you can simply “like” my Dearing Volleyball School Facebook page or go to my recently re-designed Dearing Volleyball School web site to access my blog. I only ask two things from you:   1) after you “like” my Dearing Volleyball School Facebook page, please consider passing the link on to other coaches within your reach, and 2) I would also ask that you respect and preserve my intellectual property rights for content I am producing.

I have a complete 15 week outline already in place – that fact will not surprise those who know me well. This blog will run from the week of August 24 through the week of November 30.   I do love to write, and while I do have two books published – I have many completed journals tucked away. What I discovered through journaling is that often I did not know exactly how I felt about something until I read what I had just written. So, that might be my first suggestion to you – consider some form of journaling.

A foundational approach I am taking to my Fall blog is that I hope to write in such a way that college, high school or youth volleyball coaches would all be able to benefit. In fact, I am hopeful that coaches of any sport will find my posts and perhaps in some small way, my 30+ years of college coaching will impact others.

“Begin with the end in mind” is a powerful phrase, and if you stop reading here – and invest some “thinking time” to that phrase simply to enhance your planning for your upcoming season, I am confident that it will be a terrific guide for you. This week, I would like to focus my thoughts on the Coaching Staff. Leadership is an essential quality for any effective coach.   Effectiveness is a solid place to start. I could have said successful – I purposely chose effective.

Five Strategies to Develop an Effective “Same Page” Coaching Staff

  1. The Head Coach should have their philosophy of coaching in writing and available to each Assistant.
  2. Assistant Coaches should have at least a “personal” draft of their own coaching philosophy written.
  3. Agree to have “adult” coaching staff conversations.   For me, an adult conversation includes the following dimensions: more than one person is involved face to face; each one is empowered to send messages and expected to listen and consider differing perspectives; it is essential to recognize that both verbal and nonverbal communication exists; and critical to separate the content of what is being said from the emotion with which it is delivered.
  4. Walk away from every conversation united as a coaching staff.   Agree to disagree – YES !

But what is said in a staff meeting, stays there.

  1. Pledge to model “same page” thinking with the team.

Blog Disclaimer – Within I day or two, I will probably disagree with half of what I am writing – so jump on that bandwagon whenever you want – however if you read this blog and it helps you, or one other coach, or one player in your program, or even a parent of one of your players – then I will consider this a huge success.

“To those who have been given much, much is expected”. While that phrase did not originate with me, it serves as a motivator for me in any form of coaching education I take part in. I have been given so very much support and help along the way as I coached, and I loved working with and developing our coaching staffs.   I believe that assistant coaches need to know what to expect, what you expect of them, what you expect of your players, the essential technical teaching keys and cues you will use, and the essential tactical and strategical approaches that you believe in.

Helpful hint # 1 – Preventing mixed messages – I very recently had a conversation with a former player who is now a head college coach. I was sharing some advice on how to train a new assistant coach. I suggested that prior to starting practices, there should be some “role playing” time spent during staff meetings to walk through how you will work through mixed messages unintentionally sent to players.   This will happen. We have all been taught the game differently, and we have had many different coaches model behavior for us. Your assistant coaches bring those experiences with them. My advice – just come up with a few simple strategies to use. I empowered my assistant coaches for sure, but we also carefully planned not only the content of our practices and the part/s they would play, but also talked about the objectives of each practice. If I looked on another court, and the objective of a particular drill or activity was not going as I wanted – my assistants knew I might just jump on their court for a minute and say “hey, let’s take a look at this together”. A phrase like that might have been the cue that I wanted them to make an adjustment.

Helpful hint #2 – After having adult conversations with your coaching staff, begin the season with some adult conversation with the players. Tell them your staff is committed to being on the same page, but may now and then unintentionally send a mixed message. Hopefully, you value the Socratic method of teaching (using questions) If so, empower your players to ask questions if they are confused.   If a player expressed confusion to an assistant, I would expect my assistant coaches to simply say, “let’s check with Coach D on this”.   Keep it simple and genuine.

Helpful hint # 3 – If you intend to act as if you never make mistakes, this blog will not be very helpful to you. With the dozens, or literally hundreds of decisions you make every day as a coach, I’d respectfully suggest that you “get over the perfectionist approach as quickly as possible”.   Striving for excellence allows for mistakes to be made. Recovering from mistakes is a life skill.

Helpful hint # 4- The best thing you can do today after reading this…. take some time and consider what my blog is making you think about right now in your world. Perhaps you are a varsity high school coach with no assistant coach, but you do have a JV coach.   How can reading this help you discover a step towards being more effectively on the same page? Perhaps you are a college coach, with a brand new assistant coach or you are a brand recently hired college coach with a returning assistant coach – I believe being on the same page will make a difference.

Switching gears for a minute, then I’m landing this plane (my way of saying I’m about to end this blog).

Coach – I am not sure of anything I learned in 40 collegiate seasons of coaching women and men more important than this – our program culture (how we do things here) is critical.   If practice has started in this last week or two, and you have never made a list of the non-negotiable expectations of “how we do things here”, then I would urge you to do that right away. Secondly, each of us answers to somebody – I believe that from an integrity standpoint, you need to know that your non-negotiable expectations are all supported by your Director of Athletics, and that they are in line with any published philosophies (e.g. hand-outs to players or parents).   Perhaps considering this could stretch you to have an adult conversation with an athletic administrator that has never occurred.   Regardless – you will soon be looking for responses from your players. You want them to be highly motivated – ask yourself this question – how does a coach create a highly motivated climate in practice?   You want them to be “team-first” with their attitudes – what happens when they are not ? You want team cohesion – what steps are you taking to develop that ?

In closing – (the plane is on the final descent) Consider attempting a version of some of these ideas – keep what you like and what you think could make you more effective – discard the rest.

Next week > Begin with the end in mind – part two (Selecting Players)



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