Fall 2014 Blog – Post # 12

Fall 2014 Blog – Post # 12

Nov 13   Good Endings

Do you remember a time when a book you were reading created so much uncertainty and/or curiosity that you actually turned to the last few pages to see how it was going to end? Well, we don’t get to do that in leading our team through a season.   We do however, have many “ending” opportunities to capitalize on, and this week I want to point those out for your consideration.

Here are a few examples:

  • EACH RALLY – What does your team do at the end of each rally you win? Do they celebrate winning rallies from an ace or attack termination differently, and if so, was that planned or spontaneous? What about the rallies you lose? Was thought and direction given on some mode of operation where the players would stay connected when the opponent picked up a point?
  • EACH TIME-OUT – If the main purpose for the team calling the time-out is to stem the tide for a run of points on the other side of the scoreboard, or simply to make an adjustment, how do we end it? Do we sense the player caught in the midst of a self-confidence battle due to some unforced errors, and perhaps address them individually, or are all the comments, all the time directed to (or at) the entire group? Do you have a traditional cheer you use, and if so, does the tradition mean something?
  • EACH SET – Does our body language change when we win and lose? Do we slap hands with the players coming off the court regardless of the outcome? Do we have statistics readily available to share, and do we share them win or lose? Are the results of that last set discussed in connection to performance objectives that have been clearly outlined? (acceptable ace/error serving ratio, acceptable kills/error attack ratio, or our targeted goal for team pass rating – just to name a few)
  • EACH MATCH – How about …..OK, I’ve asked enough questions, although I strongly considered using the Socratic method of questioning for the entire blog this week. Instead, I will share…YES, another story.   This one is about how a match ended, which resulted in a change in how my teams ended matches every time from that day forward. You could say I had an epiphany (from Merriam-Webster a moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way”). As a result of this experience, and instituting a change in our team’s standard operating procedure, I started to discover importance in considering every single question I posed to you above.

Let’s go back to the early to mid-90’s, with our men’s team hosting a mid-season tournament. Largely due to some worthwhile discussion at the previous year’s annual meeting of all the teams in our regional association, we utilized an unusual format. Weeks prior to the event, all coaches were polled in an attempt to get teams the opportunity to be guaranteed a few match-ups with opponents they would not otherwise have during that season. In a few cases, including our own, a few of the initial Friday evening pairings, might otherwise have been the typical Tournament Championship the next day. The team we matched up with on that evening was part of a healthy rivalry with us even before I played at my alma mater for the inimitable Tom Hay. This match lasted nearly three hours in the old point scoring system, and was extremely close throughout, before we ended up losing by two in the fifth. As I finished shaking hands with the opposing coach, while already considering what I was going to say to the team, I turned around to head to our end line, and had the EPIPHANY. At that moment, what I saw was the word SPRINGFIELD everywhere I looked. Why? All I could see was the back of our jerseys, literally walking away from the court in every direction. I spun around in the exact spot where I was standing for a 360 degree view of an obviously very disappointed group walking away from each other.

It’s not like we did not have the expectation of coming together on the end line, but the truth is we won a lot more then we lost, and I know our written team expectations at that time did not state for the record, that “we will come together on the end line at the conclusion of each match, no exceptions”.

I candidly don’t remember how I handled things in that “moment of clarity”. I think I shouted in all directions to get back here and get together, or maybe I sent a few of the closest players to me after the rest of the guys. I do know what happened in officially re-defining how we handled this moving forward. Those who watched both our women’s and men’s teams for the last fifteen years I coached would see our team always come together on the end line, and if you watched closely with a timer in hand, our gathering lasted two minutes or less (regardless of the outcome).   I had my reasons for that, and you can email me if you want more of an explanation, because the biggest purpose in sharing this and other stories is not to tell any coach what I think you should do, but rather, to push you to think about what you are doing, and to consider the effectiveness.

Two weeks ago, we spent time together on the topic of SENIORS, and the good ending we planned for their final home match. When I wrap up this series in three weeks, the topic will be BANQUET, and that is obviously another “good ending” opportunity. This week, I want to suggest that routines, team protocol, standard operating procedures, and all forms of team guidelines are well worth carving out some time to think about.   I tend to start at the end of things and work my way back – I guess it is the visionary part of me. This process helps me to have a clear view of what I want something to look like, and then consider what it will take to make that picture a reality.   I do think that over time, I recognized time and again that young people really do benefit from structure, and in fact, many really want it.

Sometimes it helps in potentially explosive group dynamic settings to have clear boundaries and expectations in place. I think as coaches we do that both informally and formally. Perhaps you will be challenged to go back to the start of this week’s blog and consider the short list of “ending opportunities” I started for you and add some of your own.   Here’s a few more ….how do you end each practice, each tournament, each bus trip ? Maybe just use the Keep – Start – Stop method of evaluation. What should you keep doing, start doing, or stop doing?

Many of you are now raking leaves in the afternoon instead of running practices. I always

enjoyed some mindless activities like that at the end of a long season, but often found myself using those hours thinking about topics like today’s theme, and maybe you will too.








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