Poor substitutions for wins
I’m sick of losing
Poor substitutions for wins
I’m sick of losing
Tony Weaver (Baseball Coach)
I just want to coach,
Throw some BP,
Make some lineups.
I’m not interested in feedback,
Traveling to Georgia.
I want kids who want to take BP,
Have fun on our bus.
This is getting to be too much.
Ashton Clay (Track Coach)
I’m a good coach,
I will ask the athletes what
They can do better.
I’ll ask them about commitment,
I’m not here for popularity,
This whole thing
Has got me thinking it’s time to move on.
“Culture is the intersection of people and life itself. It’s how we deal with…” Wendell Pierce
When shots are falling down
Coaches are geniuses.
“It seemed to exist only to maintain itself.” Joan Didion
Decisions are hard to make
Especially when feelings, egos, and basketball are concerned.
There’s enough alpha in these guys that they think,
Just maybe, they might become LeBron or Stephen,
So it hurts when they hear something different.
I learned coaching girls earlier this year
That there is something more to games than
Winning or losing and the sports are not coached,
That’s what makes a day like to today so difficult.
Hopefully, the guys not making the team
Understand the reasons why; we talked.
Hopefully, they will take on the next step of their journeys
With basketball in mind and resilience overriding
A temporary set back.
Volleyball to basketball
Bump, set, spike
To the pick and roll.
“The best art divides the audience.” Rick Rubin
Moments are made when confidence comes from innocence
Like today before our volleyball game
When the cliche,
“Kids say the darnedest things,”
Was brought to life.
Warm-ups were happening,
Volleyballs whizzed in all directions,
Rap music brought the bass for mind-altering perceptions.
I stood next to one of my players and said,
“First time I’ve heard this song.”
To which she replied, “I’m not for pop culture.”
I asked, “How close to pop culture do you get?”
She was a thoughtful student in class,
She considers strategy on the court,
She gave this question of mine the consideration
She gives every thought requiring a reasoned answer.
As the moment started to lose steam,
What a great answer from a teenage kid
Who channels the waters of being a serious student and athlete
Without the slightest of care for how others see her.
She knows little of the social media sisters out west or
Even the current status of prime-time television,
But ask her about a book she is reading, or a voice lesson she has been taught,
Or her proximity to pop culture and you’ll get
The perfect intersection of confidence and innocence.
Being a joke is not something that I handle very well. That being said, I have no idea why I would sign on to coach a sport that I have limited tactical understanding of. That sport is volleyball and I am coaching my school’s junior varsity for the first time. It’s also the first time I’ve ever coached girls. It’s been a crazy few weeks, but I’m starting to find my groove as I have learned a couple of things about volleyball and coaching in general.
1. Sports are sports and once you understand a few basic principles for each sport, there are only complications. The KISS principle works for coaching as well as it does for most of life. For volleyball, “read, move, and hit the ball into the air.” Volleyball Einsteins might question my elementary approach to the game, but since I don’t know what I don’t know, I must rely on keeping the game simple. I want the girls to become better players and that is more about improving their self-efficacy (the belief that they can create success) than it is about some crazy formation that has the team running all over the court and me wondering if they are in the right rotation.
We practice skills much more than we do strategy, although, I do have a bit of a basketball background, and I see zone defense principles as being applicable to our strategy. In hoops, a zone defense allows a player to guard a space. Different zones take different spaces away from an offensive team, but a player should always be ready to move wherever they are most needed. Volleyball is no different, players must cover an area. The trick is getting them into the area and the less offensive movement that is inflicted on a team, the less they have to worry about the transition from offense to defense.
I don’t know, I’m just saying…
2. Players have to play. My job is to prepare the students with the skills to be successful and give them a plan that fosters their success. Ultimately, though, the game is up to them. My goal as a volleyball coach is continuing to get the girls to believe that they can make the necessary plays. I really want to win, but a wise fellow told me that his experience with girls volleyball was that it was more about the experience than the winning and losing. His advice allowed me to continue to believe that keeping our practices simple is important. We spend very little time powering through skills or strategies that are not working. Instead, I have short periods of time that allow the girls to be mentally focused, but the drills stop before boredom sets in and any mentally drift allows for physical errors that might negatively affect their confidence.
Again, I want to focus on their believing that they are creating success.
3. Hustle is as hustlers do…I apologize for the cheap Forrest Gump rip-off, but every sport is based on hustle. Hustle is moving at the speed that is appropriate for the play. Being on time is the most important thing an athlete can do. It’s more than just being to practice on time. It’s getting to the ready position on time, contacting the ball at the right time, cheering on a teammate at the right time. Being on time is what hustle is. I joke with a colleague that I’m trying to turn my volleyball team into a pickup basketball team. We are trying to scramble to spots, get our feet into solid position, and sending the ball to a spot where the next hitter can make a play (unless it’s the third ball, duh, as we don’t want the other team to hit it). I chose to talk about playground basketball because it’s a game of hustle, hustlers win and winners get to keep playing. Not only that because often playground basketball teams are made on the fly and a player better know how to play any position and guard every spot. The general understanding of the game is a real plus for any player wanting a long run on a blacktop.
Maybe I’m overstretching my coaching analogy or just acting from ignorance, but over the last two weeks, the girls are starting to move more. We are starting to expect players to get to spots and even starting skills work 30-minutes before the “real” practice starts. I “freaking” love that.
These are a few thoughts from a guy who has little volleyball coaching experience, but this I know, self-efficacy is an important component of success. I mean, I wrote a dissertation on self-efficacy… Finding what works for the talent that a coach has is way more important than the tactical knowledge that a coach has. The relationship that the coach has with his/her players is probably more important than that. Meshing all of that together into a simple plan that promotes success is the lofty goal for getting a team to reach its potential. I think the girls on our team are on the right track and I believe that my continued understanding of volleyball can only help them get better as long as the new knowledge doesn’t create coaching clutter.
We won our second match today. We’ve dropped four or five, so our record is not what some would consider successful. Yet we are sticking together and working hard in practice. We are getting more competitive in the games we lose and getting more consistent with our hustle so that we play better in most points. What more could I ask for? The girls are creating an atmosphere that makes me want to come back each day. It’s been fun so far and even though tomorrow is an off day at school, we will be working on our footwork and maybe even housing some Munchkins…
A different world,
Coaching those eager to please
Who only ask to be complimented.
Bar glass Xs and Os
The rankings more important
Than the strategy.
It’s important to know
How basketball tastes can vary
Yet be inspired by the same passions,
Screen to the ball,
Screen away from the ball,
Screen to the basket…
At this point, just screen,