If you’re considering taking on the role of a volleyball coach, then chances are you are also a player or have been, and your passion for the sport propels you to teach it. If that is the case, then you are in the right place!
There are many things a prospective coach should know before leading their own team for the first time. As a D2 college volleyball and high school varsity lacrosse coach heading into my 20th season, I look for a few important characteristics in an assistant, JV, or freshman coach.
The first important characteristic a new coach should possess is a good knowledge of the inner workings of the sport itself. For volleyball, I look for coaches who understand the nuances of each position and the relationship on the court between them. I ask what rotations they would run and why. For example, the benefits of running a 5-1 vs. a 6-2, what is “in the system” volleyball, and what speed offense should you run with different levels of players?
They are one step closer to coaching their own team if they can answer detailed questions like that! Next, I look for positivity and flexibility. Will this person curate a constructive environment for my program? Will they give feedback and correction in a teaching manner rather than speak critically or talk down to their players? How do they finesse a difficult situation with a player? And can they meet any challenges they will face?
Adapt to Your Athletes
Flexibility is an often forgotten but imperative coaching trait. New and even veteran coaches must adapt to the changing needs of each team and each player that every fresh season brings. Some players learn better through demonstration, some through film, and some through action, but the ultimate teacher will always be: experience. To be a successful coach, you must learn to fit the various roles it takes to bring your team together towards a winning season. As coaches, we are not often handed a Championship-winning team. That’s something you must help to foster and establish as the season goes on.
Aside from the personality traits, a new coach must be determined and ready to play what I call “the long game.” Sports program development takes time; often, expanding outside of your school’s season. This includes taking part in clubs, camps, clinics, and off-season practices to become successful. Any new coach should be prepared to hand in many aspects of their community through their sport, coaching club, running clinics, individual training, and more. Developing those relationships with your players and their families, the school, and the community is all a part of becoming a new coach.
Leading Vs. Coaching
Many people don’t know this, but coaching is often 60% sports instruction and 40% administrative duties. I like to tell my new coaches that the better you are at Microsoft Excel, the quicker you will get organized. Keeping lists such as players signed up to try out, whether they completed their physicals, parent emails, emergency contacts, roster, stats, and schedule formatting are all administrative facets of coaching. Add to that: court time, team gear including jerseys, practice shirts, spandex, court shoes, knee pads, and ankle braces, plus equipment like balls, ball bags, volley carts, and more all need to be organized by you as the coach. Let’s not forget tryout format, potential tryout helpers, player evaluations, and making and executing cuts. The checklists continue: not all coaches do, but I require all coaches working under me to plan out each practice. I believe a team’s progress and productivity operate at a higher level when practices are planned based on the strengths and weaknesses of the team at that time. Stay organized, plan everything ahead of time, and you will set yourself up for the best possible outcome.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Lastly, highly recommend having trustworthy, open communication with your team’s direct supervisor. That could be the school’s Athletic Director, your club’s Director, or the Sports Director at your facility. Obtaining the proper gear for your team, scheduling court time, and even handling difficult parent interactions can all be eased by utilizing that supervisor-coach relationship. In addition, organizing and implementing your season’s schedule can be frustrating and confusing and can often change many times during the season. Having a reliable relationship with your AD can make that process much smoother.
Learn from Peers
Before jumping into volleyball coaching for the first time, I recommend attending a coaching clinic to learn from others who have been in the coaching role for many years. That can often help new coaches avoid common mistakes and prepare you for the season. And finally, reach out and ask questions! As an assistant college coach, I am often approached by younger coaches on the recruiting trail. They ask for advice, what my favorite drills are, or what offense they should run. I am always happy to help a new coach as I was once in their shoes and feel strongly about helping to develop valuable new additions!
As you can see, just knowing the sport of volleyball and having played it before is not enough to make someone a good coach. It takes passion and a thirst to share that with others. It takes being organized and efficient, and the willingness to become a mentor to youth athletes, and the determination to do what it takes to foster their growth on and off the court.