The Volleyball Coaching Wizards Project
Follow the links below to find out more about the project, who is involved, and how you can help.
Sharing thousands of years of accumulated volleyball coaching knowledge and experience. That’s what we’re after! Sound ambitious? We hope so. We want something truly spectacular – something that will help volleyball coaches at all levels for years to come! How? We Read More ...
John Forman and Mark Lebedew are the two main movers behind the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project. They do, however, get lots of help from their friends, colleagues, and contacts in the global volleyball community. John Forman first thought up the Read More ...
Making Volleyball Coaching Wizards the ultimate resource for coaches is a major undertaking. There is a lot of work done. Here’s part of what we have to do.: Identify and communicate with prospective Wizard coaches. Conduct numerous interviews. Arrange translation Read More ...
Volleyball Coaching Wizards made it’s first public appearance at the 2016 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Convention – in a manner of speaking. We’re back again for 2019!
For those of you who will be attending this year’s convention, John is presenting a session titled Wisdom from Some of the World’s Best Coaches. It’s scheduled for Friday the 20th at 11:45 in DLCC 303–305.
John’s presentation will be based on material from our second book, Volleyball Coaching Wizards – Wizard Wisdom. That’s the one where we share the views of the Wizards on a variety of coaching topics.
Special Convention Time Offer
While John’s at the convention (December 17th to 21st) you can get the print version of Volleyball Coaching Wizards – Wizard Wisdom for just $9.99 on Amazon (or the equivalent in your local Amazon store). This is only good during the convention, though!
If you see John at the convention, definitely feel free to say hello. Connecting with new people – and old friends, of course – is a big part of what theses events are all about.
If you can’t be at the convention, make sure to follow John’s updates about the event on his blog.
Wizard Jim Stone has a website you’ll want to check out. You will find it at http://www.acoachingperspective.com/. It’s still relatively new as of this writing, but already it touches on some interesting topics.
Here’s an example.
If you’ve read Craig Marshall’s interview in our first book, you’ll know he talks about Brown’s discussion of vulnerability with respect to coaching skills. We used those comments from Craig in our second book as well.
Here’s the TED Talk referred to by Craig.
There’s also a longer presentation on Netflix titled Brené Brown – the Call to Courage. It runs 1 hour 16 minutes, and is a good watch.
From a coaching perspective, there’s an interesting podcast episode worth listening too in conjunction with the stuff above. The podcast is called EconTalk, but don’t be put off by the name. This particular episode specifically links to what Brown talks about with a really interesting twist. It’s one that we need to think about as coaches.
According to the reporting from Amazon, at some point in October 2019 we surpassed 1000 total books sold on their global platform.
This includes all three of the books we currently have available. It doesn’t include sales from other platforms, though, so in reality we actually reached 1000 books sold a bit earlier.
Still, a pretty cool achievement.
Not surprisingly, the first book leads the way. It’s been out quite a bit longer than the others, after all. The second book – Wizard Wisdom – has been steadily gaining ground, though. There’s a good chance it will eventually take over the lead.
Of course we wouldn’t have reached the 1000 unit mark yet without the Spanish translation of the 2nd book – Magos del Entrenamiento de Voleibol – Sabidurías de los Magos. It’s done very well in Spain. Curiously, though, we haven’t yet sold any through Amazon’s Brazil or Mexico sites. In fact, we need to find a way to get the book in front of Latin American coaches generally. That’s an on-going challenge, and suggestions are most welcome.
Look forward to updates on new books in development soon. We have some ideas in the works. More information on that as things firm up.
Meanwhile, if you’ve read both Wizards books so far and are looking for more good stuff to read, check out our Recommended Reading List. It’s titles the Wizards suggested.
A couple of things motivated this post.
“They (coaches) should be judged on their impact and influence.” love that! More people should read at least that introduction.
This is part of the philosophy we express in the book with respect to coaching excellence.
The other motivator is a post by Jim Dietz, a junior college and juniors coach. Jim also has experience in the USA Volleyball High Performance program. His post includes commentary on what he sees as the arrogance of that program’s staff coaches with respect to coaching level. Here’s what he had to say (bold is Jim’s).
I got tired of hearing coaches talk about how they were unjustly assigned to a young age group or a lower skilled group–that the kids they were assigned were beneath them as a D-1 or elite club coach. Speaking up to argue that assertion once, I was told my club isn’t known and I’m a juco coach, so my opinion counts for zero. Yikes. But it gets worse. Worse is the attitude towards coaching colleagues who cannot further that coach’s march up the illusory career ladder. Yeah, I coach at a juco…I suck. Yeah, she’s a high school coach/teacher…if she knew anything, she’d be a 17-elite club coach, she sucks, too,…blah, blah, blah.
Jim is not the only one to express this sort of view. John has definitely heard about this kind of arrogance from others with experience in the HP program, and it’s something that turns off would-be participants. You’ll notice Jim’s use of the past tense to start the quote above, speaking exactly to that issue (If you read the post you’ll find that Jim speaks to the same type of “coaching niche” concept as that mentioned by Wizard Mike Lingenfelter in his interview).
And you know which coaches have those egos and attitudes? It’s the ones with the least justification for doing so. We’re talking about coaches with limited experience and little in the way of perspective – probably mostly younger males, to be honest. They think the level of play of their teams has anything to do with their coaching quality.
Guess what? It’s probably completely unrelated.
Returning to the quote from Jan above, how much impact and influence have these coaches had? Not very much is the answer.
Note that this isn’t just a problem with USAV High Performance, though. Anywhere you have the perception of something as a higher or more “elite” level of coaching you run the risk of this sort of mentality expressing itself. And to be fair, sometimes the perceptions of those not included add fuel to this fire. You can sometimes hear experienced, successful high school coaches acting overly deferential to college coaches just because they are college coaches. It’s foolish, but it happens.
One of the features of the great coaches we’ve interviewed is respect and humbleness. Naturally, disagreements about the finer points of coaching happen. A common theme of the Wizards interviews, though, is the sense that there is still a lot to learn, and that learning can come from all different sources. A Wizard respects other coaches, regardless of competitive level or experience. Even more, they are eager to hear what those with more or different experience from themselves have to say. Neither ego nor arrogance is a factor.
There’s an interesting book titled Living on the Volcano: The Secrets of Surviving as a Football Manager, written by Michael Calvin. Obviously, it’s about soccer managers. Specifically, it has about 20 chapters, each of which features a specific manager. They come from all different levels of the professional ranks in England. It’s not an interview book, like Volleyball Coaching Wizards. Rather, it’s a series of profiles that feature some interview excerpts.
In one chapter the subject manager talks about the attitude he sees among his peers with respect to allowing others to come to your practice and observe.
‘One, you’d never invite a stranger in. Two, there’s nobody who’s actually suited to that role anyway. You can’t go to a competitor. You’ve got your courses and occasionally you’re lucky enough to get a Premier League manager who will allow you to come in, but even that’s getting more difficult now, unless you’re out of work.’
Basically, what he says is that he’d never consider inviting a manager he doesn’t already know into one of his training sessions. On top of that, no one would ever let a competitor on their training ground. No doubt you can figure out the reasons for that.
It is worth noting that this manager said former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was an exception. He was happy to have others come watch him at work. Though he did suggest Ferguson had an ulterior motive. He wanted to keep an eye on up and coming coaches.
What if Ferguson’s motives were not actually so selfish as suggested. What if he was just happy to help the learning process for developing managers. Could it be that his mentality is actually part of what made him great?
Our experience interviewing great volleyball coaches says it might very well be that last part. A willingness to share ideas, and to allow other coaches in their gym is a feature of our Wizards. They are happy to share, and even encourage less-experienced coaches to seek them out, to come visit them. Of course they also often share what they know via clinics and conference presentations and the like.
Why are they so open?
Clearly, part of it is an interest in giving back to the coaching community. All of them were once new coaches in their own right. They know what it’s like.
There’s also the feedback mechanism. While many visitors will just write down drills and games, and maybe ask a few questions, others will go deeper. They will challenge the coach to be able to explain their choices and justify their actions – maybe even encouraging change and adaptation. It’s part of the process of review and continuous improvement.
But what about other coaches “stealing” your ideas?
First of all, how many truly unique ideas exist in coaching? Pretty close to zero. Further, just because someone sees what you do in your gym, it doesn’t mean they can replicate that in theirs. We all have unique situations.
So, be open to allowing others in your gym and don’t be shy about asking to go visit others.
In our interview with Glenn Hoag, he shared a comment from legendary coach Julio Velasco. It was that in order to truly be successful a coach must kill the player inside of him. This episode of the podcast explores that comment and its implications for your mentality as a coach. During the discussion we mention the conversation from the Peggy Martin podcast. That’s the one talking about coaching players as they are.
Feedback, questions, comments, etc. are always welcome!
An Australian reader of the first Volleyball Coaching Wizards book sent us an email to share his thoughts.
I’ve read both of Jack Schwager’s books, and so immediately related to the concept.
I’m only two chapters into it, but I absolutely love it so far, particularly the chapter with Giovanni Guidetti. I especially like the section about Jamie Morrison (former assistant coach to Karch Kiraly), where Giovanni deliberately runs a drill he knows he will disagree with to start a healthy debate. I work in the completely opposite environment in my day job, I would love to have a boss like that.
As a young graduate engineer, one of my first managers told me that I was very “black and white” and that the world is in fact many shades of grey. The older I’ve gotten, the more I relate to this statement, and that’s why Giovanni’s acceptance of this concept resonated with me so much.
I also personally appreciated the point you made about using punishments in training, and how it stifles creativity and focuses the player only on avoiding errors. I was torn over the concept of punishments at the start of last season, however my wife, who is a neuropsychologist, was dead against them, with the psychological research heavily supporting reward rather than punishment. I adopted a philosophy of patience and rewarding positive behaviours and thoroughly enjoyed the performance and culture that arose from it.
I look forward to the insights that I will find in the remaining chapters. I commend you for getting this book out there. I’ve written a short kindle book, and I appreciate that it’s a passion more so than a means to make a living.
The Jack Schwager books he mentioned are Market Wizards and The New Market Wizards. They were a big part of the inspiration for the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project. Glad to hear the volleyball version does indeed follow along with the Schwager version’s concept.
First of all, if you have not already seen our In Memorial post about the passing of Wizard Carl McGown, please check it out. We are making the text of Carl’s interview freely available. Be sure to pass it around to your friends and colleagues. The whole volleyball coaching community should be aware of Carl’s influence and impact on volleyball training and player development.
Now back to the podcast. In mid-December, John attended the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) annual convention. He presented a session about the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project, which he talks a bit about in this episode. John also attended a number of other sessions. We will probably talk about some of those in future podcasts, but in this episode the focus is on some stuff USA Men’s National Team coach John Speraw discussed in his presentations.
Feedback, questions, comments, etc. are always welcome!
The volleyball world has lost one of it’s leading lights.
Carl McGown is without doubt one of the most influential individuals the sport has ever known. In terms of his philosophy of coaching, there are those who agree and those who don’t. No one, though, can deny his impact on coaching.
Carl was a leading force in introducing and spreading the idea of specificity of training in volleyball. Those efforts have been instrumental in shifting the training in many gyms from primarily block in focus to the adaptation of more game-like activities. The concept of “the game teaches the game” so often mentioned these day comes straight out of Carl’s teachings.
We could write a whole article on Carl’s history in the game and all the different coaches he influenced along the way. There are plenty of others much better positioned to do so, however. He left a mark on a great many. We leave it to them to share their memories.
What we can do, though, is share Carl’s own thoughts and sense of history. He was one of our early interviews, and his is the first in the initial Volleyball Coaching Wizards book. We posted a trio of excerpts from the interview audio on YouTube as well.
In memorial to Carl’s life and impact, though, we want to share the full text of his interview. Get your PDF version of it here. The document runs 24 pages in total.
Enjoy, and feel free to share it with your coaching friends and colleagues.
Last week, in conjunction with the NCAA Division I semifinals and final, was the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) annual Convention. It was an important event for the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project on multiple levels.
First, several Wizards attended the event. Tom Turco and Ruth Nelson – both featured in the first Wizard book – were convention attendees. Mick Haley and Tod Mattox were also there. Among the folks presenting sessions were Wizards Terry Pettit, John Corbelli, Bill Neville, and Sue Gozansky.
Giovanni Guidetti, whose interview is also in the first Wizard book, was a prominent presenter. He was part of the pre-convention program, which focused on takeaways from the 2016 Olympics. Unfortunately, his travel schedule forced his contribution to be done two days after the others. That was Friday. Giovanni gave a 15-minute talk about why he coaches to start the day. He then did his pre-convention session.
Things got a little crazy after that!
Flight schedules for his return trip to his club team in Turkey were fluid. Giovanni was scheduled to start back Friday afternoon, but the first leg of the trip got moved up for some reason. That saw the AVCA organizers say they needed to get him to the airport, This meant he could not do his last schedule session – and on-court one about blocking and defense training. Giovanni nixed that plan, though. He told them he would push his return trip back to Saturday. He wanted to get that last session in. That’s exactly what happened.
This, of course, caused confusion. The organizers had sent out a message to attendees already saying the session was cancelled. Despite that, it ended up being standing room only around the court as he presented.
It should be noted that his trip to the Convention forced Giovanni to miss coaching his Vakifbank team in the CEV Champions League. That was not the original plan, but apparently the match was moved for TV.
The Convention was also the first time Volleyball Coaching Wizards was presented. John did a Friday session titled “Lessons Learned from Volleyball’s Wizard Coaches”. Mark was not available as he had a full coaching schedule, including a Polish league match that same evening.
The main focus of the session was to share some of the areas of overlap among the Wizard interviews, as well as some places where they disagree. As you can see, it was a pretty good audience. As usual, folks avoided the first few rows. :-)
The AVCA volunteer running the room gave John an estimate of 233 attendees. That is not too bad considering the All-American awards luncheon happened at the same time. And no one left until the Q&A section started. Even then, it was only a couple of people. They must have thought it was pretty good stuff!
At the start of the session John asked how many people knew about Volleyball Coaching Wizards and/or had read the book. Only a handful of hands went up. That was surprising from the perspective of thinking that people who knew about the project would seem to have been more likely to attend. It was great, though, that we could expose a whole big bunch of folks to what we’re doing.
Book Wizards Tom Turco and Ruth Nelson were in the crowd. So too was Tod Mattox. Tod actually helped answer one of the questions asked.
In one of the more interesting developments, the AVCA volunteer told John after the session that he was making the book required reading for the management class he taught. He thought the thinking of the Wizards about leading people and organizations would be very useful. Cool! We hadn’t really thought about things that way.
The AVCA said the recording of the session will be available on its website about 3-4 weeks after the event.