Volleyball Coaching Wizard Glenn Hoag

Getting it done for Club and Country

Like Vital Heynen and fellow Canadians Stelio DeRocco and Garth Pischke, Glenn Hoag transitioned from a high level playing career into success as a coach.

His resume includes:

  • Coach of the Canadian Men’s National Team from 2006 to 2016, including leading the team to 5th at the 2016 Olympics
  • Winner of Canada’s first ever NORCECA Championship title in 2016.
  • Bronze Medal with Canada at the 2015 Pan-Am Games
  • Winner of the French League, French Cup, and the CEV Champions League with Paris Volley.
  • Winner of the Slovenian Championship, Cup and MEVZA in 2008 and 2010 with ACH Team
  • Winner of multiple Turkish Championships and a Cup with Arkas Sports Club
  • Also coached university volleyball in Canada, and was named CIS Coach of the Year in 1997

Here’s some of what Glenn discusses in his interview:

– On-going education and mentorship

– Developing a sense to how to play as a team

– Making the change from player to coach

– Working with players at different levels and from different cultures

Play this excerpt for a taste of the sort of insights and ideas you’ll get from the full interview:

Check your coaching ego at the door

A couple of things motivated this post.

The first is a quote from the 2nd Wizards book sent to John by Jan Maier. Jan is the head coach for the Hamburg team in the German women’s 2nd division (2.Bundesliga Nord). Jan texted the following.

“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.

Being open to letting other coaches see you work

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.

Interview: Stephen Pierce

Date: March 31, 2017

Download the audio file (right click and “Save As…” / 67mb – 1:37:58)

The one book mentioned in the interview was Coaching Volleyball Successfully by Sally Kus.

What did you think?

We’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, etc. What did you find most interesting or surprising? What was something that could influence your own coaching? What additional question(s) would you like to hear Stephen answer?

Just fill out the comment box below.

Podcast Episode 32: Killing the Player Inside

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!

A review of the Wizards book from Down Under

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.

Podcast Episode 31: Observations from the 2016 AVCA Convention

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!

In Memorial of Carl McGown

Carl McGown

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.