Advice for coaching career development

In this excerpt from his Volleyball Coaching Wizards interview, Mick Haley shares some advice for coaches who are looking to potentially take their careers to the highest levels of coaching.

A 2006 AVCA Hall of Fame Inductee, Mick became the first coach of a non-West Coast team to win an NCAA Division I championship when he led Texas to the title in 1988. That wasn’t even his first national championship, though. Mick won a total of 6 junior college championships at Kellogg Community College between 1973 and 1979, amassing over 300 combined wins and earning himself a spot in the Junior College Coaches Hall of Fame. At Texas he won over 500 matches in 17 seasons during which the team won 13 conference titles and make 15 trips to the NCAA tournament. Mick coached the US Women during the 1997-2000 Olympic cycle, finishing 4th overall in Sydney. He has since been at the helm at the University of Southern California we he’s won 2 national championships and made six semifinals appearances, with well over 300 total wins to run his career tally north of 1000 in NCAA Division I alone.

Coaching career advice and the importance of a good administration

In this excerpt from her Volleyball Coaching Wizards interview, Marilyn McReavy-Nolen shares a bit of career advice. She talks about the importance of including the quality of those we work for in the process of deciding on the jobs we take or opt to keep.

Marilyn McReavy-Nolen became the 3rd coach in history to reach the 800 career victory mark in NCAA Division I. She is a member of the inaugural AVCA Hall of Fame class as well as being a member of the Women’s Sports Foundation Hall of Fame. She was also chosen for a USA Volleyball All-Time Great Coaches Award.

Adapting what you learn

In this excerpt from his Volleyball Coaching Wizards interview, Iradge Ahrabi-Fard shares his views on coaching education and development. In particular, he talks about the need to adapt what we learn to our own teams and our own unique circumstances.

Iradge Ahrabi-Fard is a member of the AVCA Hall of Fame’s inaugural induction class. He won over 500 NCAA Division I matches in his 19 years at Northern Iowa. In 1997 he was earned the Excellence in Education award from the AVCA, and then in 1999 was the Division I Coach of the Year. Iradge has consulted and coached with USA Volleyball for a number of years.

John & Mark expand on this subject in Episode 3 of the Podcast.

Learning from the gurus

In this excerpt from his Volleyball Coaching Wizards interview, Tom Tait talks about the importance of considering the source when looking to learn from other coaches. This is especially true when thinking to adopt the same methods and strategies as coaches who have a high profile because of recent success.

Tom Tait is essentially the father of the Penn State volleyball programs – both men and women. He led them both from their early days as club programs to their promotion to full varsity status. He eventually handed off the women’s team to Russ Rose, but kept coaching the men for several more years. In that time he reached 6 NCAA tournaments and reach the finals in 1982. Tom was the 1986 Volleyball Monthly National Coach of the Year. He is a member of the inaugural induction class to the AVCA Hall of Fame.

This topic is something John & Mark expand upon in Episode 3 of the Podcast.

Advice for developing coaches

In this excerpt from his Volleyball Coaching Wizards interview, Jefferson Williams offers a bit of advice for new and developing coaches from the perspective of someone who has been very involved in coaching education.

When it comes to UK coaching success, it’s hard to beat Jefferson. As a player-coach with Mallory Eagles VC his teams won 20 national titles between 1987 and 2010, including 10 in a row and a 96 match unbeaten run. Throw in 15 cup titles to boot. Now, on top of that add 12 league championships and 11 cups between 1989 and 2006 coaching the women. This is alongside being the England Senior men’s head coach from 1987 to 2003, assistant coach for the Great Britain squad from 1990 to 1997, interim GB Women’s coach from 2005 to 2007, and head coach of the England Women’s Developmental Squad from 2007 to 2012. He’s been Volleyball England, England, and UK Coach of the Year. Jefferson also coached for a time in Sweden.

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.

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!

Podcast Episode 18: Coaching the players as they are with Peggy Martin

One of the struggles we can face as coaches is having to work with players who have motivations different than our own. In some cases it’s because they are different types of players than we were. In other cases it’s because they are in the sport for different reasons. In this episode of the podcast we start with Peggy Martin sharing her experience of learning to coach players as they are, not as we wished they were.

Peggy Martin has over 40 years of college coaching experience, primarily at the NCAA Division II level. She’s accumulated more than 1200 career victories and has won more than 20 league titles. Her Central Missouri teams made 25 straight trips to the NCAA tournament, reaching six Elite 8s and a national championship match. Peggy has been named Coach of the Year 22 times, including earning NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year honors in 1987. She is a member of the AVCA Hall of Fame.

A little discussion of blocked vs. random training came into this discussion, following on the subject of Episode 17.

Vital Heynen’s interview came up again in terms of having a coaching style contrary to his prior experience of coaching as a player. Along the same lines, Stelio DeRocco came up in terms of having prior playing experience being useful in understanding player motivation.

We also referenced the characteristics of a great setter episode with respect to showing a lack of doubt to the team.

Feedback, questions, comments, etc. are always welcome!

Volleyball Coaching Wizard Bill Neville

Looking back and looking forward

Bill Neville is one of the most respected coaches in US volleyball coaching circles, and probably beyond as well. His long experience in the game provides him a perspective on the sport and on coaching that few can match.

His resume includes:

  • Olympic coach for both the Canadian and US national teams, including for the 1984 gold medal winning USA.
  • Over 15 years coaching NCAA Division I women’s teams.
  • USA Volleyball Technical Director
  • USA Volleyball National Commissioner of Coaching Education
  • Developer of the Coaches Accreditation Program (CAP)
  • Author of Coaching Volleyball Successfully

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

– His favorite memory for the 1984 US Olympic team
– The qualities of a great setter
– Key factors in good coaching education
– Being an innovative coach
– How the game has developed and where it might be headed

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

Get access to Bill’s interview now for just a $4.99 contribution to the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project.

You can also get Bill’s interview as part of the following bundles: