Things not working quite as expected

In this excerpt from his Volleyball Coaching WIzards interview, Vital Heynen talks how sometimes the things you try in your coaching can have unanticipated effects.

Vital led the German National Team to a bronze medal at the 2014 World Championships, then Poland to gold in 2018. He won numerous league and cup titles coaching in his native Belgium, and has also coached professionally in Germany, Poland and Turkey.

More big news – Pioneer Wizards

Last week we posted about looking to expand our base of interviewers to help us move this Wizards project forward. We’re still looking to hear from people who are interested in taking that on. In the meanwhile, though, we’ve had a noteworthy hand raised in response. Wizard Mick Haley has expressed interest and we’ve talked about what that could look like. It’s starting to take shape.

Pioneer Wizards

An idea dating back to the early days of the Wizards concept was to help share with people some of the sport’s history. It’s something we’ve certainly accomplished to a degree with the interviews we’ve done so far. We can take it much further, though.

The Pioneer Wizards concept is about focusing on coaches who are largely out of coaching now after lengthy careers. They might not be in position to talk much from a current coaching perspective. What they certainly can do, though, is tell us the tale of how we got to where we are today. And they can share with us their own career and personal development paths.

In other words, they can be for volleyball what the likes of John Wooden and Phil Jackson are for Basketball, or Bill Walsh and Vince Lombardi are for football. That is sources of long-lasting wisdom and insight.

We look forward to this branch of Wizards interviews developing in parallel with the Wizard Women ones already underway. Now is definitely a great time to join us on Patreon. There will be a lot of great content coming your way!

Big update #3 – Wizard Women

This is the third of the three big updates we have on the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project. The first was about our new approach to making the interviews available. The second shared our plans to expand the interviewer pool. In this one we’ve got news about a new sub-project that’s currently underway.

Of women, by women, for women

For a while now we’ve wanted to create a new series of Wizards interviews focused on women. They would be interviews of women coaches (not to be confused with coaches of women) conducted by a fellow female coach, being sure to address elements of the profession especially relevant to women in coaching.

To put it quite bluntly, John & Mark as male coaches haven’t had the same experience female coaches have had in their careers. As such, they aren’t best suited to have in-depth conversations on things from that perspective. Thus the desire to have a female interviewer.

The focus

The focus of the Women Wizards series is on role model type coaches. These are women who are still actively coaching, or perhaps only just recently retired. In other words, experienced and successful coaches that are or could be visible in action to the current generation of early-career women coaches. We want these interviews to be motivational and inspirational for them, as well as informative. Current active coaches are a bit more relatable in that regard.

This is definitely not to say retired women and/or those who have moved into more administrative roles aren’t interview candidates. We just may categorize them in a different fashion than the active ones.

Of course, as always with the project, we want broad representation. That means women from around the world and all different levels of play.

Got any recommendations? Let us know.

Our interviewer

We originally had a pair of women lined up to do the interviews, but availability became a problem. So we’ve gone in a different direction. Lauren Bertolacci has agreed to take on the project. She’s super excited for this Wizard Women series, and has already done her first interview!

Lauren is an Australian who currently coaches in Switzerland for NUC Volleyball. She played both professionally in Europe and for the Aussie national team before moving into coaching. In fact, she got her start coaching the men’s team at Volley Luzern.

Those of you who have followed John’s Coaching Conversation series may have seen Lauren in a couple of the episodes. She was on the sessions about coaching across genders and culture development.

Special Patron Tier

As reported on Update #1 of this sequence, we’ve moved to using the Patreon platform to make the interviews available. Patrons on the primary tiers will get access to every interview posted (initially at a rate of two interviews per month), including the Wizard Women ones.

We’ve decided to create separate Patreon tiers just for the Wizard Women interviews, though. Patrons in these tiers won’t have access to the other interviews, but they will have the advantage of getting the Wizard Women interviews more quickly. Their release won’t be slowed down by being mixed in with the rest of the ones in the general list.

Become a Patron!

Big update #2 – More interviewers

In the last update we talked about our new approach to making Wizards interviews available to coaches around the world. In this update the focus is on how we actually produce new interviews.

Expanding our interviewers

A major limitation to the project up to this point is John’s and Mark’s availability to conduct interviews. Scheduling, recording, and producing them are quite time intensive efforts. I can be 6-8 hours of work for each of them when you put it all together. With the increased demands on our time seen in recent years, it’s hard to be able to get them done, especially when factoring other things like developing the Wizards books.

There are so many coaches out there worth having their stories and insights shared. And more will continue to bubble up over time. We want to be able to interview as many of them as we can, and contribute their knowledge and experience to the collective coaching consciousness. In order to do so, though, we’re going to need help.

That being the case, we’re putting out an open call for additional interviewers. These could be people who happen to know a certain Wizard caliber coach, and would thus do a single interview for us. Or they could be folks interested in doing a series of interviews. Both types are equally useful to the project.

Could this be you?

Think you could be one of those people?

If you’re familiar with the project you know we have a fairly standard set of working questions we include in the interviews. They form the basic outline of the discussion. Knowledge of and/or research about the Wizard then provides additional direction.

In other words, you’d need to be able to follow a plan, but also do the work needed to customize that plan to a given interview. No two interviews ever go the same way. That’s kind of the point. If every coach was the same, we would need a project like this one.

Think you could do that? If so, contact us. Let us know what you would bring to the project.

Our third of these three updates, also relates to this additional interviewers idea.

Big update #1 – New Approach

There are some developments we need to share with you with regards to the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project. Enough that we need to use a couple of posts to do so. In this first one we’ll focus on the first part of the new approach we’re taking to things.

Using Patreon

We decided to shift our model for distributing Wizards interviews to one mainly focused on Patreon. If you’re not familiar with it, Patreon is a platform which allows people (patrons) to support content developers through small pledges.

The platform features a donation-per-creation structure which fits very well with our project and also takes a considerable administrative load off our shoulders. In other words, it will let us focus on producing content, which is the whole point of this venture.

We’re starting off with two general tiers – $2/interview and $5/interview. Both come with bonuses, which we’ll look to expand upon as me move forward. Our plan is to post 2 interviews per month on Patreon. That way the monthly cost for everyone stays low. We can talk down the road about adjusting that monthly number based on patron feedback.

The first objective

A big motivation for us to go with this dontation-per-creation mode is being able to convert the interview audio for expanded distribution. The most obvious is generating transcriptions. They aren’t massively expensive to create these days, but do take some editing after the fact. Our initial goal is to reach $150/interview in donations to pay for that. Patrons will, of course, get those transcripts as an added benefit.

The next level is translation. It would be awesome to be able to transcribe the interviews into a variety of languages. That’s even more expense, though, so first things first.

Become a patron today and help us toward those objectives.

Become a Patron!

And if you get others to become patrons as well we’ll reach our initial transcription target even faster!

Here’s our second big update, which relates to interviewers.

Putting together a coaching staff

In this excerpt from his Volleyball Coaching WIzards interview, Vital Heynen talks about the approach he takes to putting together the best possible coaching staff. His comments are likely to prove useful not just to head coaches, but also to assistant coaches in how they approach working in their position.

Vital led the German National Team to a bronze medal at the 2014 World Championships, then Poland to gold in 2018. He won numerous league and cup titles coaching in his native Belgium, and has also coached professionally in Germany, Poland and Turkey.

Note: John & Mark expand on Vitals comments in Episode 2 of the Podcast.

Keeping non-starters engaged

Keeping players who are not in the starting team happy, or at least not causing problems in the team dynamic, is a key factor in coaching success. In this excerpt from his Volleyball Coaching Wizards interview, Paulo Cunha talks about how he manages the psychology of non-starters and how he deals with professional players who find themselves watching things from the bench.

From 1987 to 2007 Paulo was a coaching education lecturer and course director for the Portuguese Volleyball Association and Portuguese Volleyball Federation. He coached his nation’s Junior National Team from 1986-1992. His club teams in Portugal’s 1st Division won 8 national titles, 7 Portuguese Cups, and 6 Super Cups. Paulo’s coached in 12 European Cups and in 1998 became the first Portuguese coach to reach a European cup final four. Three times he was awarded Coach of the Year by the Portuguese Association of Volleyball Coaches.

Keeping players fresh

In this excerpt from his interview, Mark discusses his philosophy on training time and intensity. In particularly, he talks about the need to make sure players are as fresh as possible for competition, not just in the short term, but also in the broader context of the full season.

Coaching the team’s best players

In this excerpt from his Volleyball Coaching Wizards interview, US college coach Joel Dearing talks about the need to avoid just focusing our coaching on the weaker players on the team. He says we have to make sure we also give the best player sufficient time and attention.

Joel Dearing coached a total of 40 seasons of collegiate volleyball – mainly on the women’s side, and mostly at Springfield College. He recorded over 700 NCAA Division III victories, putting him in the Top 10 all-time. He head to Springfield men to a final #1 ranking in his final season coaching them. He was the AVCA Regional Coach of the Year 5 times. Joel coached 10 All-Americans. He is the author of two volleyball books, is on the board of the Volleyball Hall of Fame, and is a long-time member of the USA Volleyball CAP cadre. In 2019 he was inducted in to the AVCA Hall of Fame.

This topic is one John & Mark take on in more detail in Episode 15 of the Podcast.

The psychology of training

In this excerpt from his Volleyball Coaching Wizards interview, Swedish coach Anders Kristiansson talks about the psychology of training. Specifically, he discusses the need to consider the mental impact on players of focusing on things they aren’t doing well or where they have developmental needs.

Anders Kristiansson, who currently coaches in Japan, is a coach who influenced other top coaches. He coached teams to 26 combined men’s and women’s championships in his native Sweden, then went on to win 15 titles in Belgium and 3 more in Greece. His teams played in four CEV Champions League Final 4s and twice reached the final. Anders also coached the Swedish national team during its strongest period of international performance. He lead the team to a silver medal at the 1989 European Championships, the nation’s best ever tournament finish.

You can hear further discussion of this concept in Episode 21 of the Podcast. It also features in the Wizard Wisdom book.