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 ...
In this excerpt from his Volleyball Coaching Wizards interview, Simon Loftus talks about the value of respecting the opposition and having objectives for matches against weaker opposition other than simply winning.
Simon became the first coach of a Scottish national volleyball team to win a championship when he led the Scotland men to the 2012 Novatel Cup title. As coach of the men’s and women’s program at Leeds Met University in England, his teams won 6 U.K. university (BUCS) championships and 5 Volleyball England Student Cups. He has also coached professionally in Sweden and has NCAA coaching experience.
In this excerpt from his Volleyball Coaching Wizards interview, Paulo Cunha discusses what he sees as the biggest problem in coaching education.
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.
Stelio DeRocco talks in this excerpt from his Volleyball Coaching Wizards project about how important it is for the coach as leader to be consistent in their demeanor, attitude, effort, and character.
Stelio was the Australian National Team coach during the 2000 Olympic cycle. He later lead the Canadian National team to a NORCECA championship and coached in a World Cup. As a professional coach, he won 2 Euro Cups with Montichiari (Italy) and 2 leagues and 3 cups with Constanta (Romania).
In this excerpt from his Volleyball Coaching WIzards interview, Vital Heynen talks about how a coach can go about managing a team where the players are of different nationalities and/or are of a different nationality than themselves. His discussion of language use may be of particular interest.
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.
This is an excerpt from Mark’s interview in which he talks about how his coaching philosophy has changed over the years. He discusses how he went from requiring his players to operate in a certain way rather than allowing them the freedom to find solutions for themselves.
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.