Archive for August, 2010

Service Reception

August 31, 2010

I used to really suck at teaching Service Reception and wanted to get better at it. I was often lucky to have good service receivers on the teams I coached, but that didn’t mean i taught it well. The idea of being able to teach anyone to receive a serve well really appealed to me.

So at the beginning of last year I decided to change the way I taught service reception. I used a lot of these ideas I had gotten from Simon Phillips (tech officer at VSA). I had been exposed to these ideas from Simon before but was skeptical, until I saw some year 8s pull it off in a game. The ideas aren’t anything new but contradict with how a lot of players and coaches were taught how to pass. Gone is the “staying on the balls of your feet”, “getting low”, “hips and shoulders pointed at target”, “passing with your legs” etc. Hugh McCutcheon had presented these ideas at a symposium in Canberra in 2008 and Simon lent me a DVD copy. Everything you need to know about teaching how to pass that way in succinctly explained and demonstrated on the DVD.

I can say that it works and I have shared these ideas with a few other coaches who have since adopted them. Recently, Mark Lebedew presented a workshop on the same ideas. I wasn’t at the workshop, but according to people who were there, the ideas met with a mixed reaction from the room full of coaches. However, I can say that the idea of “passing through the centre-line of your body or on your left side” has been adopted by at least a few teams.

There are four common criticisms that i regularly get about this type of passing that i’d like to address:

1) This isn’t how I was taught how to pass/this is different. Duh.

2) This isn’t how the best passers pass. A skill model is just a means to teach someone a skill, not how to master it. Elite players will find different ways to master a skill utilising their unique attributes. as far as it being a means to teach a skill, it’s a lot more effective than every other way i’ve tried to teach service reception. 

3) I can see how it might work with adults, but I don’t think you can teach kids how to do it. Well, I’ve coached both primary school aged kids and adults (and everything in between) this year and it’s worked fine on both. This criticism has strangely always come from people who don’t coach both adults and children. If anything, Ive found it easier to teach it to young children than adults, simply because they’re more open-minded.

4) It encourages people to swing at the ball uncontrollably. You need to get them to understand the relationship between the speed of their arms and the resultant movement of the ball. basic newtonian physics.

5) It encourages people to not move their feet and swing flagrantly at the ball laterally and behind them. Therein lies the real reason we don’t understand how to teach service reception as well as we could do. I found this 2-minute excerpt from a John Kessel presentation that sums it up nicely.


Building the Education Revolution

August 30, 2010

The photo above is of the brand-spanking-new gymnasium at Paringa Park Primary School, courtesy of the Rudd Government’s “Building the Education Revolution”. Apparently the BER funding doesn’t allow for gyms that are big enough to fit 3 full size courts, and the Paringa Park gym is no exception. You can fit 1 full-size court or 3 smaller courts with touching boundary lines. It’s essentially the same sized gym that Heathfield High had in all those years they won the AVSC overall trophy, so it’s more than ample to teach junior volleyball in.

Eldo remarked to me sometime last year that the increase in BER-funded gyms presented a great opportunity for volleyball to get a foothold in primary schools, which is exactly what Paringa Park has done. Paringa Park is a stone’s throw away from Brighton Secondary School, and most of the kids will inevitably feed in to Brighton.

I’ve been helping out at their thursday evening and sunday morning trainings for the last 2 weeks (preparation training for State Schools Cup). And it’s good fun. Out of principle, I try avoiding involvement with SIV related teams (no matter how loosely related). They’ll get a decent volleyball experience down the track anyway and I would rather coach kids who otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to play. Retention of SIV players is often low and I have to put what little time I have into the kids that can potentially stay at the clubs I’m working for. I spent 9 years at Henley coaching kids that went on to Brighton then USC Lion and it got a bit tiresome.

Having said that there’s always an exception. The current impetus at Paringa Park started when my friend Ross, the parent of one of the kids at Norwood moved to Brighton and wanted to set up a school team for his youngest daughter to play in. He got a team of paringa park primary kids to play in a junior age team and the support of a motivated PE teacher who is keen to make volleyball a big part of the school. It ticks all the boxes for a good programme – enthusiastic parent whose kid is there for a few more years and will be involved for a while; an enthusiastic teacher; a new gym; an obvious pathway for the kids to go to. Ross asked me to help out with their schools cup preparation and it’s just great seeing him apply all the stuff he’s learned at the club into quality instruction for these beginners. He’s exactly the sort of guy every club wants to get a successful juniors programme going.

I’ve also been preoccupied recently with studying up on how primary school-aged kids can be taught how to play volleyball. It all started when i tried to source where this chart i saw on devo came from:

After googling it, I found that it was a lecture slide from the FIVB’s 2007 symposium on “Volleyball at School” website which is a treasure trove of stuff on how to coach mini-volleyball. And down the rabbit hole i fell.

Thing is, I don’t know a lot of people who teach and run mini-volleyball well, and keep doing it. They’re typically parents who get involved in their children’s extracurricular activities at primary school. There have been maybe 4 I’ve known in Adelaide, but only one of them is still doing it since their kids grew up. But what they do is incredibly important. They give kids their first chance at playing volleyball when as a sport it’s on the most equal footing it can be with the dominant sporting codes.

The symposium materials has experts from all over the world explaining how they run minivolleyball in their respective countries. There’s how you organise it, get people involved, educate the parents, and most importantly, how to teach volleyball well to beginners! It may not be as glamorous as coaching a state team, but something I feel is an essential part of the craft of coaching. Technically, the Paringa Park kids aren’t mini-volleyballers anymore – they’re transitioning to six-a-side indoor. But next year when i’ve finished studying up on it, i’ll definitely get involved in coaching mini-volleyball somewhere. As a volleyballer, it’s as important a job as being a kindergarten teacher.

Apparently, 8 teams including Paringa Park have entered the U14 girls division for State Schools Cup this year, so it should be good. There would be at least 2 teams from the SIV shools and one from WHS, but I have no idea who the rest are. Maybe primary school volleyball is booming in schools that just got a new gym. I look forward to seeing how they go!

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

August 29, 2010

Have you even coached someone who has no idea just how bad they are?

I was researching perceptive errors recently and came across this interesting study by 2 guys at Cornell University. The study found that unskilled people not only lack the skill to do things, but also the metacognitive ability to assess that they are unskilled and form an inflated assessment of their level of ability. In summary:

  • In not being able to assess their own ability, incompetent people will overestimate their own ability relative to objective criteria
  • Incompetent people cannot recognise competency in other people
  • Incompetent people are less able to compare their ability to that of their peers through social comparison.
  • Highly competent people underestimate their ability, because they assume that what they find to be easy, is easy for other people too.
  • Paradoxically, the ability to recognise incompetence can only be improved by teaching people to be more competent.

What does this all mean? Yes, it’s frustrating to coach and deal with incompetent people, but it won’t do any good to point this out to them – they’re too incompetent to agree with you. You just have to gently guide them into improvement. And then, they might be able to appreciate their previous shortcomings with the benefit of hindsight.

Certainly, i had no idea how badly i coached until i was taught to coach better. And I continue to realise how bad i coached recently whenever i learn how to do something better.

Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?

Hubris

August 25, 2010

Tanking isn’t anything new. After some alleged tanking in the Sydney Olympics cross-over matches in the men’s indoor comp, the rules were changed so that 1st played 4th in the opposite pool, while the 2nd and 3rd placed teams had their opponents drawn out of hat… or something like that. Do teams and coaches do things to inhibit their ability to win the immediate contest in order to gain an advantage somewhere down the track? Of course. But it’s not always wise to boast about it after…

According to some people who went to the U16 national carnival a team tanked its last dead rubber match to decide who their opponent would be in the gold medal playoff.

Going into its last round robin game against WA, QLD had won 8/9 matches and guaranteed a spot in the gold medal game. SA and WA were both on the same amount of wins. WA needed to take a set off QLD to break the deadlock and get into the gold medal game. QLD had lost to SA earlier in the week but had beaten WA (I’m guessing WA to have been made up of a lot of the guys who played in the Rossmoyne and Aquinas teams that played off for gold in U15BH at AVSC last year, and hence quite formidable).

Queensland won 3-1 and WA went through to the gold medal game. I wasn’t there so i can’t comment on what happened, but according to someone at the tournament, one of the QLD players posted on his facebook account that they had indeed tanked the set.

WA beat QLD in 5 sets the next day to take gold.

My first rule of coaching

August 18, 2010

A few years ago, my business partner shared a quote with me that changed the way i looked at the world, and became my first rule of coaching.

“People don’t remember what you did for them, they remember how you made them feel”

It came from a book called Love is the Killer App. Variations of this quote have been around for ages, and the concept itself isn’t particularly new. But as someone who was very task oriented (rather than people oriented ), it came as bit of a fresh idea.

No matter how good you are at what you do, if you’re an arsehole about it, that’s what people will remember. I’ve seen a lot of  knowledgeable struggle to get through to their players because of their inability to relate well to them. It was certainly a big weakness of mine.

Why would the substance of what I did matter less than something airy fairy? It’s still not something I fully understand, but you just have to take on face value that the emotive experience forms a big part of human cognition.

That’s not to say it’s okay to be incompetent and just nice about everything (although you can get away with it). It just means that if you want to be effective, you must deliver what you know in an emotionally intelligent way. Which for task focused people is difficult, as we can often be blinded by being right and in control over being pragmatic and effective.

* * *

Anyway, as I’m an avid fan of popular sociologist Malcolm Gladwell, I’ve been reading his second book, Blink, where I found a passage that reminded me of this:

Analyses of malpractice lawsuits show that there are highly skilled doctors who get sued a lot and doctors who make lots of mistakes and never get sued. At the same time, the overwhelming number of people who suffer an injury due to the negligence of a doctor never file a malpractice suit at all. In other words, patients don’t file lawsuits because they’ve been harmed by shoddy medical care. Patients file lawsuits because they’ve been harmed by shoddy medical care and something else happens to them.

What is that something else? It’s how they were treated, on a personal level, by their doctor. What comes up again and again in malpractice cases is that patients say they were rushed or ignored or treated poorly. “People just don’t sue doctors they like,” is how Alice Burkin, a leading medical malpractice lawyer, puts it. “In all the years I’ve been in the business, I’ve never had a potential client walk in and say, ‘I really like this doctor, and I feel terrible about doing it, but I want to sue him.’ We’ve had people come in saying they want to sue some specialist, and we’ll say, ‘We don’t think that doctor was negligent. We think it’s your primary care doctor who was at fault.’ And the client will say, ‘I don’t care what she did. I love her, and I’m not suing her.'”

Burkin once had a client who had a breast tumor that wasn’t spotted until it had metastasized, and she wanted to sue her internist for the delayed diagnosis. In fact, it was her radiologist who was potentially at fault. But the client was adamant. She wanted to sue the internist. “In our first meeting, she told me she hated this doctor because she never took the time to talk to her and she never asked about her other symptoms,” Burkin said. “‘She never looked at me as a whole person,’ the patient told us… When a patient has a bad medical result, the doctor has to take the time to explain what happened, and to answer the patient’s questions – to treat him like a human being. The doctors who don’t are the ones who get sued.” It isn’t necessary, then, to know much about how a surgeon operates in order to know his likelihood of being sued. What you need to understand is the relationship between the doctor and his patients.

I can relate. My 91-year-old grandmother was rushed to hospital a couple of weeks ago when her pacemaker battery died. It was quite an unpleasant experience for the family to watch her as a couple of physicians callously discussed what was wrong and if it was worth putting in a new battery or letting her die (thankfully she’s alright now, but we have relatives stranded here now who thought they were flying over for a funeral). I don’t know if i would have wanted to sue them, but i certainly wasn’t fond of them.

* * *

When relating this idea to volleyball folk, I often tell people about how I coached Chris McHugh when he was a junior volleyballer from between the ages of about 12 to 15. That’s a fairly long time. He doesn’t really remember all the times I coached him or anything I taught him (which is good, because I wasn’t very good at teaching volleyball). He doesn’t remember the drills I ran that i thought were genius, anything i said in timeouts or anything technical at all. But he does remember that I urged him to try out for the state team for the first time and gave him the confidence to have a crack. It was probably the easiest thing I did that required no ability to coach that he remembered over everything else.

So be kind to your players, because it doesn’t matter how much you can help them if you don’t know how to deliver the message!

Secondary School Sport SA cans U16 Volleyball Teams

August 16, 2010

The U16 Championships are underway in Canberra this week. Organised by School Sports Australia and its affiliated state bodies, it’s a favourite tournament of many athletes and coaches. Unfortunately, Secondary School Sport SA (SSSSA) has decided to stop supporting it next year and there will be no SA team from now on.

This is an issue in SA that will spark some polarizing opinion from those who have been supporters of the programme and those who don’t agree with it, so I’ll do my best to be an unbiased as I can be here.

  1. SSSSA needed to drop 2 sports to add Tennis and Swimming to its programme. Volleyball and Orienteering were the 2 sports that were dropped.
  2. This may not be permanent.
  3. The U16 state team has historically been organised by SASSSA and its teachers, without any involvement from Volleyball SA.
  4. At a meeting, Volleyball SA were asked by SSSSA manager Paula Nielsen if they were involved in the programme and if it was part of their development pathway, to which they answered no on both accounts.
  5. Volleyball SA has written a letter to SSSSA in support of the programme
  6. There is the chance to appeal the decision in September
  7. This isn’t good for volleyball.

I won’t indulge in pointing the finger at whose fault this is on our side of the net. By the looks of it SSSSA was looking for 2 sacrificial lambs and we were one of the easy ones to drop (being in the same boat as “orienterring” should tell us something).

Part of that would be the less-than-ideal relationship we have between the U16 programme and the state association. I’ve always been a supporter of the U16 programme. For the most part, this is the age that kids are most enthusiastic about playing volleyball and it’s consistently their favourite tournament. For years when guys like David Eldridge, John Tiver and Sue Dansie were coaching you had level 2 and 3 certified coaches who were the best junior coaches in town teaching kids how to play. It was a chance (albeit a small one) for non SIV kids to get some really good coaching. Players who have played state for years consistently tell me that it’s their favourite tournament.

The teachers are protective of the programme. They’ve built it up to be successful and would argue that they can run it better than the association. They do have a point: the trials (usually) seem more organised with multiple assessors with a standard set of criteria; the accommodation and transport is always good (according to the players. i’ve never been to one of these tournaments); the uniforms come out early and have the right names and numbers on them; they train for 3 hrs a week over 4 months; historically, the coaches had more experience, higher coaching qualifications and better track records. It’s a good experience that i would love a lot of my players to have.

Where the association has a valid objection is that it favours the SIV kids (although it’s worth pointing out that more than 50% of our U17, U19 & U21 teams came from Brighton and over 2/3 came from both SIV schools. They simply have a lot of the best players). This year’s trials were abysmal in this regard. As kids were required to wear their school PE top, the overwhelming SIV presence made it intimidating for kids from other schools.

Kids from different schools do not have an equal opportunity to make the team – at that age where kids aren’t training with the seniors at their clubs or making good progress at SASI, it favours the prodigiously talented, kids born in the first 4 months of the year, and kids who get to practice 3+ times a week. The U16s will also pick some kids who mature early but don’t have much more potential, over some kids who are far from maturing but have a lot of physical potential (ie tall athletes). The rosters of an U16 team and the U17 team that gets picked the year after can be very different. having completely different assessors with different (but valid) agendas doesn’t help with the continuity.

Personally, i like having an U16s and U17s that are run a bit differently. If it was all based on athletic potential a lot of terrific kids would miss out on the chance to represent their state at a stage of their lives where they are at the top of their game (some would argue that we shouldn’t waste this opportunity on those kinds of athletes and its a rational argument). If it was all based on the best players that trial on the day, we would limit our ability to develop as many elite athletes as we can.

Some sort of appeal will come about to bring volleyball back to SSSSA. VSA probably didn’t understand the full extent of the ramifications when they were asked about their involvement in the programme. Although volleyball folks might not agree on how U16s should be run they can all agree that it’s better that we have it in some shape or form than not at all. We’ll need to get them all on board and singing from the same hymn book if we want to get a win here, and that might require a bit of give and take. Otherwise, we’ll continue to be taken as seriously as “orienteering” and not the mass global participation sport we truly are.

I don’t want to be one of the easy targets next time a sporting programme gets cut.

If you have any thoughts on this, please leave your comments on the abridged OzVolley post on this.

Golden Oldies – FIVB Coaching Resources

August 10, 2010

The FIVB website is far from perfect: its current landing page is a portal with a visual interface inconsistent with the rest of its pages; the “store” link has always been a dead link (of course it’s a stupid idea for the FIVB to sell volleyball fans merchandise, books, DVDs, and stuff that will allow fans to materially create a sense of identification with their favourite sport).

But there are some GOLDEN coaching resources online. If you can find them. They’re badly parked in a section of the website, you can get to via “Development > FIVB Volleyball Cooperation Programme (VCP)”. I’m no nomenclature expert, but i would have thought “coaching resources” might have been a more apt name.

Anyway, i thought i’d share some of the useful/amusing things i have found there:

1) Technical Posters

http://www.fivb.org/EN/Programmes/educational/moves.asp

Featuring the 1984 & 1988 USA men (Karch, Buck, Timmons etc). So vintage they’re a hoot. I seriously recommend enlarging the example pic below to see the action photos. The images are pretty big – big enough to print as posters.

2) Coaches Manual I

http://www.fivb.org/EN/Programmes/didactic/coaches_manual_i/

I’m guessing this is the content for the Level 1 coaching certificate. A level 1 volleyball course here is Australia takes a weekend to complete. Level 2, 4 days. An AFL level 1 takes 3 hours on an evening after business hours. Including supper. According to the FIVB site, their level 1 course takes 12 days! The manual is old – circa 1990. You can download the chapters as PDFs, but bear in mind since it’s so old, the PDFs are just scans and there’s no OCR.

Contributors to the book include Bill Neville (assistant to the USA men at the 84 and 88 olympics), Yuan Weimin (coach of Gold medal 84 Chinese Women’s team) and Hiroshi Toyoda (inventor of mini volleyball). Although the book predates rally-point scoring, the libero etc, there are still some profound insights:

…Statistics show that the ball in spiking flies at a speed of l8m/sec for a women’s team and 33m/sec for a men’s. Since they play on a court of the same size, there are more defensable shots in a women’ s game.

According to statistics of Chinese teams, a woman player’s raised hands reach an average of 5.77cm above the net, while a man’s can only reach 2.97cm above the net, which is 19 cm higher than that in women’ s volleyball. As a result of this difference of 2.80 cm in the reach above the net, the contention in service and service reception is more intense in a women’s game than in a men’s, and much time should be given to the training of related skills…

Service is done by a single player, without any obstruction by the opposite side. A good serve may win a point. Service has thus become increasingly aggressive. The women’s game stands more chances for service winners because of the player’s higher reach over the net. Every player should learn a few serving methods and know how to use them in different situations as a scoring means and a tactical weapon.

With more defensable attacks, a women’ s game usually has longer rallies than a men’s and more chances of launching counter-attacks. Blocking is the first line of defense. But the rate of effective blocking is only 20% even in highlevel matches…

As a matter of fact, the female backline players on topnotch teams are capable of receiving 60% of the unblocked attacks, as against 40% for the opposite sex. Consequently, the importance of defense training for female volleyballers can never be overestimated.

(Yuan Weimin, FIVB Level 1 Coaching Manual, Chapter 5: Characteristics in training women volleyball players)

Anyway, worth checking out

3) Volleyball at School

http://www.fivb.org/EN/Programmes/SchoolVolleyball/presentedMaterial.asp

I’m not taking the piss out of this. They’re not even that old. These are the presented materials of the FIVB International Volleyball at School Symposium. Basically a symposium on how different federations deliver mini-volleyball. presentations come from different federations all over the world and include speakers like John Kessel and Hiroshi Toyoda. AVF Sport Development Manager Tim Shannahan attended the event and you can find his report here. But you can get all the powerpoint presentations and videos above.

One particular video of interest was Newton Santos Vianna Junior (BRA), who demonstrated a sample session of mini-volleyball. Quite often we’re used to teaching players who have reached an age (high-school) with  developed motor skills, but this stuff is really useful for kids under 10 who haven’t developed motor skills and coordination yet. I’m curious to try it out and it has made me want to try coaching mini-volleyball at some point. We’re getting increasing amounts of people getting involved in teaching mini-volleyball in holiday clinics and after-school programmes. I speak to some of them that aren’t sure what to do, since they are so different a group to work with than the high-school aged players they work with (and in earnest, a lot f players never started playing volleyball this young). These resources are perfect to that end.

The Basketball Gods

August 9, 2010

Further to the concept of “Deserving to Win“, i thought this excerpt from Phil Jackson’s book, The Last Season: A Team in Search of its soul explored a similar theme. The book was a series of journal entries Jackson kept during the 2003-2004 NBA season with the LA Lakers. The season was Jackson’s last of his first stint with the Lakers after they had won the first three-peat. It would also be Shaquille O’Neal’s last season with the team and the year Kobe Bryant was embroiled in a sexual assault court case.

After some disappointing losses, Jackson recounts an open team meeting he had with the team and coaches, and the words of one of his assistants:

But it was Frank who really seized everyone’s attention. “You all know what to do as players, ” he said. “Yet you punked out last night. We made a pact in training camp not to take shortcuts, to pay attention to the basketball gods. Shaq, it isn’t right that you missed practice, and Kobe, it isn’t right that you were late today. We just need to quit feeling sorry for ourselves, and go out and play ball. You know what’s really pathetic? Jannero Pargo was released [cut from the team] yesterday. He came to play every day and he paid his dues to the basketball gods.” By the “basketball gods,” Frank was referring to the game’s irrefutable principles: Hit the open man. Help each other out on defense. Box your man out. Play inside the system. Don’t break off plays. Don’t force the action if you’re being doubled. Etc. etc. Unfortunately the players I’ve coached in Los Angeles have never adhered to those principles the way the players did in Chicago.

Deserving to win

August 8, 2010

Mark Lebedew wrote a post on his blog earlier this year about the concept of deserving to win from Brazillian supercoach Bernardinho’s book. That is, you can’t work towards winning, as results can sometimes be beyond your control. But you can work towards being worthy of winning. If you have put in the right kind of work, the right amount of work, have overcome setbacks, and have a better attitude, when a critical moment comes, you are entitled to have more belief than your opponent and prevail.

It was an idea that affected me a lot. The concept, as a colleague told me, wasn’t anything new, but i had never heard it put so succinctly. Having thought a lot about it recently, my take on it is likely to be very different from mark’s or bernardinho’s though. Sure, it’s useful to be in a situation when you’re 14-15 down in the 5th set of a big game and be able to say “well guys, we’ve worked hard and overcome more adversity to deserve to win more than the other team”, but i’m probably not going to be in that situation often. What was really interesting to me was the tangent that volleyball could be about more that just winning or losing.

As an amateur coach, I’ve developed an ambivalence towards winning and losing. After all,  i don’t get paid more if my teams win, and i don’t risk to lose my livelihood if my teams lose. Given the lack of incentives, I have to make it more than about winning or losing to make coaching interesting.

For me, volleyball is a spiritual exploration. Working towards deserving to win, is more interesting than winning itself. Experiencing that with a group of players whether they are a senior league team or a team of 12-year-old beginners is equally rewarding. Not every team will become champions. Not every individual will make the national team, the state team, their club’s league team, or even their school’s honours team – but the explorations of all their potentials is equally valid, and equally compelling.

As Huineng, the famed 6th patriarch of zen buddhism wrote in his sutra about how he came to the monastery as a “barbarian”:

I then went to pay homage to the Patriarch, and was asked where I came from and what I expected to get from him. I replied, “I am a commoner from Hsin Chou of Kwangtung. I have travelled far to pay you respect and I ask for nothing but Buddhahood.” “You are a native of Kwangtung, a barbarian? How can you expect to be a Buddha?” asked the Patriarch. I replied, “Although there are northern men and southern men, north and south make no difference to their Buddha-nature. A barbarian is different from Your Holiness physically, but there is no difference in our Buddha-nature.”

Conversely, you can win without having done the things to “deserve it”. And in these instances you really learn nothing and it’s all a bit hollow. Where losing really hurts is in that moment where you really wanted to win, but you realised that you didn’t deserve to. I saw it in a lot of the kids who played AVSC in Melbourne. Who didn’t put in the work and lucked their way past the first few games and fell over later in the week. There’s this moment that they know. Some realise that they have to change the way they go about things. For others it’s too fleeting and they go back to setting themselves up for the same pattern of disappointment.

Since reading the post, the incessant dialogue in my head has become “what must I do to be worthy of winning?” I answer back in my head with things like: “if i look at things as they are and without interference of my personal biases, then i will be worthy”… “If i accept my players for who they are in any given moment and not who i would prefer them to be, then i am worthy”… “if i take statistics….”, “if i’m open minded about ideas…”, “if i coach volleyball for myself but not make it about myself…” etc. It’s a puzzle everyday that isn’t clear, but the point is you try.

The greatest pleasure in amateur coaching is to work with a group of people (players, administrators etc) who make it all about being worthy of winning, rather than just winning in itself. To work towards perfecting an idealised form of volleyball that is greater than any individual in that group. It’s an abstraction, but a lot like the enjoyment of being part of a band and creating a sound.

I have teams and individuals I work with at the moment that are interested in learning about being worthy of winning. But i have a few that I’ve realised aren’t worthy, and more importantly, aren’t interested in working towards it. There was a time when they were. When there was the common ground of believing in an abstraction that unified them more than the differences that drove them apart. It was an attarctive thing to be a part of. But not so anymore, and it’s apparent it’s no longer “about the music” we create. and when you can’t inspire them to find some common ground anymore – when they no longer want to find some common ground, it’s time to move on.

It’d be limiting to say that the reasons i like to be involved in volleyball is the only valid one. maybe it’s perfectly valid to make it just about winning, or about doing something active (another post) etc. But so long as there are people interested in volleyball as a means to explore their potential, then that’s where i’ll be.

Guilty Pleasure – Volleywood

August 1, 2010

There are plenty english language sites that look at volleyball from a very academic point of view, but few that are from the point of just being a fan. One that i found on a twitter feed is “Volleywood”:

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000144631599#!/pages/San-Francisco-CA/VOLLEYWOOD/83953735664?v=info&__a=137&ajaxpipe=1

http://volleywood.tumblr.com/ (the “adult” version)

It has a unique voice, a unique take on volleyball, and it’s bloody hilarious. It’s a fansite dedicated to international and professional volleyball as if written by Perez Hilton and the guy that writes icanhascheezburger.com. Browsing it is like that guilty pleasure you get reading trashy magazines at the Dentist.

There’s pictures, results from international games and european leagues, and some bizarre commentary. It asks the tough questions, like which players are “Hot or Not”. But there’s also some occasional educated observation into the matches. I can’t tell if it’s ironic comedy genius or if it’s genuinely vapid.

Two things are for certain: Someone out there really likes volleyball and bothers to put results and pictures up from international and club games; and they’re pretty funny about it. I have no idea how they dig this stuff up.