Kessel-mania IV

I’ve been reading and watching a lot of John Kessel’s stuff online, and consequently posting some of his insights up recently. Devo posted up links to this stuff ages ago. In case you don’t know, Kessel is the guy in charge of Grass Roots Development and Disabled Programmes for USA Volleyball. His job is to get as many people as he can playing and enjoying volleyball quickly and easily.

To do this well Kessel has to teach people how to teach volleyball really easily, and show them how they can get complete novices to start enjoying volleyball really quickly. Kessel didn’t invent the ideas of motor learning: “Whole” vs “Part” training; “Random” vs “Blocked” training. But he definitely has been the evangelist in taking the ideas from elite application to the grass roots masses with his succinct “Game Teaches the Game” mantra. If you read Gladwell’s The Tipping Point you’ll know that not everyone can do this effectively.

Anyway, Kessel has had a massive influence that has reached even here in Australia. At some point many years ago, he came down to Australia and did some sort of seminar or work with coaches. I know because I’ve heard at least 3 or 4 coaches (Gen X-ers and Boomers) talk about “Positive and Negative Errors”, “Gamelike drills” etc. His ideas have definitely left a mark here.

There’s one particular anecdote Kessel used that all these coaches remember. The story remains the same, but people often forget who it was about, and who told it to them. However, the detail of it being about someone having to serve under pressure in an Italian League match remains consistent. As the story varies through Chinese Whispers, I thought I’d let another generation of volleyballers enjoy the story from the horse’s mouth:


2 Responses to “Kessel-mania IV”

  1. markleb Says:

    John Kessel is a wonderful ambassador and volleyball evangelist. He has positively influenced thousands of volleyball coaches including, as you say, many in Australia. I was present at one of the courses he gave where he told that story. I remember it clearly to this day, have absorbed the lesson and am always conscious of how I phrase instructions.
    But coaches also have to know that everyone is an individual. Different people hear the same story and react in different ways and here different parts of the message. For example, my reaction was somewhere along the lines of ‘WTF!!! What kind of idiot would deliberately lose a rally to make a point?’ And from that moment, I didn’t listen to another word he said. He could have related enormous wisdom, but I wasn’t listening.
    And I still don’t believe it is a true story.

  2. markleb Says:


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