Archive for August, 2012

Not putting limits on players

August 24, 2012

I hate “Cats” the musical, but that’s not the point. The picture is from an  article i read recently about a New Zealand (private) high school that put on a $85,000 production of Cats. It sounds over-the-top and I laughed initially. Until I realised it was the kind of thing my friends and I did for years as animation filmmakers. As students, we never tried to make a film that would be a good “student film”, or later on, a good film for whatever limited budget it was on. We had a vision for what world class animation looked like and that’s what we always aimed for (even our retail commercials were excessively cinematic). Sometimes it nearly killed us (later on we found ways to do world class things on limited budgets AND put food on the table). Many of our peers didn’t think like this and would make pretty mediocre stuff. But we never put limits on ourselves.

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One of the best compliments you can get as a coach (particularly if you coach developing players) is being described as someone who “doesn’t put limits on players”. Although it was a concept I sort of understood, I didn’t fully appreciate what it meant until I went to a coaching course recently.

As the instructor put it succinctly, there’s an ultimate destination for where the game needs to go. At every level of development, the skills taught need to be a logical progression to that end goal. For example, at the highest level of volleyball, people serve with an overarm action. underarm serving the ball with a closed fist is not the most logical progression to get there, even if it helps you win games at a low level.

Where it’s challenging is that at an early level, coaches can feel that unless their teams win, they cannot foster an enjoyment of the game. Short term pressures at the expense of long term development. These short term priorities can lead to some truly limiting tactics (some of which I’ve been guilty of using) – “Just serve the ball IN”, “just set/dig the ball in”, “put the ball straight back over”.

There’s always got to be a way to both satisfy the short term needs of the game and teach the skills in a way that logically progresses to the highest level.

Recently I tried getting a group of 12-14 year old beginners to jump set every ball in training sessions. They played 6-6 and when it was the next person’s turn to set, they had to jump set the ball. Surprisingly, they were able to do it much better than I though they could. At least it was no worse than how they set without jumping. Perhaps it wasn’t so surprising. They didn’t know it was supposed to be hard. No coach had had the opportunity to place an illusory limitation in their head that this was hard, or that a shortcut would give them short term results they would be reluctant to grow out of.

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The students of Auckland’s Kristin School were given a wonderful opportunity to put on a stage show at the highest level they could. Their drama teacher didn’t put limits on them by telling them what a high school production was supposed to be like. It cost a lot of money, but they recouped the cost by selling 3,000 tickets. They paid 16% in royalties and doubtlessly learned hundreds of other aspects of running a professional theatre show. They set the bar high and it would have been a high quality experience they cherished and helped them grow as individuals. What’s not to like about that?