Monday, March 14, 2016

Finish up 2016 Strong! Get Ready for next year's club season! Newsletter

Good morning!  This is a special time for junior volleyball.  If you are coaching club, this time of year almost mirrors the month of October for the high school season.  Why?  You are well into your season and everybody has "settled" into a rhythm.  Time to get ready to finish out this season and plan for the next. 

Here are a few thoughts and tidbits for you......
Start Recruiting for next year's team. 
A simple rule for junior sports:  Whoever controls the 9-12 year old talent in your area is going to win a lot of matches in the years to come.  Remember, you are not just recruiting against local club volleyball teams, you are competing against other sports.  Volleyball has a significant advantage over many other sports.  I often tell parents and prospective players that boys and girls that play volleyball are:  Smart, athletic, good looking, great kids from great families.  The reason our sport is so popularity is we attract good kids and great families.  FYI, girls volleyball just passed basketball as the second most popular sport for high school players.  We only have the sport of track and field in front of us. 

So here are some ideas:
*Collect e-mails from every person who is even remotely interested in volleyball. 
* Use these e-mails to start a newsletter about your club or high school. 
*See if you can work out a deal with a local YMCA, community center or grade school to do free clinics in exchange for access to their e-mail list. 
*Develop a positive relationship with the coaches and teachers that are working with the 9-12 year olds.
* Schedule a free clinic for young players and parents.

Finish Strong in 2016!
Last weekend, my club teams finished 5-1 in regional play.  This weekend, my teams went 1-5.  As a coach and club director of a boutique club,  I don't get caught up in wins and losses.  I put my focus on each player getting better every time they step into the gym.  The issue is,  as I mentioned before,  some players get in a groove where they show up, they practice, they go home.  They have lost their initial motivation they had in the first couple of weeks of practice.  This is also the time of year that players quit or transfer.  Some will engage in other sports or activities.  Some players suffer injuries or have to catch up on homework. 

Here are some ideas for finishing strong:
* Mix the teams up.  I have the luxury of training 30 players on two courts.  this allows me to have players of different ages and skill levels (within reason) play and do drills against each other.

* Schedule scrimmage with other teams in your area.  From now until the end of the season, the one thing that will get the players attention is competition against other teams.  Contact the teams in your area and see if they want to scrimmage. 

* Put boys in the mix!!  I have three 14 year old boys training right alongside our 16s and 18s.  They have more than held their own with the girls. The girls appreciate the "change of pace" the boys add to the gym.  Lions and tigers and boys, Oh my!!   

* Play "MoneyBall."  This is one of my favorite games.  Players show up to the gym with $10 each going into the pot.  The coach picks teams leveling out the talent as best as possible.  Play either queen of the court or a regular game.  The team that has the most wins and or points wins the expense money.  If you are a non-profit, you may have to forego this idea. 

The Difficult Player
Full disclosure:  I was not an easy player to coach.  Early in my career, I was a nightmare for coaches.  Why?  Simple:  I was a very talented player.  So, if I was better than everybody else, why do I have to work hard?  Talent rules, right? That was my thinking. I had a change of attitude after being kicked off my high school team, the USA Junior National team and the National Team (okay, so I was a slow learner!)  One of the ways coaches exercise control of the team is by cutting players.  Cutting players is a tough choice.  Do you put up with attitude as long as the player can produce? That is an option many coaches choose.  I often read articles on how to coach the "difficult player."  I empathize with coaches.  You need talent, but in a perfect world the talent has a fantastic work ethic and is a popular with their peers.   I have one guiding principal for practices: Players need to get better each time they come into practice.  Easy to say, hard to do.  Coaches don't get fired for winning and losing in professional sports.  Coaches get into trouble when their teams quit improving.  If you have a player who is keeping the team from have a serious problem.  How do players become a cancer?  They make fun of the coaching staff.  They get into arguments.   The belittle younger or less experienced players.  They "cruise" through practice.  We have all seen these players.  What can you do? 

Here are some suggestions:
*The first step would be for the coaching staff to sit down with the player (and parent?) and appeal to their ego.  See if they have the ability to lead by example and change the way they treat others:  "If you are a great player, we want you to become a great person!" This is exactly what Doug Beal did with me. 
*The second suggestion is to have an assistant coach work with the player in question to see if they can act as a buffer.  In retrospect, I probably did not know what I looked like in practice. 
*Another method is to have the players sign a contract at the beginning of the season so they know the expectations and limits of their behavior.   
*Legendary coach Al Scates had a simple solution for problem players: Send them down to train with the JV or Freshmen team for a couple of days.  (Ouch!)
*A popular idea is to have the player write down their goals for the remainder of the season and how he/she is going to attain their goals. 
* Lastly, see if some of the other  players on the team can talk to the player in question and have them come to an understanding.  Sometimes peers can have a much greater impact on the "challenged player" than a coach. 

Since parents are so involved in youth sports these days (really?) If things get out of hand, you are going to have to sit down with the player, parents, coaches and AD or Club Director.  Nobody wants to be there--especially the player--but they are a necessary tool in the process.  Make sure you document all of your moves.  Make sure you understand the procedure for terminating a player from the club or high school.  Consult with the AD/Club Director to keep them in the loop and ask for suggestions.  If after all of your attempts to seek peace with the player fail....cut them.  The reason these players are called a "cancer" is because their attitude and work ethic compromise the goals of the team.   Personally, I don't cut players.  I give them time to mature (like I did!) and work out their problems.  I have players come up to me and tell me they don't get along with one of the other  players on the team.  If the worst thing that happens to a person is they have to put up with a "problem player" on their volleyball is pretty good.

Technical Tidbit
My teams that struggled this last week were having issues in serve receive (common for this age group!)  By observation, I noticed that roughly 80% of the problem passes were the result of balls landing in front of my players.  So, what I did was to have the players take about 3/4 of a step forward.  I am willing to get aced or lose control of the deep floater, but I need to be able to take care of the short serve first.  Question:  Where are your players having serve receive issues? 

I am putting the final touches on my schedule.  Click here to see if I will be close to you this year. 

Interested in a private camp?  I have been doing more and more private camps for high schools and clubs over the last several years.  Send me an e-mail if you are interested:

Questions?  Answers:

Have a great spring and summer!

Pat Powers