Coaching and developing young athletes

By Glenn Hoag – Men’s National Team Coach

What to focus on? Grade 7 & 8

Coaching is “the art of making someone better”. When engaging in teaching and managing young athletes you become a “problem solver”. This should be understood at the start, the experience will be challenging but also very fulfilling.

At any initiation stage, the coach needs to assess the young athlete: sex, age, physical literacy (sport history), etc. The coach will obviously start teaching the game of volleyball way before the whole profile of his young athlete is done. Creating a profile of your player helps you set development objectives and teaching methodology. So basically the “WHAT” & the “HOW”.

The “WHEN” and the “VOLUME” will be depending on the context you will be working in, 1,2,3 practices a week, etc.

Volleyball is a complex sport technically. The coach has to be a strong motivator for young athletes to stay focused and dedicated to learning.

Just remember that failure is part of learning.

Here are some key points to remember:

  • Don’t coach to win, coach to develop
    • Winning is important for you and the kids, but if you put your emphasis only on winning you will likely miss some steps in development
    • Focus on performance. Performance is an indication of progression. It will often lead to winning but an athlete can perform even when losing. Performance can be measure by an improvement in passing, in hitting efficiency, in serving efficiency, etc. Overall improvement in performance will lead to great plays.
  • Structure your practice so kids get a maximum of contacts on the ball
    • Organize the structure of practice in smaller groups to maximize the time you have.
    • You can do physical work at the end of practice (do the learning part first). At this age core stability, balance and agility should be worked.
  • Information gathering and decision making
    • Everything in volleyball is about gathering information. Some basic and some complex.
    • For example: reading a server means, you need to assess ball location, type of serve, direction of serve, speed of serve and trajectory. After this evaluation the passer must “decide” when to move, where to move, how to intercept the ball and where to redirect it. This is simple info gathering and decision making.
  • Be creative
    • Even if you want to work for a certain time on a specific skill, bring variety to your drills. Team building are also a fun way to get kids to learn about what being a teammate means.
    • Try to use situation that are “gamelike” even with simple skills such has setting and passing…try to always use the net as a reference. For example pass toward the net and not along the net because that is what will be required from the player when he will be in a game.
  • Motivate
    • Volleyball as a sport can be tough to learn so motivation can become a problem has kids learn more simple or complex things. Don’t be short on motivation.

With profound simplicity, Coach John Wooden redefines success and urges us all to pursue the best in ourselves. In this inspiring talk he shares the advice he gave his players at UCLA, quotes poetry and remembers his father’s wisdom.

The Difference Between Success and Winning

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2 Responses to Coaching and developing young athletes

  1. Bruce Dunning says:

    Thanks for taking time from your already busy schedule to share your thoughts and fantatstic advice on working with this age group. I’ve coached at many different levels and find that coaching this cohort to be one of the most challenging and rewarding for many of the reasons you outline in your blog.

  2. Chris Smeaton says:

    It would be great to hear of ways coaches can measure performance.

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