“Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating. Youngsters need good models more than they need critics.” – John Wooden
“Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.” – John Wooden
When looking to hire assistant coaches, it is important that I surround myself with a staff that will elevate our program and our team, as well as myself. Every coach, whether head coach or an assistant coach, has strengths and weaknesses. No one is perfect, but the job of a head coach is to assemble a coaching staff that collectively has no major weaknesses. When looking for coaches, I will look to hire coaches with some of the following characteristics.
- The coaches need to love volleyball and have a passion for the game the rivals my own. It is important that we all remain students of the game and continuously have a thirst for knowledge. We may be college coaches, but we all have something to learn. It is important to not have an ego that will prevent us from seeking help and learning from others.
- The coaches need to have the same/similar philosophies as me as a coach, but need a different background. As coaches, it is important to be on the same page and believe in what you are preaching; therefore, it is important that my coaching staff share similar philosophies as myself. However, we all need different backgrounds. One philosophy can be achieved in many different ways. It is important I surround myself with people that will be different perspectives to different issues.
- The coaches need to not be afraid to speak their mind. As coaches, it is important that we have the ability and the courage to speak our minds. I will work with coaches that will speak their mind and give their opinions on situations. This way, we will provide new perspectives and ideas that could help progress our program and team.
- The coaches need to be able to relate to the team. They need to have the ability to inspire, motivate, listen, and enhance the people around them. This will allow our coaching staff to have an impact on each other, our team, our program, our alumni, our University, the outside community, etc..
- Finally, they must live up to all standards of the program, as well as the University. It is important for us as coaches to understand that we are role models and mentors for many people; therefore we must live our lives to the highest of standards and integrity. We represent ourselves, our teammates our program, our department, and our University, so we must live up to that opportunity.
“Championships are won when no one is looking.” – Unknown
- Practices must be more difficult than any situation they will encounter in a game. Our players will train in a demanding environment: an environment that replicates the game, but more rigorous. They must feel the pressures of winning time and time again, so in a game, they will not succumb to the pressure.
- Mini goals will be set every week, as well as every day. These mini goals are small parts of the game that will aid us in achieving our larger, overarching goals. As coaches, we must constantly be asking ourselves, “What can we do to get better this week?” and then our staff must prioritize those goals and plan practice with the purpose of “What can we do today to achieve this weeks mini goal?”
- The practice environment must be a highly competitive environment. It is hard for coaches to expect their players to be highly competitive and successful during matches, if they do no train to be highly competitive during practices. It is important to force a team to problem solve while in a competitive environment. Everything that is done in practice will be done within a competitive environment.
- Practice times must be thought out and planned out thoroughly. As coaches, we must plan practice sessions so there is no wasted time. Student-Athletes lives are very demanding and require rigorous schedules; it is important as coaches, we do not waste their time.
- Practice lengths are not set in stone. There is no need for practices to always be between 2-3 hours long. It is important to keep your players as long as needed, but not a minute longer. Practices need to be high intensity, but do not need to be overly long. Typically, as season progresses: the team is highly conditioned, highly organized, and highly structured, practice becomes about preparing for the next opponent and fine tuning our skills; therefore, practice can become shorter.
- It is always important to end on a positive note. Success in athletics is typically derived from an athlete or team’s self-confidence. It is important for a team to always leave practice with their self-confidence and positivity intact.
As coaches, we must do everything we can to prepare our team to win. We cannot do this during a game; therefore it must be done during practice. We must put our players in tough situations and demand perfection. They need to know that they have trained harder, endured more hardship, overcome more adversity, and did so as a team, so they know deep down that they deserve to win. Games are the player’s time, while practice our time. We need to do everything in our power during practice to know our players will do everything in their power during games.
“The whole thing about building a team, you cannot skip steps. You want to skip steps, but you can’t.” – John Calipari
After deciding to put a great deal of emphasis on culture and developing our team off the court, we knew there would be some pushback and some old cultural issues that needed to be addressed head on, as with any change. As a coaching staff, we knew what was needed to reach the next level, but it is meaningless unless our entire team and programs understand as well. We understood that receiving the initial buy-in for the new culture program could be the most challenging part of the entire idea. We had to find a way to get our team to completely open-up and engage in the program. We needed them to put their entire self into the culture development so our team can truly benefits from the experience. We had to remain patient and think long-term.
To start, we tried to come up with activities, team bonding, discussions, etc. that would allow our players the opportunity to lighten up, open up, and connect in new ways. The first few months were rough. The coaches were having a tough time seeing any results from the process until our team had to face adversity. A team issue arose and had to be solved as a team. During our season, we had two bad losses in a row one weekend. The coaches knew this was not typical and something was not right. We decided it was necessary to dive into the situation and sort it out before it affected the entire season. We got the team to hash out the issue. I won’t go into details, but with the way the team handled the issue, you could tell our meetings were working. The coaching staff did not have to intervene at all. The team was able to call each other out and hold each other accountable. They listened to each other, they spoke their opinions and solved the problem internally. Don’t get me wrong, there were fights and tears, but we solved our issues and moved on. The team showed they were strong enough as a group to not let an issue prevent a successful season. Finally, at the end of the meeting, our team came to unanimous decision: we will always handle our problems in house. We do not air out our laundry outside of the family.
In season, the meetings were easy: it was very clear what we needed to say in our meetings. We spoke about building upon our foundations and taking the steps necessary toward achieving our goals. It was a huge success. The spring was much different and did not have a clear path. At first, the coaches ran some meetings and designed them to have underlying meanings, but we quickly realized they were very fake and unproductive. We didn’t want to force the team to speak nor did we want to have the coaches speak. We get enough of that; we wanted this to be the team’s time, not our coaching staff. This gave us the idea to have the team run the meeting. They developed a schedule that gave them groups of 2-3 that were in charge of the meeting. These groups were responsible for the meeting and it’s topic. In theory, this was great, but it did not allow us to progress. There was no building upon each other; it ended up being completely separate meetings instead of one program. So another season came and gone, and again, we found ourselves in the spring and the need to progress. This season, we took a new approach and tried something we have not tried in the past. We decided to create a Venn Diagram of the qualities that represent a Beacon Volleyball Player. We had three topics: Athletically, Academically, and Socially. We had each meeting build on each other and finally we developed a final project. Even though I do not consider this idea to be a huge success in itself, it opened up the concept for the coaching staff and brought the team back on board. We now had our spring concept: every spring, we will set up semester long projects to allow our work with each other to build upon our foundations. This past spring, we have been creating a set of standards that we will represent as Beacon Volleyball Players. There has been a series of negotiations and drafts that have all built upon each other towards the final project. So far, it has been a huge success.