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Ten Suggestions for Coaches

1. Limit the amount of talking you do in a practice with the use of keywords. If it takes more than two minutes to explain a drill or behavior you are entertaining yourself and confusing your players.

2. Leave sarcasm at the gym door. Sarcasm is easy and fun with peers but it erodes trust when used by an authority figure with the people you are attempting to teach or lead. Even when the person with less power laughs she can feel diminished by the most important person in her development.

3. Every time we ask a player to make an adjustment we are entering a contract with them that says: If you are willing to be uncomfortable and take this risk as a player, then I am going to limit my feedback to you on this one behavior. It’s not productive to ask a player to lengthen their first step on her approach and then observe that she attacked the ball to the wrong zone.

4. Before you get frustrated with a player not closing the block ask yourself the following:
• Have I trained her on how to process and sequence the decisions she has to make as the ball approaches the setter?
• Have I trained her in the most efficient footwork patterns?
• Have I trained her in how to seal the block?
• Have I trained her to pull from her shoulders?
• Have I trained her in how to land on both feet?
• Have we worked on this movement every day?
These same questions can be asked about every behavior we see on the court. When we evaluate our players we are evaluating our preparation and teaching.

5. Encourage communication with every contact of the ball. Whether or not a player calls for the ball is as important as whether or not she can make a fundamentally sound play. Communication has to be trained.

6. Energy is the hardest thing for a coach to bring to practice every day. It is also the most important. Consistent enthusiasm for the game and the opportunity to work with players models the engagement we want from our team members.

7. We have to train decisions as well as fundamentals. If two teams are equal in talent and fundamentals, the winner is the team that makes the best decisions. Telling players what to do is not enough. They have to be put into situational training where they can make better decisions under game-like conditions.

8. Getting the right people on the court in the right position may be the most important factor in a team’s success. When we bring bias about what a player can do and can’t do before the season begins, this becomes a more difficult task. Be open to what you see not to what you thought you would see.

9. We may have to teach some of our players how to compete. Compete means keeping score. Compete means setting goals in drills so that the players have accountability for how long a drill lasts.

10. Consider keeping a coaching journal where you write down observations about your players, the feedback you give them, how each individual learns, and what type of communication is most effective. Periodically reviewing the journal can help us from continually rediscovering what we already knew (but forgot) about a player or team’s development.

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