Coaches Corner: Getting Started

Coaches Corner: Getting Started

So I just finished my first week in coaching my U12 boys private school team and it has been quite the experience so far.



Day 1


To be quite honest I was rather nervous since I have never coached boys in my life, even though they are just learning how to play the game. I wasn’t sure how they reception to me would be, or how willing they would be to play the game. I arrived nice and early to the gym so I would have some time to set up the nets and make sure I was prepared.


10 minutes. 20 minutes. 30 minutes.

Fire alarm.


I sat around for 30 minutes and not a single athlete showed up. Then after just meeting my assistant coach I found myself in a school fire drill like I used to do many, many years ago. What are those.


Turns out it was a false alarm, but after heading back to the gym with no athletes showing up we decided to call it quits and go back to the drawing board. Cue the email blasts to parents, home room meetings to really push for kids to come out for the team. Come on who doesn’t like volleyball???


I guess soccer season and cross country are going on at the same time as volleyball, so by default our lovely sport gets dropped to the bottom of most people’s priority list.


Day 2


The gym is filled with 8 very tiny people with more energy than my vent double espresso on ice could have given me. Running around, jumping, yelling, but instead of playing with volleyballs they were playing basketball or soccer. I don’t have a whistle, and I’m battling a head cold, so good luck with gaining their attention. 


Not off to the best start.


So, we sit on our bums and we introduce ourselves (learning names is the hardest things), and talk a little about volleyball, triple ball, and what the expectations are for the volleyball team. At this point eyes are zoning out, the kids are talking amongst themselves and getting restless. Attention spans lasting less than a minute makes for a really big challenge.


Did I mention at this point our team is co-ed? 

4 boys and 4 girls.


Enough with the boring stuff, we need to get moving. I start explaining the first things we are going to do and before I can finish my first sentence everyone has a ball in their hands bouncing, playing and doing everything but listening. 


Speak louder. Nothing.


Count to ten. Nothing.


I could really use a whistle.


So I have to dive back into my memory bank of teaching lessons during my last two years of University for how to make things fun and challenging for kids, and how to get them under control and I remember the magic words for gaining and keeping attention.


Short explanations with room for them to explore the skill, followed by this simple phrase, 

“When I say go”


Who knew that would be all it took to get their attention. Can’t say my first week went exactly according to plan, or how I imagined it to play out, but it’s been more fun this way.



SO, what have I learned about what it means to get started in being a coach? I'll start with a few big key things that I learned right off the bat.



I wouldn't say I'm the most organized person by default, but I also wouldn't say that I'm a complete slob when it comes to that. I like to think my skill in that area lies somewhere in the middle, but thank god that I am working with an incredible school, and an amazing assistant coach who are extremely organized so that I can focus solely on my responsibility of coaching.

Paperwork, attendance, trying to manage schedules, all things that I really didn't think of before this week. Planning practices for skills, developing a theme for the week, lots of little mundane things that involve some form of organization. Seriously, thank goodness my job is easy stepping into a school program with a teacher's assistant to help with the small details.




Sure I played for some incredible coaches in University, yes I played professional and for the national team for many years. Almost none of that will apply to actually teaching kids how to play the game. Volleyball skills don't apply to the planning of practices. What about intrinsic and extrinsic feedback? Do I want to win or am I focused on player development? All these things are taken into account so much differently as a coach than as an athlete.


At this point, here is what I know about volleyball; three contacts to get the ball on the other side of the net, and always keep it off the floor on our side. After that I'm the first year rookie all over again learning the ropes of the do's and don'ts in helping ATHLETES, and not myself reach their full potential. Coaching others is hard, coaching beginners will be my biggest challenge!


Well, that's it for now, but I'll do my best to keep you informed on how the experience goes for me in coaching my first team over the next month. We have our first game coming up on Saturday with two practices to learn how to do serve receive, and positioning on the court. Wish me luck!


-What about you?
-What ages do you coach?
-What were your first lessons learned?