Monday, November 18, 2013

Committed To The Conversation

These days it seems far too many administrators and coaches at the high school and club volleyball level are intent on discussing parent and player behavior without the knowledge of either of those parties. They are willing to say things behind closed doors and between themselves that they will never say or openly admit to saying to parents and/or their daughter/athlete. This is not only common to social media like facebook and twitter (where people openly write things they would never allow themselves to say to another person directly); but common to much of our communication as a whole. One club director from my area commonly confronts issues with a player's development by saying, "Well she is not getting playing time so they will just throw some money at it." Meaning that if they want to address the issue they will pay for extra coaching, training, and support or it is their problem. That is not the way I look at it nor is it the way that any real professional in any field looks at it.

1: If you are responsible for the development of an athlete then you have to provide the coaching and the dialogue that supports that development. To discipline yourself as a coach I personally believe that you have to assume that you have no other support or resources outside of the time and energy you spend with each athlete (excluding time needed to address dysfunction related to pain). You obviously have to account for outside work they are doing when developing their training program but I have never counted on any work that I cannot personally observe as something that I know will aid in their development. One of my most significant mentor's Michael Boyle says, "If the athletes you coach cannot perform either you cannot coach, or you will not coach, and either one of those is a problem."
2: You can never make decisions about someone else's behavior without their knowledge and insight. This is an assumption and a mistake. Instead openly share your thoughts and concerns with them and even though the response you get will not always be positive you will take a big step forward in better understanding what kind of barriers you face in helping teach someone to do their best.
3: Because a parent and/or player is not necessarily doing their job doesn't mean you don't have a responsibility to do yours. I tell parents and players often that I am committed to making the correction, and to having the conversation, so I am NEVER GOING TO STOP. If they are not attentive to their task and its performance then we address it as necessary but I never check out as a coach because they seemingly don't care or are disinterested in the work. In using this approach for years now I can honestly say that I have only ever had one kid outright reject my feedback in the beginning (she rolled her eyes at me and shut down further after we addressed it). But even she slowly grew to trust me and eventually worked harder and became a more responsible athlete in her training and development.

I tell people that with coaches, parents, kids I coach, and with my own kids I am "committed to the conversation" required to help them achieve their best. If there is an issue I will be honest and discuss it as openly as I possibly can. This is not always an easy thing to do. But the alternative of me accepting the fact that there is a problem in the dynamic of my relationship with someone and I do not have the courage to address it is, for me, simply unacceptable at this stage in my life. I AM NEVER GOING TO STOP! 

If others within high school and club volleyball would openly admit to some of the problems that we have involving coaching expectations/behavior, helicopter parenting, inappropriate communication, and other issues common not only to volleyball but to our culture in the United States across the board I believe we could take significant steps toward improving the expectations everyone would have about their participation in high school and club volleyball. Instead the dynamic tends to be more tit-for-tat and transactional; thereby reducing the opportunity for great coaching to be transformational for all those involved (for more on transactional coaching versus transformational coaching I encourage people to read "InsideOut Coaching" by Joe Ehrmann).

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