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USA Volleyball

National Conversations on Good Coaching

March 09, 2009, 11:03 a.m. (ET)

Almost a year ago, Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA ), a Stanford University-based non-profit organization dedicated to transforming youth sports and USAV Affiliated Organization,  joined with USA Volleyball and seven other of the nation's top youth sports groups - serving five million athletes at the high school level and younger, in a new initiative called the "National Conversation on Good Coaching."  The others seeking parents and coaches to discuss these case studies included the American Youth Soccer Organization ; Institute for International Sport; Little League International; Michigan State University Institute for the Study of Youth Sports; Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc.; USA Water Polo;  and US Lacrosse.

Since then, three other organizations joined up, including the USAV Affiliated Organization our CAP program with the AVCA will be bringing out an online coaching course with, the National Federation of State High School Associations, plus the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine and National Association for Sport and Physical Education. It is with NASPE that my next month's four hour session on youth volleyball as a lifetime sport for PE teachers to better instruct and program, will be taught. This is taking place at the National AAHPERD Convention in Tampa, Florida so hope to see some of you there. So USA Volleyball has been in good company, and the PCA has been making a difference through their hundreds of clinics and other outreach programs, under the leadership of founder and Executive Director Jim Thompson.

In this conversation, Jim led with these words. "There are a lot of misconceptions about what constitutes good coaching for youth athletes, partly because people often confuse professional sports and youth sports, which are fundamentally different activities with different goals. If we can get people all over the country talking about what constitutes good -- and bad! -- coaching, it will be a major step toward ensuring a positive, character-building environment for youth and high school athletes."

So now that our website allows us to outreach better, I have listed the conversations in order and by topic below. Creating a positive environment to better grow the game and give kids the best experience is what we are all about. Simply print these case studies out and take to practice or a tournament for discussion. I have listed all eleven to date, including the opening situation. The queries and action plans are in the pdfs connected to each topic. Take advantage of these conversations to help grow the game!  

#1 - Old Yeller   Coach Coates is a yeller. He yells constantly during practices and games. He yells at his players and criticizes them when they do things wrong. He even yells when they seem to be doing things right. His teams consistently have winning records, and as far as you can tell, the players seem to handle the yelling without getting down on themselves or each other.

Download for your team

#2 - The Specialist  As practice is winding down, Coach Hastings motions you over for a private conversation about your child, who shows enough raw athletic ability to excel. Coach tells you your child has great potential but should specialize as soon as possible, eschewing other sports and training year-round, especially if you hope for a college scholarship for your child. Coach Hastings is a technically skilled coach who has had a number of athletes earn college scholarships.

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#3 - The Limits of Sportsmanship   Sara Tucholsky's first college home run was a 3-run shot in the 2nd inning of a scoreless game to determine whether her Western Oregon (WOU) team or Central Washington (CWU) would qualify for the NCAA Division 2 softball tournament. Rounding first, Tucholsky's knee gave out and she collapsed. Mallory Holtman, CWU's star 1st-baseman, reacted to Tucholsky in pain on the ground. She and teammate Liz Wallace carried Tucholsky, allowing her to score the third run for WOU, which went on to win 4-2.

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#4 - State of Play   Several weeks into the season, you are frustrated by your child's lack of playing time. The team is successful on the scoreboard, winning more often than losing, usually by comfortable margins.  As far as you can tell, other parents and athletes on the team seem satisfied with the status quo, even ones who also are sitting on the bench. But you wonder if a coach has a responsibility to get players into games even when there are no external rules or requirements to do so.  Your child has not complained.

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#5 - The Hot-Air Fan  In the stands at your child's game, you hear another spectator berating the officials. Over time, this fan's criticism grows louder and more pointed, with a sprinkling of foul language. You notice other spectators glancing at the fan, and you sense a volatile situation developing. None of the coaches seem to be paying attention to what is happening in the stands and you wonder what your responsibility is in this situation.

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#6 - Collision Course  In a game that has grown increasingly out of control with rougher and rougher play, your child is shaken up, though not seriously injured, in a collision with an opponent that seemed intentional and unsportsmanlike.

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#7 - The Ringers   Before your child's game starts, you notice the opposing team looks much different than it did earlier in the season. You are certain the opponent has recruited "ringers" against league rules.

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#8 - Trophy Time   The league your 10-year-old plays in does not award participation trophies, but some team's coaches buy trophies and distribute them to their players. Your child is not on one of those teams.

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#9 - Televised Teachable Moments   While watching sports on TV with your child, you see coverage of an incident, such as any of those listed in Positive Coaching Alliance's Bottom 10 Moments in Sports or Top 10 Moments in Sports (www.positivecoach.org/bottom10.aspx ). Realizing that this is a "teachable moment," how do you react?

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#10 - When Nice is not Enough   Your child's coach means well, and the players generally enjoy practices and games. But midway through the season you sense the team is not meeting its potential in terms of effort and wins. You know enough about the sport to think you can help your child's coach improve the situation.

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#11 - Working the Refs   In an intense regular season game, your child's coach is "working" the refs for calls in an increasingly loud, aggressive manner, though without foul language or personal attacks. Your interpretation of the body language of your child's teammates indicates to you that they are uncomfortable, and at one point your child makes eye contact with you, seemingly embarrassed by the coach's behavior.

Download for your team

Comments and more conversations with other sports parents and coaches can be found online at PCA's website on the specific topic.

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