The following comments were made on our previous web platform and have been transferred here to maintain the historical record.

On November 12, 2010 Richard Currey wrote

Mr. Kessel, My daughter began playing volleyball as a 12 year old. She is a hogh school junior now. I have a son who plays basketball as well, and these words are as true for his sport as they are for volleyball. Some coaches have decided that threats, punishments, and criticism will motivate an athelete to increase their committment and effort. The reality is that POSITIVE encouragement, recognizing the attempt, even if it wasn't successful, will go further with most atheletes than any other action could. I have always told my kids that 50% of all teams that play every day lose, and that as an athelete, you WILL lose matches. The mark of the best atheletes and coaches is not winning and losing but how you react to it. Knowing that you left your best effort on the floor is what gives you the satisfaction, not the final score. When you can take that 25-0 drubbing, and find a way to teach or learn something from it, while being able to say "next time it will be better" is what will make you able to continuously strive for improvement. These blogs have become one of my favorite reads on the internet. Your insight and approach to the game crosses boundaries, and I thank you. Rich Currey

On November 23, 2010 Angie Thoennes wrote

Thank you for all you taught me at the CAPI course. My cousin just told me of her daughters coach and how all they do is run lines for discipline and they are 13 and getting so discouraged. I am passing this on to her so she can show it to my little cousin and I hope she will make it through this season and continue to play and hopefully find there are good coaches out there. Some of this is going to be on the walls in our gym. Angie

On December 02, 2010 Robert Cowart wrote

[Part 1 of 4] Coach, this is a bit long-winded, but I hope you find it encouraging, knowing that your efforts to make a difference are not in vain. I have really enjoyed reading the various entries on the Growing the Game Together Blog. This latest entry is so incredibly spot-on!!! I would have never thought of the Hippocratic Oath in the context of coaching, but my experience over the last three years leads me to believe it should perhaps be considered as the foundation of quality coaching. I am just entering my 4th season coaching JO girls, and have also coached a few middle school teams between club seasons. When I was first asked to coach, my assumption was that this would be pretty easy. I had played in Germany and felt that I knew the game very well as player. I knew exactly what I wanted on the court, but soon realized that I was struggling to teach it to teenage girls (14s). Our practices looked a lot like a simple version of how my men's team practiced in Germany. Looking back it was far from ideal, but we enjoyed some success, finishing 6th (out of about 90 teams) in the southern region, albeit mostly due to the talent of girls more than my coaching. Of course I didn't see it that way at the time. I moved up with the team the following year (15s), returning six players and bringing six new players on board. We had upgraded our talent at multiple key spots and had real depth, which we lacked the year before. I had also attended a few coaching clinics to get better ideas for drills. Needless to say, expectations were high. We wanted a top-3 finish, and to qualify for nationals. To make a long story short, we failed... miserably. Uncontrolled drama within the team, made much worse by my own very obvious frustration (gestures, yelling, etc.) with our lack of execution (partly fueled by my lack of ability to recognize randomness), resulted in a disappointing season for players, coaches and families.

On December 02, 2010 Robert Cowart wrote

[Part 2 of 4] I literally spent months trying to process what had happened. In the end I decided to make a lot of changes to the way that I coached. Most of these changes were related to praise and criticism. The most important were... - Figuratively speaking I opened a "criticism account" with each player. Like a bank account, if you need to sometimes make a withdraw, you must first make deposits. Praise is a deposit which must be made many times before you can make a criticism withdraw. Before I would deliver tough criticism, I was always asking myself if I was in danger of writing a bad check. - Players were praised for anything they did right, but were only criticized for things that we had specifically taught and worked on in practice. If they made a mistake, but it wasn't something we had worked on, I might suggest a better option for them to try, but would stay away from being negative. Generally during matches I would just let it go, and add it to the to-do for future practices. - I started to coach intentions instead of results. Simply put... if a player failed to get the desired result, but the technique or tactic was correct, they were praised. If they got lucky and achieved a good result with improper technique or a poor tactical choice, they were corrected. As players instinctively strived for the coaches praise, they automatically pursued proper technique and tactics. - When correcting skills, players were praised for doing the skill differently even if it wasn't yet correct. I stressed that when I make a correction, I don't expect them to always get it right the first try. However, I do expect them to try. So I want to at least see that they perform the skill differently than before, a positive indication of the intention to make the correction. They also knew that as they made changes their results would likely get a little worse before they got better, and that I could accept that reality (easy, since praise was intention-based.)

On December 02, 2010 Robert Cowart wrote

[Part 3 of 4] I spent the fall with my middle school team working on myself to make this new approach a part of my habitual coaching philosophy. The following club season, my 3rd, I stayed with the 15s age group and had a roster of kids with whom I had no previous history. It was also the least talented group I worked work with. They were still pretty good kids, but were not "stars". The results of my changed coaching style were significant. My team played with confidence, knowing that they could "go for it" without fear of being treated unfairly. They eagerly worked to learn and use new skills and tactics, knowing that they would be given the support they needed to work through the awkward early phases of learning. I think the best way to describe it is that I believe they felt safe, secure and valued (I say this based on feedback from the parents). This all combined to result in a team with great chemistry, both between teammates and coaches. Results on the court followed. Although our talent level (or more accurately our lack of size) was a limiter we fought to overcome all season, we many times proved that chemistry can trump talent. We finished ranked just inside the top 20 (of over 100 teams), but we could certainly say that no one in the top 10 wanted to play us. Nothing demonstrated this more than our success against the #5 team, whom we defeated all three times we met, including a 21-19 tie-break thriller in our final meeting. The facts are that from skill, size and athleticism perspectives we simply had no business beating this team even once, but our chemistry proved to be like kryptonite against them. The final record of chemistry vs. talent... 3-0 for chemistry.

On December 02, 2010 Robert Cowart wrote

[Part 4 of 4] I don't want to take too much credit here because this was truly an awesome bunch of kids. They could have certainly found the same magic with a lot of other coaches. I was just lucky to have them play for me at a time when I needed them to help me transform my coaching style. Now with a new club entering my 4th season I will be coaching the most talented group of kids I have yet worked with. To build on the success of last season I recognize that I will have to continue to push myself to apply what I learned and stay vigilant not to let old bad habits creep back into my coaching philosophy, and above all... "Primum Non Nocere". Thanks again for your efforts.

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