Where is Your Whiteboard?

By John Kessel | Jan. 15, 2013, 11:49 a.m. (ET)

One thing that still amazes me when I travel to gyms around the world, is the absence of a whiteboard on or near every training court.  I briefly covered this in my blog “Your Practice Objectives Should not be a Secret” which can be read here if you missed it.  http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Volleyball/Features/2010/February/02/Your-Practice-Objectives-Should-not-be-a-Secret.aspx  If you understand that you as a coach you are a teacher first, then you know that every classroom you go into has one or more white/chalk boards – and that this needs to be happening in your “classroom” that is called a gym.  So I wanted to share some options to getting a whiteboard or even two up in your gym. This is not about getting a flat screen TV or smart board up in your gym, or using an iPad or other electronic tablet to both write and show the ideas – we are talking white/chalkboards specifically due to their lower costs.

First option…you simply raid a classroom for a rolling whiteboard, or purchase one for your gym. These are not cheap however, but usually have a place to store the markers, and can be flipped over or turned around as all have the chalk/whiteboard on both sides. Recently I was at Arizona State with a long-time friend and ASU head coach Jason Watson, and found it interesting that he always had two whiteboards on his one training court – one with things that stayed up as things were written down over time – like quotes and sayings and team season records/tallies in games/drills they might do often. The second one was redone every practice. Since we need to keep a record of our practice plans, you just take and save a camera phone picture of that day’s practice after it is completed, and you cover this need. 

Second option…head to your local home material store and get a 4x8’ whiteboard material. Today a 32 square foot sheet of Thrifty White MDF Panel Board costs $13.45 at the Home Depot here in Colorado Springs.  Simply lean it against the gym wall, or permanently install it. Optionally you can put wood molding around the edges to have a more finished product, so you would need about 25’ of molding in whatever style you want to edge your board with. For safety reasons, I prefer to leave the board without a ledge for dry erase markers and just carrying a marker in my pocket.   

Third option…If the walls of your gym are smooth, or if you smooth an area by filling it in with putty or other material, you can then simply paint that area.  The product description for a 27 oz can of Rust-Oleum Specialty Gloss White Dry Erase Paint says that it provides a smooth, hard finish that creates a writeable and erasable surface for dry-erase markers. This paint is ideal for use on interior surfaces such as drywall, Masonite, wood, cement and metal. It covers up to a 12 sq. ft. In this paint’s case you need to allow up to 3 days before applying dry-erase markings. Rust-Oleum also makes a black chalkboard paint if that is more fitting for your facility.  Some classrooms I have been in have two or more walls with whiteboards up, and so can your gym if there are smooth walls that can be painted all the way around the gym. Dang, I would love to teach in a gym like that…

Fourth option…when I do clinics, I often carry a small roll of whiteboard material. It comes in 24 inch wide rolls, which are 20 feet long! So I just cut it into thirds and take one of the smaller rolls along, which I can put up for my session, and even leave behind as a gift from USAV in growing the game together. A product at Staples called “Magic Whiteboard” also comes in foot sections which are static cling and thus can be put up and taken down repeatedly. http://www.amazon.com/Gowrite-Erase-Rolls-White-AR2420/dp/B00377TWSE/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1352924299&sr=8-2&keywords=dry+erase+sheets

In all cases, please remember to locate your board so that the athletes will focus on what is up on the board, or that you are writing down. This goes the same for when you speak with your players – put yourself against a wall or some other place in your specific gym and court, so that they focus on you. So often I see coaches speak to their players in a multi court gym, and behind them is much more interesting stuff than your lips moving – most often another court which is filled with active and interesting other players who are not getting talked to.

There are other solutions found at these two websites that might help you customize what you need for your court - http://www.usmarkerboard.com/ and http://www.whiteyboard.com/ The former sells a sidewalk menu “A frame” whiteboard for just $115, that can be moved around courtside easily – just a bit low to the ground for tall athletes and coaches to write on.

One last closing “Grow the Game Together” thought. When you do call them in to speak about something – Make sure to put your player’s name last. You see, most of use call the whole team or a small group in for some sort of instruction, and say “Player Name, brilliant words shared in a guided discovery way.”  That tradition or habit we are asking you to change to become a better teacher of the whole group, by simply saying “brilliant words for teaching guided discovery, Player name…”  In the first one the rest of the players, hearing the player name you are focusing on, all tune out/stop thinking/stop discovering. In the latter, all must be processing what you are sharing, solving the question, until they hear the name of the player. You would even do better to have a bit of a pause, before singling in on either the player you wanted to focus on for this pause in the action of learning by doing or by letting them chose to answer your question. 

If you have other ideas on how to be a more effective teacher in your gym with please do share it with us below, and thanks for your help in growing the game together.