Growing the Game Together

Check out the latest postings from the Growing the Game Blog, joining coaches and players from more than 100 different nations in learning about the science of the game, and eclectic observations from USAV’s John Kessel.

Growing the Game Together Volume I - Coaches and Club Director Edition, compilation featuring posts from 2008-2012.
Growing the Game Together Volume I - Parent and Player Edition, compilation featuring posts from 2008-2012.
Growing the Game Together Volume II - All posts from 2013 - May 10, 2014.
Growing the Game Together Volume III - Includes all posts from May 29, 2014 - May 27, 2015.

Growing the Game Together Volume IV - Includes all posts from May 2015 - January 2017.

You Are The Magic (January 4, 2017) - That is something my friend and mentor for over 40 years once told me; add that Carl McGown also often said “There is no magic,” and you will start to have an idea of his mind and his work. Each coach brings his or her own magic to the court but there is only hard work and the science 
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A Letter to My Young Self (December 5, 2016) - Lost a friend last month, who impacted so many, without being a coach – just by being damn good at what he did, officiate.  Players around the world held a moment of silence.  We had set up skiing plans for this season, and enjoyed a great Rio Paralympics together – after he was done being a great Rio Beach Olympic referee.  Read More

Promoting False Confidence (November 7, 2016) - I have never seen any Olympic level coach on down, ever teach their net sport from in front of the net; except volleyball. Read More

I Want You To Make Mistakes (November 1, 2016) - For more than 40 years, one of the first things I say to new teams and summer camp players is just that; “I want to see mistakes out here on the court.” Read More

Be Consistent (October 20, 2016) - Consequences and punishment are so prevalent in our sport and this blog explores why. It also talks about how outcome, winning and losing, is "punishment" enough to continue to drive the desire to get better. Read More

Helping Elementary and Middle School Volleyball Through STEM (October 3, 2016) - Learning about volleyball in school does not have to involve waiting in line to get one chance to pass the ball. Find out about the news STEM kit created by USAV and the Huddle Group. Read More

Suffering From the Illusion of Knowledge (September 16, 2016) - Dennis Belaire Lakeshore Region; Years ago, having played some myself, it was easy to say “yes” to coaching my daughter’s 7th grade recreational volleyball team. My twisted logic told me, “I’ve played for years. These are young kids. How hard can this be?” So began my coaching career. Read More

Three- to Eight-Foot Tall World Class Competitors (September 8, 2016) - These athletes always humble me, to see the joy in friendship and competition. They remind me of that great Chinese proverb, “Winning and losing are temporary, friendships last forever…” Read More

What is it with Physical Punishment in So Few Sports (May 27, 2016) - Consequences and punishment are so prevalent in our sport and this blog explores why.  It also talks about how outcome, winning and losing, is "punishment" enough to continue to drive the desire to get better. Read More

Fearing Free (May 20, 2016) - In today's Youth sports world parents are starting to fear free things are not as good or adequate and are opting to continue to spend more and more rather than just letting kids play. Read More

Leave a Ball Behind (April 30, 2016)-The tragedy in Haiti from 5 years ago is still feeling effects.  This is what Sport Development is doing at Nationals to help in the continued effort to rebuild Haiti. Read More 

How Much Can Athletes Teach Themselves (April 15, 2016) - This blog is going to upset many controlling coaches. I understand and accept that, and simply hope that all coaches take the time to listen/learn from the information being provided. This is not criticism, I am just providing some information that I think of great importance. Read More

So You Want To Be A Volleyball Coach (April 8, 2016) - Pat Madia, USAV Western Empire Region’s Coaches Education Committee Chair, shares eleven core tips for a new coach.  Remember and share this, plus other great information for any new coach in the I’m a New Coach section of the USAV Grassroots section. Read More

This is the Year of the Volleylympics (March 16, 2016) - There are basically three world wide popular sports right now - futbal/soccer, basketball, and volleyball.  Each sport needs a ball and something else – a goal for soccer, a hoop for basketball, and a net (or just a rope) for volleyball. Read More

Lessons From a Nose Flute (February 15, 2016) - Learning to play this new instrument and letting others figure it out helps to drive home the lesson that doing the activity is the most important than other things outside of it. Read More

A Major Change in My Feedback (January 15, 2016) - Focus on the swing of your arms…I can hear my golf pro telling me that. “Focus on the swing of your club.” There might have been that too. The thing is, the latter in novices and experts alike, increased their shot accuracy, in a study done in 2007. Read More

Oh the Games We Can Play (November 4, 2015) - IMPACT training provides a long list  scrimmage scoring options.  Some coaches mistakenly read this as “all you do is play games” with supposedly no focus on technical skills. The assumption is, since it is not a coach controlled training environment, it must not be technical. Read More

15 Reason You DON'T Want to Play Volleyball (November 3, 2015) - You spend most of your time active. Wouldn’t you rather play a sport where you get to sit around most of the time like baseball, cricket or wrestling? While you get to rest a bit between points, volleyball makes all 12 people on the court move all over the place and that is just tiring! Read More

Bamboo and a Better Self (October 26, 2015) - We’ve become so ingrained with how indoor volleyball should be: nice gym floors made of wood or tile with shiny red or blue poles surrounded by thick padding and pristine black and white game nets in use because the practice nets might have a small tear in them or seem dingy. Read More

Creating Talent with What You Have (October 9, 2015) - If you live in a place with thousands of players, this article might help you get better. If, however, you live in a small market, with just a few or maybe NO players (yet), this is a competitive advantage to help you take on those teams that seem to have all the talent. Read More

Dear Administrator (October 5, 2015) - Would you please send my sport's tryout information to your sports coaches? I would like to point out some facts surrounding this request that, given your work load, you might not be aware of: Read More

No More 16 Year Gaps (September 28, 2015) - These two photos represent a very important fact, and provide the inspiration we need to pull the oars of our USAV boat together in the same direction. Read More

It's all about the Reps, 'bout the Reps, and Game-like... (September 22, 2015) - It’s time to help some coaches understand the title to this blog, sung of course to the tune of “It’s all about the Bass…”  The principle of specificity says, “You must PRACTICE that which you want to DO, ” and that “What you SEE determines HOW you move…” Read More

Words of Little or a LOT of Meaning (August 26, 2015) - Words have little meaning to beginners in motor learning.   That is to say, when you tell a young golfer to “keep your head down,” they might bend down and put their head on the ball. Tell a batter to “keep your eye on the ball” in T-ball and they will go place their eye on the ball sitting on the tee. I have videos of these and many more which make me laugh while reminding me of the importance of words in their specificity...  Read More

YET (August 26, 2015) - My son had something that I gave to him in his dorm room at Princeton; in capital letters on an orange post-it note, the word “YET.” I think it is a very important word to use often in coaching, teaching and parenting, as it sums up such an important focus found in all who have developed skills not just specific to a sport, but life; they simply have not achieved myriad short- and long-term goals, yet. Read More

False Fundamentals (August 24, 2015) - The term false or fake fundamentals, along with the concept of irrelevant training, is one that it seems coaches, parents and players simply want to ignore. Understandably so, as it gives them a feeling of success and mastery, even though it is not helping them in competition. Read More

The Game Will Find a Way (August 3, 2015) - Spent some time in June based out of Pago Pago, teaching the coaches and players one of the farthest “regions” that USA Volleyball supports, American Samoa.  Read More

Stay Quiet and Let Them Play (July 29, 2015) - Sometimes as coaches, we need to stand back and see if we have taught them anything (the ducklings.) If you are simply quiet, and let them have a little independence, they’ll prove your worth as a coach. Read More

Growing Kids Volleyball (June 23, 2015) - This year marks my 40th year of coaching youth volleyball, which I define as 12 and under. The last few years I have seen growth in this area, but far too much of it simply is adults coaching the adult 6 vs 6 game to little kids. Read More

Seizing Serendipity Whether Graduating or Being Fired (June 15, 2015) - I am lucky to have good friends. One is the USOC’s Director of Competitive Analysis, Research and Innovation, Dr. Peter Vint, who was kind enough to write this response to a sports leader friend of mine... Read More

STOP Teaching Robots (June 6, 2015) - Watching some 80 year old players at the US Open and seeing their joy for a sport of a lifetime has me wondering why any kid in the last few decades stops playing. Read More

I am a Teacher of Athletes (June 1, 2015) - This month some kid I know really well has his senior year athlete banquet. I was looking at the Princeton website, and at the top of the athletic department’s home page was a quote I had never heard that impacted me. Read More

How Old School Are You? (May 23, 2015) - There are long time players who reminisce about the way volleyball used to be played in the days of sideout, not rally, scoring. Having played for years, I remember the competitions which started at 8 am and went until 4am the next day, or speaking to parents about their child still playing in an event after midnight. Read More

To Become a Skillful Spiker (May 6, 2015) - Recently another spiking machine video was shown in an online coaching group that I am a part of, as I enjoy collaborating with others around the world. One of the coaches looked at it and said WWJKS (What Would John Kessel Say), so I'm going to share the science and my thoughts based on motor learning as to it relates to most machines. Read More

The Impact We Can Have (April 23, 2015) - A two-time U.S. Olympic coach challenged me with the words on the five-medal Beijing poster you see, which I framed and had in my office for years: "Kess - If you don't get this ball rolling, there is no gold medal..." Read More

Developing Real Ball Control (April 9, 2015) - Lately I have been wondering why so many well meaning coaches, and players, speak to the importance of ball control. I know I will be up against the many attendees of the Church of Tradition and Ball Control (CTBC as I call it) yet this is really important stuff to change. Read More

You are Paying for Practice Not Playing (March 30, 2015) - So the glow of your child being chosen to play for a club, perhaps even the experience of having to choose between multiple clubs and not cut, has faded. We are now into the heart of the season, where the coaches are making decisions on starters, subs and bench sitters based on both what they have seen in months of practices and tournaments. Read More

Top Five Priorities (March 17, 2015) - A few facts, not opinions, about our great sport first… USA Volleyball is the national governing body (NGB) for indoor, beach and sitting volleyball. Most people don’t realize that, in that role, we must partner with three core groups. As a national federation, we must adhere to the rules and regulations of our international federation – in our case the FIVB (Federatione International de VolleyBall). Read More

Seeking a Historic Gift (February 24, 2015) - Arizona State’s ice hockey club recently asked for help in going varsity. They asked their player’s friends and contacts to donate – and that same month, received a donation of $32 million, to fund their program. Read More

Teaching History and Breaking Tradition (February 4, 2015) - This is a personally emotional NORCECA meeting as one of my favorite mentors and friends in our volleyball family, and my long time Technical & Coaches Commission president, Eugenio George Lafitte passed away in the past year. My Cuban friend and mentor also found time to coach the Cuban women to THREE Olympic gold medals, yet most of you reading this blog likely don’t even know this amazing man. Read More

Coach Taught or Player Learned? (January 23, 2015)The fact that things in sport are no longer athletic battles, but learning competitions is shown with the release of Faster, Higher Stronger. I hope you find time to learn, by reading what Wired magazine editor Mark McClusky has diligently compiled on how athletes learn now. Read More

Posters and Deliberate Practice (January 20, 2015)Last month, I was the keynote speaker at the 12 court Richmond Volleyball Club’s 25th anniversary celebration, we also did a CAP course, and some grassroots outreach. While I was there I was able to see the history on Monument Street and the environs, including the Arthur Ashe monument. It also gave me time to catch up with former USAV staffer Andy Pai who now is thriving in VA and is the USAV Old Dominion Region Education big cheese. Read More

Standing in Line (January 16, 2015) - This email came in from a coach who has a daughter who loves volleyball. It just made me so frustrated to realize that despite IMPACT, CAP, VCT, and all that we know about teaching in a way that kids learn to love sport, any sport,that coaches still don’t know that learning is done by doing, and not by watching. Read More

Divergent and Juxtaposition Thinking (January 14, 2015) - One of the topics in my clinics is working on getting our sport families to think divergently – where it is not just “this OR that” but “this AND that.”  Where somehow you get 1 + 1 = 3 and make more from what we have. Read More

Why Four Nets on a Rope (January 9, 2015) - Recently, I spoke at the AVCA Convention to an overflow crowd, using a ribbon down the middle of the court (thanks to Sports Imports for the use of a box and standard to give me an anchor point). The title of the talk was Small Sided Games for Warm Up. I showed 1 v 0, 2 v 0. 1 v 1, 1 v 1 plus 1, and loser becomes the net games. Read More

Burnout in Sports (January 5, 2015) Burnout in Sports was originally written as a guest blog for As someone who has not yet burned out on the sport I love, still playing in the dinosaur division with my son and doing my sport 7 days a week for over 40 years, I hope to share some ideas with you on how to avoid burn out. In no particular order, I share my “Top Ten” thoughts in the hope one or more might help you. Read More

Always Learning (December 22, 2014) - This end of the year blog is where I share what/where I have learned. It is mostly books, but also some video clips I found worth watching.  I love that Michelangelo at age 87 said “I am still learning.” Read More

Variance and Risk Management in Volleyball (December 18, 2014) - There is something that all coaches need to make part of their training at any level. It is breaking tradition to manage and be comfortable with the risks of variance as found in volleyball. Two-time Olympic medal winning coach Hugh McCutcheon termed it risk management. Read More

Train Ugly (November 17, 2014) - About a decade ago my kids and I went up to Lander, Wyoming to run a high school volleyball camp at the base of the Wind River Range, and home of the famous “cheesewheel” (a batter fried cheeseburger) and NOLS, the National Outdoor Leadership School. Read More

Standing on Others Shoulders (November 10, 2014) - I love to read. Enter my USA Volleyball office, or my little home built back in 1899 and you might be taken aback by how many books are sitting on so many shelves. Read More

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats (November 3, 2014) - I participate in a Facebook group I helped Brian Swenty found less than two years ago, which now has over 6,000 coaches. It is the one place that, at no cost other than time, I see one of my favorite things happening – A rising tide that lifts all boats... to paraphrase a quote I love. Read More

Irrelevant Training (October 20, 2014) - This short blog is a response to a coach who felt that worrying that all drills are gamelike was irrelevant. It is not irrelevant, nor anal. It is principle driven. Read More

Limit Your Wall Drills (October 6, 2014) - “Where is volleyball played?” is a question to ask your players or other coaches if you want to start an interesting discussion. “What is the most important skill in volleyball?” is the second question I ask to prompt some serious conversation. Read More

Top Ten Reasons for a Club to do Sitting Volleyball Training (September 22, 2014) - I am not an expert at the sport of Sitting Volleyball. The experts are Bill Hamiter, Mike Hulett and Elliot Blake, and the Paralympians who compete in it. However, I have spent over 20 years in growing the disabled game together. Read More

To Teach the Teachers (September 8, 2014) - I have been an International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) Instructor doing Level 1,2 and 3 courses since 1987. Over 50 nations and counting and each time I learn new things from those who I am teaching. Read More

Dear Cut Player (August 18, 2014) - Ouch, it hurts, even the word “cut” comes from the action of your body being sliced open to some level.  It might even seem right now that your hope or even long term dream of playing at a higher level seems over. Read More

Mikey Makes the Serve (August 13, 2014) - I often talk about variance and bell curves in coaching and player courses, as being aware of this fact of life, including in sports, is important. Read More

3,000 Years of Life and Games (August 1, 2014) - I returned this week to a special place of ancestors, a village I first was lucky to visit a decade ago, the Makah Nation. Read More

Somewhere Over the Rainbow (July 25, 2014) - In advance know that this is a two topic blog, woven together by my favorite songs.  This first part is for those coaches who need to know more about developing creative players with VB IQ, then I will close with things I have learned from my recent losses of those dear to me. Read More

Need a Coach? (July 8, 2014) - As we grow the game together, there are three places we need to create for kids to get a chance to make volleyball their lifetime sport... Read More

Warm Up Songs for Practice and Competition (July 5, 2014) - In the van ride to the competition venue last month at the Sitting Volleyball World Championships, music from Poland’s airwaves would reverberate as we wove our way thru Elblag (founded in 1237) traffic.  One song that was a hit that I had never heard was Fly Project’s “Toca Toca,” a fun one in Spanish. Read More

Change (July 2, 2014) - I have written more than once about focusing on what you can control. This choice is important not only in sport, but in life itself. Read More

Sunlight or Shadow Coach? (June 25, 2014) - At the 2014 Sitting World Championships in Poland in June, I watched a wide variety of coaching styles and while there are over 20 nations and their cultures competing here, the styles fall into basically two different camps... Read More

Please Know What Marfan Syndrome Is… (June, 23, 2014) - If you come to visit us at USA Volleyball’s offices in Colorado Springs (please do!), and I am in town I will take you on a tour. One of the first stops, after the “Gold Room” where all staff meetings are held surrounded by pictures of all the US Olympic gold medal teams to date, beach and indoor, is this corner by CEO Doug Beal’s office. It is one of several statues commissioned in honor of 1984 Olympic silver medalist Flo Hyman. Read More

There is NO Magic (June 19, 2014) - There is only hard work, the science and randomness of our sport.  At the start of my coaching, I was looking for “the answer” or the “drills” that would make me a winning coach. When I discovered the science of motor learning, I also learned that there is no magic, thanks to the knowledge of a coach that has been my mentor for nearly 40 years. Read More

Need Some Support? (June 16, 2014) - The below poster is not meant for the normal situation, but perhaps for a player, coach, or program member who has been hit hard by the challenges and randomness of life. Read More

LIMIT Your Coaching... (June 4, 2014) - As I have found, some of the coaches most needing to read the science and ideas in this blog are simply not reading the ideas in their entirety. Read More

Give the Boys a Chance (June 2, 2014) - I  simply would like to ask everyone reading this blog to share, as I am about to, their best practices, other sport successes and brainstorming thoughts on how to give boys 5-18 years old a chance to make volleyball their sport for a lifetime. Read More

Creating a Low Cost Volleyball (May 29, 2014) - OK Volleyball Thinkers. I need some help in creating a ball for young kids. About 20 years ago I created a “balloon ball” Read More

Bradman and Bubba (May 10, 2014) - Some of you may know I was fortunate to live in Australia for a period over two years in order to grow their game in each of their major cities. Read More

Leave a Ball Behind II (May 3,2014) - Over a decade ago, I created a program with USA Volleyball, our regions and our amazing clubs to donate just one of their used volleyballs at the end of their seasons, to give away to other programs around the world that are less fortunate. Read More

LTAD - A Look at Stephen Curry's Longshot Journey by E:60 (April 30, 2014) - I recently watched an ESPN E:60 show, that included the following story on how Stephen Curry went from multisport athlete through high school and college unseen at the start – to NBA All Star – the transcript is typed below to show each part of his long term athletic development (LTAD). Read More

STOP Teaching Technique... (April 25, 2014) - … and start working much more on improving what you can control as a coach to increase your players learning of volleyball skills. Read More

Blogs that are Making a Difference (April 22, 2014) - After sharing with you the importance of the “Volleyball Coaches and Trainers” group on Facebook, I went skiing for my last day this season in Vail. It’s a sport I have done all my life, and in no small way, the 54 Colorado 14ers are only rivaled by the 28 ski area options. Fresh powder everywhere, you get time to ride up in a chair or gondola, meet new people sharing your sport from around the world and reflect on how lucky you are to be alive. Read More

Volleyball Coaches & Trainers Facebook Group (April 15, 2014) - A couple of years ago, Brian Swenty, a teacher/volleyball coach working in Vilseck Germany, was talking with me about the importance of helping US kids living in Europe with volleyball. Read More

From Doha to Dubai - Things Learned & Shared (April 9, 2014) - So the past two weeks I have been in the Middle East, which is not anything like Middle Earth to say the least. The flight back is over 15 hours – departing at midnight and arriving in Washington DC at about 7 am – a flight that chases the darkness to provide a very long night to write this blog. Read More

STOP Doing Drills (April 1, 2014) - Okay, this version of my STOP series is likely to be a tough one for many coaches, but its truth is well founded in science, just not implemented well in our teaching practices.  I just watched perhaps my 2,000th “drill” on YouTube, as I seek to find any new ideas that others have created to help us grow and develop our sport. Read More

Never Let Someone Steal YOUR Confidence (March 24, 2014) - Over the weekend I got an email from a coach/friend from another country, with the subject line “Needing Advice” – In short, his daughter’s team won every game/set she got to play in, and lost every one she did not, yet the coach played her less as the tournament went on. Read More

STOP Cutting Players (March 11, 2014) - We are back with another one of our STOP series, in this case a look at a practice that I hope can be changed in creative ways, to allow many more kids the chance to make volleyball their sport. This challenge to create programming that gives everyone wanting a chance to play the game, comes simply from the core of Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD) – to keep as many athletes playing a sport as long as possible. Read More

We May Win and We May Lose... (March 6, 2014) - BUT NOBODY IS GOING TO OUT HUSTLE US…. That has always been my motto, so much that some of my teams have heard it so many times in huddles they say it in their sleep I bet. Read More

Why my Mom would have been a GREAT Volleyball Coach (March 1, 2014) - For over 30 years, my mom taught first grade. I would visit her many times at school while she taught over the decades, starting from about the same height as the kids in her class, to being over six feet tall and towering over the kids, my mom, and their little chairs. What I remember from her teaching has colored my coaching, in the principles I learned from her, which would apply to coaching any sport well. Read More

They Learn by DOING (Feb. 28, 2014) - One of the core concepts of motor learning is to increase the opportunities to respond.  In our USA Volleyball IMPACT course, we call this increasing the contacts per hour. Read More

Learning vs. Teaching (Feb. 19, 2014)The two most important skills in our sport are reading (as in anticipation, not hunkering down with a great book, though that skill is VERY important in life) and learning. Read More

Coach Albert Einstein’s Best Quotes (Feb. 14, 2014)I love to read and learn from people much smarter than me. Dr. Daniel Kahnemann, Jon Brockman (visit the often and you will be thankful even if your head spins at times), John Wooden, and Albert Einstein are examples. Read More

My Top Things I Must Have as a Coach (Feb. 5, 2014)Three Outlet Adapter – This leads my list because of the technology that we all use to be better teachers . Carrying a 1 to 3 adapter makes you a savior to one other fellow traveler, as you ask permission to change one outlet to 3, one for the lucky first arriver, one for you, and one for that other fellow coach or traveler desperately needing a power source. Also when you need to power up your computer AND a projector AND speakers, but only have one long extension cord, well your problem in solved.  Get one for every coach in your program. Read More

What is Truer than Truth?  (Jan. 28, 2014) - The answer to this old Jewish proverb is “the story.” Every coach needs to become a better storyteller, as humans simply remember the facts and important parts of what you want to teach, when you weave it into a story. You have been wired to do this since you were very young, when morals and important ideas were shared with you by bedtime stories. Who went to bed being told bedtime facts?  Read More

Change Your Words, Change Your Gym (Jan. 22, 2014) - I recently was at the NCAA Finals for Women’s D1 and four words jumped out at me that I have always found of importance, but which were being repeated in session after session. To hear others using these four  words in genuine ways, makes me think we have turned a corner in volleyball. Read More

My Hall of Fame Induction Speech (Jan. 9, 2014) - Greetings to all of you in our wonderful volleyball family, there is NO WAY to get all my thoughts down in four minutes, so I will just have to let you know, my full speech will be in my blog. Read More

Videos Used in My 2013 Teachings (Dec. 18, 2013) - In my annual tradition of giving back to the sport in December, click through these videos which I have on my laptop and use in my clinics and practice sessions both at home and around the world. Read More

The Game Will Find A Way (Dec. 15, 2013) - I awoke in Ft Walton Beach, FL this week, to dawnlight in this part of Florida that somehow resides in the central time zone, which means morning comes very early, 6:19a officially, even in late November (and it gets dark early too – 4:45p, as you will see in bit). It was not however the light, but the joy of kids voices playing volleyball on the USA Beach CAP court that we set up the day before. Read More

FIVB Volleyball in the Schools Symposium (Dec. 6, 2013) - For the fourth time in almost 30 years, I am lucky to be headed to the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) World Volleyball in the Schools Symposium. Read More

Decide Slowly (Nov. 30, 2013) - I have written several times about the Long Term Athlete Development movement, something which over 15 years ago USA Volleyball’s Coaching Accreditation Program began including in the IMPACT and CAP clinics we put on.   Earlier in November some 15 National Governing Bodies (NGBs for short) joined with the US Olympic Committee staff and Nike to share the latest research and ideas in this area. Read More

A Return Down Under (Nov. 24, 2013) - The Australian Director of Development has come over twice in the last two years with a bunch of Aussie coaches, to watch our USA National team programs in training in Anaheim, see Southern California pro sports teams in training, and spend time at Arizona State University with former youth national team setter, and now ASU head coach, Jason Watson. Jason was one of the Aussie players I helped bring over to the USA about two decades ago, along with Pauline Manser from Perth, who was a great netball player. Read More

Winners Stay On (Nov. 19, 2013) - I have been doing grassroots players and coaches clinics for the Gulf Coast USAV Region and a USAV Beach CAP course this weekend. We are on the beautiful powdered sugar, squeaky sand of Ft. Walton Beach, Florida with Jon Aharoni and Ali Lamberson. Phil Bryant, the commissioner, has been doing great things here for over 20 years, and this long weekend is no different, as there also is a CAP Level 1 AND a CAP Level 2 with Bill Neville, Cecile Reynaud, Diana Cole and Don Burroughs teaching.  Plans are to do it next year as well, so mark your calendar to come to the beach and learn! Read More

Lessons From the Ski Slopes (Nov. 17, 2013) - I have skied all my life, as do my kids, as there is nothing like skiing fresh powder on a sunny day, or doing a sport with your kids as early as age 4, where they can cruise and bomb an intermediate run with you, side by side.  I first was impacted by Jean Claude Killy’s ski racing in the Grenoble Olympic Games and would stand at the top of a dirt or sand hill, play the Olympic theme song in my head, then count the beeps at my gate before skiing down the dirt, running “gates” as fast as I could.  Fifteen years later while on a holiday break from playing pro volleyball in Italy, I got the joy to ski L’s Alp de Huez with Daniel Cathard, one of Killy’s teammates. Read More

John Kessel's Top 25 Books to Learn From (Sept. 15, 2013) - I found it impossible to keep my list to ten, and I am focusing on sport and business areas of our dewy decimal system, to keep the list just to twenty-five….yeah I read a lot.  In my clinics I am often asked which books have I learned the most from, so in response here is my list and observations on what I learned, in no particular order. Read More

Space Dive (Sept. 12, 2013) - Citius, Altius, Fortius – what a great movie about testing your own limits. As Felix Baumgartner broke the world record for a free fall jump from higher than 120,000 feet in space—becoming the first person to free fall while breaking the sound barrier—the National Geographic Channel and BBC used more than 20 cameras to capture the four year process. He went from elite BASE jumper to a pressure suited test pilot who really was an astronaut.  I caught this movie in flight on the way back from our clinics in Italy and was mesmerized. Read More

Due Settimana Nella Italia (Aug. 15, 2013) - Two weeks in Italy happened this summer, with my son and daughter as camp staff for the Anderlini Scuola di Pallavollo – my old friend, and coach of Lang Ping in Modena for several years. The best part other than being with my kids back in the country I once played professionally in, was the chance to teach alongside Carl McGown, my mentor (and so many others mentor too) and dine 2-3 times a day with him and his wife Susan. Read More

Heaven or Hell (Aug. 10, 2013) - Working in principles before methods has found me sharing ideas with a very diverse group of other leaders in sport and business.  The one idea that has helped my volleyball teams that also works in other disciplines is that of first teaching from the positive side a skill option, as you work towards perfection. A recent talk at this year’s USOC Olympic Assembly, hosted this year in USA Volleyball's home city of Colorado Springs, with  the head coach Mike from NAIA Northwest Christian College, and then with the USOC Leadership sessions with Ebay, General Mills and State Farm executive staff allowed me to share this same concept in a business way. Read More

To Live in Excellence (July 28, 2013) - Lately there have been some parents and players visiting our USA Volleyball offices who are in town for High Performance camps. It is a treat to show these passionate members of our volleyball family around as they usually have no idea of how much history and work goes on behind the scenes to create both excellent junior programs (I am still wanting to return to the term Junior Olympic Volleyball and Junior Olympic Beach Volleyball, as that is exactly what happens in USA Volleyball programming), and Olympic/Paralympic medals. Read More

Relentlessly Positive (June 15, 2013) - This is another slide in my coaching presentation, that was inspired in no small part by Nelson Mandela. When a man can be imprisoned for 27 years, then when released, seek only collaboration, reconciliation, and the desire for peace, not vengeance, you can only be inspired, as billions  of the people of the world, not just the millions of the people of his now grieving nation. This is a time to go buy the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary titled the “The 16th Man” which tells the story of Mandela and the South African Springboks rugby team. Read More

Pattern Interruption for Improving Coaching (May 9, 2013) - If you have attended any of my clinics live, you know at some point in time I teach the value of using the method of pattern interruption to make important points stand out and be remembered, not just for a while, but often permanently.  One of the finest teachers in the nation, Jamie Escalante, even had a movie done about his teaching, Stand and Deliver, where he brought dozens of inner city high school students to achieve Advanced Placement Test success at a level that the testing company assumed the group had cheated. Read More

Two More Myths – Learning Styles andFundamental Motor Skills (May 1, 2013) - I just completed three days of the 6th annual Paralympic Leadership Conference. It is always so inspiring to be around hundreds of athletes and leaders who have either a disability or a passion for working with the disabled. As the keynote speaker said on Friday nite “It is a great time to be disabled…” at least in this nation. The two highlights for me were speeches. Read More

For the Kids’ Development, Not the Parents (April 20, 2013) - In the past generation, I have seen how sport has gone from parents playing, with their children learning by watching to kids playing and the parents all are watching. This shift has meant that kids are now much more limited in their chances just to play, without it being observed and critiqued by parents, and these athletes do not get to be mentored by older players. The importance of free play, without being coached but by learning as the game teaches the game, is seen in many studies. Read More

Evolution of Blocking Drills (April 12, 2013) - In the book The Seven Habits, author Stephen Covey says one of those habits is to “begin with the end in mind.” I can think of no skill more important to do in totally gamelike situations other than blocking, in short – the best blockers get that way by blocking live hitters in real games or grills. So when coaches ask for “the best blocking drills,” it is simple – you block hitters who are attempting to put the ball past you. Read More

Pole Vaulting and Ebay (April 10, 2013) - I had the honor in January to be the first non-polevaulting speaker to address the National Pole Vaulting Summit in Reno, Nevada an event that had been going on for over 25 years with over 2,000 attendees. The motto of the session was “Encourage, Engage, Educate and Inspire” - four great words that meet together to make any sport a better situation for the kids. Read More

300 Coaches and 600 Players in a Week (March 14, 2013) - I spent a week back east earlier this month working with some of the true grassroot leaders in our sport in the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. It began with a clinic for 50 athletes and 10 coaches near York, Pa., and ended with a clinic for the same number of volleyball club members in New Jersey. Read More

Growing the Game After an Earthquake (Feb. 25, 2013) - So while most Americans are enjoying their President’s Day holiday weekend, and many USA volleyball families are found in a convention center or gym – or even the Arizona Cardinals football stadium (well done Eppersons!) with kids playing over the days off, I find myself spending my week in Haiti, growing the game on the last stage of our State Department Sports United Grant. I am so glad I came. Read More

Where is Your Whiteboard? (Jan. 15, 2013) - 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. Read More

Kia Orana (Jan. 5, 2013) - Long before Spock split his fingers and said “live long and prosper” the people of the Cook Islands said in greeting and thanks “May you live long/well” It is on their license plates, and even means thank you. We drove one nite around the whole main island – there are others where the black pearl is found – taking 45 minutes if that. Read More

Holiday Gifts for Volleyball Leaders and Athletes - 2012 Edition (Dec. 21, 2012)  So another calendar year of growing the game together comes to a close, thus it is again time for some “gifts” to all of you who as coaches, club directors, officials, players and of course parents.  Videos to download, books to read and things to consider for your new year’s volleyball resolutions, hopefully all new to most of you, are here, with thanks for USA Volleyball and the Sport Development & Region Services departments especially. Read More

Giving Back to Those Who Serve (Nov. 11, 2012) Readers of my blog know the many different ways USA Volleyball doesn’t just support juniors, but everyone involved in our sport. Those who know the history of our game, know that wars, especially World Wars I & II, were instrumental in bringing volleyball first to Europe...Read More

Decades of Growing the Game (Oct. 23, 2012) Many people joined us recently for our USA Volleyball open house. Some of those who entered my office are still there I think, hiding or lost somewhere between the collection of world globes and my event credentials, reading some of my hundreds of books on the shelves... Read More

STOP Teaching Running (October 8, 2012)  This blog in the STOP series is a plea for coaches to please understand one of the most important principles in the science of motor learning – that of specificity – as it particularly applies to conditioning/running...Read More

Doing the Right Thing in London (Sept 06 2012) Had a morning off from jury duty, so I got up to meander the Paralympic Village and Olympic Park. The one thing that never ceases to bring a smile to my face is the huge number of people guiding their blind or wheelchair bound country men and women...Read More

Testing Your Perception and Awareness (Sept 02 2012) When USA was playing Brazil in the London 2012 Olympics pool play, a missed call was made against USA as opposite Clay Stanley hammered a ball off the blocker’s hand that then went directly into the antenna.  This happened in milliseconds, but right in front of the official on the stand, who perceived that Clay hit the ball into the antenna first...Read More

Missing John Armuth (Aug 31 2012) Wednesday at the London 2012 Paralympics was “Preliminary Inquiry” day – where the teams uniforms are checked to make sure they were made to the guidelines of the International Paralympic Committee and the WOVD, the World Organization of Volleyball for the Disabled... Read More

STOP Teaching FREE Balls (Aug 23 2012) Yes we are back with perhaps one of the most important “STOP” lessons of all – the need for coaches to stop teaching “Free” balls, especially the way the vast majority of coaches around the world teach it, and start teaching “Mean” balls...Read More

Top 10 Volleyball Kicksaves (Aug 03 2012) The motto of the International Volleyball Federation, that “FIVB” logo you see on a large white screen, is “KEEP THE BALL FLYING.” One of the rule changes after the 1992 Olympics was to allow whole body contact. Up until then...Read More

Videos, McCutcheon and Lessons, Oh My! (July 31 2012)  A chance to make history is ahead on several levels in this summer’s Olympic Games in London. A young high school player named Hugh McCutcheon came up to me in New Zealand back in the late 1980s when I was there teaching an FIVB Coaching course, and asked for help in coming to play in the USA...Read More

STOP Teaching Hitting (July 20 2012) Ah yes, we are back with another request – in this case to train gamelike and create hitters with volleyball IQ, and not create one dimensional players who are good at spiking into the net….Read More

Court of Dreams (July 05 2012) An almost four hour flight from Miami over the Caribbean Sea brings you to the island trident nation of Barbados, home to some 280,000 perpetually smiling people. I love the story of their flag, with blue bands for the sea and sky, and a yellow band for their golden sands - as they have some 60 miles of coastline....Read More

Evolution of Volleyball Nets (June 21 2012) This spring I was fortunate to be a speaker at the 25th annual Midwest Volleyball Instructors (MVI) Clinic.  I got to follow in the footsteps of presenters such as Arie Selinger, Hugh McCutcheon, Bill Neville, Mike Hebert and...Read More

World School Volleyball Championships (June 10 2012) I have returned to the Mediterranean Sea, where almost 30 years ago I played volleyball in Italy, only this time I am up the coast, in the town of Toulon in France. I am here to make...Read More

Celebrating Together (May 31 2012) Just finished our annual meetings in Salt Lake City, where all the USAV leaders come to share their season’s experiences and best practices and plan ahead to grow the game anew. This being an Olympic year…Read More

From 21,000 Teams to 816 (May 17 2012) Last week, as part of the Olympic qualification process, our USA Men keep our historic streak alive, by qualifying for their eighth straight Olympic competition. There, as I wrote in the blog “From 220 to 12” the members nations of the FIVB, our international federation that USA…Read More

Coaching by Fear (Apr 25 2012) There is a famous segment in one of my favorite movies of all time – Monty Python and the Holy Grail – where the “team” of knights, led by Coach, I mean, King Arthur encounter a little white rabbit. They had been expecting a horrible beast by all accounts, and…Read More

We Hire the WORST Coaches (Apr 24 2012) No matter where a parent looks, every club program will state something to the effect of “We have the BEST coaches…” They then usually add next a list how a coach “played at college” - D1/2/3/NAIA/JC …it does not matter, they were a COLLEGE player…Read More

Perpetually Dissatisfied  (Apr 12 2012) I was looking back as my previous blog posts and comments, as our website is soon to be moving to a new provider and taking on a new look, while wondering if the comments would be lost. One comment caught my eye, that brought this blog to life – related to the Olympic motto of… Read More

The Evolution of Pepper (Feb 29 2012) This second in a series of sharing the evolution of popular drills – into grills or even games, takes on perhaps the most hallowed of traditions… “pepper.”You may not even know why players call it this term, you just carry on this tradition of calling it and doing it its…Read More

Jim Coleman Impact & Immediate Feedback (Feb 26 2012) On October 22, 2012, Jim Coleman would be turning 80 years old. His passing a over a decade ago, in August of 2001, meant heaven picked up one of the best volleyball minds in the world to ever walk into a gym. At our USA Volleyball offices, all our historical material is in a large library area…Read More

Specialization is for Insects (Feb 15 2012) A long talk last week with a writer from Volleyball Magazine, got me contemplating some principles that are important on the topic of “specialization” The first thought that came to mind, is the title of this blog – taken from this quote: A human being should be able to change a…Read More

The Evolution of the Butterfly Drill (Feb 06 2012) Been thinking about one of the drills that most volleyball coaches and players, with a little bit of experience, known around the world – “Butterfly” More to the point I guess I have been reflecting on how the motor learning principles of increasing contacts per hour and…Read More

What Can a Player Control? (Feb 03 2012) This week my son Cody is playing in his first ever college matches for Princeton. He has been touching base lately about his concerns about playing at this next level, which will be played against California teams like UCSD (who Princeton has not defeated in over 11 years) Long Beach and Cal…Read More

The Randomness of the Bigger Game (Feb 01 2012) This guest blog is by Eric Hodgson, chair of the USA Volleyball's Grassroot's Commission and full time Director of Outreach for the Arizona Region of USA Volleyball. For more on his position, click Note: If going to the doctor…Read More

Cameras, Athletes and RoleModeling (Jan 15 2012) Some of you may know that during my time at Colorado College and after, I worked as a summer hiking guide, did winter ascents, and Outward Bound courses, river rafting thru the Gates of the Ladore...Read More

Coaching the Human Animal (Jan 02 2012) An advance heads up to start this blog, it is going to cost you the price of buying a movie, which you likely have not seen and which has become one of my favorite movies ever – documentary really – as it teaches huge lessons to all those wanting to be a better coach, teacher, or…Read More

Videos and Principles Worth Many Thousands of Words (Dec 14 2011) If a picture is worth a thousand words, those who have heard me speak know that I love to use video and images to say far more, during the always too short time I find I have to...Read More

I Love to Watch you Play (Nov 19 2011) As my last child winds her way through that last year of high school, somehow juggling five AP classes, two varsity sports with captains practices and road trips, peer counseling, friendships that have endured 3/4th her life on this remarkable planet….I keep thinking on how much I am going…Read More

Warrior Transition Unit Europe - Veterans DayThanks (Nov 11 2011) This seems fitting to post on Veterans Day....I’ve been on the second largest US Army base in the world this week, somewhere in Germany about 120km from Frankfurt, in between Mac’s regionals...Read More

Great by Choice / Thinking, Fast & Slow (Nov 02 2011) OK, One down, two books to go…. I blogged about the one down The Rare Find last week. The two to go?.... Well, I’m now reading Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and…Read More

The Rare Find (Oct 26 2011) I just finished one of those books that I feel all readers of this Growing the Game Together blog should also take the time to read. Then re-read. Long ago, then US Olympic team coach Terry Liskevych, told me of a study on talent, done with the National Football League general managers at that…Read More

STOP Teaching Setting (Oct 21 2011) - After the dialogue from my blog called “Stop Teaching Passing” - I felt as this junior season starts up that it is important to give all you teachers of the game a few more titles to chew on. What in gosh sakes am I saying here, when I spent last season teaching my kids a 6-3…Read More

Random Observations on Coaches... (Oct 17 2011) I have observed thousands of coaches presenting skill and drill ideas to others – both players and coaches – in the last 40 years of my coaching career, and have come to some observations to consider. Coaches on the court like to hear themselves talk. And talk. And talk. Some…Read More

To My Amazing Daughter - Performance IS Variable (Sept 30 2011) - Last night was one of those powerful times where parenting and sports collide. I am going to get a bit personal here, as the impact moment happened to my daughter’s team and my daughter, who I am also writing to in this specific blog. A bit of background, so my readers who do not know of my…Read More

Powerful ESPN Story Telling (Sept 15 2011) Those of you who have seen me speak know how much I value story telling to be the best teachers we can be. In previous blogs I have noted some of the great information found in, and Playing for Change...Read More

Inclusion Through Sitting Volleyball (Aug 25 2011) Many readers know of my passion for the disabled side of our sport – from Paralympic to Special Olympics. Some recent news is that the World Games for the Special Olympics will be in Los Angeles in 2015 so start planning, and I will be serving on the Jury at the 2012 London…Read More

Guest Blog - Winning the Lottery (June 15 2011) -- Sometimes I get an email that just seems a waste to let remain in my email folder, but instead be shared. This story by Dennis Belaire, who is busy growing as a coach by giving back to USA Volleyball through work with our USAV Sports United Grant for the 6 NORCECA nations and a lot of YMCA…Read More

International Guest Blog - Power Cup … (June 14 2011) This special international edition guest blog comes to us from Lauri Aatos Hakala. As a collegiate men’s player at BYU under the great Carl McGown, he was a great student of the game. Now he is naturally moving into being an equally skilled coach, and, after several years playing…Read More

Bionic Warriors and Heroes (May 16 2011) This week begins one of the more special annual events held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, the Wounded Warrior Games. No time for Tuesday Tips for the Coaches of Chaos, sorry. This event is just mega-important to the volleyball family. That said, this Thursday is a…Read More

Tuesday Tips for the Coaches of Chaos 5.10.11  (May 10 2011) Coaching Behaviour: Last night I did a final IMPACT webinar, and at some point we talk about the “TV Test” aka the “Grandma Test” or the “YouTube” test – as in, would you want your action to be seen on TV, YouTube or have your grandmother hear about…Read More

Summer Volleyball Options (May 09 2011) So with Regionals done for every USAV player, congrats are in order to those advancing on to Nationals, or on to USAV High Performance programming. This blog is for the rest of you who wonder what is best to do this summer....and for those programs which may be playing indoors in a June…Read More

Tuesday Tips for the Coaches of Chaos 5.3.11 (May 03 2011)  Jimi and Melissa So I am sitting in the U.S. Olympic Training Center Aquatics 006 room in Colorado Springs, and there is a huge picture of Jimi Flowers and Melissa Stockwell at the Beijing Olympic Natatorium during the 2008 Paralympics. The loss of Jimi to a mountain climbing accident…Read More

A Change of Seasons (Apr 27 2011) So dear team, our club season has come to an end, including my time to be in practice and competition guiding your development and training. It is time for you to coach yourself, figuring things out implicitly, with a little bit of guided discovery from a crafty mentor as a partner or…Read More

Tuesday Tips for the Coaches of Chaos - 4.26.11 (Apr 26 2011)  It’s an eclectic Tuesday here, maybe reflecting the week we have in store for us which has included coaching at a qualifier, attending the USOC National Governing Body Best Practices Seminar on Governance, assisting the NORCECA Board of Administration and Executive Committee we…Read More

Promoting Volleyball (Apr 20 2011) Promoting volleyball is a duty of every coach and player. Luckily, we have a great lifetime sport to share with others. There are lots of material on the USAV website, including the handout on "Why USAV is the Right Choice," and the "Volleyball Basics Guide." Articles like "How to Stage a…Read More

Tuesday Tips for the Coaches of Chaos 4-19-11 (Apr 18 2011)  Just back from a great clinic on the east coast with the WEVA Region that held in conjunction with the Molten Division III Men’s Invitational Volleyball Championship, won by Nazareth on its home court. They did a GREAT job of having a first- to eighth-grade…Read More

TWO Tuesday Tips for the Coaches of …  (Apr 12 2011)  Sorry for the delay, I have been overseas for over a week teaching more than 50 coaches from five NORCECA nations, including Haiti, on beach, minivolley, youth, sitting and Special Olympic volleyball with USA Volleyball CAP cadre members Sue Gozansky and Bill Hamiter. More on that some other time,…Read More

Tuesday Tips for the Coaches of Chaos 3/29/11 (Mar 29 2011)  Open Source Volleyball – Chuck Rey has a very good blog worth bookmarking, and recently wrote about some of the reasons USA Volleyball is such a strong National Governing Body and national program. Check it out by clicking here! Fearful to Coach – Jahrae Hampton, a coach up in Denver…Read More

Tuesday Tips for the Coaches of Chaos - 3.22.11 (Mar 22 2011)  Fooled by Randomness Readers of this blog may tire of how often I keep reminding us that by choosing sport as a way to develop leadership and character, that we must not forget that the outcome is out of our control, no matter how hard we work. We are now in “March Madness,” and this…Read More

Tuesday Tips for the Coaches of Chao …  (Mar 15 2011)  Master Class US Olympic Committee High Performance Director Peter Vint did a FANTASTIC webinar for USAV coaches called “On the Edge of Human Achievement” – You can find the webinar on your USAV RVA website for viewing. In the 90 minutes he shared with the coaches, he spoke about…Read More

Tuesday Tips for the Coaches of Chaos 2 (Mar 08 2011)  Nightstand Book of the week – Seth Godin’s Lynchpin . GO Make something happen is his mantra of sorts….favorite quote of many "Please stop waiting for a map. We reward those who draw maps, not those who follow them." His blog is and well worth the…Read More

STOP Teaching Passing! (Mar 02 2011) No matter where I go in the world to teach, the traditional coaches mantra of “Can’t pass, can’t hit” is one of the first statements I hear in any language. Then, when we introduce our sport to new players of any age, the first skill taught is almost always “the…Read More

Tuesday Tips for the Coaches of Chaos (Mar 01 2011)  Greetings. In meetings with our Region Services staff, I have been expressing my desire to help the teachers of sport in separating the wheat from the chaff. There is so much information out there, that great reads, videos and ideas get lost. So this weekly blog is simply done to help those of you…Read More

Quantum Hoops II (Feb 24 2011) You may have already read that one of the more fascinating documentaries I own and sometimes share with players and coaches is about Cal Tech Basketball, titled Quantum Hoops. It is a fascinating long look back at the history of the sport of basketball played at the California Institute of…Read More

Stats for Parents and Players (Feb 23 2011) I oft speak of the impact a Discover magazine article long ago had on me, on how we are fooled by randomness, in helping me be a better parent and coach. A short clip on why we need to teach our kids stats over calculus – as my daughter struggles to decide between taking…Read More

I Just Need a Line (Feb 22 2011) The dawn drive to the Santo Domingo airport to begin my all day journey home to Colorado, goes mostly along the coast of ragged lava rocks - no beaches on this stretch, but lots of palm trees. Every few hundred yards I see one or two fisherman, patiently waiting to see if their offering on…Read More

Choosing the Right Words (Feb 15 2011) I have been reflecting on the lack of specificity in most coaches’ teaching, as well as the choice of words we often make by habit. I am reminded of this as we are scripting some free videos to share this year, but mostly it is due to the difficulty I see coaches go through and how their…Read More

Creating and Training Resilient Athletes (Feb 07 2011) What a great IMPACT webinar last week, with Andy Pai answering the 200 coaches’ written questions that poured in, while Phil Shoemaker, head coach at University of Alaska Fairbanks, and I shared about 100 total years of collective insights for these new coaches to learn from. One coach made…Read More

Reading & the HP Clinic Redux (Jan 24 2011) The last few days of the High Performance Clinic here at the Olympic Training Center brought back memories of a joke Craig Sherman, former Univ of Missouri head coach, pulled on me in the late 1970s at a USA National Development Camp. As head coach, I had spoken at length on the ways and…Read More

Top Ten Serving Secrets (Jan 17 2011) So I spent the last four nights in Hartford, Connecticut. Snowfall of a greater amount in the storm than any other time in recorded history. Temperatures lower than any time in the last six years. So the aptly named Winterfest Tournament took place on over 20 courts in the Convention Center, and…Read More

A Hard Day for Haiti (Jan 12 2011) I missed the first power tourney to travel for work. I went to San Diego for two days to teach coaches and leaders at the Starlings USA Directors Convention. Starlings is a program for economically disadvantaged athletes. USAV and Starlings USA promote the Haiti Street Project, where Haitian…Read More

Ohana & Play (Dec 31 2010) Happy New Year everyone….I am thinking about the chance to give young players a love of the game is perhaps the most important job of any coach along the path of each athlete’s development. This fostering of passion for volleyball is made easy by the very nature of this game, its…Read More

Thoughts on Warming Up - Practice & Pre-Match (Dec 09 2010)  I am a month into coaching my 14 team, I call them the Fourteeners, after our 52 highest 14,000 foot plus mountain peaks we have here in Colorado, including the snow shrouded one right out the USA Volleyball office window known as Pikes Peak. I figured I would simply share what I wrote my team, BOTH…Read More

Primum Non Nocore (Nov 08 2010) Some of you may know the Hippocratic Oath, given to medical doctors. For those who do not know, it translates simply to First Do No Harm. This is a cornerstone in my philosophy of developing amazing leaders and growing the game. I believe this oath should be given to each coach, for in my decades…Read More

Ten Imprudent and Obtuse Things I Ge … (Oct 06 2010)  While my grassroots article from over 20 years ago shows lots more of the things I have somehow either changed or even completely avoided (CLICK HERE to download “How to Ruin a Player”) – of late I have been hearing from the grassroots some variations and outright new versions of…Read More

Never be a Child’s Last Coach (Oct 04 2010) Last week at the LTAD Conference in Canada, I found it most intriguing that of the many ideas I shared, the one that resonated the strongest was the title of this blog. After my keynote speech, just about every following speaker noted it in some fashion, tying it into their own presentation. …Read More

USAV Youth & Mini Volleyball (Sept 27 2010) USAV Youth & Mini Volleyball One of the things we find at USA Volleyball is that given the size of our nation and the number of things we do in our sport (Paralympic, Olympic, Beach, Youth, Seniors, Coaching, Officiating, Diversity Inclusion – like boys, Starlings USA and Special Olympics…Read More

Growing Through Our 3rd Season of Webinars (Sept 20 2010)  You know, USA Volleyball (USAV) has maintained a web presence since the mid-90's, starting with the help of Tom Jack at and progressing through our current partnership with Team USA and the USOC...Jim Coleman helped create stat and game analysis even…Read More

IMPACTing Learning (Sept 10 2010) Over 22 years ago, I sat down with Bill Neville and Mike Flemming, at Bill’s house in Colorado Springs, and began the writing of new book on the fundamental levels of coaching. This week, I helped out doing IMPACT Instructor refresher courses by webinar, from the comfort of our own homes, as…Read More

Contacts Per Hour (Aug 26 2010) One of the four banners I travel with for clinics no matter where in the world I go, is a banner with the title of this blog. It is a way to summarize the motor learning principle of increasing opportunities to respond. As we learn by doing, not watching, one of the core ways to get better…Read More

From Orphans to Club Olympic (Aug 24 2010) A US State Department Sports United program has me taking a week of my vacation time, to head to Bolivia – to work with Club Olympic, Paralympic and Special Olympic coaches, hundreds of teachers and even more players from all over the nation. Basing out of Cochabamba and Santa Cruz…Read More

Pyramids of Success (Aug 13 2010) Another girls’ high school season is soon upon us, and I have been thinking about pyramids, thanks to seeing them when doing the 38 nation clinic in Egypt this past spring. How so much of our work we do at the grassroots level to grow the game, is done to help make the top of our own…Read More

Fact vs. Fiction (Jul 16 2010) At the 2010 Sitting World Championships, doing all sorts of things, from court set up to photography. Starting today, I move to the role of coaching the coaches again – in this case in the Wounded Warrior project we will be “training the trainers.” Ten military leaders will watch…Read More

100 Years of Volleyball Research Secret (Jul 13 2010) This week finds me in Edmond, Oklahoma, somewhere on Tornado Alley (noted in part by the bright green “Severe Weather Shelter” signs in the gyms we are working, for the 2010 World Sitting Volleyball Championships. We have made it through days of set up, and an inspiring opening…Read More

The Player Who Knows WHY Beats the P … (June 21 2010)  Last week I found myself with my kids, headed over Wolf Creek Pass, the ski area still patchworked with deep snow, as my son drives over the Continental Divide - and I get to work on the laptop. We are returning from several days working the Native American Volleyball Academy, run by the great…Read More

Around a League in 80 Days (June 16 2010) This past February 23rd, some twenty boys gathered in Palmer’s main gym, to start playing volleyball for their high school. Just ten weeks later, the two teams formed from the sweat and hard work of these young men, would end their season at Regionals, and not advance to the final eight teams…Read More

The Science of Motivation (May 26 2010) There have only been a few books which I have bought multiple copies of to share with others impacting my life. One happens each May/June, when I give “A Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankel to high school and college graduates, about the freedom to chose your attitude…Read More

Wounded Warrior Games  (May 15 2010)  This week the Olympic Training Center hosts some 200 disabled athletes from all the branches of the services. I have been working with US Paralympic staff on the sitting volleyball competition, and this week, fter months of preparation, the gym roared to life with teams from Air Force,…Read More

Three Word Coaching Philosophies (May 06 2010) In my last blog I noted how the US Paralympic Symposium was named the same as my own simple coaching philosophy – “Develop Amazing Leaders.” In IMPACT and CAP courses this topic of building a coaching philosophy is covered, for it is important to be able to share your…Read More

Developing Amazing Leaders Too (May 03 2010) Some of you who have taken an IMPACT course from me, by webinar or in person, know that when we get to Chapter Four and start talking about developing a coaching philosophy, that I share mine in three words – “Develop Amazing Leaders.” From that, you should understand, following…Read More

LTAD, Michael Jackson and the CAVB (Apr 05 2010)  Symbolically I start this blog as I am flying over Olympia, Greece, one of my favorite places to visit and be inspired in the world. We are about 90 minutes into our 11.5 hour flight home from an African Volleyball Confederation (CAVB) Symposium just finished yesterday in Cairo, Egypt. I…Read More

The Power of Quotes (Mar 17 2010) I have been collecting quotes for all my life. Come into my USAV office or library, and you will see them scattered throughout my walls and shelves, mixed in with the eclectic history of volleyball and life gifts I have received. When new sentences or paragraphs, generated by great thinkers,…Read More

Establishing a Culture of Play (Mar 16 2010) One of the more important principles to focus on in youth sports, especially volleyball, is to create an environment which encourages play. The value of play, from "street soccer" as best seen in Brazil but really found worldwide, to "pond hockey" in Canada and "driveway or playground hoops" or…Read More

Stuff Happens (Mar 01 2010) Flying back from a great clinic in the "Hittin Mitten" I did with Hugh McCutcheon and Gary Sato. Signed all sorts of USAV Logo banners for the kids in our clinic - "Citius, Altius, Fortius," as these are all USAV Jr. Olympic Volleyball players -- hopefuls to be future Olympians....and they need…Read More

The Cumulative Effect (Feb 17 2010) I have been watching the Winter Olympics as much as my travel and work schedule allows, and have been struck by some of concepts I would like to share. How much everything matters and how important it is to hustle to the very end, and how nations support their national teams and programs. It should…Read More

Specificity & Simplicity (Feb 09 2010) To grow the game, and importantly your skills as a teacher/coach of sport, it is best to seek the effective practices of those who have gone before, and those smarter than you, so that you can stand on their shoulders and see even farther. With the advent of the Internet, there is a lot of chaff to…Read More

To Build Up or Tear Down - Lessons i … (Feb 03 2010)  Before dawn last Monday morning I was on my laptop, connected to USA Volleyball's office with Office Communicator, when I saw I was getting a call from an unknown number and area code. I answered, and found myself talking to Byron Shewman, head of our Starlings USA program. He had been in Haiti for…Read More

Your Practice Objectives Should not be a Secret (Feb 02 2010)  One of the things about being here at the Olympic Training Center is the chance to watch so many other teachers of elite sport and athletes do their thing. As I watch other coaches teach, one thing stands out to me, in that they all are very good at communicating, storytelling, and player…Read More

The Score Takes Care of Itself (Jan 31 2010) I have been watching my son play up this weekend against the teams in Men's A division here in Colorado. As I marvel at how well 17 and 18 year olds fare against the older, far more experienced men, one key thing comes to mind that we all need to do better. - To play one point at a time. If we…Read More

The Power of Story & Serving (Jan 15 2010)  This is a special weekend for me, as I am working with the best, Carl McGown, as part of his staff at the first Gold Medal Squared Coaching Clinic here at Arizona State University. If you get a chance to attend one of their multi-day sessions - you will come away a better coach, and since the best…Read More

No More Drills, Feedback or Technical Training... (Dec 18 2009)  OK coach, hopefully this title has made you click through to this blog to see what the heck I could be thinking here. Please take the time to read and chew on what I am asking you to consider. I will take them in order as each need their own points of consideration. No More Drills Lately in…Read More

StarKidz and Starlings USA Developments  (Dec 16 2009)  Back from a rainy weekend in San Diego filled with warmth and the powerful passionate stories of our Starlings USA National Directors Convention. Over a decade ago former USA National team member Byron Shewman was challenged to do something for the young girls who found themselves by fate to be…Read More

Thanks on Thanksgiving (Nov 26 2009) On this holiday, I wanted to take just a bit of time to give thanks to everyone in the volleyball family around the world. It has been a challenging November for my own family, as the young man we have been hosting since summer when his family had to move out of state to keep their jobs, an IB…Read More

May We Please Leave a Court Up? (Nov 20 2009) Over 20 years ago I was working with the University of Colorado program, working with several club teams to merge them into a single varsity program. In this process, I reached one of my top 10 goals in volleyball, that of having a single volleyball court always up for any level of play to…Read More

A Long Month of Champions (Nov 15 2009) This is may be the best volleyball "month" in the year -- from late October in Wyoming to mid-December this year in Florida-- as some 49 states host district, regional and then final State High School Championships, while the NCAA and NAIA see their over 1,500 schools…ReadMore

Tryouts and Our Deepest Fear (Nov 11 2009) Tryouts can bring out our deep fears, as the talent pyramid begins its inexorable narrowing. From six elementary schools teams, to a couple or so junior high 7th grade teams. From the those junior highs to the one high school program, an onward into the college level. No athlete wants to feel…Read More

Reflections on Open Gym (Nov 09 2009) My son Cody is a senior at the oldest high school here in Colorado Springs. We decided together to start a volleyball club at his school this year, to help grow the boy's high school club program. He is also captaining the varsity lacrosse team again this spring, as an attackman, and by my…Read More

Reflections on Net Heights & Court Dimensions (Nov 04 2009)  I find it baffling that the coaches in our sport do not understand the importance of practicing OVER the net. We take 15 minutes to set up the net - then ignore it for half an hour, letting the players pepper in front of it, throwing balls from in front of it, and generally using it as a wall, not…Read More

Happy Birthday Coach Wooden (Oct 13 2009) I was fortunate in my beginning stages of coaching in the early 1970s to cross paths with Stew McDole of Graceland College (now University), where I was mentored by Stew and coaches like Chris McLaughlin and Carl McGown. We would work seven days a week doing summer camps, putting in…Read More

Tradition Never Graduates (Oct 08 2009) I took a trip to Chicago this past weekend, missing my own kids' homecomings to attend one of my own - hoping in part to be there to take part in the 2016 celebration that wasn't to be. Volleyball in 2016 Rio will be very big - that city hosted the first FIVB World Championships of Beach…Read More

Learning the Game at 9,500 feet (Sept 11 2009)  I journeyed back to Aspen, Colorado, for the Motherlode doubles tourney over this past Labor Day weekend, a pilgrimage I have been taking for almost 40 years. It was 1974 when I drove my VW Squareback (now with 525,000 miles but restored and owned by my son Cody) up over the Independence…Read More

Top Thirteen Recent New York Times S … (Sept 01 2009)  I had Nurture Shock on my next thing to blog about, but today a note from Carl McGown came in this morning with yet another New York Times article that is well worth reading and sharing. This one is about great footwork, great reading, and great racquet speed as a look is taken at the…Read More

We Coach the Way We Were Coached (Aug 26 2009)  Each fall for high school, then later when Junior Olympic volleyball clubs begin, training takes place that shows that the science of our sport has not impacted the cultural traditions of this same sport. Well intentioned and even trained coaches enter gyms all over America, and train their…Read More

Paralympic Sports Clubs & Military Sports Programs (Aug 10 2009) I traveled some this summer doing mostly weekend clinics around the USA primarily for coaches and PE teachers at the youth level. I journeyed from Lander, Wyoming, to Long Island, New York, and places like Phoenix for the newly relocated Volleyball Festival, and Atlanta for the Boy’s Jr.…Read More

Back to My Iowa Grassroots (Jul 29 2009) I have come back to the place that my coaching of coach's journey really began, to a land where nighthawks cry at dusk. Indeed, the 17 year cicadas are now on their third generation since those times, and still vibrate out their amazingly loud ascending and descending song from the…Read More

OPPORTUNITYISNOWHERE (Jul 20 2009) This is one of my favorite "words" ever, and given the economic situation impacting us all, leads us into the reason for this grow the game set of options - for I see things as now here, never nowhere...There has never been a better time to grow volleyball, as not only are we a sport for a lifetime,…Read More

Landslide (Jul 16 2009) What do Tori Amos, Smashing Pumpkins, Dixie Chicks, The Dance, and Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac all have in common? Whether acapella, acoustic guitar, solo piano, or more - each have sung the powerful song "Landslide" in a beautiful way, and those songs I have been playing over and over on my 30…Read More

More Volleyball From Vanuatu (Jul 13 2009)  Espiritu Santo...Wrecks to Rainforest -- Vanuatu, Discover untouched seclusion and beauty...that is what Carte de Luganville - the map of this town says.... To see and do here? World class diving, SS President Coolidge, Million Dollar Point, pristine coral fishing....adventure…Read More

Beachroots Volleyball in Vanuatu (Jul 09 2009)  I have come back to where my grandfather, father and a guy named James Michener once travelled and worked. My grandfather John Fitzgerald, based out of the Tahiti, fighting to eradicate the dreaded Elephantiasis disease from all the thousands of islands, for the World Health Organization…Read More

Ryan Millar, Olympic Gold Medal Setter…. (Jul 07 2009)  Of late, one of my favorite "trivia" questions for volleyball coaches is who set the gold medal match point for the USA Men's team in Beijing? Most guess of course Lloy Ball, the four time Olympic setter who so skillfully bettered ball after ball and gave his hitters the sweet set they desired. But…Read More

Joy in Volleyball (Jul 03 2009) Today, the USA Junior Olympic Boys' Volleyball Championships here in Atlanta began the first of many National Titles with the finals of the 12-and-under division. This city brings back many memories of helping produce the Indoor Olympic and Paralympic volleyball back in 1996, as well as several Big…Read More

Volleyball and Fly Fishing (Jul 01 2009) I got a new Orvis Helios 3wt recently. Made from the same carbon fiber they use on the Apache helicopters, it is feather light at 1.75 ounces total, and strong as heck, for casting into the afternoon winds along my favorite little streams. The science of technology amazes me, yet in our sport it…Read More

Father's Day and Volleyball (June 26 2009)  My father was my role model in countless ways, and I have done my best raising my kids as a single dad to follow in his World War II veteran footsteps. Fly Fishing, backpacking, skiing, and more, my kids have also done. It may also come as no surprise that both my kids love to play…Read More

Tennis Anyone? (June 25 2009) Warming up on the beach with your partner has two very powerful messages that indoor players and coaches need to listen to so that more kids find success earlier in the challenges of our sport. First is the tradition/culture of Dig/Pass-set-hit to warm up with. Your doubles partner stands off the…Read More

Olympism and the New White House Off … (June 17 2009)  The White House yesterday announced the forming of the Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sports office. I sent out news of this last night to some friends and leaders with the correct phrasing in my opinion of the new formation of the Youth, Paralympic and Olympic Sports office. More than a few thought…Read More

The Loser's Club (May 27 2009) The Loser's Club and Playing Blind One of the things about YouTube is the way contests I would never have had the chance to "see" are now things I can enjoy and learn from. The clip below by a blind piano contestant, who just made the top 12 of this year's Van Cliburn, share today thanks to one of…Read More

The Talent Code – Deep Practice, Ign … (May 14 2009) Sorry for the long break in postings - with two kids in teen sports (volleyball and lacrosse) both in state playoffs and finals almost upon us (and proms, who can forget THAT cultural right of passage...) and getting ready for the important USA Volleyball annual meetings, time to free range think…Read More

Stand By Me (Apr 07 2009) Just back from National AAHPERD Convention, big success, thousands of PE teachers learning new ideas, and will share that in a separate blog. I spent most my time with the Brazilian Director of Coaching Education and another Brazilian coach, and got caught up in their samba music and…Read More

TED March Teaching Madness (Mar 30 2009)  Technology Education Design posted some very important clips this month, which I feel every leader growing our sport must view, to be both a better teacher, and to give you more energy to do the wonderful things each of you are doing in that task. Three different areas, all vitally important…Read More

Disabled Sports and You (Mar 18 2009) Today thru Sunday the USA Sitting Men and Women's teams will be training and competing at the Colorado Crossroads against Canada. Come by and meet these four wonderful teams if you are in Denver. This morning Fred Wendelboe, long time USAV leader, forwarded me a link to a great story about a…Read More

Appropriate Coaching (Mar 18 2009)  Appropriate coaching is an important part of being a good coach. Some thoughts about the use of running and other physical punishment follow. I will go back a bit in time to when the term coach was used to move VIPs, who could afford to ride, rather than walk or ride a horse, from one place to…Read More

National Conversations on Good Coaching (Mar 09 2009)  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…Read More

The Tragedy of the Commons (Mar 03 2009) I am starting with a look back into an article that remains timely in this day and age, Garret Hardin's 1968 piece called "The Tragedy of the Commons." Many decades ago, I graduated from Colorado College with a degree focusing on bionomics. My thesis," Towards a Resourced Based Bionomic…Read More

To Sit or Stand During Matches? (Feb 27 2009) This week I got an email from a coach, who asked a great question - sit or stand during match play? Bill, a coach in GEVA, and Peter, from the USOC who I collaborate a lot with on the science of volleyball, have kindly said I can use our email discussion in today's blog, so here goes: From: Bill…Read More

The Art of Strategy (Feb 18 2009) One of the things that I find fascinating is the "volleyball canyon" regarding the mental game. To read about more of these gaps between what the game itself contains, and what coaches train in practice, CLICK HERE to read "Volleyball Canyons to Bridge." In this article my…Read More

Volleyball Stars to the End (Feb 11 2009) As the volleyball family grows, so do the numbers of inspirational stories, and of tragic losses. This past week I have received three emails regarding the passing of talented Jr. Olympic volleyball players: One an accidental suicide, another who fought valiantly to the end with cancer, and a…Read More

Ancora Imparo (Feb 10 2009) Lately my former teammates from my Italian Pro League days in the early 1980s, have been resurfacing into my life through Facebook of all places. Paulo Rossi, my setter, is now a coach, Massimo Raffaldi, is a doctor, and Giuseppe Gallina - whose family owned the most delicious pastry stop in…Read More

How to Make Coaches Great (Feb 06 2009) One of the sites I frequent often is posting new videos this week, as the TED conference for 2009 is happening right now. Yesterday I was talking with Andy Pai from our Coaching Education Program department, and realized he did not know of this website, which I share at every CAP, IMPACT , Webinar,…Read More

The Magic Hockey Helmet and More (Feb 02 2009)  I spent over half an hour this morning on the phone with a parent, who had been ejected from his daughter’s 12-and-under volleyball tournament yesterday. He has a daughter who plays another sport, where referee heckling is part of the culture and he is struggling with learning the culture of…Read More

How We Make Decisions (Jan 30 2009) Most of you reading my work over the years understand the importance I place on improving the most important skill in our sport – reading. As in reading the opponent, anticipating, judging what is going on etc. Stu Sherman took me back over 20 years ago to when his brother Craig, on his way to…Read More

Turning Five Medals in to More Participants (Jan 26 2009)  Greetings Volleyball Family - The tremendous success of our teams in Beijing, including the Paralympic Sitting Women's team winning a silver medal last month, now opens this chance to share ideas with everyone on growing our sport together. This weekend, the Youth & Junior Olympic Volleyball…Read More

USOC Seminar on Development, Enhance … (Jan 26 2009)  Starting tomorrow, a USOC Seminar I have been looking forward to for months, is finally happening. Take a look at this schedule! For those who have taken IMPACT, the names Schmidt and Ericsson have been seen for over 20 years throughout the motor skill section of the manual. The title…Read More

Growing the Game in Oklahoma (Jan 26 2009)  Today's must read is by none other than Malcom Gladwell again - an excellent new article in the New Yorker on effective teaching and "predicting" success that you can access it here on their website. I have lots of travel these next few weeks...Washington DC and the NCAA Division I…Read More

More Street Volleyball Please (Jan 26 2009) Hanging out at this year's NCAA Volleyball Championships in chilly Omaha, Neb., one cannot help but be warmed by the wonderful hospitality of the Cornhusker Nation and Great Plains members. Wednesday night, thanks to Sue Mailhot, commissioner of this region &ndash - which leads all 40 RVAs in…Read More

Passion, Burnout and Teaching (Jan 26 2009)  I just watched a very powerful ESPN Outside the Lines story on a very special athlete, Elena Della Donne. I strongly urge all Junior Olympic volleyball directors and coaches to watch it, as well as read the story. It has three important threads woven together – burn out, passion and being…Read More

A Coaching Challenge and Reality (Jan 26 2009) Just back from Milwaukee where over 60 coaches shared two full days of a CAP course. I got up at 3 am to catch a 6 am NW flight there and spent a very interesting part of Friday with the Badger Region Board of Directors and Junior Leaders, sharing ideas on growing the game…Jenny Hahn and…Read More

HP Clinic Lessons Shared(Jan 26 2009) So we are in the fourth day of this year's USA Volleyball High Performance Coaches' Clinic and CAP I,II, III sessions here at the Olympic Training Center. Hugh McCutcheon, Tom Hogan and Peter Vint headline a group of our sport's most passionate people in presenting ideas to teach the sport to…Read More

The Leave a Ball Behind Program Impact (Jan 16 2009)  Today I packed up some volleyballs to send to the deserving programs of the Special Olympics in Jamaica and to coach Wiyaka Chasing Hawk, who is making volleyball happen for kids on the reservation at the Cheyenne River Project in Eagle Butte, S.D. These donated balls came from the USA Junior…Read More

Capitalization Rates, Birthdates and …(Nov 18 2008) One of the first things that came out of our USOC conference for me was to hear from Dr. K Anders Ericsson that Malcom Gladwell was coming out with a new book. Sure enough, I went online and ordered Outliers, due out in a week. It will go along side his other GREAT reads titled – Tipping Point…Read More

IMPACT and Clinic Thoughts (Nov 18 2008) Having just done three IMPACT Webinars and a clinic for the Columbia Empire Region, including watching Saturday nite's 6A Oregon State Championships Showdown between Jesuit and West Linn...some core thoughts come to mind with what I am sharing, and want to pass along to all. My Top 3 Books right…Read More

If you have a topic or blog suggestion, email or comment below! Thanks for your help in growing the game together....


So You Want To Be A Volleyball Coach (April 8, 2016) -Pat Madia, USAV Western Empire Region’s Coaches Education Committee Chair, shares eleven core tips for a new coach.  Remember and share this, plus other great information for any new coach in the I’m a New Coach section of the USAV Grassroots section. Read More