Summer is a Time of Learning

By John Kessel | June 06, 2018, 1:58 p.m. (ET)
Growing the game

It's summer, and it's time to learn–about yourself as a coach and about how to impact players more effectively.

I have done nearly 500 camps in my career as a coach, in part as it is a chance to guide players to Citius, Altius, Fortius, and because it's a testing ground for ideas in learning faster. When you have athletes for four or five days, then say goodbye, you need to make sure you are focused on player empowerment and helping them to teach themselves when you are gone, by knowing the why over the how.

These ideas have been gathered in a free USAV Summer Camp Manual for coaches and clubs. You can also help your parents decide on a summer camp, with this checklist and guide. For the players, TrueSport has preparations covered with a handy list when it's time to pack.

So other than camps, what can the summer be? I think the biggest gift you can give players these days is the culture of play–the encouragement to set up a court with three other friends and just play–no coaching. Let the kids work on all the things they have been taught. If we have done our job, they can coach themselves and take those ideas to a higher creative level. Parents shouldn't coach either; let the kids  learn from the game.


Cal Beach Team Coaching

Parents can also take a day to get their kid and a friend to enter an event: not just a juniors event, but a men's or women's lower-level grass or beach doubles events to allow the kids to be challenged by the process, not the outcome; to play and learn from adults. Look for something local, or find something while the family is on vacation together.  

Summer is also a good time to get your path to the podium really primed by helping your area's elementary and middle schools get more volleyballs in the P.E. closet. Guide these schools to add STEM volleyball programming, using area science/technology/engineering firms to donate kits to the schools that feed your program. Giving kids a fun start by playing 2v2 to 4v4 and not 12v12, is also a huge gift for the future of volleyball in your area.

Coaching Education

Finally, summer camps are a great way to learn by doing as a coach, but it also is a time to get training from peers. This July, USA Volleyball is hosting an IMPACT, CAP I and II clinic in Southaven, Miss. State coaches associations may also have clinics, and you can also learn from other organizations and through the closed Facebook group “Volleyball Coaches and Trainers (closing in on nearly 20,000 coaches).

Of course, the advent of the internet means this is your time to “practice” as a coach–for the time of practice is the competition you must win. Listen to podcasts (Coach your Brains Out, The Talent Equation, USAV webinarsChanging the Game Project, The Talent/Culture Code). Also, read your "old" USA Volleyball coaches newsletter to refresh your learning.

Share other summer growth/learning ideas in the comments below; it's how we grow the game together.