Recently, the Art of Coaching Volleyball staff had a chance to sit down with the University of Southern California Head Coach Mick Haley.
In his 36 years as a collegiate head coach, Haley ranks seventh among the NCAA's winningest active coaches according to win percentage (.808) and fourth for all active coaches by victories (836). He owns a 323-59 (.846) career record against conference opponents while competing in the Southwest, Big 12, Pac-10, and Pac-12 conferences. After winning the Pac-10 title in 2002 and 2003, and the inaugural Pac-12 title in 2011, he now boasts 17 career conference titles.
Our Conversation with Coach Haley covered these topics:
- How to keep a team focused throughout the entire season
- How a USC practice is structured
- The culture of USC's defense
- What separates Mick Haley as a coach
- Why Mick chose volleyball
- The importance of experiences
- Books that made an impact on his coaching career
- How to determine the right defense for your team
- The FIVB rule changes
- How to be a successful coach
Keeping a top team focused
USC Coach Mick Haley says that staying on top involves a process of achieving daily and weekly goals, and it also requires a consistent practice structure. He also says you should never underestimate the value of ice cream when it comes to motivating players. Here’s more from Mick about how to inspire a talented team:
How is a USC practice structured?
To make good use of time and give players an opportunity to improve specific areas of their games, USC has stations where coaches teach individual skills and movements. That happens every practice for 30 minutes. Haley explains here how this has improved his team’s passing:
What is the culture of your defense?
Haley’s defense starts with the right-front blocker, and he has 22 keys that his team follows to play better defense, including making sure players are always stationary on contact. Here’s what he says about training players to play effective team defense:
What separates you as a coach?
Haley is a fan of the Moneyball philosophy. He wants to know his team’s numbers and he wants to know how those numbers compare with the norm. But he prioritizes. For instance, he’s not as concerned with the number of digs his team gets as he is with the number of times his team transitions a dig into a kill.
Why did you pick volleyball as your sport?
Basketball was originally Haley’s game, but he gave volleyball a try to get back into the good graces of an intramural instructor who had dropped his grade to a C. Here’s the story:
It’s a simple point, but Haley emphasizes that embracing different coaching experiences and being willing to evolve with the game are key components to long-term success.
Haley has three suggestions. Not surprisingly, one of them is Moneyball. Here’s what he says about that book and two other books that have had a lasting impact on his coaching style.
Determining a defense
Haley says he is more concerned with getting players to improve their individual skills than he is with systems of play. Here’s why:
FIVB rule changes
“Leave the game alone” is a succinct summary of Haley’s position on rule changes. He points out that current rule discussions are all about fitting matches into a two-hour window for TV, but rule changes don’t always produce the intended results. Case in point: The libero. Originally, liberos were designed to make the game more exciting (and rallies longer) by increasing the number of spectacular digs. As Haley points out, though, liberos are on the court to pass. Digging is just a bonus.
How to be a successful coach
It starts with liking what you do and also involves wanting to be a good teacher. Here’s what Haley says about the path to success as a volleyball coach.