Jaimee Rindy | middle blocker at Coe College, juniors’ club coach
At 20 years old, I find myself in a sort of volleyball limbo, straddling the line between player and coach. This fall I will be a junior at Coe College in Iowa, which means I still have two more playing seasons. I intend to make the most of them, but I am also aware that I’m nearing the end of my competitive career. With than in mind, I’ve recently taken a step back from my role as strictly a player and embraced my position as a mentor to girls entering the high school and club programs where I played. As I’ve been teaching them, I’ve felt a cognitive change in myself, and this is when I discovered a great way to make players better: Let them coach.
As a player, I learned all the physical mechanics of the sport, but as a coach I’ve come to understand them. When you coach, you have to break down the techniques and explain them to someone else, and often you’ll have to do it more than once and in many different ways. When I watch incoming high school freshmen take an approach, I can tell them exactly what they need to change to be more successful. If you can recognize fundamental errors in someone else’s game, you will be more likely to recognize and correct them in your own.
Coaching also creates a level of consciousness regarding technique that is difficult to reach when you’re just a player. For example, the most common error I see when high school players are hitting is a low elbow. They will take full swings with their hitting elbow below their shoulder, and then they wonder why the ball goes into the net. Since becoming a coach, I’ve had to repeat this instruction many times, and I’ve found that I now put a new emphasis on keeping my elbow high when I go up to swing. I was actually able to fix something in my own performance because I had witnessed the changes it made in my players.
Another thing that coaching showed me is that sometimes players think they are making a change when they really aren’t. Or they will change it once and then immediately revert back to old habits. Because I’ve watched this happen from a coach’s perspective, I’m more aware of it when I do it and can quickly correct myself.
In addition to helping me better understand the physical aspects of the game, coaching has also broadened my understanding of the mental side. I notice right away which players are giving maximum effort and which aren’t. It’s easy for me to tell who’s eager to get help from a coach and who thinks they already know it all. I’m now better able to understand the feelings and decisions of my coaches because I’ve been in their position.
So here’s my advice: If you’re a high school varsity coach or an upper-level club coach, have your team coach the JV or lower level teams, even for just one drill. They will learn so much from watching those younger players make mistakes and helping them fix them. Coaching will expand their volleyball knowledge and force them to break down skills and strategy. As they learn how difficult (and often frustrating) it is to be a coach, they will be more likely to accept the guidance you give them.
Coaching has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me. Part of that is because I get to watch the players I work with continue to improve week after week, but it’s also because I can apply what I’ve learned to my own game and help myself get better too.
Jaimee Rindy is a junior middle blocker at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.