Written by Chuck Rey
It’s that time of year again. Teams across the land are gearing up for another season. Coaches are furiously putting together binders of all important information and volleyball knowledge attained over the years to impart ultimate wisdom on a generation where Twitter is their media staple. That’s right, the ever popular hundred plus page Volleyball Team Manual will be given to a generation with the attention span of an ant. But is the team manual really a better tool for the Players or the Coach? In the 7 years I have been coaching collegiately, I’ve been fortunate to work under 5 different head coaches. I certainly have a wide perspective of different coaching philosophies and volleyball manuals.
With newer coaches I have found that much of the team manual is a reflection and material from the coach in which they last played or coached under. These coaches are in the formative stages of coaching philosophies. Many younger coaches share (steal 😉 ideas from other coaches and over time, these pieces of ideas start to fall by the wayside and their own philosophies mature. With the seasoned coaches I have worked with, their Championship Manual is often a collection of their own writings and developed ideas over time (that often stemmed from a previous coach, book, or movie). I am fortunate to have such experience (minus the moving experience to four different states).
The Team Manual is a great time for coaches to review their past season and change or add pieces to their coaching philosophy. If you have gone through USA Volleyball’s IMPACT Course (John Kessel, et al), attended an Art of Coaching Volleyball Clinic (The Coaches Handbook) or seen a developed club's manual (like TCA’s Blueprint of a Champion), you may notice these works are often a collection of thoughts, research, and ideas from a successful coach or coaches, over time, that develop an “ultimate” philosophy.
Then comes the first day of practice…Coaches are jacked to distribute their works of art and genius. The pretty team manual with pictures, team mottos, and personalized for each player is waiting on the team room table for eager eyes to soak-up! The players grab their manual, whip it open and page through all the foreign words and volleyball jargon. I’ve been in programs where a coach will spend two entire days on the team manual (no practice time), to most coaches that spend a good portion of a day or many bits of days to disseminate the masterpiece.
On the flip-side, as an assistant coach, I’ve all too often cleaned out lockers at the end of the season with this priceless gem shoved under a wad of crumpled clothes. Articles are jammed in the pockets of these manuals and the pretty 3 ring binder is now stained with Gatorade and half of the papers are holding on by a single binder. The last time the player looked at the team manual was the first day of practice.
So, is the Team Manual for the Player or really for the Coach? I guess we could ask is the United States Constitution really for the people or the politicians?
Obviously, teams need rules and boundaries. How uncomfortable would the players be if they didn’t have a team manual? If we, as coaches, didn’t go over the rules and didn’t talk about our offensive and defensive systems? Would the All American rising senior that is falling asleep while going over this manual for the fourth time be worse if we didn’t go over the team manual or have a team manual?
Solution? What about creating a yearly team manual? If you noticed, I used a key phrase when I talked about coaches creating their coaching philosophies: “Over Time”. It is a series of consistent processes that develops a player, coach, philosophy, etc. This recent Fast Company article describes the development of Forming Super Productive Habits. After all, we want our players to be consistent over time with good discipline habits to be ultimately successful.
When I was a Volunteer Assistant Coach at the University of Minnesota, I learned the struggle was a reward. The struggle of having to make ends meet, led me to having to work a computer job on nights and weekends for a company named Service Quality Institute and a gentleman by the name of John Tschohl. USA Today, Time, and Entrepreneur Magazine call John a “Guru of Customer Service”. With my business background, I quickly became the company’s webmaster.
John travels the world teaching Fortune 500 corporations the best ways to service their customers. John’s philosophy is to have a 3 Year Service Culture Plan that is divided into a number of programs over months.
A general theme is passed throughout the organization over a few months as well as bits of information is passed along to the company’s employees on a daily/weekly basis. The entire program is developed for the employees to perform exceptional customer service.
This is a 3 Year Service Culture Plan; ironically, we coach our players for 4 years. As coaches we should develop a 4 Year Championship Culture Plan. Here at Miami, we just completed our 4 year plan and will continue to develop our master-plan. We will rule the world!!! 😉
Through this 4 year master-plan, one discipline habit I have developed for my teams is providing them volleyball, nutrition, workout, and/or motivational information on a weekly basis. Sometimes the information I provide is similar to the Fast Company article I shared above, or it is a piece I write stemmed from a tangent daydream. A few sample pieces of my writings can be seen on the Club category of my website: http://coachrey.com/category/club/
I’ve learned that providing information in this way not only helps players to better retain information from the Team Manual, but also builds a stronger bond and relationship between myself and the players. They appreciate me looking out for them and I appreciate the continual dialogue that spontaneously happens in the gym the following day.
The weekly, yearly, 4 year team manual process is not an easy discipline for a coach, but it is more rewarding. With all this said, I’ll go back to finishing up this week’s note to the team as well as our team manual for the 2013 season! 😉