Thursday, April 26, 2007

Coaching Lessons

I have been learning something about myself the last couple weeks. The city recreation volleyball league started play about five weeks ago. Both my daughters wanted to play this year so I signed the oldest up for division 2 and the youngest for division 1. I volunteered to help coach either or both divisions as needed.

Just before the season started the administrator asked if I would be willing to head coach a team in each division. I agreed but pointed out that they would have to assure that I didn't have any evenings where I had division 1 and division 2 games at the same time. They opted to have me head coach a division 2 team and help out as an assistant coach for division 2.

I figured being an assistant coach would be a snap. I would help out in whatever way the head coach wanted me to. Unfortunately I find myself in a situation I never expected. I'm working for a coach who I universally disagree with everything she says or does.

My youngest daughter's coach is the worst nightmare of youth volleyball in Ridgecrest. She teaches a very static style of volleyball. Tonight she actually told the front row players on our court to stand on the attack line and stay there.

But her worst offense is that she apparently doesn't care one iota about the kids on her team. This evening between warmups, three games, the time between games and the post game, this woman did not say a single encouraging word to any kid on the team. When the games are going on she just sits in her chair and watches the game, she doesn't move, she doesn't talk, she just stares.

I tried to encourage a couple of the kids who were struggling, but everytime I started to talk she would interupt me by telling them all the things they had been doing wrong. This makes it hard to try and deal with these kids. But what makes it hardest is that I have absolutely no credibility with the kids. The first two practices this season she would follow me around and contradict everything that I tried to teach these kids. After we got home the first night I asked my daughter why she was not doing things the way I showed her, and she told me the other coach told her that she would break her thumbs if she did things the way I was showing her and that she should never do them that way again.

That is this coach's favorite threat to these kids. So far she has told them that they will break their thumbs if they don't hold their hands exactly the way she showed them. They have been told that if they hold their hand the way I showed them to underhand serve they will break their thumbs and if the try to hit a volleyball the way I tried to show them they will break their thumbs. I really like to know what kind of volleyball this woman has played that she has seen all these broken thumbs. But regardless, she has these kids terrified of doing or trying anything I show them.

I'm glad that there are only three weeks left in this season, I don't think I could take much more of this. In the meantime I really feel sorry for the kids. They show up for practice, the work hard and all they want to do is become better volleyball players and have some fun. Instead they get a coach who teaches them nothing, and the things she does teach are fundamentally flawed.

So I discovered something about myself this season - I'm not a very good assistant coach. I guess I've just gotten too used to doing things my way.

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