14 Things I Wish I Knew My First Year Coaching

Created by the VCT Admin Team

These coaches account for over 200 years of combined experience and they each have shared what they wish they would have known. Every coach has a different background and unique story but we all started at year one.

1)    "Create a working coaching philosophy.

I wish I would have had a more solid foundation regarding my philosophies and core values. I have always worked incredibly hard, and have done as right as I can by my players, but a solid foundation of who I am and what I expect would have created a better and more consistent experience for all." - Brian Swenty

2)    "You can never serve and serve receive enough. 

You think it’s enough and it’s not." - John Kessel

3)     "Don't be afraid to ask for help. 

As a young coach I thought asking for help meant I wasn't capable or that I didn't know what I was doing. Now I know it just means that I know where I need advice, a sounding board, and that others who already have the experience can be of value in helping guide me." - Katie Charles

4)    "Be the coach you always wanted to have.

When I started coaching, I coached players how I had always been coached because I didn't know any different. And then I thought ... wait ... I HATED those coaches and their militaristic style, why would I want to replicate that? So I made the decision to be the coach I always wished I had, and that decision changed everything for the better." - Emily Swanson

5)    "Everything needs a reason and purpose.

Research what works. Understand why it works. We worked on silly things that didn't matter in the game, simply because some famous coach did it that way. Assuming that some method is good will keep you from getting better. " - BJ LeRoy

6)    "Coach your players, not a system.

I floundered about for five years searching for the perfect system to teach my players. I jumped on, and usually fell off, every bandwagon that came along. What I discovered is that there is no perfect system nor holy grail of volleyball. There is no one right or perfect way to do anything. Eventually I learned to establish a relationship built on trust with my players. While building that relationship share your knowledge of the game with them. Then together, you can figure out a system of practice and play that works best for their team." - David Cordes

7)      "Volleyball is not a game of perfect.

The game involves errors, which inevitably leads to opponent points, if you operate under the idea that your team and players can completely eliminate error then you need to quit coaching. This same idea also applies to coaching itself. If you operate under the idea that you can be the perfect coach: that everything you say or do will lead to perfection then you need to quit coaching as well. By holding your team to ridiculously unrealistic standards of performance, you are killing their ability to learn and to deal with adversity. The idea is not to fill their heads with contingencies and what-if's, the idea is to teach them to deal with solving problems as they come, in whatever form they may take.  There is also randomness and chance involved. There are days when the randomness doesn't affect you, and there are days when randomness affects you in both good and bad ways, the randomness doesn't even out: it is what it is. There are days when you need to kill a drill because it's just not working, and you are frustrating your team by staying with it for too long. But you need to always kill a drill with the idea that you will come back and do it when circumstances are better." - Pete Wung

8)     "Teach the why, not just the how. 

- Leanne Marriott

9)     "Find a new definition of failure.

There are attempts of skill where an athlete will go all out and fail. That's called a mistake. There are non-attempts by an athlete. Those are called errors. Errors are unacceptable, mistakes need to be encouraged. It's the mistakes that true learning come from." -  Pat Madia

10)    "Over communication early negates confusion later.

Don't expect your players to do something you haven't communicated to them before. I remember being a new coach and being super frustrated about players not doing certain things. Then I realized that I wasn't teaching them and just expecting them to do it." - Sean Manzi

11)    "Reading the game is more important than playing the game.

When we teach kids to read the game we make them students of the game, making them athletes that can think, adapt, and execute based on what is presented to them. My goal is to say as little as possible on game day and less and less in practice as the season progresses. It's how I teach mathematics and it works. Trust your kids to learn to think on their feet... even if it means tripping and falling a lot. It's a marathon, not a sprint."  - Brett Widman

12)    "Let off the court work define your program.

I wish I knew how work off the court would pay major dividends in my program, whether it was conditioning, mental training, or sport history. These off the court areas are crucial to building not only a successful team, but a lasting program." - Dan Mickle

13)    "All the time you put in is worth it.

There are a lot of tasks to be done before a season or practice begins and it is easy to get caught up in the planning, administrative, and organizational duties. When I made a point of being proactive and reading on a daily basis, I found I was less frustrated and reactive. Taking care of as many details ahead of time allows me to really enjoy and get the most out of those few hours in the gym." - Heidi Anderson

14)    “Recognize the impact you have as a coach.

It is not a matter of if you will impact your athletes its a matter of how. I wish I knew to be selfless with my athletes. To learn what each player needs, how they tick, and to serve them with love and excellence." - Tim Maruyama