Holistic Athlete Development


Why do I coach?

Many coaches do not ask themselves this key question.  Coaches will often speak eloquently about youth development, teaching life skills, and having fun, but when the match starts we often revert to yelling about any error and keep lesser-skilled players on the bench.  Our words are not reflected in our game conduct. 

To avoid those shameful moments in coaching, we need answer the important question of “why do I coach?”

A very helpful process in answering this question is to first define our values.

Coaching from our values is significantly different than coaching from our goals.  Many coaches set goals for their team (expected outcomes) and identify those goals as their vision.  Then they develop plans that are meant to reach those goals.  The trouble is that such a vision is outcome focused rather than process focused.  It tends to be so forward-looking that one never arrives.  The ‘drivenness’ of this method typically leads to striving and burnout. 

This is not to say that setting specific realistic goals is not useful, far from it.  There is great value in engaging players in the process of creating specific realistic goals that will monitor progress in all possible phases of development.  However, values must precede vision.  Values connect you to the process.  They must be who you are and how you live today and every day.  If you invest in your values from ‘day one’ producing results becomes natural.

Values lead to vision and ultimately to how you coach.  Defining vision can be tricky.  If the focus is on expected outcomes, you end up defining vision as foreseeing what you hope to accomplish someday.  True vision is the coaches’ vision of who we are to be today.  It is ‘doable’ today and every day.   

Here is an example of applying values into the process of coaching: 

One of your values may be patience.  We are able to demonstrate patience every day.  Our players can learn and practice patience through a number of means.  For example, if a player attacks the ball and is dug, many players feel an expectation that they MUST score a point on the next attempt… often resulting in an error. 

But patience has taught us that if a hitter plays a ‘bad set’ in such a way that they will likely get the ball back (roll shot to the setter), they will get a 2nd or 3rd opportunity to score a point.  By teaching our players the value of patience, they will experience success in a tangible way on the court that they will remember and carry into their everyday lives. 

We coaches can integrate our values into every skill and tactic we teach. If we do, it allows us to stay focused on the process, not the outcome (something out of our control), and stay true to the good reasons we started coaching in the first place.  

A good exercise is to write out your top 5 Values:

  • 1.
  • 2.
  • 3.
  • 4.
  • 5.

Then take a couple of minutes and write down a brief draft of a personal working coaching philosophy here (two or 3 sentences).  Review your philosophy every year and even monthly.

Then create a short coaching motto:
Examples: – “Integrity before winning”… “Excellence in effort”…”reaching your potential”…

As a new coach, it is easy to let one’s own self-esteem be closely tied to the victories of the group. With young players and the many varied skills demanded by volleyball, errors are the rule rather than the exception. Remember that players are gaining invaluable experience now that will usually show up next season, so be patient!



Inspired by USA Volleyball, Volleyball Canada and Brad Jersac