As we grow the game together, there are three places we need to create for kids to get a chance to make volleyball their lifetime sport:
- Places to play
- Coaches to teach
- Officials to officiate
#1 can be solved by using the four nets on a rope idea, working with USAV Affiliated Organizations such as, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs and other facilities, or setting courts up outdoors on grass or sand.
#3 is also very important. We are reaching out to parents to give them something more to do than just watch. We want them to work with the high school and Parks and Recs to find and train more officials through the USA Volleyball website.
This blog is about #2 – the “shortage” of coaches. I am going to share a few examples of how I think we can solve the shortage, and in advance ask anyone with other ideas that are working to provide enough coaches to run more programs for more kids.
- My First Coach was the Game – This is a line from great Brazilian Olympic players who reflected on how they began playing volleyball. These days it seems “coaching” is where an adult is telling a youngster what to do, begins before kindergarten age – and even involves specialization. Let the game be a child’s first coach by setting up a barrier (table, string, whatever) and let these little ones have at it with a balloon. For older first timers, show them a couple of core things – ball shaped hands/fly like superman for OHP/Setting, standing spike motion perhaps, then let them play.
- Physical Education Teacher Model – There are tens of millions of kids who annually learn sport thru the teaching skills of what used to be the main source of volleyball teaching opportunities – the PE teacher. This is why we have created the SportKit DVD, Lesson Plans and so much assistance for these teacher who often, at Elementary and Middle School level are the ones who first give kids an experience with volleyball. The point in regards to this blog is simple. These coaches work with 24-30 plus kids by themselves. They have 6 hoops to do it with in most gyms, but only 1 net, thus the SportKit examples of getting 6-12 nets up in the same space so volleyball can be played by doing, not watching or waiting in line.
- Little Kids Coaching Littler Kids –For over 25 years what happens at the school level is simple – the school day eneds, and the 1st-3rd graders are “coached” for 30-45 min by the 4th-6th graders, and the adult just supervises, then the older kids play under the guidance of the PE teacher for the remainder of the training. Some colleges and even high schools note they do this for summer camp with their varsity players giving back to the sport, which is great. Where I am coming from is the principle of “That Which You Teach, You Learn” and getting young kids to coach even younger kids. Junior high kids mentoring elementary aged kids. Yes, have your 13 and 14 & under aged kids trade coaching each week nite such that one hour of their two hour practice twice a month they teach. This kind of learning by teaching allows the coach to see how their own teachings are being learned. It also allows for a very low cost program to be conducted. I should again mention here USA Volleyball Regions often offer a FREE 8 & under membership and a very low cost (under $15 a year) 11 & under membership, to help you get these young players started.
- Parents – This model is best seen in soccer, and is easily done in volleyball as well. Like #3 above, in order to not have an overload of feedback/instruction at this level even with guided discovery, team size should be 2-3 per side, and the parent can just guide, or be the setter if they are skilled (or using the Smashbal option of catching and throwing the 2nd contact/set if unskilled) for the 2-3 player team.
- Open Gym – Set up a net in the yard – a front yard so other kids might come over to join in - or in the cul-de-sac and just have an adult oversee while the kids play. Set up courts in the gym and let the kids determine the teams, or play work up ladder / Monarch of the court competitions. Let them playing.
- High School & College Community Service – There are many schools at this level who ask and even require their students, not just athletes, to give back to the city they are studying. Check with the school, starting with the volleyball coaching staff, to see if coaching for a certain amount of time in your program might be an option.
Yes mentors/teachers are important, to guide discovery and share their wisdom. The thing is, a youth programming can happen well with just an adult supervisor and the chance to play – not a horde of coaches. It happens best/faster with 2v2 and 3v3 team sizes, not 6v6. If you have other ideas/examples of running quality programming with a limited number of coaches, or other ideas for finding additional programs, please share them below and thanks for your help in Growing the Game Together.