No matter where a parent looks, every club program will state something to the effect of “We have the BEST coaches…” They then usually add next a list how a coach “played at college” - D1/2/3/NAIA/JC …it does not matter, they were a COLLEGE player for gosh sakes. The list then mentions that the coach coached at school levels - mostly junior high or high school – and sometimes even college, and, in time, they also, or only coached club.. My question is – what certifies that they are “the best?” In this ever expanding world of marketing and hype, do you think any program would proclaim “We have just average coaches!” …or “Our coaches are learning how to coach by trial and error on your child, please come join us!” ...or "We hire whoever will apply even if we really don't know them".... or the title of this blog, "we hire the worst coaches!" Do you think that the fact that the program has a winning record, means that the coaches are skilled? More likely in club volleyball, the record is due to the recruiting work of the club, taking the best players from the smaller clubs, with promises of superior training, and even the magic word…”scholarships.”
Rarely do you see what these “best” club coaches’ college degrees were in, and if they do, you even more rarely see that they had a teaching or physical education degree. This last point alone has been a change I have seen in my over 40 years of coaching coaches; it used to be if you asked the clinic attendees how many had PE or education degrees, the percentage was over 75 percent. Now it is under 10 percent. I remember doing a clinic in Anchorage, on behalf of the late, great Liz Hooe (who sadly passed away last year due to cancer), where the percentage was 100 percent PE teaching degrees. That was decades ago however…
So why do parents allow their children to be taught by uncertified coaches? The coach is dealing with the mind, body and soul of your child. Would you let an uncertified doctor treat your child? Be happy with a school district which let your child learn from uncertified teachers? Trust your legal matters to a lawyer who did not pass the BAR? Trust a bus driver for your kids who did not have a bus driving license certification? Heck, I don’t know about your state, but in mine, the person who I pay to cut the hair of any family member, has had to have 1,000 hours in training before being certified to cut a single hair off my head…my hair after a horrible cut, grows back. Does the spirit and passion for being active and playing volleyball grow back as easily? I think not….
Yet in the majority of coaching found outside of USA Volleyball, we let uncertified coaches deal with the lives of children for hours a week, for months and even years at a time. Even more amazingly, the vast majority of volleyball programming done in the America, also does not background screen their coaches. USA Volleyball screens every coach, official, and even the chaperones who will be around junior players. We do it, even if it costs more money, because it simply is the right thing to do.
Here are some facts from the screening service. We have been background screening coaches for over half a decade. Some 500 coaches so far have failed the screening. Last year, we denied 84 adults, and the screening service had alerts that they had to check deeper into for 2,100 officials, coaches or chaperones who had some sort of serious criminal record. Even though these 84 people knew they were being checked, they still tried to coach or officiate in USAV junior programming. What club wants one of the 26 people who applied but were previously convicted of violence, or 10 convicted sex offenders/crimes against children, teaching in their program? USA Volleyball sure does not and we know informed parents would not. We have millions of convicted criminals who are out on parole or after serving their years in jail, who are banned for life to be able to coach or officiate USAV juniors for their convictions and/or transgressions against society. Sadly, most sports youth programming does NOT screen all the adults working with kids, and thus by default they condone letting these dangerous adults to possibly work with the children.
Bill Neville, our gold medal winning assistant coach, once reminded me that his son was only going to be 15 years old once in his life, and he did not want some self-titled “coach” to use his son as a guinea pig for their own learning about coaching. The great John Wooden encouraged everyone thinking about becoming a coach to get a degree in teaching – for as I have noted time and time again in this blog, coaching, and parenting, both should follow the laws and principles of TEACHING. You know, that one that says elementary school kids should all do physical punishment like wind sprints or pushups after they make a mistake in class, as it is a “good way to learn the lessons we teach…” NOT….but still in sport after sport, “coaches,” not teachers, have the belief that “it works…”
Recently I watched and apple not falling far from the tree in a post contest diatribe, where the coach simply blamed the athletes for the problems. Rather than understand Coach Wooden’s important concept that states - “You haven’t taught them, if they haven’t learned” - this paid (I am not sure I would call him “professional”) coach vented personal demons of frustration. These talented, Division 1 level players with clearly high skill sets and averages compared to the average population, had performed well below their mean, and the coach listed those poor percentages, player by player, in astonishment that such below average performances could even happen on the team. Those of you who have read my blog enough to know the science of regression to the mean, know what likely should happen in the next match – and I can simply say, yes, it did, these skilled players regressed to their mean, performed better and…the coach then was able to justify the rant, showing that the players had ”learned a lesson…” There goes another coach, fooled by randomness….and the players suffer for it sadly…
Twenty four years ago I put the most important stuff I knew about teaching volleyball into a book called IMPACT. 23 editions later, it remains a place that research I find, - thanks to our partners at the USOC and around the world, that is appropriate to this level - is then included. The 2012 edition of the manual is different this year than last. And will continue to be new. Last month on a Friday night I stayed late at the office, until 11pm – trying a new way to deliver this science and facts to some 50 new coaches, not by webinar but interactively using GoToMeeting. USA Assistant 2008 gold medal coach Jamie Morrison (and current assistant on our #1 in the world USA Women’s team), jumped on for about 15 minutes of sharing lessons and answering any questions. Later in 2012, you will see that you can take IMPACT on demand, further helping new coaches begin the certification process.
We ask USAV new coaches to spend 4-5 hours learning about many facts, not opinions, in risk management – Why should our injury report form have even one single slip on a water bottle, clip board or sweatshirt on the floor, for our goal is that there is ZERO – We get them to write, and re-write their coaching philosophy, after spending an hour sharing thoughts and insights into what the skills of coaching really are. We spend over an hour teaching the science of motor learning – something you can get a PHd in, and take for several semesters at the college level – but we share the principles and most important research of why we should train randomly, and teach the whole skills, and what this means to drill design. We address parent issues, and share information on beach volleyball, Paralympic, Special Olympic and Deaflympic volleyball and all the things leaders in our sport – starting with coaches -- should know. It is not just about juniors, volleyball is a lifetime sport, and we want the coaches, and players, to learn to love the sport so they don’t stop after high school, but ALL play in college, varsity or intramurals, and as adults long after their college days have ended.
When a parent has to choose volleyball programming, you should know if your coaches are certified. Not trained by experimenting on past children, and this year’s group, but certified, through the USAV co-sponsored National Federation of High Schools (NFHS), or by USA Volleyball or the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB). You see, you have a choice of programs.