19. 12. 2019

By Mark Lebedew: Who Should Build The Team?

Source: https://marklebedew.com; Photo:CEV

Author: Mark Lebedew

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There is always debate about who within the club should be primarily responsible for building the team.  In volleyball, the collective wisdom is that the coach must build the team.


Coaches especially jealously guard this ‘right’ and I completely understand why (and not just because coaches are control freaks).  Among other reasons, coaches will (fairly) maintain that seeing as they are held accountable they should be able to choose their team.  Because someone has a strongly held belief that is essentially fair (from their perspective) it doesn’t mean that it is the best way for an organisation (in this case a club) to operate.  Some thoughts…

1. Good clubs work in the short term, medium term and long term. Good coaches work in the short term, and MAYBE medium term. Good clubs need to have someone who is responsible for the development of the team in all three time periods.

2. Coaching is not the same skill as identifying players and projecting their potential. It is possible to good at coaching and not good at identifying players. It is not necessary to be good at coaching to be good at identifying players.

3. It is very, very difficult to be a full time coach AND to follow the development of the whole volleyball world AND to understand the market well enough to know what constitutes good value.  In practice, at least one of those tasks, and likely two, will not have a coach’s full attention.

4. Coaching a team and building a team are fundamentally different activities in one key area.  Coaching a team (effectively) requires an emotional commitment and an emotional investment in the players who you are working with.  Building a team (and in this case specifically changing an existing team) requires rationality and detachment.  It is extremely difficult to make a rational, detached decision about a player after having spent eight months building an emotional connection with them.

4. The idea that coaches can only be responsible for the performance of players that they choose? That is not coaching.

5. Coaches will always be fired, and most of the time it has nothing to do with the work of the coach. The reasons for coaches to be fired are about perception, about power, about deflecting blame, and maybe about performance, probably in that order. The organisational structure of a club will not change that.

An organisation must decide on its vision and goals, and establish and implement a plan to realise those goals.  The well intentioned beliefs of a potential employee, however qualified, should not determine the direction of an organisation.

About Mark Lebedew:

Mark Lebedew authors the At Home on the Court Blog. He coaches professionally in Poland with Aluron Virtu CMC Warta Zawiercie. That follows five seasons Germany where his Berlin Recycling Volleys won three straight league titles and a CEV Champions League bronze medal. He has prior professional experience in Belgium and Italy. Mark is also Head Coach for the Australian Men’s National Team. 

Mark partnered with his brother and father to translate and publish "My Profession: The Game", the last book by legendary Russian coach, Vyacheslav Platonov. 

With John Forman, he is behind the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project (link http://volleyballcoachingwizards.com/) which identifies great coaches from all levels, making their experience, insights, and expertise available to people all over the world. The project has produced multiple books, a in e-book format available here ( link to http://bit.ly/34yakou ) or in print at Amazon here (link https://amzn.to/2JRqTE6)



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