LUV the Game - Establishing Your Club's Training Philosophy

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By Chris BeermanHappy New Year! Now that the holidays are over, it's back to work for everyone, especially club directors. This is the exciting time of the year as teams kick off their official practice schedules, get to know their new teammates, and prepare for the early competitions. Lexington United has 23 Girls 12-18 year old teams, the LUV Bugs program for 6-9 year olds, and a Youth Training Team for 10 and 11 year olds and all of these are off and running. Our coaches are doing a great job so far and there's a lot of excitement, sweat and smiles at practice. The goal early on is to establish our club training philosophy, which focuses on ball control, speed, pursuit and aggressive-intelligence and then begin the process of developing roles on teams and creating systems for the respective age groups. Constant improvement is the main foundational goal of the club: to create a positive-push in practice and make players better and more confident in their skills. Our main club motto, LUV the Game, is always the backbone to whatever we do and how we train. In that vein, I think it's very important to have a club-wide fundamental training philosophy that all coaches adhere to and believe in. We also have established offensive and defensive terminology and set nomenclature that is used throughout the entire club and on every team. The 12's use the same terminology as the 18's, which creates great uniformity and a smooth and educated transition between age groups as players get older. The best teams and most successful clubs always have an identifiable and recognizable system in place. The foundation of every successful system is a huge emphasis on controlling and targeting the ball. Many clubs, teams and coaches espouse their commitment to ball control, but very few commit to the idea of targeting the ball. As a collegiate coach, I watched a ton of club practices over the years and saw a lot of fast moving drills with many touches that looked great, but often I saw very little regard to where the touches actually ended up! The movement was awesome and the kids were working hard, but the ball was going all over the place. The one thing I've really noticed about the past 5 NCAA champions is those particular teams had extraordinary ball control and tenacity, but where they separated from the other teams, was in their targeting focus, concentration and commitment. Seems like an obvious part of volleyball, but I'm always amazed at how often I witness completely unfocused, random touches. The past five NCAA champions and not to mention our 2008 Men's Gold Medal team, seldom if ever, had a random touch. Every first touch, no matter how difficult, was literally a competition to NOT make the setter move one step. In today's volleyball world, winners are in-system more than losers, so we will train that concept awareness more than any other starting with our 6 year-olds! I am also a firm believer in competitive fun vs. goofy fun. We need to teach our players that the most fun they can have is when they are competing as a team and giving their best effort to win. In referring back to my years watching practices, the teams that got most excited, with the biggest smiles when they began keeping score, I knew were going to be successful winning teams. The teams that suddenly stopped smiling and laughing when the competition and expectation actually began I knew were going to struggle. Loving, respecting and embracing competition is one of the key components of "LUV-ing" the Game. That attitude is a top-down model; don't expect your team to compete with fun intensity if they don't feel that intensity or expectation in practice. Coaches that run loosey-goosey practices and then get angry at their teams when they freeze up, fold or don't compete at tournaments, don't really have anyone to blame but themselves. There is a commitment to competing and it starts at the top. I'm looking forward to seeing all my volleyball friends again at upcoming tournaments. Good luck to everyone as they get started on the 2012 club season journey.


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