03. 03. 2020

By Mark Lebedew: How Do I Know What’s The Right Thing?

Source: www.marklebedew.com; Photo:CEV

Author: Mark Lebedew

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In the internet age we have access to basically all of the information ever produced on any topic. The existential crisis of our time is of course that the internet is open to everyone and does not discriminate between good / bad, right / wrong, constructive / destructive. I don’t have a solution for how to navigate our daily lives, but I have some suggestions for how to be better coaches.


A quick internet search for volleyball information will provide a lot of links.  One of the main volleyball coaching portals will provide a prescription for exactly how to go about every part of the coach’s work, from technique to tactics to training plans.  Another of the main volleyball coaching portals will suggest that there is no prescription and that every way has validity.  In addition to these contradictory, and both equally incorrect, approaches each coach has their own experiences often going back to their playing days.  So how do we find the ‘right’ way?  Some examples of the contradications we have to navigate are here.

The first quality we must have AND exercise, is the quality of critical thinking.  Critical thinking must be ruthlessly objective, or at least as objective as a human is capable of.  We must also understand that the knowledge we derive from critical thinking is not fixed.  Conditions change, new information emerges, the game changes.  It is much more difficult than it seems.

Once we are ready to exercise critical thinking we must ask two questions.  Does it work?  Obviously we should only use techniques, tactics, methods that work.  However, we must be ruthlessly objective in deciding what ‘works’.  Being able to finish a drill in practice is not evidence of ‘working’.  Because it worked for someone else at another time is not evidence of ‘working’.  Because it worked for you once is not evidence that it is ‘working’ now.  The evidence lies in performance.  Performance must be the objective for all parts of the coach’s work.

The second question is more difficult, but more important.  Is there a better way?  Just because you can see evidence of progress does not mean the current way is the best way.  The essence of innovation is in seeking new and better ways to do things.  Coaches who don’t ask this question are the coaches who do the things that they did as players.  Yes, the techniques and tactics and methods of the 70s  / 80s / 90s ‘worked’.  But conditions change, new information emerges, the game has changed.  What worked once won’t necessarily work every time.  What works, might not be the best way.

Once you have exercised your critical thinking and asked the right questions you will be able to choose your own way, and you are now equipped to be a coach.  But beware… one common pitfall is the coach with excellent critical thinking, who asked both questions, developed their own methodology and had success.  They are happy with their work, but forget that systems are dynamic.  These coaches become connected to their own methodology and do not continue to develop.  Often they are coaches who write books and give presentations on their ‘secret’.  Beware of coaches with ‘secrets’, question everything.

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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