I’m Korie Tetzlaff and I have been coaching at some capacity for a large portion of my life. At the college level, 7 years. I’ve coached a variety of levels (ages 12-18) in club and high school prior to that for 8 years as well, including coaching club while competing in college.
Technically I was also a camp coach at our high school summer camps for 4 years while in high school. So when you add it all up, it equals out to about 19 years, which is over half of my life thus far! I am currently the head volleyball coach at University of Mary in North Dakota.
I currently coach college, but have taught as young as kindergarten (mostly at camps) and 12 to 18 year-olds in high school and club. I did teach Archery to college students for 3 years as well – had some fun with that!
When I taught Archery, class size was about 16 max simply due to the equipment we had to use and the ability to keep students engaged. Team sizes have varied over the years – I have held camps with 4 kids and camps with a couple hundred kids, and teams with 10 players as well as teams with 20 players for a season.
I personally think that there are always new ways of teaching that are presented each year, and everyone adds their own flare to these philosophies, so there are thousands of ways to teach the same thing and be successful.
The biggest difference I have seen is a growth in explaining the “why” behind what we do as coaches, which I personally think has really escalated the talent level and capacity in players. They are curious to know why movements help and are important, which in turn helps keep coaches accountable to our beliefs and reminds us to always teach with a purpose in mind.
The first couple of weeks each semester were tough for the Archery students because we had to learn the rules, safety and technique before we could do much of the hands-on practicing.
Naturally, we don’t want to give a bow and arrow to someone who doesn’t quite know what to do with it! I think campers and volleyball players are similar – they want to get right into the “games”, but at the same time want and need to understand the why behind everything.
I agree that it’s helpful to know this information ahead of time, so one adjustment I have made over the years is explaining things more simply and more often, which seems to make it more manageable for students or players to absorb when working to master skills.
And lastly, adding fun in whenever possible helps too – I am constantly looking for new ways to make movements and skills more fun!
Ultimately, you can have all the knowledge about your subject in the world, but knowing your students/athletes is the most essential part of coaching. Once you know them, you are able to find ways to relate to them and often can anticipate and address their potential hurdles ahead of time.
That has been incredibly impactful for me over the years – even at a camp, I might ask a player if they’ve played another sport to see if I can relate a technique back to what they know. You don’t have to know everything about them right away, but even knowing a little at a time can make a big difference.
It’s different, that’s for sure. We are fortunate to have some pretty great technological resources at our disposal. Our on court training transitioned to at-home skills and drills, we are able to analyze some film on Hudl/VolleyMetrics from a distance, our in person meetings are now through Zoom, and we’ve been sharing some good articles and helpful tips for mentality and coping during this time. It’s a challenge to not be around the team, but we are staying connected as much as we can.
My students currently have body weight and conditioning workouts from our Strength and Conditioning coordinator, and they are getting reps with volleyball skills on their own as well. We also implemented “serving challenges” so they could incorporate a little creativity, communication with teammates, and some competition (and fun of course!) amongst themselves as well.
A great coach I know once told me there are “different devils at different levels” and through my experience this is very accurate. Beginners will make more errors because the skills in volleyball require significant repetition in order to become good.
More experienced players likely struggle more with consistency issues, or mentality – they feel they have the skills to be great, but often put more pressure on themselves, or beat themselves up after little mistakes.
In volleyball, having the “in the moment” focus and patience to understand that reps are vital can be a challenge for both beginners and experienced players, which is almost more interesting than the differences they encounter.
Being aware of the mistake (but not dwelling), learning from it and moving on quickly are highly valuable and skills that get more difficult to teach and learn with more experience. I’ve found mentality to be the x-factor that separates the good from the great, no matter what level a player may be.
As far as solutions go, a part of me wants to say an “easy” button, but the other part of me enjoys the challenge too much for that. I think as a coach or teacher you have to enjoy the challenge and the process of working through it.
I’ve found each team to be different and go through different challenges, which is also part of the gig – we have to identify the main issue before we can work at solving it. Ultimately my dream is for complete buy-in and commitment from players – that simplifies things greatly. When everyone is on the same page and working to execute the plan or solution, great things can happen. I truly believe this.