I am sitting here with my daughter and one of her friends and volleyball team-mate in our motel room in Herkimer NY. Herkimer is a little town near Utica in Central New York. I guess it is most famous for the Herkimer diamond minds, a place where you can go and chip on rocks and come home with some pretty crystals. Many of us who live in Central New York and have children have some of these famous “diamonds” somewhere in our house. My son brought some home to me when he came here with a friend one Summer day. He had a great time and that was when I learned of Herkimer NY. I have no idea where those crystals are today. I never thought back then that I would be here today nor that I would be coaching a girls volleyball team who is playing in their second tournament tomorrow.
Our first tournament was two weeks ago. It was not only our first tournament but it was my first time as head coach and my first time participating in any tournament, ever. My assistant coach wasn’t able to be there. I really had no idea what I was in for. Within a few minutes everything that was happening seemed as though it was coming at me at a hundred miles an hour. Girls asking if they could go do their hair, referees asking me who the captain of the team was, scorekeepers asking for the line up and at the same time I needed to get the team on the court and warm them up for the game…. warm up? What should I do. Right then without looking up, in my mind’s eye I took in the rest of the coaches and their teams and they all seemed so cool and collected. Doing warm ups, handing in their line ups, they all seemed to be handling everything with ease and familiarity and some of them were looking at me… That was when the panic began to hit.
Panic is a funny thing. For me it seems to follow a thought. There I was balancing, it all like a juggler at the circus, (except they skillfully make mistakes) and then wham, this thought runs across my mind that everyone else has it under control and I don’t and they are watching me! . . . . PANIC button!
Well, I made it through the day, I must say thanks to my generous husband who I recruited to help me after our second game. The number of mistakes I made is beyond being able to count but I also learned more about coaching in one day than I had learned in the several months prior.
I learned that I without the girls clearly knowing what I expect of them, they don’t have a place to measure themselves in how they are doing. I also don’t have something to hold them to.
I learned that I am coaching the girls, not their parents. I respect their parents yet they may or may not understand what it is that I am doing as a coach. Having clear expectations of the parents and a clear statement of who I am and how I coach and what they can count on is important.
I learned how to substitute players, correctly 🙂
I learned all the particles that I have to manage in a day-long tournament. Score keeping, line and down reffing, line up for each game, substitutions, breaks …and so much more.
When we met before this first tournament I talked to the girls about going beyond where they know that they can go. I challenged them saying that them going beyond what they think is possible is what I wanted for them for that weekend. I hadn’t thought that in challenging them that I was also challenging myself. I had forgotten that when you set a bar for those that you are teaching or coaching or training that you also set a bar for yourself. Set the bar I did.
Well, here I am heading into tournament #2 with these same girls and I am a different coach. I have the line up for every game set, I have the working schedule set, I have the expectations written and ready to hand out and I have given parents the responsibility of making sure that their players eat and drink water on our breaks. I have recruited Rich, my husband, to be my assistant coach and we have gone over all the play plans and other items so that we are on the same page. We are ready! I am ready.
Learn from your mistakes. That is a sentence that I have repeated over and over to the girls at the last tournament and in our practices. What really excites me about tomorrow’s games is that I have learned from mine and I can now guide them further into learning from theirs.