Ever had a bad club or high school volleyball coach?

They don’t communicate with players or parents, they don’t know what they’re doing, players are in positions they don’t know and don’t want to play and the coach is playing favorites.

Any of that sound familiar?

You’re not alone.

The single most common complaint I hear from athletes and parents of volleyball athletes is about the player’s coach. Some players get so frustrated with the sport that they stop playing, giving up on their dream of playing volleyball in college. Some move to a different team, only to find a new set of frustrations. And what often happens is parents band together to confront the coach.

Knowing this is a common thing might not help you deal with your situation, but it can help you get perspective.

Frustrated Volleyball Parents

I spoke with a parent of one of my ACC athletes the other day, and he was expressing his frustration with their club team and club coach. He wanted to vent a bit and get advice for handling it. The details of the situation were a little different, as they always are, but the basics were the same – bad decisions, players not understanding why things were happening and so on.

The idea of all the parents approaching the coach came up.

This is never a good idea. When volleyball players or parents of volleyball players are frustrated with their coach, a unified front of parents and/or players always comes across as an attack. In almost every situation, a group of concerned parents approaching the coach makes things worse, not better. So…

Rule #1: A parent should never (almost never) talk with a club coach before their child talks to them first.

Durango-Camp-Las-Vegas-SmilesThe first line of communication is between an athlete and their coach. This not only shows initiative from the player and involvement in the team, but it allows the coach to deal with one issue at a time. It also opens the door to being coached, learning what can be improved and building, or strengthening the relationship.

Honestly, sometimes the coach really isn’t aware of what’s affecting the players, and needs to be told. But one player at a time respectfully asking questions and seeking out the coaches guidance is WAY more productive than a group of parents confronting a coach. Remember, they’re people too.

If things can’t be resolved with the individual player talking to the coach, then we move on to the next line of communication, which is…

 Rule #2: One parent of one player talks to the coach at a time

A group of parents approaching a volleyball coach is an ambush trying to get the coach fired. One parent, whose child has already talked with the coach, is then able to individually talk to the coach about the conversation with their daughter, the player. The subject of the conversation is clear – it’s not an attack on the coach, it’s about the conversation the coach had with the volleyball player.

This is probably your best chance of a productive way to affect change, or at least understand what the coach is thinking. But what if the coach is unwilling to talk, or not willing to change the things you want changed?

Rule #3: Club Volleyball Directors are the next resort

Say you’ve done what the coach has asked, you’ve talked about the issue and things aren’t changing the way you want them to. You still have two choices. The first of the two, if you like the club, is to talk to the club director. Have details ready about the conversations your athlete had with the coach, your conversations with the coach and what still isn’t being resolved.

Just don’t expect that you’re going in to the conversation to get the coach fired. While that may be what you want, it’s not the way to get what you want.

Your student athlete would benefit much more from seeing you handle a situation professionally, and also seeing that coaches deserve respect and are people to. They will witness grown adults having productive conversations. And if they do end up playing volleyball in college, they will learn how to work productively with their college coach and be a team player.

Rule #4: Find a different club

Your last option is to leave the club. But let me add a few warnings about this.

First, your next club will have issues too. And if they don’t yet, you might have an issue when you try to get your athlete into the rotation with, or ahead of, athletes that have been in the club for years.

Second, don’t trash your previous club. Nothing good can come from this, and it’s more likely that parents of the new club will see you as a trouble maker. The best thing to say is something like – we didn’t like the direction the club was going and thought a change of club would be best for us.

Third, quitting a club might teach your child that when they’re playing volleyball in college and don’t like something, they can switch schools, or just quit. So many good life-lessons missed. So much hassle. So much money wasted.

Don’t quit volleyball

Another temptation might be to quit playing volleyball. It’s not uncommon for volleyball players to get so frustrated that they just want out. I always recommend they stick with it. Remember what they liked about playing to begin with, and focus on that. Focusing on what’s wrong will take the fun out of what’s great about volleyball.

Your Next Coach

While dealing with your bad coach, think about that great club coach you hope will take the job if your current coach is fired. If they hear that the old coach was run out of town by a mob of angry, torch-wielding parents, are they going to want the job?

Of course not.

But if they hear that the coach was dismissed as part of  a process that started with players talking to the coach, then parents and then conversations with the club director – they’ll WANT the job because they know communication at your club is good.

I’m here for my clients

Part of my services as a volleyball recruiting coach is having these conversations with parents. The problems and solutions aren’t the same every time, so it does help to talk with someone who has been through it all, from start to finish, and from every angle.

One parent called my services “A personalized volleyball concierge.” I kinda like that. And if you think your volleyball athlete – and your sanity – would benefit from what I do with ACC, please feel free to give me a call!

Keep smiling……. 🙂

Charlene Johnson Whitted