The Wisdom Of Al Scates

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The American Volleyball Coaches Association represents thousands of professional coaches in the United States.  One of the major ways that it supports its members is in education and educational resources.  A click on the Education/Resources page on the AVCA website will give you enough to do just reading through the different programs they have.  If you become a member, you receive three to four emails per week with information and reminders on the various programs.

Responding to one of those emails recently I checked out the webinar section.  The webinar that grabbed my attention was one presented by Al Scates, the recently retired coach of the UCLA men’s college team who has won a record 19 national titles.  To test out the series and see if I could learn something from Karch Kiraly’s first coach, I bought it.  Some things I learnt…

On mistakes that young coaches make – they say ‘you can’t’ do this technique or use this tactic.  You have to start from day one to train your people.

On his greatest strength – to get the best six players on the floor and to retrain them and teach them new skills.  For example, Sinjin Smith was an outside hitter when he came to UCLA and became a setter.  Others have begun as middle blockers and ended as setters.

On technique – people have different styles and if it works you leave it alone.

On player’s who don’t improve at the rate expected – If, after using a lot of videotape a player still doesn’t improve, then get another coach to work with them, because that coach will use different terminology that can be more effective.

On rotational matchups – in rally point scoring I nearly always started in the rotation with the best +/- results.

On dealing with difficult players – Sinjin caused some problems in his freshman year, but I put him behind the blue curtain for two weeks and after that I never had a problem**.  (**Scates famously ran two courts at UCLA with a blue curtain between them.  On one court were the top 14 guys, the other side were the rest.  Players were banished ‘behind the blue curtain’ for a variety of offences including behaviour, effort, losing drills.   The story goes that Karch was the only player who never spent a day ‘on the other side’.)

Overall it was well worth the $9.99 that I paid for it as a member.  I can also highly recommend the Karch Kiraly webinar on ‘Teaching Your Players To Read’.  I saw this presentation at the AVCA Spring Conference this year and it is really good.


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