Ettore Messina

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Ettore Messina is considered one of the best basketball coaches in the world.  I posted once about him here.  I recently came across a short video interview with him.  I can honestly say that I have on my bookshelf at least twenty books on or by world famous coaches which combined don’t contain as much wisdom as this fifteen minute interview.  This should be compulsory viewing for anyone thinking about being a professional coach.

I strongly encourage you to spend the time, but in the meantime here are some highlights…

“Sometimes to help them to integrate as personalities is much more difficult than to help them to integrate as basketball players.”

“You cannot be a dictator because people think and people have their own opinions.  At the same time we cannot take a vote every time we have to take a decision in two seconds on the floor. So sometimes someone has to take a decision.”

“You can have two kinds of discipline. The kind you force through strength and power or the discipline that people accept to put on themselves because they are responsible.”

“At some time you are faced with the question, ‘Are more important the (principles) or the people?’ … Great organisations choose principles over people.  When you give up on the principles, sooner or later you will break down.”

“I am afraid of people who never say ‘I am sorry, I have made a mistake.’ … I don’t see any problem is telling the players ‘I am sorry, I made a mistake’.  To me it’s more a matter of respecting myself first, and then everybody else.”

“I think mutual trust comes from behaviours. If you have a constant behaviour of loyalty, of respect for the rules, people will respect you. … The problem is if people take away this trust not because of behaviour but because of the outcome of this behaviour.”  He gives an example of the player no longer trusting the coach not because he stopped being a good coach, but because the player is now on the bench. “I completely disagree if the player takes away the trust because he does not like your decision.”

“You cannot be a good coach if you don’t have a strong organisation behind you.”

“I think it’s not fair if you evaluate the decisions of a player only if the ball goes in or out. … Sometimes the player can be lucky and the balls goes. Sometimes he can be unlucky and the ball goes out. But that is not what makes the good play.”

“If you have a lot of stubborn people who don’t want to be flexible, it’s very difficult to create a team.”


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

Cover v2


  1. The last couple of days I’ve been reading through your blog, one of the best blogs about volleyball I have to say! Relatively short articles which read easily, not too much ‘difficult terms’. And it’s clear that each statement is your opinion, you don’t force it upon the reader as the absolute truth.

    This quote really speaks to me:
    “You can have two kinds of discipline. The kind you force through strength and power or the discipline that people accept to put on themselves because they are responsible.”

    I have a question/problem on which I’d like to hear from a professional coach what your opinion is:

    I’ll explain the situation:
    When I took over the team (women’s team) 2 years ago, I switched out 6 players and put in 6 younger players (age 17-21). For 3 years they were fighting against relegation and were standing in 9th place. In my first year we became 5th. This season we’re in 2nd place and a have great chance for promotion (which is our goal). We play great matches and the players have made great progress in these 2 years. Even though we are performing exceptionally well, there is still some frustration from my side..

    We only have 2 practices of 1,5 hours, like any amateur team in The Netherlands. We’re also a second team, the first team plays in the nations 2nd highest league. So my goal is to prepare my players for the 1st team, individual progress is more important to me than the team. That will follow naturally.

    I’m not a coach who is yelling and punishing players in practice. I believe in intrinsic motivation, a player has to want it for herself (I coach a women’s team). If she doesn’t want to become a better player, work hard etc. then why should I keep yelling at her to get a ball which she could’ve saved.
    But most players of team hate technique practice. They just want to play rally games and work hard in practice. If they don’t sweat, they don’t feel like they have learned anything.. That’s why technique practice is a hell for me as a coach, no motivation and drills don’t work because there is no focus.
    I’ve gotten 3 players to the level that the 1st team coach is interested in them (last 3 years they weren’t even looked at). But now they don’t want to play higher, they like this team and want to stay on this level, that’s enough for them. They don’t want to sit on the bench, just want to play.

    Of the 11 players, only 2 players are interested to play higher. So there is my problem.. I’m a coach who wants to make players better, so that they can play in the 1st team. But when they don’t want that, then what’s left for me as a coach?
    Ofcourse it’s also a good sign that they want to stay in this team, they like it as it is.

    I’m really struggling with the question if I should stay with the team next year. I like the team, we perform really well in matches. After 5 years we can finally play in a higher league, I’d like to do that with the team. I’ve put in a lot of time and effort in the team to reach this goal.
    Next year I’m going to include 3 young players (16/17 years), because 2 older ones are going to quit. So there’s also a new challenge, which I like.

    Sorry for the long story, but I’m interested if you have a view on this, or maybe you had a similar experience?


    1. Maybe the team does need someone who is strict and keeps a ‘tight leash’ on them. Maybe I’m not the right coach for them. But on the other side, I must be doing something right, when you look at the results and growth of the players…


    2. Thanks the nice comments.
      You have an interesting situation.
      Some thoughts…
      1. If you read my blog, you will know that I don’t do a lot of ‘technique’ training. The evidence is that these drills aren’t effective in teaching skills.
      2. If the team performs well in matches and the players are improving then obviously you have done good work and maybe the game play drills are actually more effective than ‘technique’ drills.
      3. You can’t change the motivations of the players. If they do not want to play at a higher level, then that is their motivation. And it is not bad. Some people want to reach higher levels, some don’t. This is life.
      4. About whether you should continue to coach the group… if your ambitions are different from the group, then maybe it is better to find a group that fits better. Or, like you said, maybe you are actually doing something right and the fit is better than you think 🙂
      Good luck with the decision.


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