The Coaching Is Not In The Interventions

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There is a common quote applying to music that I first heard in a Phil Jackson book but have heard in varying forms many times since,

“Music is the space between the notes.”

The quote has been attributed among others to Claude Debussy, and it always makes me think about things like the interactions and relationships in the playing of whatever game is being talked about at the time.  A few days ago I read something that made me think of this idea directly in relation to coaching.

Most people think of coaching as being what the coach does during the game, the timeouts, the substitutions or if we want to go into real ‘depth’, the starting rotation.  Some smarter people understand that what happens in practice is equally important, the drills done, the feedback given, the time taken, the conduct of practice.

The moment I had was when it occurred to me that all of those things are interventions.  The notes, if you will.  But just as music is not in the notes, the coaching is not in the interventions.  The coaching is in the timing of the interventions.  It is choosing the moment when the feedback will have the greatest impact.  It is not giving any verbal feedback at all but allowing the player or team to learn the lesson by themselves.  It is allowing the errors that lead to learning.  It is not jumping up and down on the sideline berating players or the referee but trusting the team to carry out the vision of the game you have taught them in practice.

In short, the coaching is not in the interventions. The coaching is in the space between the interventions.

The collection of Coaching Tips can be found here.

Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

Cover v2


  1. Nice post.

    It reminds me of one of my favourite stories. I had a starter pull out of a team the day before Nationals due to illness. So I had to start someone else and it was a close call between two players. At the start of the first set of the tournament the player made three errors from his first 4 touches – but 2 of them were on difficult plays. I consciously made the decision to do nothing, and he went on to have the best tournament of his life.


  2. Coach Mark,
    Do you have any tips for better jump setting? My problems are : jumps are too low , the ball gets past the antenna (and my hitters can’t hit them) and when I try to adjust it , the ball becomes too slow and the mid blockers on the other side can intercept it. When I film myself doing it , it looks sloppy .

    P.S. Please forgive me for being so blunt


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