Category Archives: Coaching nerds

5 Reasons Why Nerds Will Take Over The Coaching World


I’ve got this idea in my head that we coaches are all insane about our sports.  We work crazy hours, drive all over looking for new players, and we’re (hopefully) always trying to learn and get better.  The first time I wrote about coaching nerds was in my post, Coaching Nerds Unite! Study Up On Your Craft.  So what’s a coaching nerd?  Quite simply, folks who love their sport and are fanatically focused on getting better and learning more.  In case you need a little more convincing before you’re willing to call yourself a coaching nerd, here are five good reasons why being a nerd is cool.

5 reasons why you should get on the coaching nerd bandwagon

1.      There’s too much information out there to be bad at what we do: With the power of the internet at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to find out anything that you’d like to know!  If you follow some of the major business leaders, they typically advise folks to be avid readers…and therefore, avid learners.

2.      Knowing your stuff matters: Who does it matter to?  Your boss, who wants to be able to promote a successful program on the rise.  Your recruits, who want to feel confident that they’ll get great coaching and get better over the course of time they’re with you.  Your alums, who want to be able to look back with pride at the state of the program.

3.      We all want our fruit to be good: There’s a Bible verse that says each tree is judged by its fruit.  Big, fat, juicy fruit is from a good tree; dry, withered, small fruit comes from a bad tree.  So the question is, what does your fruit look like?  Do your players enjoy the sport?  Are they fired up about practice…even in the middle of the season?  Do your players get better: day to day, week to week, month to month?  How about your team chemistry…is it good?  All of that (and more) is your fruit.

4.      The game is constantly changing: No matter what your game is, it’s constantly changing and the true coaching nerd will stay on top of things.  Whether it’s new ways to perform old techniques or learning how to incorporate a new position or how to handle scoring changes, we’ve got to learn how to use every possible way to put our team in position to be successful.

5.      Players dig the smart coach: You see that play on words there?  Much like chicks dig the long ball, players dig the smart coach.  There’s something special about a coach that cares enough to learn about their craft.  The learning coach will always hold their players’ respect…even if what they say is contrary to what another coach has taught them.  Plus, the learning coach is usually so enthusiastic about their sport that it rubs off onto their athletes. Which will hopefully lead back to #3…your fruit will be a group of lifelong learners!

There you go folks!  Let’s all go out and try to be the best coaching nerds we can be.  We’ll be better coaches and our players will benefit from our knowledge.

3 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Professional Development Events


Today is Valentine’s Day.  It’s all about love and warm feelings, right?  So what better time to talk about the volleyball coach’s convention, which combined two of my loves: coaching and volleyball.  Since I’m an unabashed coaching nerd, I love going to clinics, and conventions, and seminars because I know that they’ll make me better at what I do.  But you can’t go in without a plan, you’ve got to get your mind right so that you can get your money’s worth out of your professional development event.  Here are the…

3 ways to rock your professional development event

  • Meet people.  Typically the folks at your coach’s convention, conference, or seminar are pretty fired up about your sport or else they wouldn’t be there.  I wouldn’t say that I’m big on “networking”, but I do have fun talking volleyball with other volleyball coaches…and professional development events are great opportunities for that.  The easiest way to meet new people is to chat up whoever is sitting next to you in your class.  They’re probably wearing a name tag or whatever…that makes it even easier.  And Lord knows coaches love to talk!  So don’t just hang with your crew…meet some new folks, get their emails, and get in contact with them right away when you get home.
  • Go to class. Being social is fun and a great way to meet people like I was talking about above.  But don’t forget why you’re there…to learn!  So if you’re so tired from “being social” that you can’t wake up until noon and you’ve missed half of the classes…maybe you’re meeting too many people!  I’m not necessarily one of those folks who wait to chat with the presenter after class, but I will shoot them an email when I get back home and let them know that I enjoyed their talk.  Not only does that help me to make a connection, but I’m sure they appreciate getting the feedback.
  • Be open to learning. I’m pretty sure that every time I go to a professional development event and run into someone I know, at least one of them will tell me that they haven’t learned anything.  Really?  I find that hard to believe.  You may learn how the top ten teams are training…of course, your team may not be able to perform at their level, but you learned it.  You may learn a different way of saying the exact same thing that you’ve been saying for years, that’s success!  In my mind, if I sit at an hour presentation and learn just one thing, it’s been successful.  If I listen to someone and it triggers a “next level” thought that I can apply to my team, then it’s well worth my time.  Learning requires an open attitude…just like we expect from our athletes.  We don’t know it all and we sound silly when we act like we do.  We can always learn.

There you go…three steps to a successful professional development event.  Have fun and keep learning!

This week is devoted to my thoughts from the AVCA Convention, which was held in December. Why this week?  Because it’s Valentine’s Week and that’s all about love.  And I love coaching and I love volleyball, so this was the perfect time for it!  Topics for the week: getting the most from convention/professional development, the FCA breakfast (an early morning!), and girl drama.  Stay tuned!

Fave Friday!: My Favorite Five From Coach Dawn Writes


Everywhere you look today, you’re going to see Top 10 lists for this or that.  But I know that you’ve got big plans for the evening and don’t have time to sit around reading about my favorite ten posts from Coach Dawn Writes.  So in the interest of letting you get ready for that exciting shindig you’ve been invited to, I’ve got my five favorite posts that you may have slept on this year.

5 Coach Dawn Writes posts that deserve more love!

1.       This post is like a mini manifesto and the basis of the entire blog.  It’s about becoming a coaching nerd, studying up on your craft, and just immersing yourself in getting better at what you do.  I know that there are lots of coaching nerds out there.  They look like volleyball coaches, soccer coaches, basketball coaches, field hockey coaches…you get the picture.  They love their sport, they love teaching their sport, they love learning about their sport and their craft.

2.       Being a coach of female athletes has been an amazingly wonderful experience.  I love creating a community of like-minded young ladies and motivating them to be successful.  Over the course of time, though, I’d heard a lot of chatter about girls not being competitive or about the need to treat women with kid gloves and I came up with this article.  It’s about how to properly motivate female athletes for success…for now and in their future.

3.       It’s fun to talk about leadership, because I believe it’s what we do.  We are leaders, we build leaders…sports is all about leadership.  So when I saw an opportunity to pair leadership with my favorite childhood cartoon, I jumped at the opportunity!  As a kid, there were many Saturday mornings spent with me plopped in front of the television, watching Voltron…this great cartoon about mechanical robots charged with protecting their nation.  Anyhoo, there’s a strong leadership and team roles connection to be made, so check out my post about Voltron and leadership here.

4.       We all have folks on our teams whose personalities don’t fit together all that nicely and we’re quietly watching to make sure things don’t blow up on us.  I believe a good team should have all types to be successful, but having those different personalities can be challenging for the person who has to manage them…that’s you coach!  But having your teams take a personality test can help everyone get to know their own strengths and weaknesses as well as understand why certain folks act the way they do.  I favor the DISC method and I wrote a bit about it here.

5.       I loved this when I saw the original!  I wrote about the five stages of a coach’s career after seeing the bullet points on another coaching blog.  I think they’re pretty accurate (at least thus far) and it’s fun to think through what stage that I think I’m at…even more fun to ask another coach where they think you are in the continuum.

Well, that should do for now folks.  Have fun tonight and have a wonderful beginning to what is sure to be a fabulous new year!

And here’s one more click that will make your life easier.  Click here and you can get Coach Dawn Writes articles emailed directly to your inbox!  This way, you can read it on your phone while you’re out and about.   It’s free and easy…and you won’t get spammed.  Scouts honor.

7 Websites That Will Make You A Better Coach


It’s that time of the year, where everywhere you go you’re hearing about the “top ten” this and the “best of” that…so I figured I’d hop on the bandwagon.  I am admittedly addicted to all things electronic and social media, so I’ll just go ahead and call myself an expert about this stuff.  My bookmarks tab is quite long (well beyond the seven that I’m about to talk about!), full of blogs and websites about coaching, team building, business, and volleyball.  I don’t want to say that these are the best of the best, but most of them have tons of information on them and should you desire to use your winter break for bopping around on the Internet, this should give you a good start.

  • First, I stop off at Twitter. I know folks think that Twitter is full of updates about what people had for breakfast that morning, but it’s actually got a lot of useful information on it.  What’s helped me with Twitter is separating people into lists…I’ve got lists for athletics, business, motivational, education, and a few more.  That way, I can go directly to something that I’m looking for rather than having to sort through everyone’s tweet updates.
  • Then there’s usually something on Twitter gets me interested in the Harvard Business Review’s blog, so I go on over there.  I think there are a lot of ties between the business and sports worlds with their emphases on team, so I often find a lot of good stuff here.  Twitter address: @HarvardBiz
  • After bopping around on HBR’s website, I typically head over to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s website.  Some of their articles require a subscription, but most don’t.  As college coaches, we’re part of the higher ed stratosphere, so we’ve got to know what folks are talking about on campus.  Twitter address: @chronicle
  • If I’m looking for an inspirational story that will get the gears in my brain moving, I head over to The Talent Code’s blog.  This is the blog of the author of The Talent Code and he’s got great takes on practice, coaching, and what makes people great.
  • Then it’s down to business…that means volleyball people!  First I check on because it’s kind of a one-stop shop for all things Division III volleyball.  It’s a pretty interactive website that allows you to search by team or conference to see what’s going on all over the country.
  • And in the off-season when I’m thinking of good strength and conditioning ideas for my team (because we don’t have a S & C coach here), I check out two websites…Learn2TrainSafely and Training For Volleyball.  I’ve spoken with the guys who run both of those sites and know that they’re pretty fired up about training correctly and safely.  The Learn2Train site has a lot of nutrition stuff on there and is focused on training the female athlete, so that’s cool.  And Training For Volleyball (affiliate link) is more video driven, which is nice if he’s talking about something that’s new to you.

So click away and I know you’ll find some good info out there!

Feliz Navidad: 5 Gifts Santa Can Drop Off For Coaches


If you’re out shopping today, then you’ve missed the fun part of shopping…where everyone’s happy and smiling and singing carols.  Now people are stressed, desperate, and not quite as friendly.  But don’t you worry, I sent my list in to Santa for all of us and this is what you can expect to find under your tree tomorrow morning.

**5 things that I hope Santa leaves for me (and my fellow coaches!)
when he comes down our chimneys tomorrow**

  • Great athletes.  I’m sure I don’t have to expand on this, but I’ll quickly define what I mean by “great”.  Surely skill comes into play, as well as a high sports I.Q., a love of the game, a love of hard work, an understanding of and commitment to team, the ability to rise to the occasion, and a strong desire to be a leader.  And that’s just the start.
  • Understanding bosses.  Administrators that know we’re slightly crazy during season and put up with it, who know what our programs need before we even ask, that understand that they’ve got to fight for our teams and programs so that we’re adequately funded and supported.  Bosses who want success.
  • Awesome recruits. These folks have all of the traits of “great athletes” as described above…and they fit in with your team seamlessly.  Not only are they fired about your school and your team, they commit to your program early out of respect for the other people that you’re recruiting.
  • Perspective. Every win doesn’t mean you’re going to win a national championship and each loss doesn’t mean that your team is awful and doomed to failure.  Perspective shows us coaches that we are leaders and teachers of young people.  While the most immediate benefit of our instruction is sport skill building, we’re also building them into better human beings.  We’re teaching them how to win and lose with grace, how to take care of their bodies and eat healthily, how to value hard work, how to deal with the unfairness that will sometimes happen in life, and how to be a member of a group with a goal or cause that’s bigger than they are.
  • Passion. I hope you love what you do.  I hope that you can’t go to sleep some nights because you’re so excited about a new play that you know will work or the next competition.  I hope that your athletes make you laugh even when you want to be serious.  I hope that you jot down ideas about your team on napkins while you’re having lunch.  I hope that you love learning about your sport and your craft.  I hope you’re getting better every day.  I hope you love what you do.

I’m sure this is a list that we can all get behind, one that’ll make our teams better.  Merry Christmas folks and safe travels during the holiday season!

The S Curve: The 5 Stages Of A Coach’s Career


Let me tell you what I think about coaches: we’re crazy in our preparation and dedication, we work long hours and love it, we give up our nights and weekends, we mentor our student-athletes, we demand big things from them and even more from ourselves, we’re passionate in our belief in our team and our love for our sport, we believe in the power of sport to have a positive and long-lasting impact in our athlete’s lives.  So when I saw “The 5 Stages of Your Career” over at Bob Starkey’s blog, I wanted to expand on it over here.  It’s interesting to figure out what stage you’re in and those that you’ve already gone through.  Check it out and see what you think.

The 5 Stages of Your Career

1.       Survival: Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
Coaches, you remember what this stage felt like don’t you?   Or maybe you’re in the middle of this stage now and feel like you’re flailing.  I remember being beyond clueless…that’s back when I thought I just needed to know volleyball to be a volleyball coach!  Turns out also I needed to formulate a recruiting plan, balance a budget, create practice plans, order equipment, manage assistant coaches, and make in-game adjustments.  Color me unprepared, but thank goodness for a veteran coach who took me under his wing.

2.       Striving for Success: You Want Folks to Recognize You Can Coach
Your motivation?  Winning, plain and simple.  You’re obsessed with conquering the competition and put in hours and hours of your time to make it happen.  Being the best is what drives you and to be the best, you need the tangible accolades that go along with that:  lots of W’s in the win column, all-league awards for your team, and maybe a coach of the year for you.

3.       Satisfaction: You Relax, Set Another Goal, & Want To Get Better
Now that you’ve achieved a few of your goals, you can relax and know that you’re a good coach and you have the respect of your peers.  You attend conferences to network and visit with old friends as much as you do to learn some new things…you’re getting established.  Each year you set new goals to accomplish that will push you and your team forward…you’re focused.

4.       Significance: Changing Lives For The Good
At this stage you’re more concerned with how you impact your teams and your legacy than you are with personal glory…after all, you’ve already accomplished a lot.  Now you want to make sure your teams understand the value of sport and hope that you’re teaching them how to be better people, not just better players.  With all of your experience and years in the game, you’re very knowledgeable.  And because of the success you’ve had in your career, this is the stage where people solicit your opinion and ask for your help with their coaching conundrums.

5.       Spent: No Juice Left, Can’t Do It Any More
The busses, the trips, preseason, recruiting, the hustle, the grind…you’re over it.  You’re ready to hang with the family and actually make it home before nine o’clock at night.  And your weekends?  You want them back.  Not even the prospect of that super sweet and talented recruiting class that you just brought in is enough to bring you back into the fold.  As much as you love your sport, you’re just not that fired up about the season this year…it’s time to hang it up.

So what stage are YOU at?

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So You Want To Be An Excellent Coach?


I want to be an excellent coach and I’m sure you do as well.  But how to do it?  Should we stalk the experts in our field…mining their brains for what has made them successful?  Or just keep grinding, hoping to stumble upon the key to excellence?  Well, according to this article titled (attention-drawingly enough) Six Keys to Being Excellent at Anything, the key is simple.  Practice…and practice a lot.  So we don’t have to be coaching savants, having everything seemingly dropped at our feet…we can work our way to excellence.  It goes on to say that “numerous researchers now agree that 10,000 hours of [deliberate] practice is the minimum necessary to achieve expertise in any complex domain.”  That’s great news!  That means anyone who’s committed and dogged and focused enough can become excellent.  Let’s look at how we can do it.

  • Pursue what you love. As the great book, The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle says, “if you don’t love it, you’ll never work hard enough to be great.”  The passion we have for our craft has to be at such a level that we’re willing to obsess over it and still love it at the end of the day.
  • Do the hardest work first. We think we’re focused, but we’re not.  So sit down in the morning, write your to-do list and identify those things you’re not all that fired up about doing and knock them out first thing in the morning when you’ve got the most energy.
  • Practice intensely. Check out this sentence from the article:  “If you want to be really good at something, it’s going to involve relentlessly pushing past your comfort zone, along with frustration, struggle, setbacks and failures.”  Enough said.
  • Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses. I’m sure we all have peers that we know that we can chat with and know that they’ll give us good, honest advice.  The article says that we should definitely do that…only sparingly, so that we learn who we are and form our own style and philosophy.
  • Take regular renewal breaks. I love volleyball…I think it’s the greatest sport ever.  And I love coaching…I think it’s the greatest profession ever.  I read about them, I write about them, I talk about them.  I am fired up about my job.  But I can’t be this fired up all the time, my heart can’t take it.  So I enjoy my summers off, using them to relax and find out what it’s like not to always obsess over how to be better at what I do.
  • Ritualize practice. The 6 Keys article says none of us have very much will power (we think we do, but we don’t), so we’ve got to plan for getting better.  Personally, I look at a few business blogs everyday because, a) there aren’t many sports coaching blogs out there, and b) there seems to be an intrinsic link between the business and coaching worlds.  If you’ve checked the links on this site, a lot of them come from the Harvard Business Review’s blog…good stuff, highly recommended.

So it seems that excellence is closer than we think.  It’s not something innate or inherited, but something we can will to happen through our own focused hard work.  Are you up to the challenge?

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4 essential items every coach needs to get better


Folks who are fixer uppers or tinklers know that the key to handling any situation is having a nice toolbox.  Whether its needle nosed pliers or a power saw or cordless drill…these things will prove to be essential for any job that needs to be completed.  And it’s the same with coaching!  We need to have a toolbox that is stocked so that we’re able to deal with the disgruntled player, the starter whose spot is about to be taken, as well as the athletic director that wants you to fundraise a ridiculous amount of money each year.

Here’s four things that every coach should have in their toolbox:

Mentors When I took my first head coaching job at age 24, my toolbox only had a hammer and a couple of nails clanking around in it…not nearly enough for the repair project I’d taken on!  I was certainly enthusiastic, but that needed to be combined with knowledge…and I was a bit short on that.  Enter our men’s basketball coach who was a legend in his field and had a head full of coaching genius that he was willing to share.  So I’d haul my butt up to his office about once a week and we’d chat.  Sometimes about my team, sometimes about his, but each and every time I learned something from this man.

Peers Here’s one thing I know: coaches love talking about coaching.  Once you find folks with a similar philosophy, make it a point to talk to them and pick their brains.  I truly believe that coaching is coaching so it doesn’t matter if you talk to the football coach or the soccer coach…if you share the same philosophical foundation, you’ve set yourself up for fun and challenging conversations about coaching.

Seminars/Conventions Be a coaching nerd!  Go to your sport’s convention…and attend the sessions (not just the social stuff) and hang out after it’s over and chat with the presenter.  Go to local clinics even if you don’t think you’ll learn something new…you certainly won’t if you don’t go!  Plus other coaches will be there and maybe you’ll be able to chat them up and get a different viewpoint on an old problem.  This will help keep you current in your field.

Books I read a lot of books.  I read books for myself in order to grow in my leadership and influence.  I also read books that I think will be good for my team to read during the season.  Sometimes they’re sports books, sometimes they’re business oriented, and other times they’re faith-based…but what they all share in common is that I think that they’ll make me a better coach.

What do you think?  What would you add to the list?

Coaching nerds unite! Study up on your craft


“Those nerds are a threat to our way of life.” –Stan, Revenge of the Nerds

When I met the lady who would eventually be the maid of honor in my wedding, we bonded over our general nerdiness concerning volleyball.   When we talked to each other, it was while peppering.  When we decided to attend the AVCA convention together, we mapped out our session schedule so that each of us would see different presentations to better maximize our learning.  At that same convention, we talked about our volleyball goals while setting the volleyball back and forth.  We were a coaching match made in heaven.

That’s the mental image I had in my head when I started this blog.  That it would be a community of coaches who just couldn’t get enough of learning how to be better at what we do and share their secrets that have been fruitful for them.  I believe to my core that there are a lot of coaches out there doing a lot of really good things…we’re just not connected.  What if all of us coaching nerds had one gathering spot (here!) where it would be okay to admit that you’re obsessed with being better and learning more?  Where it was okay to admit that you’re excited about your job and about your team?

So let’s all of us coaching nerds unite here at Coach Dawn Writes and challenge those who aren’t quite as nerdy to raise their nerdiness quotient.  Our teams and our craft will be all the better for it!