Growth Learning

By Dustin Durfee.

The Heritage boys volleyball program has exponentially grown since the start of the program. The coaches (Coach Whitehead and Coach Freeman) have done an excellent job of really growing the program and not just the program but growing themselves as well. The Heritage volleyball program started four years ago and will hopefully continue in many years to come. The Heritage volleyball team has won the CAA state championship twice out of the three completed years and will hopefully win another championship this year. The coaches are always looking for ways to improve their teaching skills and in the past two years brought in the assistant coach to the U.S.A. men’s volleyball team and had a clinic to improve the boys’ overall skills. Because Heritage’s volleyball program is always looking for ways to improve, they have given up some old teaching strategies. One of the main things they try to avoid is physical punishment because they do not believe disciplining a student by making them run laps or other common means of physical punishment increase their skill level. They try to not punish the young players for making mistakes because it creates a negative learning environment where the athlete is scared of failing.  The student not only get the shame of failing in front of their peers but they also get the extra labor of physical punishment. Commonly, not only the player who makes the mistake does extra work but the entire team is suffering with them as well.

This idea that physical punishment creates better athletes has got to stop because it’s not making that athlete any better and is taking away from valuable practice time. Basically, the coaches’ philosophy is that punishment (like running laps) doesn’t make an athlete a better passer or server but mindfully being aware of what’s happening when they are performing does. The coaches’ teaching strategy is that when an athlete is struggling with a skill and they miss a serve or shank a pass, they have that player perform that skill again but this time having a goal in mind to not make the same mistake. Their belief is that physical punishment only tires out the athlete and creates an environment where it is hard to focus on improving because of the fatigue. So instead of making everyone run five laps when an athlete misses a serve, they merely ask the athlete why they missed the serve, what they’re going to do not miss the next one, and then they let the athlete serve again.

This concept of serving in order to become a better server seems very simple when explained, yet there are still very many coaches out their who punish their players hoping it will make them better. If the goal is to make the athletes better runners than they are doing a great job.  But in a performance sport, it doesn’t matter how fast or long you can run if you can’t catch a ball or make a serve or shoot a basket. This doesn’t mean conditioning is wrong, it merely means that coaches ruin their players’ opportunities to excel by exhausting them before asking them to improve their performance form. The very essence of this idea is teaching the players to coach themselves. While a coach might not be able to directly control how well their athletes perform, they can control how much physical punishment they receive. In the end, punishment is just a sign of distrust between the coach and the athlete.

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