Is Building a Relationship with Your Athletes on Your Preseason Checklist?

Long sto­ry short, it should be. Head vol­ley­ball coach Lindsay Peterson explains the struc­ture she uses to get to know her players.

Is Building a Relationship with Your Athletes on Your Preseason Checklist?

Long sto­ry short, it should be. Head vol­ley­ball coach Lindsay Peterson explains the struc­ture she uses to get to know her players.

Here we go again. The high school vol­ley­ball sea­son is upon us. Like every good coach, you’ve metic­u­lous­ly planned out your season…right? Actually, if this is you, then I’m impressed — and also jealous!

As I began lay­ing things out, get­ting my thoughts and ideas togeth­er for the next year, I’m remind­ed of one of the most impor­tant things I have to plan for: get­ting to know my play­ers and build­ing these relationships.

Let me stress to you that, even though I know this is very impor­tant for our play­ers, there’s always a part of me that’s won­der­ing if our time would be bet­ter spent in the gym, get­ting ready for our first match. But I also know build­ing a team begins with build­ing bonds between play­ers and coaches.

So I thought I’d share with you some­thing I’ve found help­ful over the years, some­thing I make sure to do every year with every play­er on my team.

Set up role meetings

I like to do these indi­vid­u­al­ly with my play­ers. I sit each one of them down and ask them what role they see for them­selves for the year.

Do these several times a year

My cadence is usu­al­ly three meet­ings a year, but I meet with some play­ers even more. I like to hold them at the begin­ning, some­where in the mid­dle, and at the end of our sea­son. That way it’s easy for them to see how they’ve changed and grown over the year. We look at what we wrote down last time and whether it looks the same or has changed dramatically.

Here’s an example

This is a role meet­ing my assis­tant and I had with a for­mer play­er. (Her name has been changed.)

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — –

Name: Leanne

Position: Rightside

Name three pos­i­tive things about your­self as a play­er:

  • See the court well
  • Defensive right side
  • Organized

    Three down­falls you have as a play­er:

    • Impatient
    • Offense
    • Poor facial expression

    Three things you want to improve before you grad­u­ate:

    • Stronger
    • Faster
    • Communication

    Three things you’ll bring to the team:

    • Leadership
    • Energy
    • Calmness

    Where do you see your­self in your posi­tion?

    As a right side, sec­ond in line behind Emily

    What do you need from us as coaches?

    • Feedback
    • Encouragement

    — — — — — — — — — — — — — — –

    My takeaways

    Player’s men­tal­i­ty

    It’s so inter­est­ing to sit with each kid and go over these ques­tions with them. Like many of us, it’s hard for them to artic­u­late their own pos­i­tive impact. But when it comes to their down­falls, they seem to have a list a mile long!

    Creating rela­tion­ships

    These ques­tions enable us to have an open dia­logue about where they see them­selves, and more authen­tic con­ver­sa­tions about where we, as coach­es, see them.

    Documentation

    Writing down the details of these con­ver­sa­tions has also been help­ful when speak­ing with par­ents and play­ers about play­ing time. An added bonus!

    Lind­say Peter­son has been a var­si­ty head coach for eight years. She played for the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Alaba­ma, help­ing them win the DII Nation­al Cham­pi­onship in 2003. Peter­son has led her Mil­lard North High School team to the state cham­pi­onship tour­na­ment sev­en times, win­ning in 2016 and 2018. She was named one of the top 40 coach­es in the coun­try by the AVCA, and Coach of the Year by the Oma­ha World-Herald.