Monday, September 27, 2021
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Moving toward getting more volunteer coaches?

This is a potentially provocative question that I come across in the group of volleyball coaches. It clearly comes from an American perspective.

Will we get to the point where coaches are not paid (edit: in youth sports)? I know this is blasphemy but other youth sports like soccer, junior league, basketball and soccer are all volunteers (mostly parents). My son is well paid coaching volleyball at a big club, but he also coaches his son at Pop Warner and spends hours making plans for his seven helpers (but this 9 year old is big!All for free including his assistants. I understand that in the past, there were not enough knowledgeable people (parents) to train volleyball, so it was necessary to pay people money so that they would not have children. But with the “explosion” of sports, why don’t we now have enough parents who played this interest enough to train for free (at least their kids’ team)?

cheeky response

As noted, most of the volunteer coaches in the listed sports are parents. I think it’s safe to say that fathers who were former players (and even a lot of them aren’t) are more…mothers…let’s say ‘confident’ in their ability to train than mums. There are more mothers who are former volleyball players than there are fathers. As a result, not many parent coaches are as prepared as they are in other sports.

The most serious response

I think there are two contributing factors here. Let me take it individually.

ages: For a long time kids didn’t start volleyball – at least in great numbers – until high school. Relatively recently, we’ve started getting kids involved in sports before middle school in any real numbers. And in many places that’s still not a big deal. Usually in these younger age groups there are parent volunteer coaches in other sports.

youngsters: Perhaps it has to do with age, volleyball did not have the equivalent of a junior league. The kids go straight to junior volleyball. Juniors is a paid game, just like the “travel” teams in other sports. Once parents pay their expectations regarding the higher level of training.

No town/city entertainment support: Things like Little League are often supported and funded as part of a municipal recreation program. These are the platforms where you tend to see the highest level of volunteer parent training. In most places, volleyball has not had that kind of support. Hence, less demand for volunteers.

still playing: This takes things in a slightly different direction, but it doesn’t deserve to have so many people who might be volunteer coaches still being active players. Volleyball is a sport that people play well in adulthood. You don’t see Pop Warner football-trained parents still sticking to the pads!

There are a lot of volunteers

However, there are still a lot of people who volunteer their time in our sport. Some of them are trained in a growing number of youth programs. Many of them are administrative staff. This happens even at the so-called professional levels. When I was training in Sweden, the entire board of directors and staff on the day of the match were volunteers.

Plus, let’s be honest. Many coaches are paid so little that they may be volunteers, too. I did the math once when I was an assistant at Junior College. My salary was up to $0.10/hour.

You get what you pay for

I need to make one last comment in response to this query. I saw it in several comments on the post. Ultimately, if you want quality training, you’ll need to pay for it. While a former player might be enough to teach kids how to play sports, when it comes to actually developing them, that experience isn’t enough. It takes specific education, experience, and training to do it well. Most volunteer coaches will not put in the time, effort, and money needed to do so.

I am not saying that we need everyone involved in the training to be qualified and experienced. Obviously we don’t. However, this becomes necessary at some point.

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