Our first responsibility is to guide our athletes to become amazing people who can thrive in life, achieving success in school, work, and family. We don’t think this has any connection with how many matches or tournaments they win, but rather the type of person they are learning to be. Let’s face it, the highest levels of our sport are for the very few, so the rest still have to be able to get a something out of their time in our gym.

Our approach is pretty simple:

We create a talent development environment where we teach the athletes to become better together. They still have internal competition, but instead of creating a culture around “I want to succeed at the cost of you”, we create a culture around “I want to succeed together with you, so we can keep on pushing each other”


We have a long-term perspective. We know that winning matches & tournaments is fun, especially for the parents, but we refrain from pushing physical and tactical practice down the players’ throats, just to win a 14s championship and then seeing a majority of them burn out 2 years later


We teach the athletes psychosocial skills, just as systematically as the technical, tactical and physical skills. How to plan and prioritize their time, how to communicate with their teachers, coaches and parents, how to recharge physically, mentally and socially.

We aim to keep as many as possible in the sport for as long as possible, in the best environment possible. We do this by being flexible within the club, giving each athlete the opportunity to learn according to their current level, physical growth, cognitive and social development, motivation and education.
We create collaborations between our club, parents, schools, businesses, and the community to facilitate the opportunities for our athletes to participate in life as they strive on the volleyball court.

We emphasize an existential and mindful approach to mental development, where
we teach our athletes to accept the thoughts and feelings that are a part of elite
sport (and life) and to focus on acting, performing and living according to their
personal values. So instead of creating a false sense of control and confidence, we
teach them to manage anxiety, uncertainty and frustration, without acting on those


Athlete Centered Coaching is a set of values and coaching behaviors with the primary goal being to guide athletes in taking responsibility of their volleyball journey. 

Why would a coach want to be this type of coach? Simply put, this coaching philosophy creates more consistent and higher performing athletes. The key reason this outcome is achieved is due to athletes learning to take more responsibility and ownership over their performances in the sport.

When athletes take greater responsibility and have ownership of their results, they begin to understand what behaviors contribute to high performance and which ones to poor performance. Through this development of self-awareness, athletes learn to self-correct their technique and tactical play. They learn to make better decisions on the court, when it matters the most.

Purpose of coaching

While coaches will have different motivations for coaching, the purpose of coaching is quite simple. Coaching is about helping athletes to learn what works best for them. To coach is to educate a player, providing them with opportunities for personal growth and development. As a coaches, we are tasked with helping the players to reach their potential. This will include helping prepare your players to perform in matches; more importantly, however, to help our players to achieve their goals.

Coaching styles

Coaching styles refer to how coaches work with players and where they direct their focus. They cover areas such as how much responsibility for decision making the coach allows the players and how much the coach focuses on the athletes’ goals. The coaching style that are typcially used depend on personal coaching philosophy, understanding of how athletes learn, how coaches were coached themselves, and what the objectives are. There are a range of styles that can be used; it is useful to think of these as working along a continuum.

At one end of the continuum is a coach-centred coach, and at the other end is an athlete-centred coach. A coach-centred coach is there to achieve their own objectives, which are often results-based. They use control, direct instructions and often a ‘win at all costs’ attitude to achieve this. At the other end is the athlete-centred coach, who places the needs of their athletes at the centre of the coaching environment. They are focused on player development and creating independent athletes.


The style that is used will influence the objectives that are set, the coaching methods used, how much freedom and responsibility is given to the players and the sort of environment that is created.

Here are some of the general characteristics of each type of coach:

We believe coaches should aim to develop “independent” athletes. This means that athletes are able to critique their own performance, make decisions and correct their mistakes without relying on another person to do it for them. After all, in the midst of competition there is often little that the coach can do. The athletes are the ones playing the match; our role is to prepare our athletes so that they can perform independently.

Many people view a successful coach as a winning coach. While competition success is an important factor for many coaches, truly successful coaches are those that help their players to achieve the goals that they set. How we coach will be shaped by how we define success.

Defining success

How do we define success? An athlete-centred coach does not rely solely on results to determine their – or their athletes’ – level of success. We measure our success as coaches by how well we are fulfilling the purpose of our role: assisting our athletes to learn and grow. Our true measure as a coach is not how many trophies we win, but how many of our players are able to grow towards reaching their potential. And when are athletes successful? When they are achieving their goals and those of the team.

Why use an athlete-centred coaching style?

Sport is about the people that participate in it: the athletes. An athlete-centred approach focuses on the achievement of the athletes’ goals. It creates a positive learning environment and caters to the needs of all athletes. It prioritises the holistic development of the players, and is necessary if we are to develop independent athletes.

By contrast, a coach-centred approach does not address the needs of the players. It will often result in a negative environment, and does not focus on learning. Player development will take a back seat to results, preventing many players from reaching their potential. To provide the best possible environment for our players we have adopted an athlete-centred coaching style.

Tools of the athlete-centred coach

There are a number of tools and approaches we use to develop independent athletes. The starting point is a structured environment based on a shared goal. We need to understand the needs of our athletes and work to meet those needs. We can help our players to develop skills and make decisions by using a range of training games, rather than spending most of our time “drilling” our athletes. We also allow our athletes to have input into the direction of the team.

The development of our players’ game understanding, and the use of questioning, are two important tools for an athlete-centred coach.

Game understanding

It is important that our athletes understand how to play the game and can make decisions based on their understanding. We guide our players to learn about volleyball and to learn about themselves. Effective learning doesn’t come from being told what to do; it comes from trying things out and seeing what works. If players are scared of making mistakes, they will stay within their comfort zone and avoid trying something new. Players need to know that making mistakes is fine; the key is that they must learn from their mistakes.


We ask our players questions to help them to learn from their experiences – both successes and mistakes. The focus is on open questions which require players to think and make decisions. Some useful questions for helping players to learn from their experiences include:

  • What did you notice as you…?
  • Where were your feet during…?
  • What were some other options available to you?
  • How did it feel as you…?
  • What have you learned from this?

We resist the temptation to tell our players what to do and, instead, pose questions and set problems for our players to try and solve. Our role as coach is to question our players and guide them to draw out their learning from each experience, and to help them in understanding what else they could have done. For example, rather than telling them how to hit down the line, we put them in a game where they score points by hitting down the line. Instead of instructing them on what to do, we ask them questions that help them to find a solution that works for them:

  • What are you trying to achieve in this activity?
  • How can you create a swing for yourself?
  • How can you decieve the block or the defender?
  • What timing are you using?
  • What did you do on the times when you were successful?

Taking this approach is more enjoyable for the players and requires them to take ownership for their learning. If they come up with their own solution in training, they are more likely to use it in competition. We want our players to make great decision in matches based on what they have achieved in the past; if they have to first remember what we have told them to do, their performance will be much less flowing. And that is if they remember what we said at all!

Asking our players questions helps them to understand their own performance better, raising their self awareness. It engages them in the learning process and gives them experience making decisions. These are all aspects that help our players to become independent.

Using an athlete-centred approach involves designing sessions that meet the needs of our athletes, asking questions and allowing our players to take ownership. To meet our players’ needs we connect with them, and then make our players and the achievement of their goals the focus of our coaching.