Volleyball Coaching Wizards: New book has conversations with some of the world’s great coaches

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John Forman is an assistant volleyball coach at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, an unlikely landing place for someone with as varied a resume as his in the sport. We connected because he and partner Mark Lebedew are in the process of publishing a book called “Volleyball Coaching Wizards.”

While it’s a volleyball book, the coaches interviewed are not the usual suspects and, clearly, Forman thinks outside the box. The interviews are with Carl McGown, Giovanni Guidetti, Ruth Nelson, Garth Pischke, Teri Clemens, Jefferson Williams, Tom Turc and Craig Marshall.

You can also keep up with Forman at his website coachingvb.com, where he is a prolific blogger.

John Foreman
John Foreman

By John Forman for VolleyballMag.com

Back when I was an undergraduate finance student I read a book called Market Wizards by Jack Schwager. Little did I know at the time how much influence it would have on me.

Market Wizards is a collection of interviews with top traders, investors, and money managers. A whole generation of traders — if not more — can say they were influenced by that book and the follow-up editions published in later years.

The folks interviewed didn’t share any great secrets. What they did, though, was inform and inspire. Readers got to see how these market greats got to where they were and what they had to overcome along the way.

The Market Wizards franchise greatly expanded in the literature of trading. The books tell numerous stories about people most of us would otherwise never hear about. They also share tales of the markets themselves. It makes things highly relatable, even to someone who just dabbles in the markets.

Honestly, I’m not sure what led me to think up a volleyball-coaching version of Market Wizards in the spring of 2015. I had not read that book in years. I think it was just a merging of different influences and ideas swirling around in my head at the time.

I lived in the U.K., pursuing a PhD and coaching at the University of Exeter. I started a coaching blog less than two years prior as a way to share information and ideas with my peers in the southwest of England. Quickly, though, it developed an international readership. That, in turn, let me connect with coaches in other countries.

I leveraged my new contacts to spend time with three professional clubs in Germany during 2014. The coaches I hung out with there were Australian, Argentinian, and Italian. A true multinational, multicultural experience.

I think that exposure gave me a lot of respect for coaches in different places and at different levels. In the U.S., I coached college and juniors volleyball for a number of years. Seeing what the sport — and coaching — is like beyond America’s borders, though, provides a whole different perspective. This is even more so the case in places where volleyball is not a major sport.

One of the coaches I became friends with while I was in England is Mark Lebedew. At the time he coached for Berlin Recycling Volleys, the three-time German men’s champions. I visited with Mark a couple of times and one of the things we talked about is the lack of a good volleyball coaching literature — at least in English.

Think about a sport such as basketball. The stories of coaches like John Wooden and Phil Jackson are well known. They are the subject of multiple books. There are books and documentaries about great players and great teams of the past and present. Their stories are known and told.

What about volleyball, however? Mike Hebert is one of very, very few who have shared their stories in a broad, public way. There are plenty of high profile coaches in our sport, but how much do we really know about how they got there?

And what about the history of the sport? Not many of us know it very well, if at all. For Americans it doesn’t even seem to exist prior to the USA men winning gold at the 1984 Olympics. Many of the key developments in volleyball, however, took place during the 1960s and 1970s. Sadly, too few realize or appreciate that.

I wanted to share the people and the stories, putting together the idea of respecting the contributions of coaches at all levels of the sport, and in all parts of the world, with the desire to share their stories. What you end up with is the “Volleyball Coaching Wizards” project.

Basically, Volleyball Coaching Wizards is about identifying great coaches — wherever they may be, at whatever level they coach — and interviewing them to hear their stories and gain insights into how they think.

Some coaches are well known nationally and/or internationally. This project is also about expanding the volleyball literature and perhaps encouraging others to go a step further and produce more, deeper content.

I managed to convince Mark Lebedew to be my partner on the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project. Honestly, it didn’t take much doing. He and I have, at this writing, recorded nearly 40 interviews. There are many, many more coaches still on our list to speak with (I think I counted something like 300 recommendations at one stage). In other words, we’ve only just started!

Bits of each interview we do are posted via social media as short-form content to share what these great coaches have to say. Mark and I also drill down on some of their observations, ideas, and opinions as part of a podcast. Definitely look us up on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and iTunes. I think one of the cool things you’ll find is that much of what the Wizard coaches say isn’t just about volleyball — or even necessarily just about sports.

Although the trend these days is toward shorter-form content, like what we have already been sharing, there is still something to be said about publishing a book. It brings a level of credibility to your work and, by extension, your subject. That’s one of the reasons we decided to develop a series of Volleyball Coaching Wizards books.

The initial one is due out shortly. Consider it an introduction to the project. It will contain eight of the interviews we’ve done so far. They were selected to be representative of the inclusive nature of the project. Both genders are included, and all levels. Half are American, while the other half are international. They combine for a truly impressive number of victories and championships, though that isn’t the only way to measure success. A couple are well known. Others definitely are not.

Eight interviews just provides a sampling of what we’ve got, of course. Even that, though, should be enough to enlighten, inspire, and perhaps even entertain volleyball coaches all over the world. To quote the foreword Kathy DeBoer wrote for us:

“So what is the lesson of these tales of wizardry?

“That excellent coaching, while not easy, is not magic.”

Hopefully, we are just at the beginning stages of developing the kind of resource that can positively influence coaches for years to come.

To keep up with the progress of the book and more things John Forman, go to http://volleyballcoachingwizards.com/

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