Part 2 of our interview with Walt Ker on Coaching Coaches.
Written by Nils Nielsen
“Vision, vision, and vision. These are the three most important skills when it comes to passing a volleyball.” -Walt Ker
Whether you agree or disagree, this is one of the fundamentals a coach would learn if Walt Ker was their mentor. How many of us have been lucky enough to have a mentor guide us along our coaching journey? If you’re like most, you probably started coaching as a side gig and realized along the way that you enjoyed the work. After a season or two you realized how unbelievably great you were at it, and maybe you went out and read a couple books. You probably talked to a few other coaches and realized that they weren’t nearly as great coaches as you.
After many...many years of greatness, you probably look back and cringe a little at the “great” coach you thought you once were.
Coaches who have worked with Walt, many of whom are currently coaching in nationally ranked Division I programs, find themselves in a different situation. These coaches have been developed and guided into thoughtful and organized seers of the game.
Walt’s coaches could sight the biomechanics behind the 7 fundamental skills and correct a player's mistakes quickly without interrupting the flow of a practice. They understand practice organization and prioritization down to the minute and they might even go as far to explain that one of the things coaches are training most, is situational judgment.
There aren’t too many coaches who have been lucky enough to get this kind of volleyball knowledge curated and presented in a systematic way. Furthermore, how many coaches receive feedback on how well they are actually doing in regards to the effort they put forth? If you’re anything like me, the wins and loses played too big of a role in giving you feedback on how “good” of a job you were doing.
One of my favorite moments from our conversation with Walt was when he explains that one time each year, two of his coaches are given a formal in-match evaluation.
“When the first timeout is called the six players line up to listen to the coach and twenty-five coaches will line up behind the players and listen to the feedback the coach is giving. When the timeout is concluded we’ll come over and give a formal evaluation.”
After listening to him explain this scenario, my palms were as sweaty as they had ever been. The thought of twenty-five coaches listening to me speak in a timeout might be one of the most intimidating things I can think of. After an experience like that I can only imagine that any other timeout would be a walk in the park.
And maybe that’s Walt's point. With all of his efforts into organizing and the careful curation of a step by step process, he’s providing a path for his coaches to follow. A path most coaches, like myself, have had to find and navigate on their own. What Walt has done is spend his time opening his coaches eyes to this path, helping them see how to get the most out of the players they coach. He has developed in his coaches the same fundamental skills he’s trying to develop in his passers. Vision, vision, and vision.
I hope you enjoy this interview with Walt Ker as much as I did. There aren’t too many coaches out there like him and we were lucky to get the chance to listen to him speak.
This post was written by fellow Coach Your Brains Out host Nils Nielsen. Nils and I played club, high school, and college together and won two AAU beach championships. He was also the best man at my wedding. @NilsSquared