Cooper returns to Scotland

Saturday the 30th May was an exciting day for the Scottish Volleyball calendar in more ways than one.  At Ravenscraig sport center the national men’s team was training for their soon to come competition in Luxembourg, while in Aberdeen the first beach volleyball event officially initiated the beginning of the Scottish beach tour.

In Edinburgh it was a different story of shared excellence as we were lucky to have Audrey Cooper delivering for our indoor coaches. Audrey has over 30 years’ experience in volleyball, an Olympian as a player and coach. She is a member of the FIVB Coaching Commission and was identified as one of the most excellent British coaches of 2012 across all sports.

Audrey’s workshop developed a good balance between theory and practice and it was both well attended and received by 12 coaches and 12 players. The classroom sessions laid the foundations for the practical delivery and the level of practical activity engaged both players and coaches equally.

In the first hour of theory Audrey shared the valuable experience she has gained with the Great Britain team on how to structure a simple and adaptable defensive system of play. Her first piece of advice to the coaches was to create a typology of defensive systems within their teams. In this way they will be able to communicate their instructions with clarity and speed.

This was the first sign of her philosophy. Audrey’s ability to express complicated tactical information into short punch lines that everyone understands was very much appreciated by the candidates. When a coach simplifies their instruction, volleyball appears less complex to the players. It is indeed an art of coaching to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. Audrey emphasized to the coaches to allow a cognitive space for the player to solve the problem rather than giving ready answers.

Then it was time to head to the gym where theory became practice. As all good teachers do, Audrey respected the principle of active learning. She allowed the participant coaches to engage by coaching the selected group of players on the theme of the day. She also introduced simple ways of keeping statistics using a pen and a paper.  Her interventions were clear, concise and effective, allowing good progressions to go through.

The energy on the court started slowly to build up. Audrey was constantly reminding players to verbalize their actions so they reinforce learning and communication. The presence of Maria Bertelli, a well-established international libero player, added massively to the quality of the session and the positive communication. On the other hand it was equally fascinating to hear conversations between coaches, exchanging different ideas and reflections about the course.

Humans generate knowledge and meaning from an interaction between their experiences and their ideas and not by being told what to do.  The idea that asking ‘how to do’ something rather than stating ‘what to do’ is more constructive, was a key message reinforced by Audrey over the whole weekend.

At the end of the sessions there were a lot of smiles in the gym. The coaches expressed their sincere thanks to Audrey. They felt, in their words, that she added an extra layer of tactical sophistication and offered a different insight into the game. The players worked hard and enjoyed the session and alos deserve a lot of credit.

On Sunday at Portobello Beach Audrey delivered a beach coaching course for 25 coaches and players who wanted to improve their technical and tactical knowledge of the beach game. The weather was supposed to be raining according to the forecast but our collective desire changed it into a rather sunny and windy day. Audrey went through the differences and the similarities from the beach to the indoor skills. With a lot of patience and a lot of enthusiasm she provided appropriate comments to the participants, clarifying a simple technical and tactical model for passing and setting and also provided some excellent information about spiking and block.

Scotland is part of a greater picture, we have the connections and the people to allow us to constantly update our knowledge and to be aware of recent trends of the game. Sincere thanks to each and every one of the participants on both days and of course to Audrey Cooper for sharing her expertise. True friends don’t say good-bye, they just take extended leaves of absences from each other.