John Kessel Workshops: Scotland meets the world

It was an honour and a privilege to have John Kessel director of development of USA volleyball, FIVB level 4 instructor and member of the American Volleyball Coaches Association hall of fame in Scotland to deliver to our volleyball community. It is not an exaggeration to say that this is the most high profile and exciting coaching education opportunity for Scottish Volleyball. 

In this short visit John delivered in Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh to 42 coaches and 18 players. Our national team coaches attended the event, responded positively and expressed gratitude to John for his kindness in helping to grow the game and sharing some of his secrets. In less than two days John managed to get across a huge amount about how to teach the game. His enduring wisdom is that the game teaches the game and what that actually means in coaching practice. Using recent and reliable scientific references he seperated facts from myths. 

John Kessel’s practice is based on science and transfer of learning, with the principles that every drill should be game-like, include a service, use the net and associate every outcome with points. He showed how to effectively use the wall for learning the three touches sequence adding the notion of potentially being able to use both hands in attack. He suggests effective ways to teach beginners in a painless and enjoyable way so they remain enthusiastic about the game for life. He explained the most important skill of the game which is reading and how coaches often steal valuable touches and create a monotonous rhthym that has nothing to with the natural chaos of the game. 

He not only talked about the important role of the coach in being a good storyteller and the need for sharing your secrets with fellow coaches who can help you learn and become better at what you do, he modelled this principle with his enchanting presentation style. His good humour and modesty made his audience hang on every word. Based on asking and answering questions he stimulated critical thinking and drew out ideas using his Socratic method. 

Despite the fact that it was weekdays the coaches made the effort to attend; special thanks to Ken Fraser who drove all the way from Aberdeen and Paul McIlwaine, Amy Weathers and Conor Doherty who flew from Northern Ireland to attend. Those who dare to teach should never stop learning. It was a positive experience seeing coaches taking notes and reflecting on their own practice and inspiring to see two of our finest, Ian Brownlee and Ally Jack, celebrating their birthdays at the clinic with cake and Kessel.

On a personal note i would like to wholeheartedly thank John Kessel for his visit and for helping me refelct on my coaching education practice and understand the game better through his work. I feel very lucky and grateful to have met John in person. I also want to thank each and every person who attended and USA Volleyball for the resources John supplied to our coaches.

Scottish Volleyball cannot exist in isolation. No country is self-sufficient and everyone relies on another for development of the game. John Kessel has been to 60 countries spreading the good word of volleyball and helping the game grow. He now has a new country on this list and some new friends from this journey.

Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. 

Ioannis Panayiotakis

Coaching Manager