Barry McGuigan Achieves FIVB Level 1 Beach Coach Award in Athens

A big congratulations to Barry McGuigan, who recently achieved his Level 1 Coaching Qualification in Athens, Greece, last week.

Barry gave us an insight into how he got started in volleyball, his experience of different coaches in Scotland, and how that shaped his own coaching journey. He also discussed the course in Athens and walked us through what he experienced at the coaching course.

“I was in my late teens before I started playing volleyball which was relatively late compared to my peers at the time and certainly is by today’s standards. I was unknowingly privileged to have been surrounded by Scottish based coaches like Nick Moody, Ian Brownlee, Bill Stobie, Martin Blacklaws, Criag Faill and Tommy Downs, as well as others in England and France. I say ‘unknowingly’ because I was new to the sport I assumed that it was normal to have so many knowledgeable coaches passing on so much good information to me as a player. There is no doubt that they all contributed heavily to my progress.

I do believe that the best thing I did back then was to start taking notes. As a player I wrote everything down and as soon as I understood the basics, I started coaching.

I was never fixated on just one point of view of the game despite pushes in one direction or another and I began to pluck bits of information that worked for me or what I could really relate to about the game. This allowed me to start to build my own philosophy of how to play volleyball and how to coach the sport to others. The coach I was, and the philosophy I have continues to try and move with the modernisation of the game.

I’m mentioning this because the FIVB Level 1 Beach Volleyball camp in Athens that I completed last week, really took me back in time to that place where I was surrounded again by coaches from different backgrounds and experience who wanted to pass down their knowledge to help others grow and develop the sport. Its a great environment to be in

I was reminded of what the multifaceted roles of the coach are, styles of delivery, basic fundamentals of volleyball and planning sessions. Whilst I have been coaching on and off now for many years in both indoor and beach volleyball, it was somewhat refreshing to be reminded of what my purpose as a coach is and I guess to be scrutinised a little on the quality of what I am delivering. 

The days were packed with theoretical and practical sessions, guest speakers, guest deliverers, some good laughs and much enjoyment which eventually concluded with practical and theoretical exams. 

Some Highlights

Olympic silver medallist and 3 time Olympian Javier Bosman was on site organising and delivering practical sessions for the duration of the course. I played 1v1 and some standing games with him but also discussed passing and setting models which we had been taught and what the benefits of both were for athletes. I guess it would have been very easy for an Olympian to shoot down my experience in place of his but it was a very open conversation and a conclusive ‘no one shoe fits all’ approach, which I really appreciated. Yes I went on to try what he suggested in our practical sessions and was pleasantly surprised by the results.

Dr George Giatsis, academic researcher, volleyball and beach volleyball coach presented primarily on the biomechanical differences in elite beach-volleyball players in vertical jumps on rigid and sand surface on jumping technique and arm swings. This was a presentation that really hit home in a few different ways with regards to my own playing experience in volleyball and beach volleyball and what I have been witness to. I guess this followed on in more detail from a zoom call I listened to earlier this year with Canadian performance coach Nick Del Bianco. My only regret when listening to the information is that I didn’t know about this 20 years ago. I could have improved my own performance and saved myself some pain.

The Greek National Beach coaches delivered a 40 min session primarily focussing on reception or one of their up-and-coming players. This was interesting to watch the drills used but also the progression throughout the drills that built up to more game like sequences from simple drills. There was also small discussions relating to the strategy around these sessions depending on how close the players were to competition phase i.e. the closer they were to competing the less focus there was in repeating the sequences to correct errors and looking at technical advice. That work will have been done and they are now looking at rep completions  

Director of Beach Volleyball UK and Olympic referee Jeff Brehaut took us on a deep dive into the rules of beach volleyball which inevitably opened up some interesting discussions over three separate sessions. This reiterated to me that things you have been told (maybe many years ago) that have just stuck in your head or things you have seen on social media are not always what the rules say. Its therefor vital for everyone involved in the sport to know the rules, otherwise, what are we teaching, what are we playing?

Croatian coach Josip Pribanic joined our group online with his story of how he quickly transitioned from world tour player to coach and is working with high profile teams around the world from a very analytical perspective. We spoke of match stats, athlete tendencies, biological and movement, tactics and delivery. A quote he relayed ‘hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work’

Kirk Pitman who is currently coaching the top German national female beach team as well as working as beach volleyball performance director for Volleyball England joined us from the World Champs in Mexico and answered questions on preparing for the elite competition. Whilst there are stats systems and scouts (for the larger federations) out there to gather information on individual players its important to also gather your own personal data from previous matches and to know how much information you can give your own players. As coaches we should work on our self-development, self-awareness and self-control.

Denise Austin, legend on the UK volleyball scene also joined us from Mexico and described her journey from player to coach to commentator. Iv always admired D’s commitment and work ethic for volleyball and all she has given to the sport. An inspirational story for those who don’t have much but can continue to graft and get results.

I made some good friends and established some useful volleyball connections for the future and of course I had a great time but I have returned with greater knowledge of beach volleyball in all manners of the sport. I feel more strongly now that all players should be trying to get involved in coaching to improve their understanding of player development which will benefit their own autonomy for solving performance problems.  Beach volleyball is changing and has seen some big leaps in such a short space of time. if we are to make any sort of mark on the world stage then we must build a strong cohort of coaches and autonomous players that will strengthen the length and breadth of our beach sport.”

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