Should You Always Play to Win?

Dear Coach: I can't make my mind if I did the right thing last fall. Should I have used the TEAM approach on my JV private school team? Our varsity team was using "the best six girls play" philosophy. I had alot of kids who had never played volleyball before, and of course had never seen a 6-2 before.

Even after our season entered October, two of my girls still hadn't grasped the volleyball concept at all and ended up sitting a lot. As a coach, I tend to play to win and use the best 6 girls to get that accomplished. Is this the best approach with younger kids?

My advice: Don't worry about playing time. Playing time is the fruit of practice, of playing juniors, of coming to open gyms, etc. Not playing doesn't mean you stink, just like playing doesn't mean you are awesome. Playing time is earned.

I recommend you put the best six girls on the court until the match is decided. For nine months my kids get an equal share of everything,.but for 3 months I expect them to sacrifice for the team. You told me in an earlier email that the JV team at your school has been so weak for so long. So I say that this is the time to put five or 10 wins on the scoreboard. I recommend that be your attitude.

Team First

But, this is just my opinion. The bottom line: You do whatever is in your team's best interests. I would rather you have this decided before the season began and communicate it to parents. You're going to have a hard time convincing them in-season: but whatever you decide, be open & clear with the parents. Then, tell the girls over and over why you're doing what you're doing.

Coaching to win on a JV team is expected at nearly all public schools. Coaching JV players to win may be a difficult sell at some schools, especially small schools and especially small parochial schools.

I can imagine that the parents of your sixth, seventh, and eigth graders will think their daughters have to have an equal piece of the pie. Some of these girls will have played no travel sports, have never had any toughness taught to them and will not do well if they're asked to sacrifice.

Do what's best for the team today, next month and looking ahead to next season. If this means that some kids won't play much, then so be it.

Tom Houser
Head Coach, 2009 Roanoke Juniors 16's National
JOVC Qualified-2006, 2009
Director, STAR Volleyball Camps
Author, "I Can't Wait" Drill Collection and Ebooks

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