I love the individual meeting. It’s my time to chat with players, find out how classes are going, how they’re feeling on the team. All sorts of stuff. It’s also a time for the players to get to know me a little better, so I think it’s a win-win. For me, the meetings can take lots of shapes. Let’s talk about them.
During preseason This is typically a very informal meeting conducted right there in the gym. Whatever drill we have the team participating in, my assistant and I will call out a player and have them come and chat with us. When we’re finished with that player, we tell her to grab someone else. It goes like that until we’re finished with everyone’s meetings. This meeting will address whether we thought they came in to preseason in shape, what we think their strengths are and how they can be an asset to the team, and what we think their weaknesses are…or potential barriers to court time. They should walk away from this two to three minute conversation knowing where they fit into our team’s depth chart and should understand what they need to do to benefit our team’s success.
In season This is a scheduled meeting where the student athletes sign up for meeting time with me. I typically ask them to come up with 2-3 academic goals and 2-3 individual volleyball goals. This is important time for me to demonstrate to my athletes that I care about them beyond what they bring to the court. I believe that it’s important for your athletes to know that you care about them as people…not just players. We talk about their academics, their majors, the classes that they’re worried about, professors that they’re worried about, their goals beyond college. Armed with that knowledge, you’ll understand how to handle each of them. Some are just like me (poor souls) and come in to the meeting with their planners out, notes neatly typed, and good answers for all questions. Others come in and can’t find the paper they wrote everything out on, and you’ll be able to tell that they haven’t actually thought about your questions until they were sitting right there in your office.
And of course we hit their volleyball goals. Some may be tangible…I want to be the starting setter. While others are intangible…I don’t want to be as nervous as I was last year when we played our arch rival. Either way, it’s the coach’s job to help the student athlete navigate through this maze. What steps does he need to take in order to be the starting setter? What are his strengths that make him an asset? What are his weaknesses that make him a liability? Armed with that knowledge, the athlete is free to sink or swim. I always make sure that they understand that I want to put the best combination of players on the court. I’d love it to include him, but if he’s not willing to put in the work…I know of others who will.
The impromptu Years ago, I had a player who came into practice with the super red eyes. I looked at my assistant and said, “uh oh, we’ve got a crier.” I sidled up next to one of my captains and asked if she knew what was wrong. Nothing. Another player that this girl was close to…again, nothing. I left it alone. Later in practice, I was giving her instruction and she started crying again. Not sobs, just slow tears trickling down her face while she nodded at what I was saying and apparently hoped that I didn’t see her crying. I asked what was wrong while my assistant ran the drill and she said she didn’t know. I asked again (class? boyfriend? parents?) and she said she didn’t know…just was feeling kinda blah. To which I said (and I’ll never forget), “it’s every woman’s right to cry for no reason, you just have to let your team know so that they don’t think you’re mad at them.” That was it, she was fine…all was right with the world.
End of the season This can be an awesome meeting or an awful one depending on the season and the person. It’s awesome when season went well and the player had a tangible contribution. It’s awful when the player doesn’t have a proper view of their skill level and how they could have impacted the team. It’s good to be prepared for the tough ones ahead of time…don’t be caught off guard by a disgruntled player. Anyhoo, this meeting is meant to fire them up for the next season…whether that’s spring ball or fall season. We talk about their practice and game contributions and how those impacted the team positively and how they could get even better. We look at their goals again and figure out how they did with those. If you think they’ll be chosen as captain by their teammates (or you just want them to be), I talk to them about acting like a leader before they’re chosen…and what that leadership should look like. For seniors, it’s never a happy meeting. They’re sad because there’s no more volleyball and no more team and now they’ve got to go work in the real world and everyone knows that that’s no fun. I talk to them about what a joy it’s been working with them (it almost always is) and how they’ve changed the team dynamics for the better and that they should believe that they left the team better than they found it.
So that’s that! How do you handle your individual meetings? I’d love to hear your ideas!