relationships

Brent Crouch: USC’s Newest Trojan and GMS Advisory Staff Member

Brent Crouch, USC Head Coach and GMS Advisory Staff Member

USC’s Newest Trojan and GMS Advisory Staff Member 

We at Gold Medal Squared are elated for Brent Crouch in his new role as the University of Southern California Women’s Volleyball Head Coach, and GMS Advisory Staff member. Brent Crouch was first introduced to Gold Medal Squared through current GMS Director and USA Volleyball Assistant Coach, Mike Wall, but it was long-term GMS contributors and St. Mary’s College Staff (Rob Browning and Keegan Cook) who inspired Brent through Gold Medal Squared principles; and the staunch support from late GMS Founder, Carl McGown, whom propelled Crouch through his success at Portland.

“I’m so glad that Rob Browning saw the potential in Brent when he originally hired him as an assistant at St. Mary’s, bringing him into our circle here at GMS. I’ve loved being able to spend personal and professional time with Brent, and I love that our clients get to have that same experience.” Chris McGown, GMS Co-Founder and Former BYU Men’s Head Coach

Discussions regarding this relationship have been brewing for well over a year, but we at Gold Medal Squared are overjoyed that it’s finally come to fruition.

“One of my top priorities when organizing our new staff was aligning ourselves with high character people. Brent certainly fits that criteria. Furthermore, I’ve always felt that Brent’s skill set, both on the court and interpersonally would allow him to be highly successful. USC not only got a wonderful coach, but an even better human being. I suppose this means I’ll have to become a USC fan, but for Brent, it’s worth it :)” Mike Wall, GMS Director and USA Men’s Volleyball Assistant Coach

When asked why Crouch ultimately decided to join Gold Medal Squared’s Advisory Staff, he responded,

“The high quality and high character people in GMS, and their commitment to becoming the best coaches and teachers of volleyball through a commitment to evidence based research and sound principles.”  

Brent’s Background

Before he was nominated 2016 West Coast Conference Coach of the Year, Crouch inherited a winless Portland program, and in just two seasons, guided the Pilots to their winningest season in 25 years.

Brent Crouch also helped establish beach volleyball as a varsity sport at Portland in 2016, after assisting with the St. Mary’s College indoor program and head coaching their beach team. He not only assisted the St. Mary’s Gaels’ indoor team to a 73-40 overall record, finishing in the Top 3 in the WCC standings, and earning a berth into the NCAA Tournament in 2012; he likewise, coached the inaugural St. Mary’s beach team in 2013, guiding the Gaels to an 8-2 record (best mark among all Northern California teams.)

“Brent is one of the highest-character people that I’ve come across in coaching.  He’s incredibly dedicated to his players and works tirelessly to help them improve as athletes and as people.  Also, he is completely invested in improving his craft; is always asking smart questions, looking for unique solutions, and generally trying to become a better teacher and communicator,” says McGown.

We have no doubts that the athletes at USC and coaches attending GMS clinics will be blown away by Brent’s expertise, humility, and leadership.

Gazing into the Future with Gold Medal Squared

Gold Medal Squared believes coaches and athletes should approach the game of volleyball with set of unfailing principles which govern the game at all levels. Likewise, Brent Crouch holds a strong conviction for evidence based thinking:

Brent Crouch

Brent Crouch, Head Coach at USC

“I’d like to see GMS continue to spread its respect for evidence based thinking and principled coaching through the volleyball community, so that young coaches can not only implement solid fundamentals, principles and systems, but can become active members of the community of inquiry that is pushing volleyball to higher and higher levels of performance and execution.“ Brent Crouch, Head Coach USC, GMS Advisory Staff Member.

Brent would like to see volleyball continue to gain speed as a major televised event and pro sport in the US, and see the men’s game expand in ways analogous to the women’s college game.  

Brent Crouch’s 2 Tips for Success

Brent Crouch fervently believes quality reps matter greatly in both coaching and playing the game of volleyball. Crouch advises new coaches interested in taking their game to next level, to:

1. Volunteer in the best gyms you can.

“Coach summer camps in the best collegiate programs you can; Head coach at a high level club, and you’ll soon be interacting with college coaches across the country, gaining you valuable coaching experiences.”

AND

2. Surround yourself with mentors that can teach you how to think about volleyball, so that you can apply principles and methods to building your own programs.

“Systems, tactics, and techniques need to be outgrowths of a process of thinking and research, capable of update and revision, and tailored to your specific team that year.  It’s not enough to know how, but you need to know why.”

To follow Brent’s success at USC, you can follow him on social media:   

Facebook:   Brent Crouch
Twitter:       @crouchvbcoach
Instagram:  @crouchingb

Gold Medal Squared welcomes you to attend a coaches’ clinic this summer. Want to meet Brent? Keep an eye on our clinic dates and locations page by clicking here: GMS Coaches Clinics 2018

Want to learn more about the new Gold Medal Squared Advisory Staff? Stay tuned for future posts later this month, or read our latest post on Courtney Thompson which we published just last month.

PARK CITY, UT: February 2018

GOOD FOR AND GOOD TO

GOOD FOR AND GOOD TO YOUR TEAM – Carl McGown

Fred Sturm, who is now the head coach of the Danish Senior Men’s
National Volleyball team, is one of the USA’s greatest volleyball coaches. From 1978 to 1985 he was the coach of the Stanford women’s team, and from 1979 to 1990 he was also the coach of the Stanford men’s team. Altogether Fred’s team won more than 300 matches on the Farm.

He also coached our USA men’s team in two Olympics (1992 and 1996),
winning a bronze medal in 1992. In recognition of his many accomplishments he was the recipient of USA volleyball’s ALL TIME GREAT COACH AWARD in 2007.

He was also a terrific player, winning 3 NCAA titles at UCLA (72,
75, and 76) and 14 open titles in his beach volleyball career (72-79).

Because he is now coaching in Denmark he has become a student of
international volleyball. After observing the 2007 European Championships in Russia Fred said this to me: “The order of finish in this tournament was highly correlated to the quality of the coaching in the tournament. The best coaches were good for and good to their teams.”

I was in Switzerland at the time, about to embark on a season of
coaching in the Swiss professional league, and the simple concept of good for and good to was going to have a big influence on my coaching, but first I had to figure out what it really meant to be good for and good to.

Here is what I did. In trying to be good for and good to my team I made two checklists. The checklist I made for GOOD FOR was easy. Here it is (If you wonder about any of the things on the list I can send you information about them):

Mission statement

Core values

Dignity of Effort

Leadership committee

Pyramid of success

Mindset

Daily serving/passing sessions

Terrific practices

Awesome scouting reports

The checklist for GOOD TO was not so easy, because I am forced to admit that I had never before thought very much about being good TO my teams. Luckily I had in my library the book Positive Coaching by Jim Thompson. (You can join the Positive Coaching Alliance: www.positivecoach.org/).

This book really helped me change my coaching.

Here are some of the insights that it contains.

More than anything, coaching is about relationships.

Sports are highly valued in our culture. The potential exists in sports for most athletes, whether great or not, to rise to
the occasion, to give their best in a moment of symbolic meaning, and to take a greater sense of self into the rest of their life. But too often athletes are diminished by their experience with sports. Some kids will be outstanding athletes, most won’t. Some teams will have winning records, about half will not. But everyone can develop a stronger sense of self through participation as a member of a team. Everyone can learn important lessons about life by making great efforts, enjoying the taste of victory, and returning to try again after a loss.

Coaches can be enormously influential in the lives of their athletes. If you ask a random group of adults to recall something of significance that happened in their fourth or fifth grade classroom, many will draw a blank. But ask about a sports memory and you’re likely to hear about a game winning hit, or a dropped pass, that, decades later, can still elicit emotion. The meaning that coaches or parents help young people derive from such moments can shape their lives.

Punishment leaves bad feelings that eat away at motivation. When kids are punished, yelled at or criticized, their emotional energy is used up being angry, feeling sorry for themselves, or thinking up reasons why the coach is wrong. When children are secure in knowing that they will be valued and accepted by the coach, no matter how they perform, more of their energy can go to responding to the challenge.

It’s not your job to be liked by the kids. Your job is to like them.

The number one trait of an effective coach is the ability to demonstrate support for one’s players. The most important role a coach can play in a game is to be a cheerleader and advocate for the players, no matter what they do (or aren’t able to do) in the game. The reason it is so important for coaches to support their players in game situations is because the athletes are most vulnerable at those times. When a player is playing badly it is essential for that player to know that the coach will still provide confidence and
support.

One very useful notion Jim has developed is the “ELM Tree of Mastery.” This acronym helped me remember that the feedback that most helps players develop their potential is not praise for good performance or criticism for bad performance. What works best is helping athletes understand that they control three key variables: their level of Effort, whether they Learn from experiences, and how they respond to Mistakes.

Because there are so many opportunities to fail in sports, it is a gold mine of teachable moments. “If a competitor misses a big play, it’s a perfect opportunity to talk about resiliency,” explains Thompson. “I know you’re disappointed and I feel bad for you, but the question is what are you going to do now? Are you going to hang your head? Or are you going to bounce back with renewed determination?’”

Another concept that Jim recommended, and that we used a lot, is a mistake ritual. In a fast-moving game, things happen in seconds. “When a player makes a mistake if the coach is saying, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ it’s actually not very helpful,” notes Thompson. The key is to get rid of the mistake quickly and decisively. So PCA teaches coaches to establish a “mistake ritual.”

One technique, adopted by many, is teaching players to “flush” their mistakes. Using a hand gesture that mimics flushing a toilet, a coach can signal from the sideline and players can signal to each other. “So the kid looks at the coach and the coach goes: ‘Flush it.’ The teammates are saying: ‘Hey, Flush it, we’ll get it back.’ And the kid plays better. Because if you’re not beating yourself up, you can focus on the next play.”

After careful reading and rereading of Positive Coaching I had a multitude of useful ideas I could use to make my GOOD TO checklist, but more than a checklist I had a better outlook about one of my really important coaching roles.

Finally my list had only two items:

Say and do the things that make everyone around you play better (our definition of a good teammate).

Don’t sink the boat if you are in it.;

My team from Switzerland, LUC (Lausanne Univerisité Club), had a very nice season.

Thanks to Fred I think I really was GOOD FOR and GOOD TO my team

Carl McGown

Fundamentals of Relationships

The Fundamentals of Relationships

When traveling with the Men’s National Team, there is inevitably a significant amount of downtime.  I try to be as productive as possible while waiting for the next flight, bus ride or meal by reading a variety of non-fiction books that might help my coaching.  Two weeks ago while in Puerto Rico for the NORCECA Zone Championships, I read my favorite book of the summer:  Escaping the Endless Adolescence: How Can We Help Our Teenagers Grow Up Before They Grow Old, by Claudia Worrell Allen and Joseph Allen. It was a wonderful overview of a teenager’s developmental process, a historical view of how that process has changed over the last century, how some of those changes have created problems and how we can help teenager’s better transition to adulthood.

Most of us who coach volleyball manage and observe teenage behaviors.  Whether you coach a 12’s club team as these players enter their teenage years or coach the National Team with recent college graduates attempting to cling to their teenage years, their behavior patterns can be frustrating and confounding.  I always hesitate to jump on the stereotype bandwagon, but in conversations with many coaches, many of us believe there have been significant changes in the way teenager’s act and communicate from just a generation before.  Escaping the Endless Adolescence validates many of our opinions and gives fascinating insight into the reasons for these differences.

While reading this book, I found myself highlighting section after section.  But one of the most striking observations from the authors was the inherent value in the job we have as coaches, specifically with the attention we give our players in the form of non-parental adult relationships.  “Other than the misguided notion that teens’ immaturity is just hardwired into their brains, the idea that most teens don’t want or need strong relationships with adults is perhaps the single most damaging belief we hold about adolescents today.”  The authors continue, “Connections with adults outside the family can be among the most inspiring connections teens make in their lives.  And finally, “Often it only takes one of these relationships to make a difference. They bring out our best—far more than we thought we could do, actually—not just because of what they ask, but because of the connection we form. Parents, as we’ve mentioned, tend to offer teens many more lectures and nuggets of wisdom than they could possibly want. The problem isn’t that the advice is bad, or that teens don’t need advice. When so much advice comes from one source, though, teens find it hard not to feel too dependent on that source, especially when it’s a parent. Most parents know the exasperating experience of listening to their teens come home repeating the advice of some admired adult—advice the teen had previously been ignoring from the parent! These other adults can play a crucial role in teens’ development.”

As a coach, you can be this “admired adult” and play a “crucial role”.

I think it is very easy for coaches, myself included, to become distracted by the day to day busy-work of the job.  It is also very easy to become distracted by some of the finer details of what we teach.  Is it important to know where to stand on the court or how to hold your hands where you pass?  Absolutely.  But in my observations the great coaches manage the relationships with their players before they manage anything else. And it doesn’t take much time!  “Student after student recounted stories in which teachers or coaches had simply pulled them aside after class or practice to talk. Sometimes it was because the student had been visibly upset. Sometimes it was to tell the student they had great potential. Sometimes it was to follow up on a point the student had raised in class. Typically, the conversations lasted twenty minutes or less. Rarely did any students describe conversations lasting more than an hour.”

We spend so much time talking about fundamentals of volleyball but do we spend enough time discussing or studying the fundamentals of relationships?  We pour over the stats in an effort to understand how we won or lost a match but do we critically evaluate if the relationships with our players affected our teaching efficacy?  Speaking only for myself, I’m not sure that I always do.

Our job as coaches is an important one.  We have the opportunity to make a real difference in the personal development of our players.  It is a gift to have that kind of influence on a young person.  I hope you use that gift to know the fundamentals well so you can teach your student to become a great volleyball player.  I hope you use that gift to understand the science of sport so you can teach your student how to win.  I hope you use that gift to explore the power of your relationship so you can inspire those whom you teach.

John Speraw, UC Irvine Men’s Volleyball