“Mary, do you want to write a book with me?” Ard asked me in the spring of 2006. “I have many questions about volleyball and I wish I could pick the brains of the most successful coaches to find the answers”. I didn’t really want to write a book—that seemed like such a big project and I was far too busy coaching, but I did think the “picking the brains” part would be a great learning experience.
We began to write THE book. We brainstormed possible volleyball questions that we really wanted to ask. Our experiences as university players, college coaches, provincial coaches and now as high school coaches brought a vast array of questions to mind. We surveyed our colleagues asking what questions they would ask, looked through other coaching books and added more questions to our list. We grouped the questions by theme, decided on an order and made an interview guide.
Deciding on the coaches was our next task. Through our travels, we had met many exceptional and successful coaches (some in real life as colleagues and mentors, some at coaching clinics we had attended and some only through reading their work). We listened carefully to find out whom successful coaches acknowledged as their mentors and similar names came to light. We wanted to interview those coaches who were highly respected for their knowledge and their willingness to share with other coaches to better the game.
We hoped to interview coaches who consistently developed championship teams. We set the criteria at winning more than one national, international, or collegiate championship. Our list began with our Canadian coaches, expanded to American coaches and included two international coaches. Some coaches were unavailable for interviews (“sorry we are at the Olympics!”).
We began to contact the coaches in summer of 2006. Our first coach was interviewed in the fall of 2006. We videotaped and cassette taped the interview just to be sure we would end up with our first actual interview. Three and a half hours later, Ard emerged exhausted and elated from the interview. We knew from the first interview that writing the book was going to be a bigger and better project than we had anticipated.
Ard was unanimously elected to conduct all the interviews for consistency and because he wanted to talk with the coaches. We set up my office at the University to record in several ways to ensure that we would have at least one copy that worked. Ard asked the interview questions and I listened. If there was something I felt was important or I wanted to know I would give him sticky notes saying, “Ask about how he does this? Ask what she means by this?” We both learned an unbelievable amount just listening to the coaches. We went directly from the interviews to our own practices and games feeling like we had just shared precious moments with coaches of champions.
Ard decided that I should do all the writing. Remember he did ask, would I like to WRITE a book with him? The interviews were sent to a transcriptionist who learned an immense amount about a new subject-volleyball. Once they came back from the transcriptionist, I wrote the content into a chapter. The chapters were returned to the coaches for editing and approval. We wanted to ensure that we accurately reflected the coaches’ ideas and also their comfort level with what would be printed. We asked each coach for their five favourite drills and Ard completed the initial formatting of the drills. The drills were also sent back to the coaches for editing, clarification and accuracy.
Some interviews did not make the final cut, much to our disappointment. Ard enjoyed a wonderful interview with a coach on a yacht in Holland. The chapter was abandoned as its original meaning appeared lost in the translation from Dutch. Another interview was conducted in Brazil, however we soon discovered that neither of us knew enough Portuguese to translate the Brazilian secrets of volleyball success into an English chapter.
Our last interview was conducted December 2008, just over two years after our first interview. Some of the information needed an update as more championships had been won or coaches had changed positions. Between the first interview and the final editing for printing, Ard and I continued to coach volleyball. We were always talking about something a coach said that was in THE book. We found ideas for our own practices, quotes to inspire our teams and ourselves, answers to questions on positioning and tactics and lots of “awe” moments thinking about volleyball coaching.
Finding a publisher was far more difficult than we anticipated. In our own libraries we have most of the volleyball books published in the last twenty years. We felt our book was unique because we had the principles or philosophy of the coaches plus how they would incorporate those principles into their practices through drills. Publishing companies felt that nobody would be interested in that combination of ideas in the same book. The recession was the second reason for caution on the part of publishing companies. We were very discouraged in our pursuit of a publisher. As a result, we have self-published THE book with outstanding assistance from Kingsley Publishing Services, an Alberta company .
We cannot thank the coaches enough for giving of themselves to our book. We are honoured by the reviewers’ comments as they also discovered the insights of the coaches that we had experienced through the interviews. We are also grateful for the foreward as the author is a coach of champions in his own right. And now, to our volleyball friends, THE book is finally done and you can enjoy it too. MD