In the summer of 2016 after AVP Huntington Beach Open I was approached by a young 19-year-old Ben Vaught who asked for my help coaching him. This past summer he took four – 13ths and three 17th on the tour and established himself as one of the rising stars (Just age 20) after successful wins over top teams, the likes of Reid Priddy. This post describes our journey working together for the past year and how you can improve your game or coaching skills following similar steps.
When Ben approached me in 2016, I was most impressed by his desire and dedication to improve. Here was a kid not afraid to be embarrassed or look stupid, someone who listened intently and followed through and did what he was told to improve, never shying from hard work.
Now coaching a young adult on the beach with limited resources introduces completely different set of challenges than coaching youth kids, youth club, college players or professional players. Financial resources and coaching time pose the biggest challenge.
Ben could not afford to pay me hundreds of dollars an hour to hangout and coach him in person on a daily basis. So rather developing a strategy to meet his circumstances was of the utmost importance.
Directed Purposeful Practice
For me “Directed Purposeful Practice” was the answer!
What is “Directed Purposeful Practice?
- Directed purposeful practice has well-defined, specific goals. These goals we established in advance and related back to “The Volleyball1on1 Coaching Formula – What Good Looks Like” and “The Volleyball1on1 Winning Culture!”
- Directed purposeful practice happens daily at every practice, meaning every time Ben trained he was working within the well-defined, specific goals we set above.
- Directed purposeful practice involves feedback. Given Ben’s lack of financial resources as a 19-year-old kid and my time constraints this often took the form of online video reviews or phone conversations. See below!
- Directed purposeful practice requires getting out of one’s comfort zone and doing things you have not done before.
Directed purposeful practice feedback via video examples:
Sculpting “The David”
For me the question started with: How do you sculpt “The David,” the pinnacle Olympic Gold Medal beach volleyball athlete. This I break down into four main parts; Physical, Visual / Mental, Technical and Whole Person Growth.
Physical – Sculpting “The David” Volleyball Athlete
Physical – Beach Volleyball is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. Training daily is brutal on your body and my number one goal was that Ben would not get injured and could play day after day without having to rest! For this I connected Ben with Eric Illginfritz at Human Movement Lab. Eric is a good friend and someone who is an expert in Functional Movement and athlete training. (See Volleyball1on1 Videos on Eric here!)
So far, the results are astounding. In year and half Ben has trained most weeks 6 days a week with no injuries.
Also within the context of “Physical” I had to redefine Ben’s self-ideal.
Ben’s previous self-ideal was that he was a tricky player who would chop and chip his way to winning. He never saw himself as becoming physically dominant player on the court. This self-ideal has adjusted with Ben’s new goal that in the next few years he will be the most physically dominant player on the beach. Eric, Ben and I met last week together and he is rapidly moving in that direction daily!
Visual / Mental – Sculpting “The David” Volleyball Athlete
Visual and mental go hand in hand for developing a mentally tough athlete. Sadly, most coaches don’t understand that your eyes have the ability to control your mind. Therefore your eyes if controlled correctly can instantaneously shut down your brain negative mental talk and instead replace it but moving your body into, “The Zone” physically.
This is a technique we worked hard with Ben on to help make him mentally strong and it has worked extremely well. We have recently built on this technique to include:
Analyze – An assessment of what he needs to do before each play and focus on only that which is important.
Visualization – Mental rehearsal before each play.
Visual Fix – Mental rehearsal post play with a mental correction.
Visual Presence – Techniques used to slow the ball down and thus slow the game down based upon how you look and process the ball.
“Reading the Game” techniques incorporating the OODA Loop.
When pulled together Ben moves freely in and out of the zone ignoring mental obstacles while reading the game, slowing the ball down and thus the game down.
Technical – Sculpting “The David” Volleyball Athlete
Technical training of Ben is the most rigorous and “Purposeful.” A lot of the ideas can be summarized in The Volleyball1on1 Formula – “What Good Looks Like” on the volleyball court playing:
- Serve In and Tough
- No Hitting Errors
- Pass High / Off Net / Middle
- Hittable Balls
- Take Out the Trash
- Relentless Pursuit Defense
- Game Plan Offense
- Game Plan Defense
© Copyright 2017
Obviously, there is allot to this and therefore I cannot effectively describe it in this article. Watching the video reviews above will help you understand some it. Also stay posted to Volleyball1on1 as I share more of these ideas in the months to come.
Whole Person Growth – Sculpting “The David” Volleyball Athlete
The final part is “Whole Person Growth!” This is Ben realizing his potential and living into the person he dreams about being. This involves the 3 areas that make up our character namely: Self-Ideal, Self-Concept and Self Esteem.
As Ben progresses on this journey we systematically build his self-esteem as his self-concept matches his self-ideal. This allows us to peak him for major tournaments plus create real confidence as it is based in reality! (Read more in this concept here!)
Well it is early days but I have started to coach both Ben and his partner Branden Clemens this year. For me the biggest frustration last year was the inability to successfully implement many of my coaching philosophies and strategies because I was coaching just one player on the team. I think if things go as planned and I work with both players this year our team goal is to finish in the top 8 on the AVP this year and longer term make a run for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. Only time will tell and I look forward to hopefully updating you on this journey as it happen!
* If you would like to work with me as a beach player I am currently taking a limited number of high level AVP or FIVB beach teams for the 2017 / 2018 Season.
Contact me via email to review further at andorvolleyball1on1 @ gmail.com.
“Andor Gyulai is an incredible coach and I am extremely grateful for the work he put in to help me develop and improve as a player. Directed purposeful practice was our mantra and the ideas he presented on a weekly basis plus his ongoing support dramatically improved my game at every level! Andor is also a pioneer in how he approached the game as a coach with many powerful unique ideas I have never heard reviewed by even top-level USA beach coaches. I look forward to working with him well into the future.” – Ben Vaught