Coach Blog

August 26, 2011 ("Do or do not...there is no try!")

Each year I select a motivational quote that I want our program to emulate and embrace philosophically. This year I have selected one of my favorites as I grew up in the Star Wars movie craziness that started in 1979. In the original movie Star Wars, Jedi Knight trainee, Luke Skywalker, is struggling to believe in what he is capable of as Master Jedi Yoda is attempting to train him and motivate him. He ends up giving up at one point and Master Yoda ends up telling him that you cannot just "try", you need to "do!". What he means in this instance is to not accept out it's cause, believe in yourself, find a way to fix it, work hard at perfecting the weakness and go at it again. If failure follows, repeat again until success follows. Thus the "Do or do not...there is no try!".

I am a firm believer in this philosophy as a trainer of life long learners in my capacity as a coach and educator. Too many times in my life have I heard kids tell me that they "tried their best" knowing full well that they were prepared to say that before they even "tried" knowing that most people will accept "try your best" as an acceptable response to failure. I do not subscribe to that philosophy...I believe that saying you "tried your best" is an excuse for failure. A more acceptable and successful way of handling failure should be to not accept it...find out why it happened, address it, work on it, and do it again. Continue to repeat this until the outcome is successful. Another words...if you get knocked down 7 times, get up 8! Do not accept failure...get up and do it again! Find out what made you unsuccessful each time you fail and rectify it. Do not give excuses or say you tried...that leads to failure. If this is embraced in volleyball and in life...we are preparing very successful ladies to embark on adulthood...isn't that why we teach/coach?

July 14, 2010 (Leadership and a team first attitude...key's to 2010 season)

This season we will be blessed with having a full array of talent on our team filled with depth on both the JV and Varsity teams. As the head coach of our program, that is a very nice feeling as we know we will have many options to put on the floor at nearly every position once we begin competing. This depth and abundance of quality players can also end up being a negative though if everyone is not on the same page. As we embark on our season, we must collectively acknowledge that nearly everyone has put in a lot of time, effort and money to prepare for this season. As we decide who plays what position, what level and how much they is important to keep a few things in mind. First, the age, grade or years playing in our program will have nothing to do with any players "right" to be on the floor. On the varsity level, I will constantly evaluate who I think is practicing and executing the best to determine a lineup. When we decide who those players are on an ongoing basis, the players who are not on the floor will be expected to support their coaches and teammates and know that the TEAM comes first and all individual aspirations and desires come second. Our program, as I try to remind our girls often, is very, very different from nearly every program at our school. We have goals and aspirations for our team that most teams at GS would never dream of. When your goals include playing at the highest level possible in the state of Pennsylvania, you must administrate your program differently than nearly everyone else. Vital to reaching those goals and aspirations is a requirement of a TEAM first attitude for everyone involved. That includes all players, coaches and parents. If we are to be successful, we must all understand that we cannot ALL play even though we have ALL committed a lot of time and effort in order for our team to be successful. Some players will need to be vital in practice, pushing players for their starting role and to make the starting team execute all while having a positive attitude even if they are not on the floor playing as much as they would like to. Another vital part of being a good teammate is your enthusiasm on the bench supporting your teammates and celebrating in their success as a member of the team even if you are doing it from the bench.

In the end, one of the major teaching points for me this year is to compare our team to any other successful organization that our girls may encounter in life AFTER high school. If an organization is to be successful, it takes a team effort for that to happen. Some members of that team may be more involved and may receive more accolades than others but it takes EVERYONE's effort and commitment for the group to be successful. Accepting roles on a team from "the boss" as a member of the team even if it is not what you envisioned is key to group success.

If we are to reach our goals and go after our dreams this will take the collective support and TEAM FIRST attitude from every coach, player and parent working in concert together. If we all accept this, work hard and find leaders on our team...we can accomplish anything. If this happens, the girls will learn that they can do anything in life if they work as a TEAM, on the court, on the bench, on the practice floor and as a supportive teammate.

I look forward to the season! See you all soon!

Best Regards,
Coach Werner

March 15, 2010 (What can I do now to prepare to win in the fall?)

As the club season approaches it's mid point, I am reflecting on how we are doing and what we must yet accomplish. I have had the pleasure of watching some of you play and I have heard from nearly all of you regarding your take on individual club experiences. We are now near the mid point of club ball. Knowing this, remind yourselves of what you need to do to improve between now and the end of May. Where do you see yourself next fall on our team and what do you want to do to prepare for that goal? In the next few weeks, identify a series of goals for yourself. Map out a plan on how you intend on reaching this goal. By May, you should be able to evaluate yourself based on the goals you set for yourself. Keep working on your weaknesses. Push your teammates and play hard!

January 7, 2010 (Championships are not won in January...they can be lost though...)

In the next few weeks most of our girls will begin their club season in earnest with each of their respective club team tourney's. As of today, we have 32 girls playing club in our program at some level including girls from 5th grade all the way up to 11th grade. I am very proud of our continued dedication to getting better in the off season with the recognition of just how important club volleyball is in terms of projected fall success.

I read some time ago from another volleyball coach in an article that "Championships are not won in January but they can be lost." I thought that was a very cool way of translating just how important the off season is in volleyball. Many teams at our school do not have near the off season commitment that our program has in terms of playing club volleyball at a high level. It is no coincidence that our program has been the most successful team sport at Garden Spot for some time now as a result. As you embark on your club seasons...I want to congratulate all of you for your dedication and commitment to getting individually better so we collectively will be successful in the fall. Additionally...I challenge all of you to work extremely hard on your club teams in both practice and tourney's to strive to get better at the things you are currently weak at. If all of our girls work hard, improve their weaknesses and strive for excellence. We will be very successful again next fall and perhaps will reach great heights in terms of team success. This will only happen if a majority utilize your club experience to the fullest striving to be the best you can be and pushing those around you to do the same.

Good Luck this winter and spring! I look forward to seeing many of you play and I wish you all the best with your club teams throughout the winter and spring!

Best Regards,
Coach Werner

August 11, 2009 (Girl's Soccer moving to the fall as of 2010...)

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) recently announced that as of next fall, Girl's soccer in the state of PA will now be a fall sport instead of being a spring sport for the entire state. Up until this spring, there has always been two state championships awarded as half of the state would play girl's soccer in the fall and the other half in the spring. As of next fall...ALL girl's soccer teams in the state will now play in the fall.

Well, you may ask...What does that have to do with volleyball? Well, we (SPOTVB), probably won't be as affected as much as field hockey, tennis or cross country but it will affect us. We currently have as many as 7-10 girl's in our program that play soccer in addition to volleyball. As of next fall, they will have to choose between the two sports. It is a difficult problem for some of our kids to ponder. Knowing this, we can only provide some facts for our kids and their families as they evaluate this decision...

Our program features some unique qualities that other worthy programs at GS do not.

First, we have had a lot of success in the last decade as our teams from JH up to Varsity have been honored with some unprecedented accolades. Your participation in our program will likely continue to see that success as long as you work hard, exude confidence, play enough volleyball and take the advice of our coaching staff. Our program, at the varsity level, has been in the district and league playoffs for 8 consecutive seasons. No other team sport in Garden Spot history has achieved that mark. Also, we have additionally qualified for the state playoffs for two consecutive seasons finishing as the 2nd and 3rd place team in the state. No other team sport in Garden Spot history has achieved these marks. Last, we have earned 3 consecutive section titles and a league title in the last 3 years. Few programs in Garden Spot history have ever accomplished as much in a three year span.

Second, we have earned 15 consecutive national team academic awards sponsored by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. In order to qualify for this award, your team must have a cumulative average of a 3.30 GPA on a 4.00 scale. Not only has our program qualified for 15 consecutive seasons, we have been over or approached a team GPA of 4.00 on many occasions. This honor that we continually achieve is not an accident nor is it a fluke. We strongly believe that our players are students first and athletes second. Their behavior, attitude and work ethic on the court will only be at a high level if it is also the case in the classroom and in the hallways. Another words..."How you do anything is how you do everything". Your participation in our program in and of itself won't guarantee a high GPA...It will however expose you to a great work ethic, association with other kids who study and work hard and expect to perform at a high level in the classroom as they do on the court. This characteristic of our program is what I am most proud of as years have gone by. Your time on our team will end at some point...It is my hope that we have taught you how to succeed in life more so than we have on the court.

Knowing what we have presented above...we hope that you will choose Garden Spot Volleyball as your sport of choice next fall. For those of you who do not elect to continue with us...We wish you the best of luck in your future athletic and academic career here at Garden Spot HS.

Best Regards,
Coach Dennis Werner

May 21, 2009 (Proud of the commitment!)

As the 2009 spring club season comes to an end, I reflect on how proud I am of the collective commitment that our girls and their families have made this spring to their club volleyball experiences.

Why is playing club volleyball in the off season so important? Some may ask...

Years ago, it became very obvious to me why we couldn't compete with some teams in our league and district once playoffs arrived. The answer, after some research, became very evident...our players simply didn't play as much volleyball as the other programs. When playoff time came, back in those days, these more dominant teams seemed to just toy around with us at times. I did not enjoy it and it was very frustrating for our kids, parents and myself as I knew our athletes were just as good as their athletes. After a few years of working hard to make the playoffs and getting the same result, I realized our future success would have to be determined by more than how I coached or what athletes we had. I needed to find an answer as I knew we could not go on just making the playoffs each year and then losing to the same teams year after year. After talking to more and more coaches, it became crystal clear...we must get more of our girls playing in the off season or we just weren't going to ever catch those teams that always seemed to beat us in the playoffs.

Fast forward to this spring....Now we have as many girls who play off season volleyball as any team in our league, district and perhaps the state. This has happened now for the last several years. It is no coincidence that our team has collectively had it's best season's in program history over that same time period. Our success is just not limited to the varsity level only, we have done very well at the JV level and JH level earning very dominant records this fall.

Over the last two weeks, I have had the pleasure of sitting back and watching all of our girls practice in open gyms and it has been really neat to see just how many girls improved since the fall. I can't help but continuously smile, perhaps inwardly, at the improvement of our players this spring.

So...I want to thank all of our girls and their families for putting in the time to play club ball this spring. IT WILL PAY OFF IN THE FALL! I am very proud of all of you and I look forward to a great and relaxing summer where I will anxiously await the fall with great anticipation!

Thank you all! Regards, Coach Werner

April 27, 2009 (Best 6...Not our 6 Best...)

I recently heard a great quote regarding a different way of referring to the team first concept. Apparently, Knute Rockne, (legendary Notre Dame football coach) was quoted in one of his books as stating that, "In football, it is most important that we don't have our 11 best players on the field...It is most important that we have our best 11 players on the field." Well, I thought on that for awhile and I really liked the way Coach Rockne verbalized the importance of a true team. Great players come and go on teams. Some great players work well in a team concept where their stats or individual accolades come secondary to the team success and goals. Some great players worry about themselves first and their own stats while the team success and goals are obviously secondary.

Over the last two years...we have had some very, very talented players that I have had the good fortune of coaching. Along with the talent that those individuals posessed, they were able to buy into the team first concept with individual accolades coming along as a result of the team success. One of the things I am trying to impress upon our girls now is the importance of this concept. We are in the process of evolving into what will be our varsity team in the fall. During this process, there will be players who are asked to do different things on our team. Some players will be asked to block and serve. Some players will be asked to play defense and pass, etc. Additionally, some players will be asked to carry more of the load in statistical categories that will eventually give them individual accolades. Looking at the big picture, the key for all of us ultimately will be...Do we worry about our team and it's success first or will we worry about "Me" first? As the coach of our program, I do know this...we will put the Best 6 girls on the floor who can work together as a team. What we won't necessarily do is put the 6 Best individuals on the court who may each have their own agenda. What player will you be? A we or me type of player...

April 13, 2009 ( important attribute that we must have...or...)

Competitive desire is an attribute that great teams have in abundance. Some of the best teams I ever coached had many players on the floor who practiced hard and understood my methods to get them to perform. Many of those players were anything but indifferent when the match was on the line and tremendous effort was required. This made all the difference in the world when it was time to win or lose.

As we look to mold our new team, we are trying to impress upon our young players that ultimately, their "extreme dislike for losing" must surpass all other emotions on the court if they want to achieve their goals. This does not mean that winning is everything...It simply means that they must practice with great intensity, accept criticism, fix mistakes and for them to allow me to make them "uncomfortable" at times. Keeping players out of their comfort zone thus keeping them from being complacent is a key in training teams to be competitive. As a player, you must constantly measure yourself in practice, trying to out-perform others around you to "win" the drill even when the person you are competing against is your own teammate who plays the same position. An atmosphere where players are always practicing at a high level and are working hard so they don't have their spot taken by a teammate is a great motivator. If a team can understand these things in combination, it will "set the table" for a great team with the competitive spirit needed for greatness to be reached.

As a player on our team, you must ask yourself...Do I want to compete every day for my spot on this squad? Do I want to practice hard and execute in each and every drill? Do I understand that my teammates want to take my spot and if I don't perform or play hard...they will take it?
If the answer to all of these questions is are ready to be a great player for us...If the answer is no.........

March 28, 2009 (Great teams get along well...)

Last week I was listening to Geno Auriemma, the very successful UConn head women's basketball coach speak about the importance of teamwork and team chemistry in women's athletics. He mentioned that his best teams had one thing in common..."They would do anything for each other....ANYTHING!" That interview really struck me as I have come to understand that same thing with our team the last several years. Our teams in 2007 and 2008 were our most successful teams ever and were blessed with talent developed over many years of collective club ball, hard work and God given ability. Those teams also got along well and became very close friends in addition to their tremendous skill. As I think on coach Auriemma's quote, I understand that same thing is true for girl's at the HS level. Girl's truly must get along and trust each other well if they are to succeed at a high level. If there are cliques and girl's on the team that simply don't get along...that team won't be as successful. In boy's athletics, that is not the case. Boy's seem to worry about one thing..."Do your job and hustle". They don't need to get along to be successful. Girl's athletics is different. Girl's play harder and ultimately better if they "get along well". It is my hope that our team over the next several years will do the same. If all 6 players on the court and the first few reserves off the bench are committed to each other and trust each other...we will be good. If they seperate into cliques and "just put up with each other"...we won't be as successful. Hopefully, we can find the trust, friendship and common ground that our teams the last several years have had. If we do...the sky is the limit!

March 23, 2009 ( in my players, trust in the coach)

During the last several years, I have learned that trust is a very important concept on a winning volleyball team. I have learned to trust my players and they have in turn, learned to trust me. It is a mutual attribute that truly must occur in order for a team to meet it's potential. I have learned that asking my players what they think has proved to be beneficial as I have used it to help shape our team. In turn, my players have learned to trust my judgement as a reciprocal relationship between themselves and the coach. In the past, I did not ask my players much of anything when it came to what they were thinking or what I can do better or change. Once I started asking my players to tell me what they thought...I found them trusting me more and executing what I wanted in practice and matches without question. This, may have been the missing link all along. Trust...what power it holds.

March 16, 2009 (Note to self...Patience)

As I embark on my 12th year coaching the girls' volleyball program at GS, I find myself reflecting on how far we have come. When I took over the reigns from Nancy White in 1998, the program had just made it's first playoff appearance but was still raw and undeveloped as compared to the other powerhouses that were in place in the L/L League. School's like Conestoga Valley, Hempfield, Manheim Township and Warwick were clearly a cut above us and the rest and we had to begin the quest of how to catch them. Well, 12 years later, we have caught them and it has been a really neat ride! The journey over the last several years has been especially fun as we have seen unprecedented success and we have gained state wide respect as one of the top teams in eastern PA.

Enter this off season...

As I begin my coaching of club ball this spring and work with our new team moving toward next fall, I find myself reflecting on the past. I try to remind myself that the development of our new and young players in addition to the joy of teaching the game again is now my reality just as it was years ago. The exciting part is that I see much of the same promise, talent and work ethic in our young players that I witnessed in the last two graduating classes. Knowing this, I have come to the conclusion that I must challenge myself to stay patient as my young and very gifted players learn to play the "Garden Spot Way" much as the Kara Hildebrand's, Maria Horning's Rachel Wenger's and Ashley Schnader's did when they were young and impressionable players at GS. As I say the names of those former all state players, I remind myself that they too were raw and full of promise as young athletes....Little did I know just how much my patience in them when they were young would pay off later in their career's. It is with that thought that I think on this next edition of Garden Spot Girl's volleyball. I know that my patience today with the promise of tomorrow will lead to SPOTVB reloading and NOT rebuilding. I am looking forward, always, with the promise and hope that today's work will bring greatness tomorrow.