First and foremost, Golden Bear is an educational organization. We believe the underlying values we teach are fundamental to players’ development as athletes, students, and people. Although one of our goals is to develop teams that will compete for national championships, we recognize the most important lessons we teach extend beyond the gym.
I. How does Golden Bear train to reach its goals?
A. Work Hard
If you want reach your potential, the most important controllable variable is how hard you work. As we strive to win, train for success now and in the future, and foster loving the experience, we keep the focus on a simple concept: work hard.
Social, carefree fun happens spontaneously in the context of a cohesive group bound together by working hard towards a common goal. Consistent with this, we focus on providing the structure where a team can feel proud of its efforts and enjoy their down-time as a reward. Jack Nicklaus (the Golden Bear, coincidentally) was once asked whether he ever played golf for fun. His reply: “Fun for me is walking up the 18th at the Masters with a 1-shot lead.” At Golden Bear, we seek to inspire the courage to give your all, so you can gain satisfaction from the results, whatever they may be.
B. Individual Technique
The foundation of individual and group success is solid fundamentals. To be great, you have to be able to be good at the little things, over and over again. Golden Bear has built teams to heights unequalled in the central Bay Area in part because we have focused on a strong technical foundation. One practice per week is devoted to this, and all Golden Bear teams receive the same skills training.
C. Team Systems
Individual skills are woven into a coordinated effort in every phase of the game. Technical proficiency is of limited value unless every player on the floor understands and executes her role. Weekly practices focus on translating individual effort to that essential quality: playing like a team.
D. Competitive Situations
Performing a skill in a controlled practice setting is building block, but it’s not the same as doing it in live play. Simulating game situations in the practice gym introduces the many variables that occur in competition, but allow for many repetitions as well as focused feedback. Golden Bear will use this style of practice, focused on a particular skill set, every week.
While every team competes, Golden Bear looks for more – in several ways. (1) We want to compete harder, just like we practice harder. (2) We want to get more out of competition, by learning at every opportunity. (3) By building team success and club camaraderie through intra-club mini-tournaments on off weekends. (4) We never put results ahead of effort; if we put the effort into the process, then we improve our chances of reaching our competitive goals.
Things are more likely to go your way when you stop worrying about whether you’re going to win or lose and focus your full attention on what’s happening right this moment.
— Phil Jackson, Sacred Hoops
II. What’s the philosophy on playing time?
Everything at Golden Bear is guided by a simple rule: team first. The corollary to the rule is that no team reaches its potential without every player making a contribution. Each player must also be aware of her importance to the team.
One finger can’t lift a pebble. — Hopi saying
A. Team First
This means everyone is working towards the same goals, and they have to put their private agendas aside when they interfere with the team’s goals. A team is not a democracy, it’s more like a meritocracy. Competitive players all want to play as much as possible, but the attitude we’re looking for is “what can I do to help the team?”
The team, the team, the team. — Jim Harbaugh
B. The importance of every team member.
1. Every player gets opportunities, of two types. First, every player gets the same opportunities in practice to earn playing time. Whether in game situations or practice, the coach is responsible for identifying the strongest line-up, which means constant reevaluation. Second, there are opportunities to compete in game situations. The older the team, the more playing time is earned, not given. Whoever is playing best will play the most, but this is always subject to change based on what a player does with the opportunities in practice.
2. Every player has a role. Those players who play less than others are vital parts of a team’s success. First, they always have the opportunity to show they can help the team improve. No starting line-up is ever permanent. Also, they can raise the level of practice, maintain the level in games when called upon, or raise the level -- thus earning more playing time. When a player isn’t happy with her role, the appropriate response is first to be sure she understands what she needs to do, then work as hard as possible to effectuate change.
3. Exposure. By the 15’s year, recruiting is an important part of club volleyball. Coaches are aware of this, and will look for appropriate opportunities to give every player exposure in positive situations. Keep in mind, however, that most recruiting in volleyball is player-initiated. When a player has been corresponding with a program that is in attendance, our coaches will look for opportunities for exposure, provided that it is not at the expense of the team.
III. What does Golden Bear care about besides volleyball?
In case it isn’t obvious, we do all we can to stay aware of the big picture. This may mean simply keeping one play, one match, or one tournament in perspective. This may also mean recognizing that there are values more important than winning which we will follow as we pursue volleyball excellence. We believe our philosophy allows us to remain true to our principles and develop great teams and players. Doing things right and doing well go hand-in-hand.
Below are some examples which address specific situations:
A. Academics, Family, & Social Life
As a club volleyball program, we are preparing players for success as student-athletes. That’s student first, athlete second. When the time comes for choosing a college, we offer advice for the academic side as well as the athletic. The emphasis on school does not mean that players are encouraged to miss practices for academic reasons. The lessons student-athletes must learn include how to plan ahead, so we expect that players won’t miss practices due to a lack of foresight.
B. School Sports
At Golden Bear, we believe as long as a player decides to play a school sport, it is up to the player to set her priorities. What we expect, however, is the player will do everything possible to fulfill her commitment to her Golden Bear team.
C. Personal growth.
There are a number of important lessons that come from playing team sports, especially at the high level at which Golden Bear teams play. Many of these have already been mentioned. Here, however, are a few of the things that we consider important: accepting responsibility, teamwork, communication, challenging yourself, discipline, and working passionately for something. There are a lot more, but the point is just this: we’re aware of the big picture, and we try to make it a part of everything we do.