Brittany Ter Meer is a volleyball player at Methodist University. She has also been coaching a travel volleyball team for Sandhills Volleyball Club for three seasons. Brittany spent some time with LRT Sports discussing how being a collegiate athlete makes her a better coach, and what advice she would give to first-year coaches.
LRT Sports: What pre-season preparations do you take to have a successful season?
Brittany: Generally before the season begins, many of the girls are still playing school ball and wrapping up conference championships. The club I work for does open gyms every other weekend in preparation for tryouts. At open gyms, anyone can play, even the coaches and it helps us see where some of the girls are at skill level, and it helps the girls begin that transition back to travel ball- which tends to be a higher intensity type play from what they are used to with school.
LRT Sports: What do you expect your players to do to prepare for a new season?
Brittany: It depends on the age level. With the 17s I coached last year I expected the girls to have all of the fundamentals of volleyball already down so all I had to do was teaching them the plays we would be running and the different defenses. With younger girls, I expect them to have a general idea of the game and to have at least played for their middle school team; that way when they get to the travel ball team, their skills can be sharpened.
LRT Sports: Do you have any unique coaching experience that has made you a better coach?
Brittany: Yes, I have learned that some girls take criticism differently than others and that how you approach one is completely different than approaching the other. I had two setters on my team, one was a firecracker and the other was more level-headed- both had the same job; however, I had to communicate the same thing to both of them, but I had to take a different approach with each so that they both understood what I was saying.
LRT Sports: What difficulties have you faced during your coaching career? What did you learn from them?
Brittany: Parents and attitudes have been the most challenging thing I have experienced. If you have a bad attitude on the team, it can impact everyone on the court because with volleyball we all need each other to get the point. Parents have also been an issue because of playing time, and thinking that they know what is best. Sometimes as a coach you have to make the difficult decision of pulling a player from the game because either she is messing up or having a bad attitude that is impacting the play on the court. No parent likes their child being pulled, however, I’ve learned that if I talk to my players and we can come to an agreement, they tend to mature and are responsible in explaining to their parents why they were taken out, rather than trying to have their parents fuss at me because they were pulled.
LRT Sports: Do’s and don’ts as a first-year coach
Brittany: Do- have fun; communicate with other coaches to build up relationships but also get advice; make sure to communicate with parents; listen to your players; play with your players (helps build up their skills and moral when they can block coach); give advice when a player asks.
Don’t: let parents push you around; take every game so seriously- acknowledge when they truly were working hard but still lost; let attitudes take control; lose your temper with your players- even if they are playing God awful; criticize- it should always be constructive and should be followed up with a positive.
LRT Sports: If you could go back to the beginning of your career, what would be something you would like to make your team more successful?
Brittany: Making sure I made the connections with players earlier on than in the past and making sure to stay in contact with the team and the parents.
LRT Sports: How do you run practice/player development?
Brittany: Beginning of the season, it is a lot of drills to see where they are physically and mentally. Come mid-season I am focusing more on serving spots and running an offense that works with the girls’ tempo and speed and is effective for the team. By the end of the season, we are making sure all of our stuff is clean for nationals.
LRT Sports: What is your ideal game plan?
Brittany: To make the girls become smarter court wise and develop a deeper connection with each other and the sport.
LRT Sports: How do post-season evaluations help you improve as a coach?
Brittany: They help me realize what I did ‘wrong’ and what I did ‘right’ that help my team win.
LRT Sports: How important is post-season self-evaluation?
Brittany: It is Important for the girls so they can begin to think about and focus on some of their weaknesses; also by the time travel ball begins to end they are starting up school ball practices- basically, they can carry what they need to work on into school ball so then when they come back to travel they are ready to move forward to the next level.
For me, I like to be different every season. I want to be better. I always make sure I do self-reflection after the season ends.
LRT Sports: What methods do you use to get athletes’ attention?
Brittany: Often time I have to talk loudly because the gym is loud or I am trying to talk over a group of girls. I always try to give a prize at the end or have the girls pick the other team’s conditioning drill. That way they focus on what they need to.
LRT Sports: What sets you apart from other coaches?
Brittany: I’m young and I have played the sport; therefore during practice, I can play against the players I can make things more competitive. It also helps when I play against them and either can block the players or get a good kill against them; so when they play other teams, they are not scared of big hitters.
LRT Sports: What do you think your team has that the other teams don’t?
Brittany: They’re shorter, so they know to be ‘scrappy’ and can dig up balls that ‘bigger’ teams can’t get. They become a family quickly because they all go to similar schools.
LRT Sports: In what way do you connect with your players?
Brittany: I like to be able to joke around with my players since I am close in age. I do not get into their personal lives, but I develop a relationship with them where I can joke around with them but also be able to give constructive criticism.
LRT Sports: What should athletes include in their highlight footage to get college coaches’ attention?
Brittany: It is all position specific.
Serving- aces and hitting spots.
Kills- long rallies and shot spots against big blocks.
Digs- run thrus; serve receive; digging hard kills.
Settings- jump sets; difficult sets due to low passes.
LRT Sports: What traits do you think a coach should have to have a successful career?
Brittany: A love for the sport; an ability to listen to the players and their concerns; acknowledge good losses; able to play and joke around with the players; biggest cheerleader sometimes; someone players can look up to.
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