I was having dinner with fellow beach directors and JVA members Andrew Bennett and Jeff Smith at the AVCA Convention this year and I brought up the subject of team culture. It is so hard to develop team culture in a beach volleyball club. The players come and go and often do their own thing on the side. I have always wanted to develop more pride in our club, more of a group identity at 692.

Andrew recommended a book called “Legacy” by James Kerr. It is a story about how the All Blacks, a rugby team in New Zealand developed their team culture and used it to become one of the most successful sports teams in history. It had some great ideas that translate well to any sports team. An important tenet of their philosophy is putting a lot of control in the hands of the captains and players… after all, it’s their team.

Andrew has been using captains in his program, Tamarack Beach Volleyball Club, and told us that it has been working well. He has 4-5 and they have various responsibilities. He also lets them run a practice each week. I decided to start doing this with my club this year. Not only would it improve my clubs culture and give the players more ownership in what they are doing, it could take a few responsibilities off my shoulders.

I came back home and put together a questionnaire for each player in my program and asked them “what do you like at practice?” and “what do you not like at practice?“, “what could we do to develop more of a team culture at 692?”. I passed the questionnaire out at practice and received some great ideas from it. Several of my top players even wrote “we should have captains”.

I put together a group of my top players and told them I really liked the idea of selecting team captains. I asked them for input about what responsibilities the captains should have and I gave them a few days to think about it. They got back to me with some great ideas.

Here is what we have so far:

  • Take attendance at each practice (I got this one from Andrew, but it can be really useful to have)
  • Plan bonding activities for the National Team and Training Team (two of our top teams that each have 24 players)
  • Help plan our Beach Camp in the summer (a week we spend in California getting ready for various championships)
  • Post a certain number of posts each week on our social media
  • Select people to take over our Instagram story (great, I don’t even know how to make a story on Instagram)
  • Plan and run a practice every now and then
  • Organize big sisters/little sisters with our National Team players and our youngest players
  • Wear capes (yeah, I’m not getting capes for the captains, but it was on someones list)

My favorite suggestion was this one…

I have this thing I do with my indoor teams and I got it from Ed Bond about ten years ago. The team meets 15 minutes before practice and has a “team meeting”. This meeting is for players only and it is managed by the captains. Each girl gets a minute or two to discuss anything they want… what happened that day, how school was, their boyfriend, whatever… at the end of their time (monitored by the captain) the player says “but I’m here, I’m focused, and I’m ready to practice”… then the next player takes their turn. The captain makes sure no-one has their phone and that every player gets everyone’s full attention. The great thing about these meetings is that they help the team bond, but more importantly, they give the players time to share with each other so they don’t need to do it during our practice.

A few of of the beach players  have played indoor for me and suggested that we divide our entire program up into groups and each captain takes a group. “They can get their group together 20 minutes before practice, conduct the meeting, and then be responsible for getting their group into the sand to start warming up. Every two weeks or every month we can change up the groups so that girls have more opportunity to meet other players and get to know them.”

I’ve expanded on the idea of captains to create a group below my captains called mentors. They are veteran players in my program that mentor the new players that come in. When a new player shows up at my program I connect them with a mentor who shows them what to do at practice, and helps them find partners for tournaments. Being a mentor will be a good step towards being a future captain.

We are still ironing this out but I’m excited about implementing captains and mentors this coming season. What does your club or team do? Share your ideas with briana.schunzel@jvavolleyball.org.

About the Author

Scott Stover

Dr. Scott Stover is the National Director of 692, which he formed in 2005 and currently has 85 athletes in the winter program, about 150 in the spring, and about 250 in our summer program. Scott is a JVA Club Director, as well as the 2018 JVA Above and Beyond Award Winner. Scott has coached for over 30 years at every level from high school, to club, to division one college programs at SMU and TWU. He has been coaching beach volleyball for 14 years at 692, and was chosen to be one of three coaches to go to Russia in 2010 with the USA Beach program. Scott has coached 17 teams to national championships and has developed many of the top beach juniors players in the country over the last decade.