Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Three Challenges I Face Coaching High School Girls

by Kathryn Sandefer, AVCA Intern and Assistant Volleyball Coach at Lexington Catholic High School

1)  One of the challenges that I face as a high school coach is instilling confidence in my players.  Before every game we play, I see a dozen nervous faces and find it difficult to actually convince my players they have a chance to compete and win.  Confidence can be a complete game changer for girls at the high school level.  It can propel teams to walk into a visiting gym and take a match from the opponent.  As difficult as it can be to find confidence, it can be taken away very easily.  One simple shanked serve receive ball can cause a girl to lose confidence, and soon enough, the entire team can follow.  

2)  Confidence can go hand-in-hand with the challenge of keeping a team mentally tough.  High school is a critical time for girls especially because it seems that nearly everything can make them cry or shut down.  It is important to keep players focused on their goal, even if it is physically or mentally taxing to achieve it.  I think at this point, it is necessary to have one or two upperclassmen leaders to "be on your side” to help encourage and push struggling teammates.  It is also important to convey the fact that yelling or pushing a team to their limits is a form of encouragement used to help unite a team and achieve a specific goal.  

3)  Another challenge I seem to have with my high school team is keeping a winning mentality.  High school girls have so many other things on their mind then maybe wanting to win a competitive drill or game at practice.  It seems they cannot hold their focus at times to deal with the task at hand.  Part of having a winning mentality is the ability to stay competitive even against your own teammates.  Girls at this age have a difficult time being mean or pushing their teammates because it can be seen as picking on one of your own.
With all of the challenges that might accompany coaching high school girls, it is a daily lesson to me about how to become a better coach and role model for the girls.  It is necessary to have my players look up to me and respect me, but to also have the girls understand that the other coach and I care for them and ultimately want the best for them.  Overcoming challenges every day is what makes a player and eventually a program better. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Five Tips to Grow your Team's Social Media Fanbase

by Nic Hallisey, Assistant Director of Media Relations, Colorado State University

Nic Hallisey is a Sports Information Director at CSU for volleyball, swimming & diving and water polo.  He led the Rams' volleyball social media accounts to a 2012-2013 AVCA Grant Burger Media Award, and is generous enough to give us a few pointers everyone can use from social media novice to expert!

Gone are the days where social media is simply for personal use. Now, it’s hard to find a team not on social media, and for good reason. Quickly, we’re learning that social media has become one of the most effective and cheapest ways to connect with fans. While the social cyberspace has become a primary hub for fans to get news, share it, and interact with the team, with the ever-changing policies and new platforms, it takes a strong commitment and continuous effort to have a good product on social media.

-        You have to start somewhere. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small team or a Division-I powerhouse, evaluate what your fans want and get good at that. For our volleyball program, Facebook is huge. Twitter has a following, as well, but doesn’t generate much interaction. We focus on those two platforms—we also post videos to YouTube and are starting to dabble with Vine — and stop there. You don’t need it all.
Also, don’t link your Facebook and Twitter accounts. We still post similar content to both, but do it separately to change the wording and format. It takes a few extra minutes, but it’ll help reach that site’s specific fans better.

-        Gain by giving back. An occasional retweet from a fan will help them feel more connected, and they’ll then be more likely to post about you. The same goes for a media member who produces a good piece. Share it and give the author proper credit. Social media is a two-way relationship; the more you give, the more benefits you’ll receive. The more people talking about your product, the more exposure you’ll have. If you have a catchy hash tag, even better.

It also doesn’t hurt to follow other teams. Not only will they possibly follow back, but you might learn something that you can implement with your team (Editor's note. Sometimes playful banter between two rivals on Twitter can help boost both accounts).  

-        Build relationships. More importantly, build relationships internally. Our coach understands the importance of social media — that it engages fans, reaches recruits and exposes our team in a greater way than a lot of marketing campaigns can do.  Therefore, we are able to provide good content.  Get the rest of your sport’s staff on the same page so that you have access to behind-the-scenes content (below) the general public normally wouldn’t get to see. This will make your fans feel special and come back for more.   

A Halloween practice costume contest!
-        Be consistent. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing a page without a post for several weeks, or longer. There will always be times where content is easy to produce and times when it’s a struggle, but be creative. You can always find something to share, even if it’s small.

-        Be creative. Simple all-text posts are fine, but research shows that photos and questions generate the most clicks. Take that a step further and make fans really want your product. Nothing does this more than giving something away. We do things like Trivia Tuesdays and Flashback Fridays, allowing fans to make guesses, and sometimes even win prizes for their engagement. On special occasions, you can even do big promotions, such as a photo contest or major giveaway.

The list is endless. What other tips do you have to grow your team’s online following?