My daughter plays on a high level volleyball team for girls 15 and under. Their coach is a college coach who's previous experience was as an instructor in the Marines. What he was "instructing" in the Marines was not made clear.
Before the season started Coach B told us a few things straight away..." I'm going to mess with your daughters heads. We're going to push them when they need to be pushed and we're going to back off when they need room, but we're going to challenge them to get the most out of them."
That was borne out after the third practice when my daughter got in the car and said, " I get the feeling that this guy is messing with my head....but I think I like it".
He warned to, " not talk your daughters about how they played or practiced for at least one hour after they're done." This was advice I ignored twice, and never again. I don't know if its good advice in general, or if its simply he doesn't want me tinkering around while he has her head open ( more likely). Now, when she come out of practice all adrenaline up, I spend the ride home doing nothing other than mentioning positive things about her play and progression and either forcing the conversation to silence or distracting it to non sporting issues.
Finally, he told us , " Boys you can yell at. Boys can hate each other, but when they step on a court or field of battle they'll give everything for the combined cause, and they're fine going back to hating each other when the game is over. But girls......girls first need to bond...and it only after they've bonded with each other that they can fight. And a tight group of girls is a force to be reckoned with." ( fact that I suppose any of us should have learned in a college bar)
So I've been careful to watch the subtle things that the coach and his staff are doing to bring these girls together. This is not an easy situation. These are all super competitive type A girls who are all the best ones on their school teams. They've almost exclusively played against each other in practice as their first tournament is this upcoming weekend. And they're all fighting each other for starting spots. Oh and they're all 14 and 15 year-old girls. The situation is potentially as volatile as it gets, and hardly the stuff of sleepovers and pedicures ( I apologize for my obvious lack of understanding of how girls bond).
So what I've seen them be able to do is both frightening and impressive. I'll give one small example. At the end of each practice he has the girls go through a post workout stretching routine/ritual. They were lead through it one time the first day. After that they're just sent off to the side, in a tight area, to do it themselves while the coaches tend to some other items. The area that they're sent to in totally contrived....its near their bags ( more on that in a second)...its away from all parents and coaches, and its in a tight space so they have to all get on the floor to stretch, but they're almost on top of each other ( hmmmm sort of like a sleepover). The "stuff" that the coaches are doing is contrived, mostly they're doing nothing....but this has forced the girls to come up their own system of who leads the stretches, etc etc.
All of that is obvious. Its obvious to me anyway, and it seems obvious to the girls...but as I was told, " I know he's messing with me, but I think I like it". What it does is it provides a safe excuse and a structured format for the girls to interact in a cooperative way all while relaxing physically and emotionally.
But the think that I find most impressive is that the stretching time, and likely its obviousness, is nothing other then a decoy for what he's really doing. On day one, the coach moved the girls around a couple of times under other auspices, that forced them to carry all of their stuff with them. When they began practice, instead of each of the girls leaving their clothes and bags and coats with their parents, all that stuff was put together in a corner. People being creatures of habit, the girls put their stuff there every time now.
The girls stretch right next to their stuff. So he has them in practice mode, drives them hard, brings them down stretching, isolates them, then tells them that practice is over.....hardly. With all their stuff right there, and them already sitting down, the girls spend 15 minutes changing, talking, laughing...and that's how every practice ends....bonding.
I think we should all be grateful that Coach B left the Marines for volleyball and not not to start a religious cult....or time share sales.