Coach Gary Preston on the Challenge of Not Losing Focus

I have been coaching volleyball for 10 years. I have had the privilege of coaching in the States and abroad. Currently I am working for Brooklyn Elite Volleyball Club. I have enjoyed the challenges and rewards of coaching the sport over the last decade as the landscape has changed,

I think that the sport of volleyball has evolved in regards to understanding the athlete's mentality and also adjusting to keep up with the times of coaching, with how coaches communicate with their athletes. I think another factor is that you cannot look at them as just one unit. It is important to establish a relationship of trust with each athlete. This also includes the parents of the athletes.

"... you cannot look at them as just one unit. It is important to establish a relationship of trust with each athlete." Coach Gary Preston (Tweet this)


Over the past ten years I have worked with ages five and up. Usually at University level, I work with 16 to 20 athletes, along with individuals. With camps and clinics, I have had up to 56 athletes in a gym at one time. One of the challenging aspects of coaching is the subject focus - knowing how to challenge the group you are working with, while maintaining the correct amount of time during the drill is key for not losing focus.

"... knowing how to challenge the group you are working with is key for not losing focus" Coach Gary Preston

The transition between drills is also a huge factor to keep the attention span of the athlete. I strongly feel the focus point is making sure that the group I am working with understands the purpose of the drill. The one thing I have tried to encourage is for athletes to ask questions. This helps to avoid the breakdown of losing focus collectively and keep everyone in check.

Аsking questions helps to avoid the breakdown of losing focus collectively and keep everyone in check. Coach Gary Preston (Tweet this)

Aside from everything that is going on currently, I think the most challenging part to every level of coaching is the ability to communicate what you are looking to develop with the athlete's game.

Every group and individual is different. The challenge is to figure out how the group works and functions, how the athlete is able to learn and adapt.

The challenge with beginners versus experienced players I feel differs not just with ball control, but also eye work and balance.

Being able to maintain balance with your body and mind during a practice and match play show the differences in levels of ability. I think that the solution to this challenge is communication in all honesty and being able to talk respectfully and freely.

It has to be established right away, so coaches and athletes can work together towards the same goal. 

It's ok to hear athletes out and vise versa. Both sides can see things the other can't. It is a matter of respect and trust.

Gary on COVID-19 and lockdown

Along with the virus has come a new way of living, working, exercising, and simply existing. I have always been the one to look at things as the "glass half full."


At this time, we are having three team meetings on zoom a week.

Monday, we break down footage from prior tournaments.

Wednesday, the athletes do a live workout with a trainer that we have on staff for the volleyball club.

Friday is an inspirational day. Athletes are given a topic at the beginning of the week to talk about and then have to share in the zoom conference call.

Topics range from history and trends, to recruiting development, in hopes for the athletes to continue playing volleyball at the collegiate level. The athletes also have a chance to create for the social media engines we provide @brooklynelitevolleyball.



In addition to the activities and resources I previously mentioned, our wonderful fitness trainer Jillian Wojcik-Clarke is working with our athletes collectively once a week.

Jillian is also monitoring their workouts one on one to help keep the athletes focused on their goals and also specializing in the positions they play. The club and coaches have done a great job of coming together to support our athletes and their goals regardless of the conditions they will be accomplished under.

In these times and any other it is important to be patient. Your expectation will change from each team you work with and it is key not to compare teams from prior years.

You can use the past to pull inspiration from, but the current team you work with has its own identity. You have to be able to embrace and enjoy figuring out what that is as you build individual relationships and provide an atmosphere that is encouraging and challenging.


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