Q&A With NCAA D3 Coach, Sarah Graves

I am an NCAA D3 women's coach, college women. I also run summer camps for kids 10-18. It's great to mix it up by coaching younger, new players in the summers! This fall will be the 16th year that I’ve been coaching. In a typical season, we have between 15-19 players. In a camp setting, it could be anywhere from 10-100.

 Coaching volleyball has evolved over the years, from my perspective it's become more professionalized, holistic and data-driven. All things I really believe have improved our game. Over time I've realized that focus is a learned skill for most people and athletes. I've noticed that it really varies. I see it the most during instruction, during the drill, after water breaks. It really depends on the athletes you're coaching.

My biggest challenge when coaching honestly is editing myself and going at a pace my players are ready for. I know I want to give them a lot and help them, there is so much to this sport and I get geeked out about it. So I work hard at figuring out what will make them better and stay focused and simple. I try to listen, stay flexible and focused with them. It's an amazing privilege to have this job. I like to say I'm in the business of making awesome people more awesome. I know that’s corny but that’s how I feel.

Coaching is a holistic profession and there are a lot of ways to be a good, effective coach. What I've learned is it's most important to figure out who you are and be that person. Learn from others and gather all the knowledge you can but you have to be true to you or it won't work. Be you as a coach, be flexible and grow,  but don't try to be exactly like other coaches - just because they have had success. Learn from their experience and fit it into the context of you and who you are.

The biggest change with the #stayathome movement is being separated from my players and staff. I really miss seeing their faces and having interaction. My life has gotten more local without recruiting and clinic travel so that's been a change. As far as Coaching, well I've had to become more creative and do more with less. Everyone is overloaded right now with screen time and stress so you don't want to add more to it. The challenge is helping your athletes continue to develop and learn but not add to their stress. So it changes my thinking and the tools I use to teach the game.

In order to keep my athletes active, we are doing various things. It's our non-traditional season so we have limited contact with our team but our amazing sports performance team are creating workouts for them. They are being really creative with modifications and trying to make it fun and flexible for our team. My staff and I have also put together some skill packages with ideas, ways to practice their skill at home. I'm really lucky in that my team is motivated to workout and it's a great stress reliever for them so they've been keeping up with things pretty regularly. But right now that's not really the important thing. The important focus is our health, doing our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and that students maintain their academic connection.

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