I’ve been spending the last few weekends watching middle schoolers play volleyball. This local league is an opportunity for girls who love the sport to practice their skills and gain experience on the court.

Lee karen
Managing Editor / Progressive Dairy

We have tremendous interest from girls in our area, and high school players have been tasked with coaching some of the teams through their games. On one day, I watched a pair of 16-year-olds rally and lead a team better than many adults.

The members of this particular team would not refer to one another as friends. While they know each other from class, you wouldn’t see them hanging out together at school. They were there for a shared enjoyment of the sport and “stuck” on an assigned team for the afternoon.

Nor did they know their high school coaches well. They had seen them around and some might have known their names, but interactions up to this point were slim to none.

While the coaches did pass along some tips and advice on how to play volleyball, what they did over the next few hours of play to unite a disjointed group of kids toward a single goal was nothing but an impressive display of leadership. Here are a few things that I noticed worked well.


Communication – The coaches were always encouraging the girls to talk to one another during play. They reminded them to call the ball when going for the hit, or call out “free” or “tip” so others would recognize it and better react to the scenario. The constant communication helped everyone on the court know what was going on.

Peer support – In addition to calls during the play, they encouraged the girls to talk to each other in between points, to cheer one another on and pick each other up when they were down. By the end of the day, some players were literally dancing to “Shake It Off” to help a teammate get over a wrong move on the court and be in a better mindset for the next volley.

Self-sacrifice – The coaches took a vested interest in the outcome of the team. They promised to do burpees (a pushup followed by a leap in the air) if the team won. With that incentive on the line, the team pulled off a win and the coaches did their burpees center court for all to see.

A kind gesture – After playing a few games, the team took its turn for a break. One of the coaches drove to the nearby gas station and picked up cookies for everyone. Not only was the treat delicious, but it showed they cared about the team members off the court and boosted spirits for the remainder of the afternoon.

These strategies are not new, and the high schoolers probably learned them from various coaches and leaders they’ve had in their lives.

What was incredible was to see them use all of these techniques, in a limited time, with kids they rarely worked with and for no outcome other than to make the task so much more enjoyable for all.

When asked to lead a team, day in and day out or for the first time ever, I think we can all learn from these youth and the example they set. While they may never become professional coaches, I definitely see a leadership role in their futures.