I learned most of my coaching craft from one person: Denise Austin. Since I was 14, I have been taking yearly trips out to Tenerife to train and coach every winter, and it was there that I really discovered a love for our game. Denise’s coaching hasn’t just inspired me-she has coached hundreds of players of all levels from across the world.
I’m joining Denise and her merry band of coaches in Tenerife again this year, but before I go I thought I’d ask her to do a coaching masterclass. Here’s an interview about her coaching background and her plans over the next couple of months.
When did you start coaching?
I started coaching indoor volleyball when I was 16, as soon as I learnt how to play. I began coaching at my old secondary school while I was at college. My dad was a swimming coach, my two elder sisters were badminton coaches and my brother is a teacher, so it runs in the family!
I started coaching beach volleyball more seriously after I had come back from a few big travels and wanted to grow the game in the UK. I ran my first national team training camp in 1996. It was for nine days, all the girls camped and I stayed in my camper van. I began coaching internationally when Ellie was born in 2001 and I took some time out to start a family.
In 2000 I joined the VE coaching commission and started writing the first coaching manual to qualify coaches. I have been running courses since then more or less every other year.
What do you like most about coaching?
The relationships that you build over time, the trust someone has that you have their best interests at heart and the success that you share together. No matter where, when, what situation, everyone has a joy at learning a new skill and then acquiring it, embedding it and bringing it out just when they need it-that’s magic, and it doesn’t matter who you are.
I also love the long term relationships I have with the coaches I work with. Amanda Glover has been with me on this journey in the sport since we met when I was 19 and she was 16. Seeing our coaching knowledge grow together and sharing our time and passion has been a privilege. Then also watching coaches grow: Matt Rhymer, Millie Constable, Sam Dunbavin, Tim Latcham and many more, who have developed a love of teaching. I think that is something really special and I know that Mo and I are so proud of the young coaches coming through now.
Who is it that normally comes to your coaching events?
We have the broadest spectrum of people who come to our camps. I think because of my age it potentially appeals to a slightly more mature player. However, we also have loads of teenagers who come because of my involvement with junior coaching in the UK for such a long time. This winter we have a range from 14-year olds right through to 60+ year olds. We even have international players training for the Commonwealth Games, elite players, beginners, it’s just such a wonderful mix of people.
The thing that all the players have in common is that they love the game and the friendly, open learning environment. It’s a very safe place to learn, it can be emotional as we love to challenge everyone but the experience for both coaches and players is really exciting.
What are the next things you’ve got coming up?
We are just preparing for a couple of months of camps in Tenerife. The first four weeks are slightly bigger camps taking place in the heart of bustling Los Cristianos. These start on the 27th December and finish on the 23rd January. Each week has space for 24 players.
After this, from the 26th January to the 20th February I am running camps for 8 people. These are tailored to individual skill levels. More details for both camps here!
What makes your events unique?
It’s hard to tell because you never go to other events as a participant. However, from what people say it’s the inclusiveness of the camps; all levels are brought together to bond at times, no-one feels left out. We talk a lot about the qualities as well as the skills you need to be a player and try to bring out the best in people’s life skills too.
What is your proudest achievement as a coach?
I guess there are three. The first would be coaching Anaya Evans and Yasmin Kaashoek to a 9th place at the World U17 Championships in Mexico. It was brilliant to see Anaya succeed, as I have worked with her since she was in primary school. We had to really fight for them to even got to the event, as Volleyball England were unwilling to enter them.
Eventually, because the FIVB had so many European entrants they ran a European qualifier event, where we finished 11th. 12 teams went, so we just grabbed a spot on the plane! To then finish 9th from that position was was amazing. Yasmin Kaashoek was green to say the least, but she played her heart out through tears to get them there, and Anaya was so ill in Mexico I have no idea how she managed to play.
I love watching people give their hearts to the game and seeing their endeavour. One moment that I treasure is the bronze medal from Ellie Austin and Anaya Evans at the FIVB 1 star event in Ios Island this summer.
Thirdly, it was winning the first age group gold medal at a NEVZA U19 Beach Volleyball Championships with Katie Keefe and Ellie Austin. I remember taking Katie to the event when she was 12 or 13, when she was more shocked than anyone that she was selected. But three years later she won a Gold Medal and we were all so proud of the pair of them.
One piece of advice for an aspiring coach?
Make notes, watch other coaches, consider who you want to be like and be the best of yourself. Be honest, trustworthy, reliable and straightforward. Treat everyone the same. Develop a passion for teaching and it’s easy.