Coaches soak up Level 3 experience

In April, 18 passionate volleyball coaches from all four corners of Aotearoa, united for a weekend of development as part of the Level 3 Coaching Course.

Across two intensive days, they delved deep into the intricacies of defensive and attacking concepts and skills.

Day one saw Johann Timmer (Game Development Manager at VNZ) take the reins, guiding the cohort through the nuances of defensive play, looking closely at planning, reading, and execution.

On day two, Rob Tarr (Game Development Manager at Harbour Volleyball) steered the conversation towards attacking strategies. Coaches absorbed sessions on individual and team components to setting and attacking.

VNZ’s Coach Development Manager, Shaun Matthews, also provided guidance on facilitating the decision-making process and the importance of long-term planning.

“I have already incorporated elements from the weekend into my planning for this week’s training. The other coaches are really friendly and supportive, and I feel like I’ve developed a further network of coaches to bounce ideas off. I would highly recommend this course to other coaches” (Course Participant)

Additionally, the Level 3 Pilot programme in the Bay of Plenty recently concluded on a high note. For the final session of the course, Jason Lochhead (VNZ High Performance Coach) addressed critical gaps in the game, helping coaches to develop their understanding of the arm swing technique when attacking, jump serving, and defending. Coaches got to observe Jason in action, discuss and reflect on ways to teach the techniques and skills, as well as do some coaching of their own.

VNZ want to thank Johann and Rob, for sharing your knowledge and experience with the group. In addition, we would like to thank Rangitoto College for graciously hosting and to the local athletes whose participation enriched the coaching experience.

Congratulations to the dedicated Bay of Plenty coaches - Treena Blythe, Taina Savage, David Hadcroft, Suzanne Miller, Linda Page, Tom Collier, and Michelle Darke for completing the programme. A special acknowledgement is also owed to Brittany McMurtrie (nee Allison-Carnie) for her instrumental role in sharing and advancing this course.

The inaugural Level 3 Te Whanake course takes place this weekend. Photo by Phototek.co.nz

Inaugural Level 3 Course set to go

Volleyball Coach Education takes a bit step forward this weekend with the first-ever Level 3 Te Whanake Coach Course delivered.

As the third step in the Volleyball New Zealand Coach Development Pathway, the Level 3 course has 21 candidates representing nine different Regional Associations from across the motu - from more than 30 coaches who applied to be part of the first cohort.

The Level 3 course is delivered over five months with session one a half-day, online component. In April, the group come together for a weekend of learning before the course finishes in June with another half-day, online session.

Participants are encouraged to demonstrate reflection and learning throughout the course. After each session, coaches will be challenged and supported to embed learnings into their coaching practice. In addition, each coach has identified a mentor, someone who can play an important role in assisting them on their coaching journey.

Volleyball New Zealand Coach Development Manager Shaun Matthews is delighted with the level of interest from around the country.

“It was an absolute pleasure to interview every applicant and get to know more of the volleyball tribe,” Matthews said.

“Every interview was a rewarding conversation about coaching, and it was genuinely a tough decision narrowing down the final group.”

Matthews said the course will provide an environment that stimulates both individual and group learning.

“I am genuinely excited to get this programme underway. Coaches will learn more about themselves and pick up tools to enhance their coaching.

“I am confident each coach will enrich the programme and create an environment where coaches generate knowledge together.”

The first Level 3 course comes after a pilot course delivered with the assistance of Brittany McMurtrie (Volleyball Bay of Plenty) and Johann Timmer (VNZ).

Level 3 Te Whanake Coach Course 2024 – Cohort 1



1. Marnie Green


2. Johnny Fowler


3. Josette Delgado


4. Don Palmer To'o


5. Mila Gandeza


6. Reg Korau


7. Nikita Kolose


8. Robert Higgins


9. Marcel Kuijpers


10. Wilbert Kuijpers


11. Paolo Valencia


12. Lei Pan (Santos)


13. Helen McKane

Bay of Plenty

14. Mac Walker


15. Valerio Malez


16. Tessa Siolo-Thompson


17. Amy Wong


18. Warren Smith


19. Jorgelina Leiva


20. Dave Scott


21. Tomoka Saotome


Level 3 Te Whanake Pilot Coach Course 2023-2024 (Volleyball Bay of Plenty)

Suzanne Miller
Tom Collier
Michelle Darke
Taina Savage
Linda Page
David Hadcroft
Treena Blythe


A development experience to remember

A group of Aotearoa’s best and brightest aspiring female volleyball coaches had an experience to remember in early December.

Delivered as the first in-person group session of Coaching On!, Volleyball New Zealand’s mentoring and coach development programme for aspiring female performance coaches, nine of the cohort’s 13 members gathered in Sumner, Ōtautahi.

Led by Volleyball New Zealand Performance Coach Advisor for Women and Girls, Kim Smith, the weekend provided a range of opportunities for the group including whanaungatanga, building connections, sharing knowledge while developing tools for coaches to use on their personal journey.

Smith says the weekend provided many opportunities for deeper connections to be made within the group.

“Through the get to know games, challenging physical activities, discussions when participating in the designed sessions or just through the informal learning opportunities, we are now in a really good place to be able to have courageous conversations with each other when we move through the next seven months of this programme,” Smith said.

“This is important when wanting to get the most out of our peer coaching observations and monthly online connects.

“The live in wānanga proved extremely valuable allowing many more informal opportunities to connect in comparison to a more formal conference style. The sharing of kai and having everyone pitching in to clean prepare and clean up all contributed to an were examples of our group’s values and the way in which we want to move forward as a team.”

Cohort 1 of the Coaching On! programme took to the water together earlier in December. Photo by Thomas Hamill.

High Performance Sport New Zealand fund Smith’s role with Volleyball New Zealand supporting the running costs of the Coaching On! programme.

Basketball New Zealand’s - South Island lead of people development, Lori McDaniel, and Head of Matutū Rugby, Whitney Hansen were also part of the kaupapa, delivering sessions on self-awareness and giving and receiving feedback.

Both coaches have been through HPSNZ’s Te Hāpaitanga program designed to connect and accelerate women coaches in New Zealand.

Smith said both alluded to the need to continually be open to learning both sharing examples of their vulnerability and willingness to be open to feedback of your athletes and the impact this has had for the betterment of their coaching.

Liz Hanna says the experience was a weekend of growth and connection. 

“We were given fabulous opportunities and great speakers to expand on our own knowledge, strengths and confidence all whilst bonding and building trust together.  There was real value in discussing situations together and really drawing on the diversity and knowledge, the gold was in the group.”  

We were extremely lucky to have Thomas Hamill a documentary photographer and videographer employed by HPSNZ to capture part of the day on Saturday. Thomas will continue to follow the progress of this group at upcoming tournaments and National training camps that our coaches are involved in.

2024 will see the coaches form closer relationships with their Coaching partner within the group. Regular mentor sessions with their personal mentor and regular check ins with Kim Smith as their programme co-ordinator. The group will continue monthly online connects as a whole group.

Ma te huruhuru ka rere te manu

Adorn the bird with feather so it can fly.

(The above whakataukī is the guiding theme for this year’s cohort)

Mentors are an extremely important part of this programme. Their wisdom, support and challenge will contribute to each coach developing all of the different feathers they need to soar.

Each coach has reached out and are initiating coach mentor relationships with other coaches around Aotearoa. We view this as a crucial piece in the growth and support of our coaches pushing the envelope and supporting them to coach on to the performance level. Thank you to our Mentors!

Coaching On! - Cohort 1 2023-2024

Brieana Crosbie                                                Mary Edmondson                                            Treena Blythe
Ella Carlsen                                                       Nina Kerr                                                         Alyssa Johnstone
Eseta Semisi                                                      Shaunna Polley                                               Claire Stewart
Lauren Fleury                                                    Liz Hanna                                                        Laina Samia
Sarah Drummond

Volleyball New Zealand upcoming coach development opportunities

The Expression of Interest for the 2024 Volleyball New Zealand Level 3 Develop Coaching Course is now open. For more information click here.


Level 3 Te Whanake Coach Award 2024

Volleyball New Zealand is excited to confirm the Level 3 – Te Whanake Coach Award schedule for 2024.

As a key part of the new Volleyball New Zealand Coach Development Framework, the Level 3 course takes place over a five-month period including online and in-person development opportunities as well as a self-reflection component.

Volleyball New Zealand Coach Development Manager Shaun Matthews is excited by the potential of the impact of the course for those involved.

“This programme has the potential to be something really exciting,” Matthews said.

“For coaches from across the motu, coming together to discuss and reflect on effective coaching practice, that’s something new for the sport of volleyball.

“It’s also great to be able to offer something specifically for beach volleyball coaches as well. For the weekend in Auckland, we are hoping to split the group, running parallel courses to meet the needs of beach coaches and indoor coaches.”  

To complete an expression of interest for the Level 3 Te Whanake Coach Award, click here. EOI closes on Friday 26 January, 2024.

Contact Volleyball New Zealand Coach Development Manager Shaun Matthews for more information – shaun@volleyballnz.org.nz

Details - Level III Te Whanake Coach Award – Develop your Coaching Craft

How: Coaches are encouraged to complete Level II Te Tipu (Grow) Award OR show evidence of prior learning/experience with coaching. To complete the programme, coaches are encouraged to attend multiple modules as well as show evidence of reflection and learning over a 5-month period.

Who: Te Whanake (Develop) is the ideal course for the aspiring beach/indoor coach of competitive players (club, senior secondary school, and IPC level coaches).

What: Coaches will learn about attacking, transition, defending, and advanced volleyball techniques (beach or indoor), as well as generic coaching material such as leadership of self and others, developing decision makers, game analysis, and understanding the people we coach. Note: for the volleyball components of the course, the group will split into two groups – beach and indoor. So that coaches can discuss and reflect on the technical and tactical components specific to their discipline.

Cost: $119.95 + GST


1.  Leadership of Self and Others/Developing Decision Makers - Sunday 25 February or Sunday 3 March, 9am-12.30pm via Zoom

2. Defending, Attacking, Transition, and Advanced Volleyball Techniques - Saturday 20 April (11:00am - 5:00pm) & Sunday 21st April (9:00am - 2:00pm) - Auckland (Participants are responsible for their own travel and accommodation)

3. Understanding the People we Coach/Game Analysis - Sunday 16 June, 9:00am - 12:30pm via Zoom

Additional information:

  • VNZ asks that each participant is endorsed by someone from their region – to ascertain suitability and act as a mentor throughout the experience.

  • If there are 4 or more coaches from a specific region, and there is someone locally who has the capability to deliver the volleyball-specific component, coaches can choose whether they travel to Auckland or not. 

Blog #4 - Ted Lasso

Lesson 1. The Underdog. “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard” (Tim Notke)

An “underdog” is a person or group in a competition, who is largely expected to lose. The team expected to win is called the favourite or “top dog”. Think David vs Goliath. There are numerous reasons why we support the underdog. Ambition, aspiration, inspiration, relatability. When Harbour Raiders B won a set against their A team at Club Nationals, we started to see some typical underdog and top dog behaviours on display. In the 2nd set, we witnessed the crowd getting behind Raiders B, allowing them to find another gear. They put in more effort and their desire to be successful was heightened. The Raiders A team, on the other hand, underestimated their opponent and allowed for complacency to creep in. Kudos to the Harbour Raiders A team, who were able to reverse the phenomenon, regain their status as the superior team, and go on to win the entire event!

Implications for Coaching Practice:

- If you’re coaching the “underdog” team, the measure of success might not be on the scoreboard. If the goal is to beat the opposition, it is important to undergo additional physical and mental preparation, so that players go into the game with a heightened sense of confidence.

Lesson 2. Superstars play by their own rules. “No one is bigger than the team and individual brilliance does not automatically lead to outstanding results. One selfish mindset will infect a collective culture” (James Kerr)

Volleyball is truly a team sport. No one can touch the ball twice in succession, and therefore, the game requires players to use each other to generate a successful outcome. Players alternate who serves. So, everyone on the team is important and feels like they are contributing. The saying “you’re only as good as your weakest player” is true for volleyball.

It is a widely held belief in sport that team culture can have a big impact on how a team functions and performs. Tony Readings (All Whites Assistant Coach) once told me “Your biggest competitor is your own culture”. Someone who looks out for themselves or prioritises their own success above the team’s success (and wellbeing) is likely to inflict damage on the way the team thinks, feels, and behaves.

Implications for Coaching Practice:

- It is important that coaches pay equal attention to all players and facets of the game. The success of a team requires the integration of team members efforts. It is important for coaches to help group members understand their roles, provide them with the confidence and competence to execute their role, and encourage/support them to play their part within the system.

- It is also important that coaches understand the value of establishing and growing a positive team culture. Team culture should not be considered an add on. It requires nurturing. Developing a positive team culture requires 3 things. 1. Vision. What is our purpose? Where are we heading? 2. Values. What do we stand for? The best and the worst teams have the same values. What’s important, is the way you portray your values. 3. Establish Areas – on court, off court, etc. What do we need to do persistently and consistently in each area?

Lesson 3. BELIEVE. What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create” (Buddha)

Self-confidence is when you believe in yourself and your abilities. It is a personality trait and a psychological state (your state of mind at any given time). Self-confidence can fluctuate depending on the circumstances or situation. Generally speaking, evidence indicates that self-confidence has a positive impact on sports performance. If we dig a bit deeper, self-confidence impacts performance via mechanisms such as increasing effort, selecting appropriate strategies, and regulating unwanted thoughts and emotions (Michie et al.) Due to the nature of volleyball, it is also important to recognise that self-confidence can fluctuate as the game progresses, between points, sets, timeouts, the impact of a big play, and so on.

Implications for Coaching Practice:

-  It is important that, as coaches, we understand that telling a player to ‘be more confident’ or ‘play with confidence’ is likely to have little impact on someone’s self-confidence. However, we can support players to draw on different sources and/or mechanisms that will positively influence their confidence. Confidence can be drawn from an ability to perform specific skills (serving, setting, etc.), physical factors (effort, strength, etc.) and psychological factors (leadership, communication, etc.).

Lesson 4. Cohesion. Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is a success” (Henry Ford)

Members of larger groups (indoor volleyball) experience greater difficulties cooperating compared to smaller groups (beach volleyball) and members reduce their effort when they know there are others contributing. Eccles explained that athletes must align three things to achieve optimal teamwork: action, timing, and location. The aim here is for members to achieve a specific action (set - spike) at a specific time, at a specific location. If the timing is off, or the pass is out of reach, coordination diminishes. Within a team setting like volleyball, completing a task requires multiple brains. Therefore, the aim is to achieve a ‘shared knowledge state’ so that team members can draw on the same knowledge during games, leading to more effective coordination.

Implications for Coaching Practice:

-  It is imperative that coaches give enough time for players to learn their roles. There is evidence to suggest that athletes who have a vague understanding of their role tend to report weaker perceptions of team cohesion. It is also advantageous for team trainings to accurately reflect the game requirements as well as have players contribute to a shared understanding of the action, timing, and location of the task.

Volleyball New Zealand | Poirewa Aotearoa
Oceania Volleyball
Volleyball New Zealand Inc
Sports House, Stadium Drive,
Albany, Auckland, New Zealand