Thursday, December 2, 2021

Erbes coaching style eases Spikers nerves

October 11, 2000
Chuck Erbe, head volleyball coach, watches as the team plays against Indiana on Saturday at Jenison Field House. Erbe believes the players —

Competitive sports is a stressful and demanding field as it often takes center stage at large-scale universities like MSU. Die-hard fans watch every move, waiting to pounce on any mistake.

Athletes are held responsible for their mistakes, but it’s the coaches who must answer the slew of questions.

Regardless of a coach’s history, fans and media constantly question the coach’s style whenever the team slumps and rarely give him or her credit when the team succeeds.

MSU volleyball head coach Chuck Erbe is no different. When the Spartans win, the players’ performances fill the headlines, but when they lose Erbe is left to explain what happened.

Freshman outside hitter Jenny Rood said performance during a match is the players’ responsibility, not the coach’s.

“It’s not his job to motivate the girls,” she said. “That’s what they’re out there to do. All of their passion and all of their heart should be going into each other. It shouldn’t be manufactured by the coach.”

Rood said a coach in competitive sports is supposed to teach the players. She said the players need to bring the heart and ability, then the coach will show them how to use it.

During a game, no matter what the score, Erbe is sitting down, calm and taking notes on the match.

Even if the opponent has rattled off six points in a row, Erbe is calm. He doesn’t panic and he doesn’t let his team panic.

“I’ve always felt that sports are really overcoached,” Erbe said. “I don’t think there’s really any magic words you can say. You’ve just got to let your players play.”

Flash to Monday’s volleyball practice.

Erbe is up and about, constantly giving advice. At one point, he gets down on the court to show Rood exactly how to dig a ball hit low. He shows her the placement of the body, hands, knees - everything.

“You do your work in practice,” Erbe said. “Players play, players win, players lose and all you can do is teach them the skills.”

Senior outside hitter Sarah Gustin said she has experienced a variety of coaching styles in her career. She said Erbe’s style is very supportive of the players during a match.

“It gives us the power to figure out what’s going on and just to play the game instead of a bunch of screaming and yelling,” she said. “It doesn’t distract you from the game.”

That freedom is what players need, Rood said. She said a team knows when it has done something wrong or when it is letting the match slip away.

“If you look over at the coach and he’s hanging his head, shaking his head, or has his hands over his eyes, what kind of signal does that give off to his players?” Rood said. “The players already have enough emotion to deal with so when they look over at the coach he’s like the stabilizer.”

Rood said Erbe’s style might make critics question him during a game, but she added there is no question that his players have complete confidence in him.

“You don’t have to worry about him,” she said. “You can always look to coach Erbe for advice on technical stuff. He’ll teach you everything you need to know to win a match.”

Rood said practice is preparation for matches. She said that a coach only needs to teach players what they need to know, then it’s the player’s responsibility to win.

“In a match, he doesn’t need to teach you,” she said. “When the coach doesn’t show any emotion, that allows you to put your mental focus into the game. You’re putting all that practice to work.”

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