By: Mike Hebert
Originally Published in: Thinking Volleyball
Provided by: Human Kinetics
The late Mike Hebert coached the University of Minnesota Gophers for 35 years and is considered to be one of the "architects" of modern high-competitive professional volleyball.
This rule has been part of my program since the early 1980s. It is one of those simple tools that manages to solve a lot of problems. Without it, or something close to it, the shaping of trusting behaviors would be impossible. Here are the principles of the acknowledgment rule:
Here is the brief episode from my coaching experience that led to the creation of the acknowledgment rule. I had an athlete who was afflicted with the pessimism disease. Virtually every time she made an error in practice she would frown, pout, and grow silent. I would often veer from my intended course and walk toward her, quietly providing some positive reinforcement and instruction as I passed her. Inevitably she would leave me marooned on my coaching island by saying nothing in return, providing no eye contact, and continuing her straight-ahead glare.
For several days it was my perception that she couldn't hear me. After my first attempt to gain her attention failed, I would repeat my comment using a louder voice. Still, no response. Finally, on the third attempt, I would go louder and include a pinch of frustration, which was already building and did not need to be manufactured. "How about creating some balance in your defensive stance?" I would yell. At this point she would spin toward me and respond with the predictable, "I heard you."
Well, how was I supposed to know that she had heard me? Nothing in her body language provided any clues that she had. At that very moment, I decided that this particular form of communication had seen its last day in my gym. All I needed from her was "OK coach, got it," or a slight nod of the head in my direction accompanied by a little eye contact. Of course, a little bit of "Yeah, I'm being pretty selfish here" wouldn't have hurt. She eventually learned to communicate appropriately.
The next day I distributed copies (no laptops yet) of the acknowledgment rule. After all these years, I can see no reason to abandon it.