April 23, 2015

Overhand Serving Question

I must preface that I am not crazy and/or super competitive   I coach an 11U team and I don't want to pressure the girls during their serve as I know it will only make it harder for them..  We are working on consistent overhand serves for all of our players.  After working with 9 of them all season, I still have two that continue to contact the ball with a bent elbow and more under the ball than behind it.  These two are also do not swinging nearly fast enough to get the ball over.
I am writing to you because I have no idea to how to make them "reach higher and swing faster".  I think my head will explode if I say it more one time.  Please give me some pointers as a coach.  I really want to help them as they both love the game.  They have worked so hard and  I want them to experience success before they start to give up.

Overhand serving is a challenge and I believe is mandated too early for volleyball players.  The most important detail of serving, is to serve the ball in, especially at a young age.  Forget winning and losing, serving the ball in allows for rallies which means more touches on the ball for the VolleyMini's. (side note……just invented a new term for this website referencing the young, young, knee pads wider than their legs young players……VolleyMini's!!!).

Each person physically develops according to their DNA stamp, and no matter how much coaching, video, carbohydrates, yoga or pushups they do, overhand serving is not going to happen this year or next.

Three suggestions, which you may already employing:

1)  Ensure they can serve the ball in via an underhand or sidearm serve; simply because this puts the ball in play and allows VolleyMini's to get better.

2)  In practice, shorten the service line to 20 feet for them to practice succeeding with an overhand serve - When they get 20', then take it so 23', etc., etc.  This will allow them to keep good form, while building up the mental confidence to serve the ball in with an overhead serve.

3)  Develop their arm speed by having them play catch with their folks (or each other) using a Nerf football.  In college, we had our players which were rehabbing from shoulder surgery, throw a Nerf football as a means of redeveloping their arm speed.  You have to have good armswing technique to throw a Nerf football because the ball will flutter and not fly, with poor technique.  As they get proficient throwing a Nerf, then switch to a smaller sized leather football because it will be heavier, but will still fit in their hands.  With both the Nerf and the leather football, the players will need to throw the ball hard/fast to make it spiral and travel the necessary distance, which will result in a faster armswing!

My advice is geared towards them learning to successfully serve and your head not successfully exploding!

Good luck!

April 20, 2015

Recruit to College Coach communication


Thanks for all the great info.  I've read a lot on your site for the past few years and now find ourselves starting to get into the thick of the recruiting process with our first of 3 kids.  Deep breaths... :)     I've got a few questions for you here.

This first one seems kind of dumb, but we've been discussing it and are curious.  On unofficial visits, if the PSA wears a shirt with the school's name/logo, does that come across well to the coach, or as "trying too hard"?  We wouldn't go out and buy gear just to wear for the visit, but some she happens to have and we're wondering if it's advisable to wear them or not.

Next question is about frequency of communication with coaches.  We are in the fortunate position of having a freshman who is getting a lot of attention already, from top programs, including a couple offers.  She is communicating with many coaches by email, probably about once every couple months, and with a handful that's she's more interested in more frequently.  She reaches out to some by phone (again, the ones she's more interested in), but generally not more than once a month each unless there's a real reason to (upcoming visit, etc.).   

Our question is what is really the appropriate frequency of communication, both email and/or phone, understanding that she's still just a freshman?   My feeling on the purpose of phone conversations is 1.) to allow the player and coach to get to know each other better and 2.) to show continued interest.  My feeling is that both can be accomplished with 1x/month (or even less) communication at this stage.  But I've heard others in similar situations talking about daily phone calls (maybe not necessarily to same coach, but still much more frequently), and I just don't feel like this is realistic from a time management perspective for her at this stage.  Nor do I feel she should have to be doing this at this frequency now, IMO.  Can you comment on appropriate frequency, and what the perspective is from the coach's side in terms of what they're looking for in these early communications?  Also, is there preference to phone call over email?  

I do believe it's important to maintain a relationship and so I agree some level of communication is necessary and appropriate.  But I also feel like the fact that she's getting significant attention already at this age means that they are more in sales mode than we are at this stage, and so we don't need to be going nuts with it yet.  But perhaps this is a naive and dangerous perspective.    

Thanks in advance for your insight.

-Vball mom from Cali

Thank you for the compliment on the site and hope it can continue to be a resource for you.

Yours is the first question I have received in a while about the recruit to college coach communication parameters, especially with a freshman in high school.  The recruit to college coach communication is always a challenging situation; when, how often, conversation topics, what avenue of interaction, etc.

What concerns me about early communication, is that it can increase the tempo and pressure of recruiting.  As you noted, college coaches are in "sales" mode early (and all the time) - Their job is always to recruit and recruit the best possible player.  They are experts at what they do; making the player feel special, increasing interest in their school, increasing the pressure upon the family if an offer has been made, stalling out the family if an offer has not yet been made, etc.  Also, as mature as your Freshman in high school may be, there is not much relatable between a 35+ year old (most often older) adult Division I coach and a 15 year old…..

If it were my daughter, I would only use email at this point in the process, unless the family is arranging an Unofficial Visit.  And, the email frequency should only be twice a month maximum; think of it more as an update on what is going on with club season as opposed to a conversation - Unless the NCAA has recently changed their rules (which they do all the time, and don't communicate these rule changes very well), college coaches are only allowed to send one email with a letter and questionnaire to a freshman athlete.

You have illustrated a good point - Communicating with college coaches, whether on email or on the phone, takes a time commitment which should be better spent by player/family on other items, like being a freshman in high school.  Families must remember that in the end, there is only one winner, only one Neo.  Beyond getting a basic grasp of a coach's communication style and personality (remember coaches are sales people and are going to show you exactly what you want to see), there is not too much which will be accomplished by constant communication.  A coach knows if you are good or not; if you are calling every day and the greatest kid in the world, but don't have the necessary talent level, then that coach will let you slip bye.

Follow your gut because it is rarely wrong!