August 16, 2008

The Olympics

Hope you have been watching the Olympics - I have been doing my fair share of seeing what is on the tube. A few random thoughts: ( Sorry for the brutal spelling - Spell Check is down).

1. I understand that Micheal Phelps is amazing and we are watching athletic history in the making, but NBC prime time has become the Phelps channel. There is such a thing as overload - Seeing the medal races is great, but when we are watching the preliminary swims, that really don't mean anything, especially knowing he will qualify is a bit mundane.

2. It is great to see that volleyball is receiving good exposure. The beach version has been on NBC prime time, while the indoor team is getting airtime on one of the other networks (I can't remember if it is USA or CNBC or Oxygen) - either way, it is good to see.

3. At any level of volleyball it comes down to passing and this will ultimately determine success our for the women's team. I have not been impressed with the USA passing. Against Venezuela, it was not good, but we had better athletes that were more experienced than the teenagers that Venezuela had on the floor.

4. One of the reasons passing at the international level is so tough, especially for the younger USA players, is that the ball is heavier. The FIVB class volleyball is a few ounces heavier and the leather is harder. If you have ever held a Mikasa FIVB ball and say a Molton or Tachikara, you can feel the difference between the two. A heavier, harder ball allows the servers to be much more aggressive with their serves, while the passer has less 'feel' on the ball. The International players play with the heavier ball their entire careers - this is also a reason that International players in USA colleges look like good passers, because the ball is easier to manage for them.

5. The Chinese team is struggling - lost to Cuba after being up 2-0 and lost to the USA after being up 2-1. Part of this is the joy of rally score, where things can turn on three or four plays. In my casual observation of the Chinese team, they just don't look like they are sharp - in the other matches I had seen earlier in the Olympic cycle or the last Olympics in Athens, they looked much more complete.

6. I believe China is suffering from the home team syndrome. It is tough to be the home team, period (why do you think college football and basketball teams go to a hotel the night before home games?). When teams travel, they can 'bubble' themselves into a comfort zone and just focus on playing. Remember a long time ago in Atlanta, where we were the home teams - Our women's team got last (I believe). A number of years ago, U. of Hawaii was hosting the NCAA tournament and bounced out in round 3 even though they were a top team. Being at home means there is family in the stands, friends asking for tickets, buddies wanting to hang out with you and much more media. Just how many media passes were issued for the Chinese media in Athens? I would say exponentially less than in Beijing. Also, when the President of the biggest communist country in the world is sitting in the stands, on his throne and surrounded by his entourage, that is not an easy thing to play in front of.

7. The Chinese men's team looked like a rec sports team!! Wonder why? It is because the Chinese sports authorities have determined that the women's volleyball team and the men's basketball team will be the world class teams for tall, athletic Chinese athletes. I am not kidding. At another institution where I coached, we had a professor from China who played on the Chinese men's basketball team and his old college roommate was head of the Chinese Women's Volleyball program - When I asked him how come we never hear of the men's volleyball team or the women's basketball team, this is the answer he gave me.

8. Carrie Walsh looks like she is about to transform into Spider man with that black tape job on her attack shoulder - Remember the ads for Spider man 3? I see lots of tape being used on the beach tour for knees and shoulders - If it works, I want to know because sore shoulders are just a part of volleyball (especially indoor). I need to get my trainer to watch the broadcast and learn this tape job.

9. The Men's Olympic Team uniforms look beyond bad. Enough said.

10. The best thing about the win over China, for college volleyball coaches, is that this means the USA Women's team is in the quarterfinals and should be on NBC prime time! Remember the glory days of the Olympics when we were on TV? I do because there was much more recognition of indoor volleyball by campus fans. Remember the dark days of the last Olympics? I do because nobody seemed interested in college volleyball from the sporting public.

11. The 'X' handstand the men's gymnasts, especially the Chinese men's gymnasts, were doing in the floor routine was amazing.

12. I saw President Bush at the Olympics and then the next day, he was giving a speech on the White House - Air Force One is a nice perk of being the Prez.

While I am biased and want to see Volleyball, especially indoor volleyball, 24/7 on television, I wish I could see something other than swimming, gymnastics and track on NBC. At least we don't have to suffer through the endless background segments of the past telecasts.

The Coach