January 1, 2009

Volleyball Coaching Instruction Resources

A good question from a reader about how to improve one's coaching abilities:

Coach - I am new to your site, but did spend a few hours combing through the blog archives. I spend a great deal of time researching the game of volleyball...whether it be watching college/international play or reading. I do seem to have trouble finding technical information on the sport. I am a member of the AVCA and read the articles put out by them, but have had little success finding other technical information resources. Most of the books that are published on the subject seem to be for the laymen or inexperienced coach. I am a high-school varsity and club coach and aspire to one day become a college coach. I am extremely hungry for knowledge and was wondering if there are any books, journals, websites, etc...that have highly technical information available?

I am especially interested in information regarding movement training or footwork related to volleyball. I believe in simplicity and economy of movement. I don't want to learn and teach techniques to kids so I can say "hey look what I'm teaching". I want to learn techniques that work and make my players better.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Adrian

This question illustrates a good point - it can be tough to garner information about how to become a better elite level coach. Adrian is correct in the statement that most of the readily available information on coaching volleyball is geared for the beginner coach.

Part of the challenge of finding pertinent elite level or advanced coaching information is the difficulty of putting a multi-dimensional sport on paper. I understand that videos (DVD's) are available, but Barnes and Noble is more readily going to carry an instructional book about volleyball before an instructional video. How do you effectively diagram a sprawl and roll or differentiate between a shoulder roll or barrel roll on paper? Putting players into rotational positions or diagramming a middle back base defense is relatively easy, but trying to describe all the geometric angles created in the relationship between attacker's approach and blocker's penetration and how the defense should adjust is not so easy.

A few suggestions for those folks that wish to increase their volleyball knowledge, but it is not in the written form:

1) Go see it live - If a picture is worth a thousand words, then watching elite level training live must move the decimal point a bit more to the right!! Go to a college volleyball practice in the preseason, go to a college volleyball practice in the spring season. These two time frames are when the most instructional level drills are being conducted. Middle or late in the Traditional Season (NCAA speak for the fall season) is not the best time to watch practice, as it is more geared towards maintenance drills. If you are lucky enough to live in a part of the country with a few NCAA schools in driving distance, go see the practices - By the way, don't worry if it is Division I, II or III; there are many outstanding coaches that are not DI (or for that matter, even NCAA membership college coaches) - Just try to see these programs in August or in the spring season. The mass majority of coaches will be more than happy to have you sit and watch, just be sure to drop them an e-mail or call them to ask if you can swing by to watch.

2) Attend a coaching clinic conducted by college coaches. Sometimes these clinics are conducted by the AVCA at the National Championship, sometimes they are done at the state high school tournament, a number of private companies organize coaching clinics and have multiple speakers, and many college programs will conduct coaching clinics as a means to reach out to the local community of high school and club volleyball coaches. The cost of these type of coaching clinics can range from free to over a $100.00.

3) Go watch an elite level college volleyball camp; you can find such camps by visiting the web pages of the schools. Again, as long as you ask, most college coaches will be happy to have you watch.

4) In terms of videos, there are many to choose from. I get a mailing that has a bunch of available videos from numerous successful college coaches. The funny thing for me, is that I have either played for or with many of the coaches that have videos. I do not have a video because I am too good looking and would just distract from the presentation of techniques!

By your question, you would want to pick the titles that focus on movement training or motor memory training. These type of instructional videos emphasize proper footwork, movement and body position in improving skills.

To generalize, there are two dominant styles of volleyball training right now (I am talking Women's Volleyball) - the Asian style which the USA Women's National team has followed the last two Olympics with the influence of the Japanese and Chinese nationality head coaches of USA Volleyball, and the Latin style of volleyball which Brazil and Cuba have employed successfully for many years and which men's college volleyball tends to emulate.

Your question leads me to believe you would wish to explore the Asian style of volleyball training and I would suggest three avenues:

1) Do a Google search for Sports Performance Volleyball Club in Chicago and/or the Great Lakes Center. This nationally known and very successful volleyball club completely builds its training systems and philosophies around the Asian style of volleyball. They have produced a number of instructional videos using their club players to demonstrate and splicing in international training video examples from Japan and China. These videos are very expensive but are a wealth of knowledge for elite level training techniques and drills.

2) Arie Selenger was perhaps the first coach in the United States to employ the Asian style of volleyball at the most elite level - the USA Women's National team. Coach Selenger was the long time Head Coach of USA Women's Volleyball when they were considered on the best teams in the world in the early to mid 1980's. I know he has a couple of books that are a bit dated, but you may be able to find them in a larger university library or on Amazon - To my knowledge, he does not have a video, but I heard he was working on one. The books are very technical, but may be hard to digest because on paper to visual is difficult.

3) Go visit these specific college volleyball programs - Long Beach State, Minnesota and Nebraska. Long Beach State really follows the Asian style of training.

Hope this helps and good luck in your search - I compliment your efforts because this is how we improve as coaches.