March 13, 2009

Thoughts on a Friday.

Some random thoughts bouncing through my head on a Friday.

Was at Starbucks this morning grabbing a cup of coffee and the barista was a local student who saw my sweatshirt and/or knew I was the volleyball coach and asked ", when is volleyball season?". Maybe one day, each volleyball coach will enjoy never having to hear that question from someone who is under 80 years old and is not a monk tilling a field in a mountain valley. Do you think the big 3 ever get asked, 'when is basketball season' or 'when does football start playing'?

Just another reminder of just how far we have to go as a sport to achieve the support and recognition volleyball could receive. Good thing the AVCA is supporting Collegiate Beach Volleyball as a NCAA sport. Now when we are asked when does volleyball start, we can extend the conversation by launching into a discussion about the emergence of a new volleyball sport and how it differs fundamentally from indoor, yet is kinda the same because the same players play both sports but is really different - Oh, when does it start? Well, we are having a national survey, then a vote and then a review and 'comment period', then a committee reviews all input about that topic and after it is all said and done, a couple of folks which nobody really knows who they are or what they do, will make a decision and let everyone else know what 'we' decided was best for our sport or the sand volleyball sport or something.

Coaching Tip - Just let them play in practice. Allow me to clarify my tip. The other day in our spring season training, I was running around chasing some very fast papers through the department and was going to be late to practice. My assistant was also doing something off-seasonish, so I just told the captions to get together and play.

When I came into the gym later, the players had divided themselves into approximately even teams and were playing 6 on 6. I just sat down and watched to see what it looked like. For the most part it was correct - the serve receive pattern was about right, the offensive attack was about right and the defensive positioning was about right. It was good to see the players put themselves into the correct alignments and make their own small adjustments to be a better team during that specific scrimmage.

Like any coach, I could not keep my mouth shut and input a few things here and there which needed to be changed - More reminders about being in position, shifting a passer into the pattern and a back row MB out of the serve receive pattern but into the back row attack pattern. As a coach, we can always find fault with each and every team play sequence, but to always try to fix this fault is to maybe crimp the mental development of our players.

A weakness which I have found in American volleyball and volleyball players, versus some international volleyball players is the level of mental growth. Comparatively, international players seem much more 'organic' in their understanding of how volleyball is to be played. They seem to intuitively understand where to go, when to be in a certain spot and when not to be in a certain spot and when they get beat on a play, they digest what happened and make adjustments.

American players, comparatively speaking once again (and this is a big generality I am illustrating) tend to be more rigid in their court dynamics. They go to the spot because they have always gone to the spot and were told to go to the spot when they were in 12's club ball. Why is my DS, who is an OH in this scrimmage, up near the 10' line in serve receive? Because she has always been told the front row OH pulls up so she can focus on hitting, so she pulled up even though she is the best passer on the court.

Back to my Coaching Tip - Next time you are in a practice situation as a coach, just let the players divide themselves up into teams (like old school playground rules where captains pick teams) and play. Let them stumble along and put themselves into rotations and attack/transition positions. Let them fail and drop points and allow them the opportunity to figure it out on their own. Who knows, this may break loose a couple of volleyball 'free radicals' in their brains which may increase their abilities down the road.

Of course, you will have the urge to make some small reminders, but do so on individual technique, as opposed to team philosophy, i.e. reminding a setter to have her hands up early or a passer to get her feet stopped before passing.

Have a nice weekend and may double hits be called.