April 12, 2009

Lone Star Qualifier Observations

I was one of the 286 college volleyball coaches stalking the Dallas Convention Center in conjunction with Lone Star National Qualifier.

Some random observations:
  • My $1.25 parking spot on Friday skyrocketed to $5.00 on Saturday with an attendant making sure it was paid correctly. At least an attendant being there meant a receipt could be had. $1.25 I can cover, but $5.00 is going back to the school for reimbursement.
  • It was so cold in the gym on Saturday, I thought it was going to snow. I had my jacket zipped all the way up and was about ready to go buy a ski cap for my ears. When parents are sitting on the sidelines covered in blankets like it is a Swiss ski lodge, it may be a little too cold.
  • The ball handling rules are constantly changing, so it is hard to know what is what, but I believe that the FIVB rules are similar to the NCAA rules with much leeway given to 'athletic plays' and setting; if this is the case, then the officials are still trying to grasp this rule. Don't get me wrong, I DO NOT LIKE the current rule because it dumbs down our sport (back in the day, somehow, someway, players could run and set a ball without it spinning like one of Jupiter's moons - I guess volleyball evolution has eliminated this ability in human kind, so the rules had to be adjusted to save the game from the same fate as boccie ball). Back to the officials - the calls have no consistency; a player flies across the court, pivots and sets a high ball and gets called for a double, another player is standing back row, perfectly stable (non moving, no motion, hair not even swaying in the sub-zero air conditioning) and brutally doubles a ball and it does not get called.
  • I saw a major college coach, top 10 in the country during some seasons, walking around the tournament in a faded Hawaiian style shirt (at least it had the school's name on the shirt), beat up back pack, 80's big hair and listening to their IPOD. Funny, but professionally disappointing.
  • Thank goodness they had a big Starbucks out in the lobby - It did have airport style pricing ($3.25 for a scone!), but it allowed for some caffeine, sugar and relative quiet to refocus a bit before wading back into the masses.
  • All players make mistakes and young (high school) players make a lot of mistakes. I know I am guilty of this stance, but coaches must allow for mistakes. We cannot get too demonstrative, no matter how disappointed we are, when a mistake happens. It is a good reminder for me to 'tighten up' my demeanor when I watch other coaches during matches. When a player makes a bone head play, criticizing them in front of team mates and family is not going to help anything. Also, match time is not teaching time, that is for practice - match time is for small reminders of good technique and strategy; this is one reason volleyball is a tough game to coach. We are the adults and must act like it.
  • One of the consequences of club style tournament play is a 'lightening' of the competitive weight, which is not a good thing. I take the future focus of competing, as it relates to developing college volleyball players (so please ignore this if your daughter does not wish to move up to college ball) and these club formats have too much play. When you play 4 to 6 matches per day, it is hard to get focused for each match and easy to 'forget' (thus not learn) when things went bad. This fire and forget mentality does not translate well into college volleyball where per match emphasis and consequences are significant. College coaches stress the importance of each match and that teams cannot just go through the motions and quickly move on to whatever is next in their day - It drives college coaches BONKERS when after a tough loss, the players are joking around and talking about drivel at the post match meal. This is also one of the reasons international players are attractive as student-athletes because their playing background lends a seriousness to each match.
  • Sport Court playing surfaces have created an abundance of fool's gold passers. It is not hard to pass a serve when the server can only go 7 feet behind the end line and is serving in a crazy environment. When these same passers get to college, on single courts with 25+ feet of serving area, they get lit up. A bit of advice for Potential Student Athletes - If you are struggling to consistently pass the ball in club and you are an outside hitter, then your main focus in practice and camps should be improving your serve receive. Not only will this make you more attractive as a recruit, it will empower earlier playing time as a college student-athlete.
  • Sport Court playing surfaces have created a generation of outside hitters with technically incorrect left side approaches. Because of the geometry of volleyball and the mass majority of left side hitters being right handed, outside hitters should come from a number of feet outside the court on their attack approach. Unfortunately, the rather narrow Sport Court and fans in chairs with their feet on the surface, forces left side attackers to come straight in on their approach. The ramifications are that they cannot hit angle with power and when they do, many times it is physically incorrect (swinging away from the body line with the thumb down, which creates undue stress on the shoulder), and it also makes sets which are one foot too wide bad sets when they really are not bad sets. One of the first things we emphasise to our incoming outside hitters is that they must release to outside the pole on the left side so they can attack with power on all types of sets and stay physically healthy.
  • A number of college coaches have developed amnesia with NCAA rules. It is against the rules for any conversation between a Junior in high school PSA's parents and a coach. Too see college coaches engaging in long conversations with parents while sitting on a 17's court is disappointing. Of course, we don't wish to be rude when a parent asks a question or says hello, but there is difference between a courteous answer and a long conversation. Cheating is cheating and please understand that a coach who cheats during the recruiting process should be your first impression of that coach for your daughter's potential experience in college.
  • The Lone Star organizers had a Kids Zone for amusement which was a good idea, but it had a BASKETBALL COURT!!! You have got to be kidding me! On all levels of education, basketball is the sharpest thorn in the side for all volleyball coaches and programs. The last thing I want to see is a basketball court inside a National Qualifier! Do you think at a major basketball AAU tournament they have a volleyball court set up somewhere for entertainment? Why do we do these things to our self? National Qualifiers should be events of volleyball propaganda which rival anything the two major political parties could generate. It should be wall to wall volleyball with NOTHING else - Everyone in that building should think they have gone to Volleyball Heaven.
  • I did like the Lone Star banners which were on the street poles around the convention center - These are small things which lend themselves to the presentation of our sport as big time.
  • When college coaches (mainly assistants) roll in on Saturday morning looking like it was a Saturday morning when they were in college, you know too much fun was had on Friday night. I tend to forget that when you are in your 20's, you are in your 20's and will act like you are in your 20's. The funny part or scary part, is when coaches are in their 40's and act like they are in their 20's - the recovery time is not as quick and it shows!
Happy Easter to all.