August 13, 2010

Pre-Season Volleyball Practice

Yes, like the other thousands of college volleyball programs across this great nation of ours (it is interesting that no matter how critical we are of our own country and the many things we wish would/could/should be better, we continue to be the envy of the world - I see it on every international recruiting trip and when any international SA comes to play here).

The first few days of the practice are always challenging:

1. There is a complete new team on the floor because every team is new each season; even if you add just one new player, the entire team will be new.

2. Chaperoning the team chemistry/karma development - I am one of those coaches who is behind the scenes with this, as opposed to scheduling 'team bonding' events.

3. Discovering which new and returning players actually worked out this summer and which ones 'hoped' they could get in shape during the pre-season.

4. Freshman are always a joy - They go from arrogant Senior club players (well, maybe not arrogant, but definitely not lacking confidence) to nervous kids; I had one of mine shaking so bad with nerves I thought she was going to hyper ventilate during our warm-up!

5. I want to start hitting right away, but before we run, we need to walk. Lots of pepper drills and ball control to make sure our team remembers what leather feels like in their hands and on their arms! Also, I need to get their legs stronger and up to speed, so we don't have a rash of sore knees after three days of practice.

6. A very large part of me wants to go old school and just report for practice one week before our first match; none of this 3 weeks of practice before the initial competition. How sweet would that be; just show up, start ball control and hitting, a few days of team work and blow the whistle to play!

7. Of course this comes with the belief that my team actually worked out all summer, touched a ball during the summer and managed any injury situations which they should have been managing. Even me, in my most arrogant, self assured and beautifully blind to reality self would have a hard time supporting this belief!!! If I was one of those programs which has each member of the team in summer school and 'volunteering' for workouts and pick up play, then it could be done!!!

8. A nice thing about NCAA Division II and JC's (and maybe DIII?) is that you have scrimmage or practice match opportunities before the real thing starts. DI is tough when the first match counts - It is so tough, that M/W Basketball do not do this, they have 'exhibition' games - You really don't know your team until the first match; all the glaring weaknesses come screaming through no matter how hard you trained or prepared, competition exposes the weaknesses. When I coached DII, it was nice having the practice matches to make some adjustments and realize where I had 'opps'ed' a few areas!

I would think the reason that the Russ Roses, the Dave Shojis, the Kathy Gregorys have been around for so long is because each season is new, yet familiar. There is a certain continuity in having returning players while welcoming incoming athletes. Each year will present new challenges, even when you have been coaching volleyball for the vast majority of your adult life; the volleyball gods always throw something new your way.

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