January 13, 2011

Volleyball Hitting Approach - Fixing the 'goofy-foot' and Recruiting Impact

My daughter measures 6'11/2" and has played club 2 years with a smaller club (which she started just to make varsity in high school). That coach inspired her to play in college, which has led us to move to a larger club; has been good in regards to the recruiting help as well as in that it will stretch my daughter beyond where she is. She has been a starter for club and this year in school. Needless to say she made the bottom 17's team for the new club and is already getting some advice to help her improve from her new coach who has high expectations, which is great! This means, she is not an automatic starter...there are girls from San Antonio to Temple (4 hour radius) and even the lowest team is really good. My daughter is a good hitter and great blocker. She is a decent passer but finding out that since she has had the luxury of never playing back row, she has work to do in that area as well. Here is my dilemna and question....
She is goofy-footed...some coaches outside of her old club (which never pointed it out and therefore it was not corrected) or high school told me about it and it is a concern . It was suggested that we leave it alone until, say summer when she is not in club season. The thing is, her new club coach sees that she could be so much more powerful and in fact, at least in practice, it is already causing her to plateau. We have sought more advice and have decided that yes, now is a good time to change it, especially with a coach who is more concerned about his players improving than winning (his words to me about it). I am impressed by that and see that of course she needs to seek to be the best she can be...stellar tall player, not just a pretty-good tall player. The thing is, we have started the recruiting process and colleges are coming to watch her play! Some colleges have recognized the goofy-footedness in her video I'm sure but others have her on their recruiting lists anyway. We have one school my daughter is very interested in and they have shown interest in her (corresponding with her regularly, etc.) but they haven't seen her play, along with other schools expressing interest.
Her coach said that the footwork changing will get worse before it gets better. What do we tell the schools/coaches coming to see her play? She will not be looking too good, I'm afraid and I have no idea what to do about it because honestly, she won't get better unless she does it now.
We know this is a pivotal year for her growth as an athlete and player and it is more important for her to break through any barrier and get to the next level; that is why we moved! She is not being allowed to default to what is comfortable and this is exactly what she needs only this is also the most important recruiting year. HELP!
I wish things were like they used to be where their senior year was when they truly got recruited because I think that by the summer or next year, she'll be the player those colleges are looking for. I feel like we are trying to sell a half-baked pie that when it is done, will be the yummiest but right now well, it is a half-baked pie. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for taking your time to answer the questions of kids and their poor, tired, also half-baked (or half-crazy parents)! :-)
M in Texas

I can understand your dilemma and here are my thoughts:

1. The footwork must be corrected as soon as possible for a reason not mentioned in your article - Shoulder health. Having a 'goofy foot' approach places undue strain upon the shoulder joint (rather long to explain the geometry and attack shoulder movement, so please just trust me on this) and easily leads to a sore shoulder which leads to a hurt shoulder which leads to shoulder surgery.

2. Take the long term view and don't freak out about college coaches right now. The 2011 spring recruiting season is just getting going, with next weekend opening up the gates and the next big tourney in your region will be the Tour of Texas Qualifier (I might be there along with 1000's of other college coaches - Kinda like Where's Waldo!). This is just the opening views of the club season; coaches will want to see athletes many more times to see how they are progressing. What we find is that some players make huge gains from early to late in 17's club, while others flatten out - College coaches want those players that are ascending, not flattening out and we cannot determine this until we have seen tournaments over the course of the spring (except for the top 5 kids who are already demonstrating huge ability).

3. Correcting footwork is nothing more than 10,000 footwork repetitions, and then applying this to game like situations. College coaches understand this takes time, and we would rather wait on a player that is correcting this then go with a goofy foot OH.

4. Waiting until after the club season and correcting footwork in the summer, only makes the change that much more difficult because you daughter will have one full season of high level club which just reinforces the incorrect footwork.

5. As on OH, the entire attack sequence is stilted on the left side when you have the incorrect footwork. As a 6"1'+ OH, she will be very attractive to coaches, but they will not rate her as high with the goofy foot. Even if she looks 'rough' during this transition, we know a highly effective attack sequence is only done with correct footwork.

6. I also wish this crazy recruiting time frame was not as accelerated because so many coaches are recruiting three recruiting years at the same time, which has led the high number of college transfers as of late!!! But, it is the current situation and we must manage it as best as we can.

7. Don't focus on the goofy foot aspect of her play - She will fix that and college coaches will see/know (by chatting with the club coach) that she is working on it. Be much more concerned with her PASSING now. Since she did not get good back row training with the first club, she really needs to get it now. College coaches can ALWAYS find tall players who can hit, but finding tall players who can hit, AND pass/play defense are golden. If you get too caught up on the footwork concerns, you will lose track on a critical skill of being an elite OH and that is passing. By the way, club passing is like Kindergarten compared to what players will see in college. I have freshmen come in that just get lit up their first season and they were the primary passers on elite level club teams their senior year!

8. Lastly, don't become overwrought with recruiting anxiety this 17's year. Yes, it is a key year in the recruiting process, but there will be TONS of very good schools/programs with scholarships available when she is an 18 club athlete. I feel that a number of college coaches are being smart and starting to hold one scholarship back (in a large scholarship class) for allocation in the spring before the fall season (either because of late bloomers like your daughter or international players). Also, as I have written about on many occasions, things change after a season; transfers, grades, homesick, coaching changes, injuries all create senior year scholarship opportunities.

Feel good that you have your daughter into a good club with supportive, talented coaches. Trust them to do their job, trust your daughter to work hard to make positive changes and PLEASE just relax and enjoy the ride - It only happens once, and stressing out about it will only displace negative energy upon your daughter.


Outstanding. Thankfully, my daughter is not half as freaked out as I am....she has an attitude of, "Don't worry, I got this."
I feel much better after having spoken with my daughter about some of this and especially now getting this information. Needless to say she was heard last night in our living room doing "left, right, left jump" repetitions. She said she went outside and tried it with the ball and said, "Epic fail, now I have 1000 more repetitions to do." Apparently she said for every error, there needs to be 1000 more correct approaches, she was told because it's muscle memory? I'm sure we will be given continual feedback so you don't have to answer that since you have given me the information I need....thank you SO MUCH!
I will pass this on to her to place emphasis on the passing.
You are amazingly helpful and I so appreciate you taking your time to help give insight.
I will make it a point to have fun and enjoy this season because the kid is obviously not worried about it. When I mentioned that this is just one more obstacle to overcome, nothing has seemed to come easily for her and she said, "That's just part of it." I am amazed what athletics does for kids and the maturity, take on things she has developed that I don't even have now as an adult!
I hope people like you realize the difference you make for families and kids. Should this not happen, which I do believe it will, she has gained so much more than she will have ever lost.
Wishing you a warm (well kind of chilly currently) welcome to Texas in the next two weeks!
M in Texas

Glad to help - That is one big reason I started the site. Footwork correction/improving (lots of MB's need to improve their footwork) is muscle memory; just reteaching the mind-body to move in a new way and against the comfortable memory of the way it was learned.

One bit of advice - When she uses the ball (not with her 'dry' footwork reps), tell her to just focus on her last two steps - Right, Left. Actually, have her get a bunch of tennis balls (or rolled up socks if inside) and have her to this - Right, left, jump and throw the ball/sock. Do it again. It is actually best to try and 'hop' into her two steps. Again, it is right, left, jump throw the ball/sock. This will give her the sensation of the correct footwork with a jumping and swinging motion. As she gets comfortable, then have her extend her approach to 3 or 4 steps, and then jump and throw.

If you really want to move her along faster, she should do the same thing on the court at the net before/after practice. Right, left, jump throw. The last part of the self-fix is to have her take a volleyball in both hands (at the 10' line facing the net), toss it high in the air and a few feet in front of her, then go right, left, jump and hit the ball over the net. At this juncture, enough muscle memory should have been gained with throwing the tennis balls, that jumping and hitting the volleyball (with a controlled toss) is attainable.

Glad to hear you are going to relax and enjoy the ride - It is a great time in your lives, and it will pass way too quickly!

Good luck.



  1. Hello,
    I'm a 36 old absolute amateur player (never played in a club). I noticed few years later I have goofy foot (nobody pointed this out) - just saw myself on a video. I have right shoulder pain as you described. My approach usually ends with both feet parallel and straight to the net, with right foot coming last. When I jump serve it's left, right, jump. Is it possible to fix this at age 36?

  2. Yes but it takes a thousand repetitions because of your age - The body takes longer to break physical habits when we are older (just witness my golf game!). Just do 3 step approaching continuously (around the gym, around the neighborhood, in your garage) - Right, left, right jump.


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