January 9, 2012

What is Talent?


   Maybe this question is really obvious and I am just wasting your time right now, but in many of your posts you talk about how the most important thing to have when being recruited is talent. What do you mean by talent? Is that simply the one with the most talent is the one who gets 10/10 passes to target? How do you and in your opinion  other coaches judge talent is it just skill or are there other aspects? 

Another question is about arm swings. For the past few years my daughter has always been taught to finish her arm swing across her body and now her new coach is telling her to finish going down so she almost hits her right leg as she finishes her arm swing since she swings with her right arm. She feels like this is taking away a lot of her power because she feels like she isn’t using any of her shoulder and bicep muscles. She told her coach this and he said that she should be using her triceps instead and that it is more the speed and not the power. Both of these coaches are former college coaches so I’m hoping maybe I can get another opinion  on this.

Thanks, Volleymom 

You have presented good questions and sometimes the simple questions result in the most informative answers.

Everyone has talent.  I have golfing talent, just very little golfing talent.  If we look at club volleyball players, we will see a range of talent which is judged by collegiate coaches per the PSA's year.  Those PSA's which are deemed to posses the greatest talents will receive offers from the elite level programs.  When I say Talent is most important in recruiting, this is a reflection of the above sentence.  No matter how nice, or smart, or hard working, or how much effort you put into recruiting outreach, if you do not posses the necessary level of talent, UCLA will not recruit you.

While it is crucial to put effort into the recruiting process to create more opportunities, the opportunity to play at a higher level is a result of talent - Thus, my 'Talent creates Opportunities'.  Regarding Volleyball opportunities, it is a top down situation based upon your talent.  Talent wise, you can always 'play down' but not 'play up' as a collegiate player/recruit.  A Volleyball SA who plays at Penn State can also play at Idaho State, but a player who plays at Idaho State cannot play at Penn State - PSA's/SA's can play below their program ability level, but never above it successfully. 

For college coaches the initial evaluation of talent is based upon physical skill combined with physical stature.  A 5'8" Outside Hitter and a 6'3" Outside Hitter may have exactly the same skill sets, but because of the height difference, collegiate coaches would rate the taller player as having more Talent.  The physical skill we look at is a combination of success controlling the ball (which is based upon the position played) and the movements of the body in the non-touching time of the ball.  For instance, while we watch where the Libero passes the ball, we also watch her movement getting to the ball and setting up to pass the ball.

As the old saying goes, 'the devil is in the details', and college coaches will then move into examining the details of the PSA to try and not bring in a devil.  After we know a player has the physical tools to help a program, college coaches start to examine the non physical talents of attitude, teamwork, effort, body language, etc.  These non physical talents have become even more important to team success because all too many of today's Athletic Directors just want a Volleyball team which causes no excess effort upon their part, and team drama leads to extra work for AD's.

Armswing: In terms of where the arm finishes after the attack, I don't think there is a huge difference between what your daughter was taught versus what she is being told now, as long as the arm does not finish outside the right hip. If I was to choose, I would want the hand to finish nearer to the belly button than to the right side hip. In my Road Volleyball Camps, I see a few former or current softball pitchers,  who because of their training techniques, will finish their arm outside their right hip when finishing a swing.  I don't like to see this because I believe it places undue strain upon the back of the shoulder.

I would be critical of the comment that the swing should be focused upon using the triceps.  Also, speed is power and sometimes power is not speed (this is when players hit a 'heavy' ball; it did not look like the hitter swung fast, but the ball sure hurts when you dig it!).  I believe the armswing should be a balance of using the entire body and not focused on one muscle group.  Focusing on one muscle group can work, but it usually results in some type of repetitive stress injury.  I would argue that the best way to generate speed, and thus power, is to use your abdominal muscles after taking a big, broad jump approach.

One small, but critical item I see in armswings is the position of the attack hand thumb at and after the contact of the ball.  If the thumb rotates down, past the equator or horizon of your hand, then this places strain upon the small muscles in the back of the shoulder (can you say rotator cuff surgery after your Sophomore year in college?).  When you keep your thumb even or above the horizon upon and after contact with the ball, then the bigger muscles of your back, chest and deltoids take the strain.  This hand position will also affect the finish of the armswing, as the thumb down action will tend to finish near or outside the right side hip.

Bottom line is if she feels confident in her current swing, is hitting successfully and is not experiencing any pain or undue soreness, then I would not change anything.

Thanks for reading collegevolleyballcoach.com

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