February 6, 2013

No More Grind

As my tan and sore shoulders will attest, I just returned from a Volleyball vacation to Hawaii.  I was there to speak at the Hawaii Volleyball Combine on Oahu, along with having presentations at Punahou HS, Asics Rainbow VBC and Jammers VBC (since I don't want to leave anyone out, last trip I spoke to Iolani HS and Kamehameha HS).

There are two places in the USA which define a volleyball culture for me - Puerto Rico and Hawaii.  Maybe it is an island thing, maybe I am just swayed because I like the ocean, but in each of these places, volleyball is a generational entity.  Abuelo played it, Mom played it, Uncle played with all the cousins; you see nets on the beach, nets in the parks, nets on outdoor concrete courts and they all have people playing volleyball on them.

Volleyball is featured on the nightly television news, it is on the front page of the sports section and sometimes on the front page of the newspaper, there are entire radio shows dedicated to volleyball.  Not only is volleyball part of the sporting news culture, it is part of the island culture.

I never played volleyball in Puerto Rico (the UCLA Men's team used to go there, but when I arrived to campus, we started going to Canada!!!), but when I am on Isla Encanto, the people know the generation of Puerto Rico players which I competed against and with (when on the USA National Team).

Hawaii is a huge ego stroke; many of the locals remember me as a player and compliment me on my skills.  The Hawaii players I competed against and with are still recognized on the streets and well known.  

When I talk to VolleyFolks in Puerto Rico and Hawaii, it is a serious conversation because they take the sport seriously.  Because it is a generational sport, they have witnessed the drastic changes in recent years and they understand the repercussions of these changes.

It was during one of these conversations that a Hawaii Club Director/Coach said something interesting; because of rally score, there is No More Grind.  Players don't Grind out victories, they don't go into tough matches with the mindset that they have to focus and Grind out the points, that they have to Grind through momentum shifts, bad calls, rowdy fans, etc.

One thing I enjoyed about Old School Volleyball, was watching epic matches which allowed teams to go head to head and see which unit was better coached, physically better prepared, mentally tougher, could overcome challenges outside of their control and who celebrated the hard fought victory.

In Hawaii, I experienced two examples of this No More Grind - 1) I was watching the Hawaii men vs Pepperdine men; neither team was going after balls on defense, covering and scrambling, working extra hard to keep a rally going to secure the point.  Instead, they served tough, hit/block and did it again, and again, until one team won.  2) I played a few games of beach volleyball with three HS aged players (I will proudly say that I went 3-0, and was successful because the games were shorter and they had not ever seen the legendary Sonno Cut Shot) and after getting ahead by 5 to 6 points, I stopped going after balls on defense, stopped taking that extra step to cover, stopped keeping a rally going, because it was just easier to wait to receive serve and sideout for a point.  

In both of these examples, the contest was not as enjoyable to watch or to play.  It was an empty victory knowing that I just needed to pass and hit some cut shots, and sideout until 21 (which only took a few minutes).  The men's collegiate match was boring to watch; I was initially excited about seeing the contest, but it quickly lost its luster - No More Grind.  

On a side note; consider how boring Tennis would be if they adopted the volleyball style of keeping score?  No more 5 set thrillers where players are fighting off cramps, mental exhaustion, having an opportunity to score a critical point and hearing the crowd's energy rise in anticipation.......Imagine instead, just awarding a point per rally until one player reaches 21.

While I still hold out hope that Sideout Scoring will one day make a triumphant return (the FIVB changed its stance on double hits, so there is still a ray of hope), I understand that Rally Score, like my graying hair is here to stay. Why bring up the No More Grind?  Because those PSA's which refuse to accept No More Grind, will be even better volleyball players and more attractive as recruits.

If a PSA will embrace The Grind, will work hard no matter the score, will take that extra step, will make that smart play to extend a rally, even if up by 8 points, that player will be better and shine brighter to the Logo Polo Shirt wearing hordes (college coaches) on the end lines.  The Grind means to invest mentally and physically in each playing opportunity (match or practice).  The Grind means it comes from inside, not from a coach yelling at you.  The Grind means that you are preparing yourself to succeed on so many levels, even though it is tough and it takes more time than what your competitors (or even team mates) are willing to give.

The Grind now separates good from great.


  1. "One thing I enjoyed about Old School Volleyball, was watching epic matches which allowed teams to go head to head and see which unit was better coached, physically better prepared, mentally tougher, could overcome challenges outside of their control and who celebrated the hard fought victory."

    Agree 100%!! The first time I watched a rally score 5th set I was left wondering, where was the battle?! Where was the fight?! It just ended. I also hope they will bring back sideout scoring someday.

  2. What is a Sonno Cut Shot? Sounds deadly. Coach Matt, does HI women volleyball ever recruit from other states?

  3. Sonno Cut Shot was legendary in my own mind; on the pro beach tour it allowed me to make a little money by hitting an off speed angle shot!

    Yes, if you review Hawaii's roster, they have a number of out of state athletes. The biggest challenge that the U of Hawaii has recruiting in-state is completely outside of their control - The majority of local Hawaii Volleyball players don't have the height necessary to play at the elite DI level as an attacker.

    1. I assumed a 5'5 setter is too short for the Hawaii program then.

    2. Depends on if Coach Shoji stays with a traditional 5-1 or goes to the Inverted 6-2. With the Inverted 6-2, the setters/opposites go front to back, so the setters don't need to necessarily be tall.

  4. (the FIVB changed its stance on double hits, so there is still a ray of hope), What is your understanding of the rule change by FIVB,current 2013 FIVB rule 9.2.4 It is a fault, during the reception of service, to make a double contact or
    catch using an overhand finger action.
    How will this be put into play? No more hands on serve rec. I realize FIVB changes may take some time to come to USA, high school, ect...

  5. That is the Question - How will volleyball in the USA put into effect the rules of the FIVB? With the various categories of volleyball in the USA (high school, club, college, adult), we all seem to play a hybrid or version of the FIVB rules. To my knowledge, none of the USA categories of volleyball use the pure FIVB rules. The only thing I know at this time is the FIVB has decided that they are going to start calling double hits more because the play with the ball using 'finger action' has become very sloppy.

  6. my 2 cents:

    it will RETURN the judgement back into the hands of the up official for serve receive... it is waaay too sloppy as it is now... doesn't have to be perfect, just not sloppy...

    about time in my opinion

    then they can do the same with FIRST CONTACT... waaay too sloppy, especially in the Men's game... for some reason, the women do not take the same liberties with first contact...


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