November 11, 2013

Listening to Your Volleyball Coach

Dear Coach Matt,
The coach of the middle school team has been criticizing me the entire season for my volleyball technique.  I played Club for 12 yr olds last season, went to every camp my parents would sign me up at and made the travel team for 13-1's this season.

My question is today my school coach criticized me in front of Varsity and JV, that I was not straightening my legs enough and passing power came from my legs.  She made me stand next to her and repeat the straight leg end to passing until she thought I finally got it.  She did not take any other JV or Varsity player aside to fix their passing stance. 

This was all done without a volleyball, but standing straight up and down, bending our knees, and motioning straight with a pass.
I'm confused.  I don't even think about my passing stance because I've done it so many times to target, and now am being told differently and that I'm the only one who doesn't get it.
She has also told me that my footwork in hitting is getting in the way of hitting it straight on and I need to practice flat footed. And my serve is too strong because I hit the back line or out a lot of the time.  The rest of my Varsity team under hand serves, and I don't want to go back to that.
Help!  I want my coach's acceptance, but feel like I get picked on every practice.

Thank you for your question and I would strongly encourage you to take your ego/feelings out of what is going on.  I know this sounds tough, because you were put in a position where you were solo in front of the V/JV teams.

There is an old saying, that you should get worried/upset when the coach stops talking or coaching you.  When a coach is coaching and interacting with you, even if it is not as comfortable as you might like, at least they are still invested in you.  When the coach stops coaching you, that is the time to get worried!

Part of what the coach is saying is correct; you want to use your legs to help pass the ball because it is a stable, controlled base of power.  Your arms and legs need to lift together to direct the ball where to go.  Now, you may feel that the coach wants your legs to become too straight at the end, but I would think the coach may be just trying to find a way to encourage you to use your legs more to lift the ball.

I hope that the coach had singled you out because she believed you have the talent/ability to get to an even higher level of success.  Your coach is seeing something which you may not see, which is the job of the coach.  You say your passes all go to target, which is great, but maybe they are not as consistent, or the coach wants a higher trajectory.  Overall, I agree with the technique of using the legs to help the arms send the ball where it needs to go.

In terms of hitting, your coach does have a point.  What she is asking you to do is develop your armswing technique and this can be tough to do with an approach.  When I do summer camps, there is a large time block spent on attack armswing and shoulder rotation even before we work on the footwork of our approach.  Once we move into footwork/approach, if the attacks are suffering (not hitting the ball in or where it needs to go), then we stop jumping and go back to arm swing focus.

Once you are consistent with your armswing, then you need to work on being consistent with your approach footwork (remember that your last step in your approach should be with your left foot if you are right handed; this gets your shoulders and hips properly aligned before jumping and swinging).

As for your serve; serving the ball in is the most important part of serving.  An overhand serve is standard, but if you can't serve it in, then I would also ask you to serve underhand because In is better than Out!  To keep the ball in, you can either adjust how deep from the end line you serve the ball or adjust the speed of your swing.  It is very important to be consistent and the way to gain consistency is to practice using different arm swing speeds or depth until you find the one that works.

Last bit of advice; be mentally strong, confident in your volleyball abilities and listen to your coach.  The coach is the boss and you don't want to make the boss mad.  Listen to what she says, say "yes coach", and try to apply it.  Nothing makes a coach more mad then a player not listening and having an attitude!

Good luck and hang in there!

The Coach

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