March 24, 2014

Volleyball Communication

Dear Coach,

I am the mother of a very athletic, speedy, smart, 5'6" libero. While she gets props for her physical abilities on the court, her coaches were relentless this past varsity season about her being too cool on the court. Her calm demeanor was often mistaken for a lack of intensity. She was constantly told that she needed to smile more, be the jokester, be loud and constantly atwitter (like the other libero).

My daughter has never been the 24/7 rah-rah  type. For her, it's situational. I wouldn't say she's bland. She's just highly focused on what's happening on the court. She thinks that chatter for the sake of chatter is annoying and maybe even a little distracting.She knows the abilities of her teammates and trusts them with the obvious reads, but chimes in on things that aren't so obvious like hitting tendencies, dump indicators, etc.

There are at least 3 other spark plugs on the team (including her younger sister) that provide ample fire. Sometimes too much. Because of that, she believes what the team needs is balance especially during high tension situations. She feels that a gentle pat on the back or words of encouragement puts her teammates in a calmer state and that calmer players play better. 

One of my daughter's favorite players is Jennifer Beltran from Illinois who is a spark plug for her team not because of the volume of her voice or her nifty celebratory fist pumps on the court. She ignites her team by getting the ungettable get, by passing every serve perfectly, etc. 

So here are my questions: Are being boisterous, chatty and perpetually amp'd (not that there's anything wrong with that) prerequisites for being a good libero? Do coaches expect to see these qualities when recruiting liberos or does it depend on the needs of the program or the preferences of a particular coach? Is there such a thing as a libero personality? Are shorter players automatically required to be yappy Chihuahuas, or can't they be calm, efficient barkless Basenjis? 

These are questions she's grappling with as we head into club season and we could use some insight.

Best regards,
Sincerely Mother of Barkless Basenji

Thank you for your email and you are now the defending champion of the most interesting closing name!

You have illustrated a Libero personality which has emerged as a 'desirable' trait - Being noisy.  Unfortunately, too many coaches confuse noise for communication and don't have the experience or knowledge to understand the difference.  Noise is like a flash and people are attracted to flashy things.  Coaches tend to want loud Liberos because they like that energy, that flash on the court, believing it elevates the play of the other positions.

My belief is that collegiate coaches will be more focused on successful application of the skill sets of a Libero, than being influenced by the volume button. It is vitally important that the Libero be an effective communicator, because she is the back row boss.  But, collegiate coaches are human, and will also be drawn to that noisy Libero initially.

On back to back seasons, I had two very different verbal Liberos, and each one was the best physical Libero I had ever had as a coach.  "T" was almost silent as a player but communicated effectively with her teammates, so they always knew that T had the ball or a certain section of the court.  "C" loved to talk and celebrate and cheer, but she also effectively communicated with her team mates, so players knew their ball responsibilities.

The most important thing your PSA can do, is be true to herself.  If she is passing nails and playing good defense, while effectively communicating with her team mates, then that is all she really needs to worry about.  What she needs to avoid, is trying to be something she is not. 

 A happy medium is maybe to be more physical, instead of more verbal - By this, instead of being loud with her team mates, make sure she is patting backs and touching hands with her team after each play.  The coaches will see the interaction, which will make them happy, but your daughter can stay within her verbal comfort zone.

As for the collegiate coaches, while they may be initially attracted to the flash, the coaches which know their business, move beyond this to evaluate abilities.  Your daughter will be more successful and have a better collegiate career by playing for a coach who understands communication is more important than noise, and this coach recruited your daughter because her Libero skill sets will make the collegiate team better.

In general, Liberos are last in the recruiting process and with your daughter's personality, the family may need to be a bit more patient while the collegiate coaches work their way through evaluations.  

What will be important is understanding that your focus needs to be reaching out to collegiate coaches, to provide your PSA with as many options as possibly.  For Libero PSA's, it is a competitive situation to obtain their desired collegiate opportunity.  The families which are active in their outreach and filtering will have better choices, than those Libero families which hang back hoping that their PSA gets seen at a tournament.  In situations such as yours, I highly recommend NCSA Athletic Recruiting because of their outstanding support in getting PSA's in front of the best fitting collegiate programs!

Good luck and tell your daughter to stay true to herself!

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