Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – Jan 30, 2015

Volleyball Coaching Log

I applied late last week for head coach position for which I think I’m extremely qualified. Actually, I initially emailed the Athletic Director my resume as there was no online posting yet. This is a position for which relevant experience is not a question at all as I spent a lot of time in this particular conference. That means if I don’t at least get a bit of interest there’s some other factor at work. As it turns out, the A.D. responded (while traveling) to my email indicating that I would have to apply online officially when the posting went live. Late the same day I received a note from someone in H.R. letting me know it was up. The fact that they were proactive about that sort of thing suggests at least some interest. So does the fact that the A.D. (or at least someone in Athletics) scoped out my LinkedIn profile.

Also in the showing some interest category is an assistant position I’ve put in for. I saw the job posted, and was surprised. I’d been in touch with the head coach there over the break, but not in the context of him having a job for me. I passed him my resume, but from an “in case you hear of anything interesting” perspective.I didn’t think he’d have an opening having just hired a new assistant last year, and I got the feeling he didn’t either, which suggests something developed fairly suddenly – as certainly can happen. Anyway, when I dropped him a note to ask if he was looking for a 1st or 2nd assistant he passed me along to his HR person and I received an invitation to apply, which I have. This job wouldn’t pay as much as a head job, I’m sure, but it’s with a team that made the NCAA tournament last season in a desirable part of the country. Trade-offs.

Added to the list of jobs I didn’t get are Montana and Akron on the head coach side, along with the Florida State, Notre Dame, LSU, and Indiana assistant positions. Those jobs filling have opened up other positions in the usual domino effect.

Believe it or not, I found an actual letter from Mississippi State waiting for me when I got home the other day. You’ll recall I found out about that job being filled a couple weeks ago. The letter is dated the 15th, has a postage date of the 20th, and got to me in England on the 27th. I appreciate the personal touch, but it cost them $1.15. Email would have been fine.

With all the job dominoes falling, just about as many new positions are opening up as ones I’ve put in for are getting scratched from my list. In the past week I’ve put in applications for three other assistant positions and one head coach job above and beyond the ones mentioned above.

Actually, that latter head coach job was one I went back and forth about pursuing. The program has been poor for a number of years and seems to have turned over several coaches recently. The A.D. is relatively new to the position. I don’t know enough about the school or program to be able to gauge whether it’s somewhere that a real turn-around is a realistic expectation or not. I figured I’d put in for it, though. I love the idea of taking on a struggling program and getting it turned around. If it ends up not looking particularly appealing I could always turn it down.

Lots of players, little space – Help!!


Yesterday I had an email come in from a reader of the blog – or at least someone who stopped by for a visit. She asked:

I am currently coaching both a 5th and 6th grade team with a total of 22 players. However, we only have one small gym to use and we must practice them together a lot. Can you help me find drills to do that will include a lot of players?

I can totally sympathize with this problem. In my time coaching in England I was frequently forced to try to manage a lot of players in a small area – especially during try-outs for the university teams. It’s definitely a challenge.

The first thing I would bring up is something I know both USA Volleyball and Volleyball England – and I’m sure other federations – are proponents of at the grassroots/beginner level (and beyond). That’s mini volleyball. By that I mean not just playing small-sided games, but also playing on smaller courts. In England they have badminton courts in basically every gym. You can generally get 3-4 in the space of a volleyball court. Using them lets you go from 22 on one court to 5-8 on each court. In the US badminton lines may not be as readily available, but it’s not hard to create them with tape, cones, etc. In terms of nets, you can use the badminton ones if you have them, or you can create your own long net to string across the gym. The great thing about working with beginners and youngsters is that you don’t really need to be overly concerned with net height. At Exeter the beginner group of university players often trained using standard badminton height nets.

USA Volleyball has a section on ideas for setting up mini courts in their mini volleyball guide.

The other idea I would toss out is stations. Break the gym up into areas where you can have players working on different skills. That will let you get them split up into smaller groups, which serves a similar purpose to mini volleyball. Smaller groups means more touches and less time standing around. You can then have them do movement and ball-control drills/games in 2s, 3s, or 4s.

As I mentioned previously, I’m actually working on a book aimed at helping coaches maximize their available resources. Being able to deal with high numbers/limited space is part of that. I would love to hear other ideas on how to do that. If you have one, definitely feel free to leave a comment below, Tweet it to @CoachingVB, post it on Facebook, or use the contact page to send it to me.

Book Review: Spike! by Doug Beal


Last week, while visiting him in Berlin, I took advantage of Mark Lebedew’s library to read Spike!, which is Doug Beal’s account of the 1984 Olympic gold medal winning USA men’s volleyball team. It was published in 1985, so pretty soon after the events. I was able to get through it in only a few hours of reading as it’s not much more than 100 pages.

The book actually covers a fair bit of ground. Beal was a member of the national team before taking over as coach, so there’s a little of the history of how the program evolved. Of course the main focus is on how the 1984 team came together in the years immediately prior to the Olympics and what happened during the Games themselves.

For those who’ve been around the game for a while, a lot of interest and focus may be on Beal’s side of the story of different players and their involvement in the national team – most notably the likes of Karch Kiraly, Sinjin Smith, and Tim Hovland. Karch and Sinjin have written books with their sides of the story, and I’m sure other accounts are out there as well. In Spike! we get Beal’s side of handling the different personalities and antics.

I found the account pretty well presented. Beal doesn’t toot his own horn. In fact, he seems pretty forthright about sharing his own short-comings and missteps along the way. He goes so far as to share the experience of having the Soviet Union coach in the latter 1970s, Yuri Chesnokov, teach him what he should be doing.

While this is certainly a book of history rather than a coaching text, it includes discussions of the sort of thinking and decision-making that was behind a variety of coaching decisions. Many of them are the same sort of thing we volleyball coaches deal with today. As such, I found it to be a book that is both interesting from a historical perspective and quite relevant. If you can get hold of a copy, I think it’s well worth a read.


Volleyball coaching book in the works


Back at the start of the year I mentioned my intention to write a volleyball coaching book. As I suggested at the time, I want to develop something of practical value, but not yet another drill book. My intention is to focus on getting the most out of training sessions when you have limited resources – help, equipment, space, time, etc. These last couple of years coaching in England have pushed me to find ways to do just that, and I want to share what I’ve learned as a kind of best practices discussion.

That said, my experience and perspective is just one coach’s. For the book to truly be a good resource it would be valuable to have additional input. So to that end I have two questions for you.

1) What sorts of limited resource problems have you faced, or are you currently facing in your coaching?

2) How have you dealt with limited resources in your own coaching?

It would be great if you could leave your response to one or both of these questions in the comment section below. Not only will it help me in developing the book, it could also help your fellow coaches more immediately.

I look forward to learning about the challenges you’ve faced on the ways they’ve been overcome.

Great volleyball atmosphere in Berlin

I mentioned my trip to Berlin the other day and how I was attending a pair of professional men’s volleyball matches. In case you haven’t seen it, here’s video I took of match point from the first match. The actually volleyball action isn’t very clear, but I was more trying to capture the atmosphere in the arena, which was pretty awesome.

The crowd was over 7300. On Wednesday night it was a smaller one (about 4300), but still great to see and hear. Here’s a picture from my VIP seats.

The home team, Berlin Recycling Volleys, is on the right. You can see their supporters club all together wearing their orange t-shirts.

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – Jan 23, 2015

Volleyball Coaching Log

As I mentioned on Monday, I was in Berlin for most of the week, so not overly active in the job hunt process aside from monitoring the postings and announcements. I’ve seen a few new positions posted which may be of interest. Now that I’m back in the swing of things – at least for a a week and a half before heading off to the USA Volleyball HP coaching clinic – I’ll consider today which, if any, I’ll go after.

Among the jobs I’ve applied for, three head coach posts are filled – Coker College men’s team, Western Illinois, and Montana State. Thus far, only the last of the trio contacted me (nice rejection email). That still leaves a whole bunch of jobs I’ve put in for, but I haven’t heard about any of them so far. It interesting how many head coach jobs remain unfilled. Now that school has started back up again for most colleges, I would expect to see a real push to get them sorted out.

On the professional coaching front, I found out an assistant coach I know of in the men’s game in Germany is well connected in the women’s game there as well. He might be able to point me in the direction of prospective job openings, alongside those I may hear about from my other coaching contacts.

Serve first or receive first?


Your team wins the pre-match coin toss. Do you take serve? Or do you take receive?

At the upper levels of the sport the answer is very simple. You take receive. Why? Two reasons.

First, the sideout percentages are quite high for top level teams. Mark Lebedew shared some stats from the German men’s Bundesliga (top league) a while back which indicated that teams scored just about 2/3rds of the time when receiving serve. So from the perspective of getting on the board first, you don’t want to be serving.

Second, as Mark points out, the receiving team actually has less to do to win a set than the serving team:

“…in any given set, the number or sideouts is equal, give or take one.  What decides the set is the number of points the teams win on serve.  The receiving team must win one more point on serve than its opponent to win the set.  The serving team must win two more points on serve to win the set.  Scoring a point on serve is more difficult than winning a point on reception.  Therefore the team receiving first has an advantage.”

Of course the considerations are quite a bit different at the other end of the talent spectrum. There serving is much more dominant. If you’re coaching at a level where the sideout percentage is only about 1/3rd, then you’re going to want to have the first serve. The frequency at which points are scored on serve will tend to make what Mark outlines above irrelevant.

If you’re coaching in the middling zone where sideout rates are close to 50%, then other considerations may come into play.

Regardless, this is one area of coaching where knowing the relevant statistics can make for quite clear-cut decision-making.

USA Volleyball High Performance Clinic 2015

USAV HP Coaching Clinic

I mentioned a couple weeks ago on social media that I’d committed to attending this year’s USA Volleyball High Performance coaching clinic next month at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. The clinic fee is extremely reasonable when you consider it comes with room and board. The big expense for me is the travel from England. Ouch!

Actually, it was the prospects of developing news contacts that ended up being the bigger factor in my decision to commit to the cost. The educational side of things is important, of course, but right now I’m in the middle of trying to get myself back into full-time coaching, as I’ve been documenting in my job hunt log. Contacts could come in quite handy in that respect. In fact, one of the head coaches whose assistant position I’ve put in for is a clinic presenter (though I would imagine she’ll have finished the search by then).

Anyway, the other day I got the schedule for the event, which covers an evening and two full days. It looks like this:

Thursday (Feb 5th)

18:00-18:40 Welcome and Opening Remarks
18:40-19:40 Flashback to Fourteen Women’s and Men’s national team staffs, Women’s Junior and Girls’ youth national team staffs
19:45-21:30 Welcome Social

Friday (Feb 6th)

8:00-9:10 What Does it mean to Play Well? Blocking Julio Velasco
9:15-10:15 First Things First: The Competitive Power of Serve Receive Laurent Tille
10:15-10:40 Small group topic discussions
10:45-12:15 Game On Steve Shenbaum
13:15-14:15 Promoting More Process: Bingo with the National Team Karch Kiraly
14:15-15:15 Getting the Most Out of Your Practice: Practice Planning and Motor Learning Jamie Morrisson
15:20-15:40 Small group topic discussions
15:55-16:40 Mindfulness and Performance Mark Aoyagi
16:45-17:40 Same Continent, Different Coaches: Playing for Team USA Over the Decades Stacy Sykora, Tracy (Stalls) Insalaco, Christa Dietzen, Kayla Barnworth

Saturday (Feb 7th)

8:00-9:05 Structure and Spirit in Defense Laurent Tille
9:10-10:10 High Performance Championship Team and Technique Training Rod Wilde and Shelton Collier
10:10-10:30 Small group topic discussions
10:45-11:30 A Legacy of Success – Program Development Across Cultures Julio Velasco
11:35-12:20 Volleyball Decision Making: Combining the Art and the Science Joe Trinsey, Nate Ngo, Jesse Tupac
12:25-13:10 Collegiate National Team Training Bill Neville
14:15-15:15 Scouting to Win: Developing Strategies in Match Preparation Jim Stone, Tom Hogan, Lindsey Devine, Brook Coulter, Erin Virtue
15:15-16:15 What Does it Mean to Play Well? Offense Julio Velasco
16:15-16:35 Small group topic discussions
16:45-17:25 The French Touch: Practice Organization the French Way Laurent Tille
17:25-18:10 Empowering Your Staff Karch Kiraly, Doug Beal, Jim Stone, Tom Hogan
19:30-23:30 Attendee Social

Pretty intense, eh?

Along with the official socials and the small group discussions, there are the shared meals and Friday night to spend time with fellow attendees. Should be an interesting couple of days.

Naturally, I will provide a full report. :-)

Back in Berlin

Bundesliga Volleyball

Taking a bit of a break from the job hunt work – which has practically become a full-time job! – to spend a bit more time with the pros. I’m back in Berlin hanging out with Mark Lebedew and the BR Volleys boys. Yesterday they had a big home match against their chief domestic rivals VfB Friedrichshafen, with the latter currently sitting atop the Bundesliga standings. Berlin won. Great crowd and atmoshphere – and a win for the home side. On Wednesday they host Budvanska Rivijera Budva from Montenegro in the CEV Champions League. A win will assure them of advancing out of the group stage.

It’s now been over a month since I was last on-court, so this trip is a bit of volleyball fix to ward off the withdrawal symptoms. Maybe I’ll be able to get some interesting video and/or audio to share after I get back on Thursday.

Anything in particular you’d like to see?