Archive for Volleyball Coaching News & Info

UK university volleyball options for Americans

I received a question from an NCAA Division I assistant coach asking about US players going to the UK to play volleyball as post-graduate students. In this post I will address that subject as best I can.

The 2017-18 figures released by USA Volleyball show at least 45 players receiving international transfer certificates to play in England. There could me more playing for UK universities who did not get an ITC because they don’t play in the top level of the National League (NVL) there. For example, I had a couple of Americans play for me at Exeter. Since we did not play in the NVL they didn’t need ITCs.

The point I’m trying to make is there are quite a few Americans playing in England each year. A number of them are even on scholarships. Mainly, those are post-graduates. Think players who finished their NCAA playing career, but weren’t quite ready to stop playing competitive volleyball.

If you’re looking for a scholarship you need to find a university where volleyball is a performance sport. Most universities have volleyball clubs that compete in BUCS, which is the rough UK equivalent to the NCAA (the NAIA might be a better comparison). The performance programs, however, are a different situation. They are much more akin to what we would call varsity sports in the US. There aren’t that many of them, though.

Universities with performance volleyball programs

Here are at least some of the universities that have volleyball as a performance sport. I’ve included links to their information web page.

On the women’s side, Durham and Northumbria have been the top teams for several years. For the men, Sheffield Hallam and Northumbria have consistently been at the top, but Bournemouth is a regular championship contender as well. Essex and East London in recent years have also pushed themselves into the conversation.

Bournemouth was in the same BUCS league as Exeter when I coached there. I got to coach against Durham (men) and Northumbria (women) in Final 8s.

Recruitment

If you go to a university without a performance program – or you just want a less intense volleyball experience – you’ll just be part of the school’s club program. Generally speaking, that just means turning up for their tryouts or something along those lines when school starts. Easy enough.

If you want to go the performance route, however, you should think of it like the college recruitment process. You’ll want to reach out to the program(s) you’re interested in, provide them information about yourself, give them some video, etc.

Placement service

Several years back a service was developed by a woman who herself played in the UK as a post-graduate. It is called TeamGleas. Think of it as an athlete promotional service that universities subscribe to. They don’t just cover the UK. If you, or someone you know, is thinking about playing and going to school abroad, it might be worth having a look.

There might be other services out there as well. I just don’t know of them.

Keep in mind

A word of warning is required here. You should not expect the same level of support and facilities in the UK as you see at US colleges and universities (especially the higher level ones). Volleyball just isn’t that big a sport over there. This goes doubly when talking about the non-performance club programs. Training for them might only be once or twice a week, possibly with no coach.

And the competition in BUCS won’t be spectacular. Since most teams are club programs, they just aren’t that strong. The performance programs, though, are generally linked in with a club playing in one of the top divisions of the National League. That’s much more serious, and in some cases includes professional (or at least semi-pro) players.

I bring this up not to discourage anyone from going to the UK to study and play volleyball. I just want to make sure the expectations are realistic. If nothing else, it’s could be a great experience on many levels. Certainly, it provides opportunities to do some interesting travel.

Questions?

I hope this post provides the information you need to at least start thinking about things and exploring your options. If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them if I can. If I can’t, I might be able to get them from my contacts among the coaches over there.

The two biggest jobs of a coach

When it comes to coaching a team there are two main responsibilities. I’m not talking about off-court administrative requirements. Those can vary considerably between teams and organizations. I’m talking here about on-court, in the gym. That’s the common ground for all coaches. Those two responsibilities are setting priorities and deciding who’s on court during matches.

Setting priorities

As coaches, one of the most important things we do is assess our teams and players, and set training priorities. We decide which skills and/or tactics to focus on in practice. We decide which part of a player’s game we want to get the most attention. These priorities then filter in to how we develop practice plans and where we concentrate our feedback. At least they should!

You may be the best in the world technical training. If you don’t pick the right skills to develop, though, you’re wasting time and effort.

Think of it this way. The first thing you have to do as a coach is decide where you want the team to go. That might change along the way, but you always need to have a destination in mind. Once that’s in place, you then map a course to get you there. If you have no destination, who knows where you’ll end up.

Playing time

When it comes to match-day coaching, the most important thing we do is decide who’s playing and in what role. That’s a combination of starting line-up and substitutions.

Obviously, there are things you can do in terms of strategy, managing the team’s emotional state during play, and the like. All of that, though, follows on from your team selection. If you don’t get the personnel on court right, the rest of it probably won’t matter too much.

Yes, there is more to it

Of course there is more to successful coaching. For example, recruiting is extremely important in the college and professional levels. Keeping kids academically eligible is important in any school team situation. There’s scheduling considerations and any number of other off-court details that need to be managed.

When it comes to on-court stuff, however, good prioritization and line-up decisions are the key factors in coaching success. Everything else comes in to play from there.

The NCAA’s Performance Indicator

If you follow college sports in the US then you’ve probably heard about the RPI. I’ve written about it before. It’s also something I’ve brought up in my coaching log entries. It’s a highly quantitative way of ranking teams toward NCAA tournament selection, or the playoffs in the case of college football (FBS).

The RPI is actually only part of the selection process. The other criteria look something like this.

  1. Overall Division II won-lost results.
  2. Opponents’ average winning percentage.
  3. Opponents’ opponents’ average winning percentage.
  4. Head-to-head competition.
  5. Results versus common opponents.
  6. Results versus Division II ranked teams (all regions – once ranked, always ranked).

The first three on the list above are actually part of the RPI calculation.

Apparently, a move was put forward to drop the results vs. Division II ranked teams. In it’s place goes the Performance Indicator (PI). Never heard of it? I’m not surprised. It’s been around for a while. It doesn’t get much press, though.

The PI has a very similar thought process as the RPI, though with a meaningful addition. Like the RPI, it values winning strongly, while also giving a boost for playing better teams. One thing the PI factors in that the RPI doesn’t, however, is whether the results are home, away, or on neutral ground.

Calculating the PI

23 − Win on road against a .750 or above team
22 − Win neutral-site game against a .750 or above team
21 − Win at home against a .750 or above team
20 − Win on road against a .500-.749 team
19 − Win neutral site game against a .500-.749 team
18 − Win at home against a .500-.749 team
17 − Win on road against a .250- .499 team
16 − Win neutral site game against a .250-.499 team
15 − Win at home against a .250-.499 team
14 − Win on road against a .000-.249 team
13 − Win neutral site game against a .000-.249 team
12 − Win at home against a .000-.249 team
11 − Road loss to .750 or above team
10 − Neutral site loss to a .750 or above team
9 − Home loss to a .750 or above team
8 − Road loss to a .500-.749 team
7 − Neutral site loss to a .500-.749 team
6 − Home loss to a .500-.749 team
5 − Road loss to a .250-.499 team
4 − Neutral site loss to a .250-.499 team
3 − Home loss to a .250-.499 team
2 − Road loss to a .000-.250 team
1 − Neutral site loss to a .000-.250 team
0 − Home loss to a .000-.250 team

Divide the total by matches played and you have the PI.

Impact on scheduling?

So first priority is to win, and especially to win on the road. If you’re going to lose, then you want to lose on the road against very good teams. We joked in the office while going over this that no one will want to host anymore since even if you lose you get more points doing so on the road. 🙂

Honestly, I don’t think the PI will factor into things for most teams. For some conferences the only realistic way to get into the NCAA tournament is to win the league title, so the teams there don’t care overly much about these other considerations. Perhaps teams that dominate a given conference care, as it goes toward their NCAA tournament seeding, but that’s about it.

In the more competitive conferences, however, the story is a bit different. For example, in the South Central region the Lone Star Conferences and the Rocky Mountain Conference contribute 7 of the 8 teams to the NCAA tournament at the regional level. That means each year there is not only a battle for who makes the tournament, but also for who gets seeded where (and by extension, who hosts).

Note, though, that there are several other important criteria, two of which related to direct comparison between teams. That means you can’t necessarily just focus on maximizing PI.

Review of 2017, look ahead to 2018

Well, 2017 was certainly an interesting year!

As is my habit at the turn of the year, I want to take a little bit of time to review the last 12 months. I’ll also get into some thoughts about what I see for the year ahead, as I did last year. I already did a review of the 2017 volleyball season. This post will focus on other things.

Travel

With Midwestern State I visited a couple of new locations during the course of our season. We played at Austin in a pre-conference tournament. While recruiting I also got to visit San Antonio. At this point, the only major Texas city I haven’t visited is Houston. Not sure that one is in the plans any time soon, though.

Personally, I made two big trips. The first was to the Olymic Training Center in Colorado Springs in February. I was there to attend my second High Performance Coaches Clinic. Here is my report on that. This time I also added in the Coaches Accreditation Program (CAP) Level III coaching course. I also wrote about that experience. I believe I have completed the requirements for my certification, but I’m waiting for final word at this writing.

My big trip was back across the Atlantic in May. The main part of that was spent in Poland where I hung out with Mark Lebedew while he ran pre-World League training camp for the Australian national team. I also spent a couple of days in Germany visiting with a coaching friend there. Of course I had to hit England as well. I spent an afternoon with a coaching friend there, visited with an old friend, and got back to Exeter for a meeting with my PhD supervisor to talk about our joint academic research work.

And then there was the MSU team trip to Buenos Aires. That was my first ever trip south of the US border, and also my first to a Spanish speaking country. It was a great experience, both in terms of the tourist side of things and volleyball.

Projects

It was a rough year for my various projects. Frankly, I did not get done nearly as much as I thought I would. All the organization for the Buenos Aires trip sucked up massive amounts of my non-coaching time. That was especially true over the Summer, which is usually a good time to get big things done. Not so much this year.

At the same time, Mark taking on the added work of coaching a national team alongside his work coaching a professional club team in Poland made it hard for us to collaborate on additional Volleyball Coaching Wizards work. It was my hope to have at least one new book published, but it just didn’t happen.

I did get do some work in the academic arena, but didn’t produce the second paper I had in mind. I also didn’t get a new edition of Inside College Volleyball published, as I wanted. Oh, well. It was still a worthwhile year.

The Blog

Once more I can report growth in readership of this blog. Quite big growth, actually! The year ended with over 100,000 visitors and nearly 220,000 page views, up about 35% from 2016. Honestly, that blows my mind. Along the way the site crossed half a million page views all time since it was launched in June 2013. It got just about 14,000 views that first year.

Again, readership has been basically global, though obviously the US dominates.

 

The most read posts for 2017 were the following.

  1. Volleyball tryout drill ideas
  2. Volleyball set diagram
  3. The qualities of a good team captain
  4. Putting together a starting line-up
  5. Game: Winners (a.k.a King/Queen of the Court)
  6. Scoring serving and passing effectiveness
  7. Getting volleyball players to talk
  8. Volleyball camp drills and games
  9. Are your warm-ups wasting valuable time?
  10. Volleyball conditioning – a sample program

The blog now has over 900 posts. I imagine I’ll cross the 1000 post mark in 2018. Kind of crazy to think about reaching that milestone!

Looking forward to 2018

I enter this new year with a wait and see type of attitude. The one thing I know with certainty is that staff changes are coming at MSU. Our graduate assistant will finish his degree in May, so for sure a new GA will be required. Where things go with that is an open question. Add in the big turnover in players (7 out, and probably at least as many new players in) and you get the prospect for a lot of changes in the program. We’ll see how that all plays out.

In terms of my various other projects, there are three big things I want to complete early this year. One is publishing the second Wizards book, which should happen shortly. Another is updating Inside College Volleyball and getting that out the door. I also have another, non-volleyball, content project I’m working on.

Looking at the rest of the year, there are some other things I want to do as well. Mark and I need to get back to recording and publishing Wizards interviews, and I’d like to publish another book from the project later in 2018. I would also like to develop some longer-form coaching education content. Think an online course, or something like that.

See shall see where things take me!

A professional volleyball league model

In Canada, a new professional league is launching.

The One Volleyball Premier League begins play this week. The league features both men’s and women’s divisions, each with four teams. There will be six rounds of league matches played through June and July, and the championships are on July 22nd. All the matches take place at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Obviously, this is not a big production. It’s basically a city league of very short duration. I’m sure it won’t feature any of the top Canadian players because they will be on national team duty (or for some, playing beach). That means the league comprises a second tier caliber of player. They all had to register with the league and go through a draft.

The reason I bring this little enterprise up is because of the model it represents. I wrote previously on the subject of launching a professional league in the US as something USA Volleyball is exploring. A regional model is one option.

This new Canadian venture takes the regional model concept a little further by bringing it down to the city level. It is something that is an interesting thing to think about, especially if the players are likely to be semi-pro rather than fully professional (at least to start). Larger metropolitan areas are more likely to provide employment opportunities.

I’m not saying a pro league in the US should go this route. I do think, though, that it provides some things worth thinking about. This is especially true if the plan is not to try to go big and national right away.

Thoughts on FIVB’s 7 sets to 15 proposal

As you may have heard, the FIVB is planning to experiment at the upcoming U23 World Championship (August for the men, September for the women) with a new match format. This was reported by Volleywood based on this article. Flo Volleyball also reported on it. The proposal is to play best-of-7 set matches, with all sets going to 15 points.

Not surprisingly, the news triggered a lot of opinion.

Mark Lebedew was very blunt in his response. He thinks it’s a stupid idea. That was his immediate response on Twitter, but he followed up with a more reasoned blog post. In it he talks about match time concerns.

I would love to see some stats on match times. Mark (and others) seem to think the expressed problem is matches lasting too long. Personally, I think match length variability is the real issue. You can have anything from a 3-set blowout lasting maybe an hour up to a 5-set battle going longer than 2 hours.

What’s the set breakdown for match length?

I went through all matches played in 2016 by Lone Star Conference (LSC) teams* to look at the breakdown. It added up to 236 matches, and here’s the outcome split.

3 sets: 122 (51.6%)
4 sets: 69 (29.2%)
5 sets: 45 (19.1%)

It occurred to me that conference matches might be more competitive than non-conference ones, so I broke them out. Here’s the split for just the conference matches, of which there were 118 (including the conference tournament).

3 sets: 67 (56.8%)
4 sets: 28 (23.7%)
5 sets: 23 (19.5%)

It’s interesting to observe that 5-set matches are basically the same. There is, however, a higher proportion of 3-set matches between conference foes. I can’t help but think that is a function of how coaches schedule non-conference matches.

Match time length

If we assume each 25-point set takes about 25 minutes to play, and a 15-point set is about 15 minutes, we get an indication of approximately how long matches take. That is about 75 minutes, 100 minutes, and 115 minutes respectively for 3, 4, and 5-set matches. Obviously, that’s a rough guide.How long a match goes is a function of how competitive it is, and whether it’s consistently competitive (tight sets rather than trading off lopsided scores).

Everyone talks about the 2-hour TV time block as being the sweet spot to make volleyball attractive to broadcasters. If every match lasted four sets things would work out pretty well for that. The problem is less than a third of matches, based on the numbers above, actually hit that mark. Roughly half fall well short, and about 20% potentially run too long.

This is why I say variability is probably the biggest issue.

And I’m not just talking about that in terms of TV. It also impacts the on-site spectator experience – and the one for players and coaches as well. I can tell you from personal experience that it’s a real drag to travel hours for a match and have it last an hour. It’s very easy to wonder why you bother to make the trip.

Where does FIVB idea take us?

I don’t see going to a best-of-7 set format altering things much in terms of time variability. Yes, it most likely keeps matches under 2 hours if we continue to assume 15-minutes per set. Unfortunately, you still have the problem of a match only lasting an hour. That would be the case for a 4-setter.

This might be fine in the case of a big tournament like World Championships where teams play multiple matches and there are lots of them happening each day. As a stand-alone, though, all it would seem to do is solve the problem of matches running more than 2 hours. I personally don’t see that as being a major TV issue, as I’ve written about before.

More upsets?

There’s another side to this that I am really curious to see. That’s whether the 15-point sets lead to more set upsets. Generally speaking, the more points you play the more likely it is for the better team to win (same with playing more sets). Playing shorter sets means you have a greater influence of simple randomness. That could let to more instances of the weaker team winning sets than is currently the case. Presumably, the best-of-7 format would offset this, but I’ll be curious to see how it plays out.

Different mentality?

Also, there is the question of playing and coaching mentality. Is it different when only playing to 15 points? Making the high percentage play is probably the right strategy when you play a large number of points. When you play fewer points, though, there’s less time for the percentages to work out. How does that influence strategy and decision-making?

Also, what kind of impact does having to repeatedly get mentally up for the next game have on players? To an extent, with the longer sets players can play themselves into the action. They don’t have to worry too much about things not going well early. With the more sprint nature of shorter sets, though, that cushion goes away.

The bottom line is we have to see this new match structure in action to really gauge its implications.

Follow-up: John Kessel wrote the following about this format proposal. It matches much of what I noted above.

There are three things going on in these experiments.** 1. lengthening average matches. Currently world wide in best 3 of 5, 61% of the matches end 3-0, leaving fans going home “early” and TV having some 50 minutes of time left to “fill”; Junior play being best 2 of 3 means they fit in an hour time slot. By going to 4 of 7, and shortening the sets, then more upsets/longer matches still in the 2 hour window are more likely, see #2.. The move to rally meant shorter matches, but more upsets – and that is true statistically – refer to Finite Markov Chains for more on why this happens in all sports. The chance for upsets to occur means smaller nations/more nations might upset the top teams, and, as seen in soccer/futbal, that is a good thing to grow the game world wide.

* – The LSC is one of the stronger conferences in NCAA Division II women’s volleyball. In 2016 its top two teams finished the year in the Top-25 of the AVCA coaches poll.

** – The other “experiments” he is including are disallowing players to land in front of the service and attack (3m) lines on jump serves and back row attacks respectively.

Report on my Europe trip

This is a little more delayed than I’d intended, but here goes.

As previously reported, I spent a week in Poland observing the Australian Men’s National Team training camp. My friend – and Volleyball Coaching Wizards partner – Mark Lebedew was named head coach of the Aussie team in the latter part of 2016. This was his first camp and it’s focus is on prep for World League. Their first round of play will be in Slovakia. That being the case, and with many of the Aussie guys playing on club teams in Europe, it made sense to have camp there. Mark arranged for his club in Poland, Jastrzębski Węgiel, to host.

I’ve never been to a national team training. Also, I’ve only ever seen Mark coaching in the latter parts of a season when things were pretty well established. I was curious to see what he’d be doing with a new team from the start. So off I went to Poland!

Here’s photographic proof. 🙂

This was actually my second time in Poland. The first time was back in 2014. I was in Berlin at the time and Mark had a spare ticket to Men’s World Championships. So I tagged along with him to Wroclaw.

The training

I arrived late on Tuesday, so my first day in the gym was Wednesday. The team had the weekend off, and I was there through the following Tuesday, so I sat in on five days of work. The team did 2-a-days. The afternoons were team sessions. The mornings were split, however. How that worked varied a bit.

During the first three days I was there, the receivers started on the court. They worked with legendary coach – and future Wizards interviewee – Andrea Anastasi. After about 45 minutes they went to lift, then it was time for the middles to have the court. They worked on blocking with former German national team player and current Lüneburg head coach Stefan Hübner. Mark gave Andrea and Stefan complete control.

Andrea and Stefan left after Friday, so things were a little different for Monday and Tuesday. Mark took charge of the receivers, and they still worked on passing each morning before lifting. This time, though, the second group was the setters. They worked with an experienced professional setter named Mishkin. The afternoons were still team sessions.

I will follow up with a couple of posts that talk more specifically about stuff I saw. There were some interesting ideas and approaches. As you may have seen, I already posted a warm-up game Stefan used one day.

By the way, Mark told me in advance that I wouldn’t be required to help out at all in practice. He’d have more than enough help, he said. Somehow, though, I still found myself collecting and feeding balls.

The social stuff

Watching Mark and the others run court sessions was, of course, only part of the experience. Along with Andrea, Stefan, and Mishkin, there were a number of other coaches on-hand. One was Mark’s club team assistant from last season, Luke. He actually is the coach who preceded me at Svedala, and was recently named the head coach at Berlin. He’s an Aussie, and a member of Mark’s national team staff.

There were two other Aussies there as part of the staff. Lauren Bertolacci is a former Aussie women’s player. She currently coaches a men’s team in the Swiss league. It’s pretty rare to see a female coach at all, never mind for a men’s team! I’ve known of Lauren for a while, but this was the first time we got to meet.

The other coach was Liam Sketcher. He spent the last couple years coaching at Marienlyst in the Danish men’s professional league.

There was plenty of down time, so I got to speak quite a bit with everyone. And Andrea regaled us with many stories! 🙂

Unfortunately, my friend Ruben from TV Bühl had to cancel his planned visit. I spent time with him during his club’s pre-season in both 2014 and 2015.

The rest of my trip

After I left Poland I spent a week bouncing around. Most of my time was in England, but I also spent a couple days in Germany. In England I mostly did non-volleyball stuff. I spent a day visiting with an old friend in Ipswich and then a day in Exeter with my PhD supervisor talking about our on-going research efforts. While in Exeter I also had lunch with the guy who got me into coaching the university teams.

After Exeter it was off to Husum in Germany where I met up with Oliver Wagner. He is spearheading the effort to bring a team from the area into the German top men’s league – the Bundesliga. That club is WattVolleys. We talked A LOT of volleyball over the two days I was there.

The final part of my trip before returning home was a visit to the University of Essex. Former England national team and professional player Alex Porter runs the volleyball performance program there. Essex is one of the senior academies designated by Volleyball England. Alex showed me around the campus and we talked a lot about the university and coaching.

Improving pre-match warm-ups

The question of how to handle pre-match warm-ups is one that comes to mind every season. I’m not the only one who finds that. Here’s a question I got from a coach in Hawaii.

I have been coaching boys high school volleyball for 27 years now and am always looking for ways to educate and improve myself. We just finished the season losing a well played match, so a loss I can live with. In any case most of our players are multi sport so the little time we have to work with them has to be jammed packed with info and training. Sorry so long winded and I do have a question in here but stared checking you site and I do enjoy reading the articles and the different drills.

Now my question: I am looking for a better warm up drill before each match. The warm ups go as follows just before the match both teams have a 5 minute shared on there respective sides of the net. Then each team has a 5 minute on court (hitting) and 5 off court (digging usually)…. it’s the 5 minutes hitting that I wanted help with or to do something different with. So the routine is I along with another coach will toss balls to the hitters to assure an accurate set in which to hit the ball. I would estimate each player gets about 4-6 good swings. Then we’ll go to a 6 ON where the starting six with the position players are are placed in there position. The coach will toss a free ball and players move accordingly and execute pass set hit and cover…. any thoughts are welcome…

I have to admit, I like the simplicity of FIVB warm-ups. Shared hitting is the biggest part. The first four minutes are through 4, and the second four minutes are through 1 (I actually thought four minutes was took long, but those are the rules). Two minutes of shared serving wraps things up. My teams in England did a dynamic warm-up, then just peppered until it was time. My Svedala team mixed in a defensive drill run by the players.

I know a lot of coaches don’t like shared hitting. That’s fine. Admittedly, it does lack game-like elements. My general feeling, though, is that what we do in women’s college these days with the 4-4-5-5 thing is a bit ridiculous. That’s after already spending 30+ minutes warming-up on your own half of the court!

Moreover, I sometimes see coaches do 30-60 minutes of “serve and pass” right before warm-ups begin. I wrote about this in my post about match-day serve and pass sessions. Seems excessive to me.

Anyway, I digress. Let’s get back to the email inquiry above.

What is the purpose of warm-ups?

We need to ask the question, what is the purpose of our pre-match warm-up?

I think the automatic response is to prepare for the upcoming competition. Sounds pretty reasonable, right? Well, there’s a line of reasoning that takes a different view. It suggests that warm-ups are just one more developmental opportunity. You need to decide which point of view you favor because that factors into the best use of your warm-up time.

Consider the warm-up described above where coaches toss balls to hitters for a certain amount of time. If you take a “warm-ups are learning time” point of view, then you probably would not want coaches tossing to hitters. Those are low quality reps for learning purposes. Plus, that leaves out an opportunity for players to also work on passing and setting – maybe serving too. It’s the coaches who get the most reps in this sort of exercise. And if the setting is so poor as to argue for coaches tossing, then the setters definitely need more reps!

Now, if you are taking more the “preparation to play” perspective on warm-ups, then maybe the coach toss hitting makes sense. Personally, I’m not so sure.

The purpose of the coach toss seems to be to get the hitters “good” reps. What is a “good” rep, though? Is it good from the perspective that it replicates the type of hitting they will do in the match? Sounds like probably not. Instead, it seems like these are mainly feel good reps. If that’s the case, is there a better way to get a similar psychological effect?

Mixing both approaches

During the 2016 season at MSU we eventually settled on a warm-up pattern that seemed to work. Our first four minutes on court was split in half. The first two minutes were the pin hitters receiving served balls and attacking sets from their passes. The second two minutes was the middles attacking, still off passed balls. This was a time where we could insert a bit of coaching. Just pull a player aside after they completed a rep.

In our five minute segment we did four minutes of just free ball initiated rallies and finished with a minute of serving. We didn’t start the year doing the free ball rally thing. It was something we switched to early on, though, and kept it. What better prepares you to play volleyball than playing volleyball? It was full-blooded hitting, blocking, and defense that really got the intensity level up.

Could we have created more of a learning opportunity with that latter segment? Probably. We went with free balls mainly for the sake of keeping the tempo high. We could, however, have initiated balls in certain ways to replicate something we wanted to work on. Also, we could have dictated certain types of playing patterns. For example, the first ball must be a high ball to the OH.

My thoughts

Returning to the question of the 5-minute warm-up time the coach above asked about, here’s something I would at least try. Jump straight into free ball rallies. The easy first ball should guarantee a decent set to start the play and things will proceed from there. The players should already be more than warm enough to jump and hit by this point, so that’s not the real issue.

If the players are not quite ready to go into game play, first try to figure out if you could do something different beforehand to get them ready. If so, you will make your warm-ups more effective and efficient. Maybe you do need to insert something like a little hitting into the over-the-net period, though. That’s fine. When all is said and done, even if you want to make your warm-up development, it still needs to leave the players in a good position to play.

 

Help MSU Volleyball go to Buenos Aires

The other day I wrote a post about the work I’m doing to organize a team trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina for the Midwestern State University (MSU) Volleyball team. We are in the active fund-raising stage and could really use some help. Our working estimated cost is $65,000, the bulk of which is air fare. That is probably on the high side as we used a slightly high player count. Even still, the trip will require a lot of money to make happen.

This is no bake sale fund raising situation. Yes, we are doing events to bring in funds. Last year we hosted a kick-off event for the local high school teams, and will do so again this year. We get to keep most of the gate receipts. We’re also running clinics and doing some other things as well. All of that is likely to cover maybe 30% of the cost, though.

The rest has to come from donations and/or sponsorships.

This is where you come in. We want your money! 🙂

We set up a donations page on the university’s Development site. Right now we are able to access matching funds for anyone who has not donated to MSU in the last five years. There is only a limited amount left, though, and it isn’t just dedicated to volleyball. It’s first-come, first-served. Needless to say, we’re pushing hard to get donations in ASAP so they can be matched.

If you can help, there’s no donation too small. Especially when you double it!

For those who want to think a bit bigger…

Interested in a sponsorship opportunity?

Our Athletic Director will allow us to create a sponsorship agreement with any business who contributes meaningfully to the trip. That means inclusion in all trip publicity, social media, match-day announcements, and any other way we can think of to get the word out. Obviously, though, we need to make sure there are no conflicts with current sponsors.

As an alternative – or parallel – opportunity, you can become site sponsor for CoachingVB.com in exchange for a sufficiently large donation. This site is well respected and frequently read among volleyball coaches (see this post for some details). There is an associated Facebook page, as well as a Twitter account. I also have a growing email list of volleyball coaches.

Contact me to talk more about possible sponsorship arrangements. That goes for either this website or MSU Volleyball – or both. We can go into further detail from there.