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Archive for Volleyball Coaching News & Info

Volleyball a niche mainstream sport?

In an edition of the Volleyball Ace Power Tips newsletter, American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) president Kathy DeBoer had a bit of a rant. She got quite fired up about the perception of volleyball as a sport in the States. If you’re not a US reader, don’t flip the channel, though. I’m going somewhere with this discussion with a broad implication.

In the newsletter, Kathy took a look at some figures related to high school and college level volleyball participation. It started with the state of Michigan where there are more girls’ volleyball teams at the high school level than any other female team sport (20% more participants than the next highest). This was been the case for the last 15 years. In fact, only boys’ basketball had more schools sponsoring teams in Michigan at the time. Despite this, volleyball was only sponsored by 50 of the colleges in the state while women’s basketball was in 56.

Kathy said the AVCA manager of media relations made the comment, “Volleyball is the only mainstream sport that everyone thinks is a niche sport, even the people in it. I can tell you right now, no male sport with the participation and sponsorship numbers of volleyball would ever consider itself a niche sport.”

I think there’s a key bit in there which is really telling. It’s the “…even the people in it.” bit. I’ve been involved in volleyball since the latter 1980s. Thinking on that phrase, I couldn’t help but look back on all those years and realize he’s totally right.

The newsletter went on to show that 22 of the 50 states featured girls’ volleyball as the top team sport. Soccer came in second in the rankings at 16 states. Basketball was a distant third with only 7 states. And yet, basketball continues to have a higher profile than either volleyball or soccer at the collegiate level.

There are at least two parts to this problem.

One of them is the lack of a comparable men’s sport with a high profile. Unfortunately, men’s volleyball is way behind the women’s side of the sport. Some blame Title IX for that. There’s a lot of competition in male sports, though. Also, for a long time volleyball was viewed as a girls’ sport (as indicated in The Volleyball Debate). In some places it still is!

Regardless of the reason, not having a strong men’s counterpart does play a part. Title IX compliance strongly encourages schools to provide equal funding and other support to women’s teams as given to the men in the same sport. Thus, when men’s basketball gets loads of money, media coverage, etc. it will invariably follow that women’s basketball does too.

Actually, now retired Brian Gimmillaro from Long Beach State suggested something to me during a chat we had once. It was about the business side of things. He said women’s volleyball determines the support of the men’s team instead of the other way around. He said the men’s coach there told him to keep on winning because the men benefit from it. That means things like getting the best locker and team room facilities in the conference. The decision by the Athletic Director at the University of Pacific to cut men’s volleyball (which had a budget of about $100k less than the women) for funding purposes provides an idea of the state of the game on that side of things.

This sort of development suggests that we really need to be looking to address the profile of women’s volleyball, both in its own right and potentially as a way to elevate the men’s side of the game as well. There being no male counterpart to the recently developed collegiate Sand Volleyball competition tends to support this argument. The high profile of Misty & Kerri, and then Kerri & April, at the pro and Olympic level have brightened the spot light on the women’s side of the beach game as well.

So how do we do increase the profile of women’s volleyball – or volleyball in general?

At the grass roots level, the AVCA newsletter offers some good advice about dealing with local media to make it easier for them to write about the sport. Part of it is just realizing that most media types do not have volleyball backgrounds. That means it needs extra support from those of us in the community to cover the sport effectively and efficiently. Obviously, getting our own teams, clubs, etc. press coverage is the main focus, but by doing just that we raise the profile of volleyball in general.

On top of all that, we have to make sure we are constantly letting everyone out there know how great a sport we have and how the sport is developing in a way which demonstrates how mainstream it is – or in the case where it’s still developing, how well it’s growing. In short, we need to be evangelists. Just don’t be obnoxious about it. 😉

Proposed FIVB rules changes ahead

There’s a lot of talk going around the volleyball community globally about the rules changes FIVB is looking at potentially institute in the future. Here’s one bit of analysis (and opinion) from The Art of Coaching Volleyball, and another from former US national team coach Hugh McCutcheon.. Volleywood has a post which tracks the recent changes regarding new rules for the current cycle, which includes the rule against taking serves overhead that was going to go in, but got postponed.

Here are some of what is being talked about by the powers that be:

  • Require servers to land behind the end line
  • Back row attackers must land behind the 3-meter or 10-foot line
  • Eliminate open-hand tip
  • Eliminate overhead serve receive serve
  • Penalties for a missed serve
  • Free substitution – any player can sub for any player at any time
  • Any contact with the center line is a violation
  • Any net touch by an athlete is a violation
  • Decrease the number of points per set

Personally, I’ve long been opposed to the rules changes allowing center line touch/penetration and net contact. Aside from it being a question of player safety, I also think body control is a key skill in volleyball and letting players swim in the net and such detracts from that.

The requirement that players land behind the end line on a jump serve probably wouldn’t have much impact (except in gyms where there isn’t all that much area behind the line to start with). Not allowing back row attackers to broad jump to hit things like BICs would be meaningful, though.

I’m not sure about dropping the open-hand tip. Sounds like it’s mainly intended to eliminate setter dumps with the idea being they are rally killers. I may be OK with it on that basis (though my immediate question is why not just play better defense?), but I’m mixed in terms of taking the tip away from hitters. Some suggest a roll shot can be used instead, which is fair enough, I suppose.

On the penalties for missed serves, I understand that they want to cut down on what is a pretty dull play and reduce the amount of time players just go back and bomb away. Missed serves are already penal, though, and not just in terms of giving the other team a point (see my post about when not to miss your serve).

In terms of free subs, you can see something moving in that direction in play in the US women’s collegiate game – which always seems to play just a bit differently than everyone else. There they use the libero (who can serve in one rotation) plus have 12-15 subs (it seems to change periodically). That obviously creates a lot of specialization opportunity. There is something to be said for having the best possible line-up on the court at all times for the highest level of play. I’d want to see exactly how this would be instituted, though. I personally would like to see the core rotational nature of the game being maintained.

And of course there’s the no overhead passes on serve receive rule which was to go in this year but his been pulled back for further review. I personally like cleaning up serve receive passing to get rid of the doubles, though completely ruling out the overhead pass seems unnecessarily restrictive. The hard bit will be having a whole generation of players who’ve come up playing with their hands suddenly having to change.

What about you? What are your thoughts?

BUCS Volleyball showing 13%+ growth y/y

A little while back I posted about the growth in the number of Western League volleyball teams competing in BUCS for the 2013-14 campaign. As I noted then, we’re seeing net growth on both the men’s and women’s side such that in both cases there will A and B sub-divisions within Division 2 whereas in 2012-13 there was only Division 2A for both genders.

Being the curious sort, I decided to take a look to see if there’s growth in other parts of BUCS system. As it turns out, there is.

On the men’s side, excluding the Western League, there’s a net gain of 12 teams for the new campaign. The Midlands and Southeastern Leagues are both growing by 5 teams, leading to the addition of a Division 3 in both places where none existing last season. The Northern League added a pair of teams, while the Scottish League held steady.

On the women’s side the gain was six teams. The Midlands League gained 5 teams, resulting in a split in Division 2 in to A and B groups. The Northern League actually lost 4 teams, seeing Division 3 dropped. The Scottish League gained 2 teams, causing Division 2 to be split to create Division 3. The South Eastern League gained 3 teams on net, adding a Division 3B.

So here are the total 2013-14 net team gains by League:

Midlands +10
Northern -2
Scottish +2
Southeastern +8
Western +8

That gives us a total net gain of 26 teams in a single year, which is just over 13%. That puts BUCS volleyball up through the 200 team mark. Not bad for a place that supposedly doesn’t care about volleyball.

BUCS 2014 Volleyball Final 8s to be in Edinburgh

BUCS announced on Thursday that the 2014 edition of the volleyball Final 8s will be held at the University of Edinburgh. I’m not familiar with the gym and can’t find a photo of it online, but the press release says it’s been “…used several times for BUCS Home Nations events and again, an Olympic training venue.” That at least makes it sound better than the gym at Leeds Met where the 2013 Finals 8s were held. That place was widely reviled by the participants for having insufficient service area or overhead space, lacking in air circulation, having a dance studio as a warm-up area, and generally being a tight squeeze for the 16 teams playing on the two available courts.

That said, Edinburgh is by no means centrally located. That likely will mean added travel costs for everyone involved. Last year, for example, the Western league sent 4 teams to Finals 8s – Bournemouth men & women, Bristol women, Exeter men. Leeds was already a lengthy trip from down in the South West. Edinburgh would require just about all day travel via ground transport.

It will be interesting to see the scheduling on this. At Leeds the last time around they did alternating men’s and women’s waves of play on the two available courts. Literally, the Pool A men would play two matches, then the net would be lowered and the Pool A women would play two matches. Each team plays 4 matches – 3 pool + 1 cross-over. If Edinburgh has 4 courts then at least the pool play can be done on Saturday. That would leave just the cross-over matches to be played on Sunday, allowing teams an early departure time.

2013-14 BUCS Men’s and Women’s Western League Teams

The BUCS website has been updated with the the teams for the upcoming season. The Western league is the one in which teams from the South West compete. Here are teams for Division 1.

Men’s Division 1
Bath
Bournemouth 1st
Cardiff
Exeter 1st
Gloucestershire
Southampton


Men’s Division 2A
Bristol
Bournemouth 2nd
Exeter 2nd
UC Falmouth
UWE Winchester


Men’s Division 2B
Aberystwyth
SW Pontypridd & Cardiff 1st
SW Pontypridd & Cardiff 2nd
Swansea
UW Newport

Women’s Division 1
Bath
Bournemouth
Bristol
Cardiff
Exeter 1st
Swansea


Women’s Division 2A
Gloucestershire 1st
Southampton
Marjons
Exeter 2nd
UC Falmouth


Women’s Division 2B
Aberystwyth
Gloucestershire 2nd
SW Pontypridd & Cardiff 1st
SW Pontypridd & Cardiff 2nd
UW Newport

Bournemouth won both the men’s and women’s Division 1 last season. Aberystwyth was relegated out of both men’s and women’s Division 1, with Gloucestershire moving up on the men’s side and Swansea earning promotion on the women’s side.

It’s worth noting that last year there was no Division 2B for either men or women. There were 8 women’s sides last year in Division 2A, so we’ve seen a net addition of 2 teams there – Southampton Solent out; Exeter 2nd, UW Newport, and UC Falmouth in. On the men’s side there were only 6 teams in Division 2A, so it’s a net pick up of four teams – Southampton Solent out; Bournemouth 2nd, Exeter 2nd, UC Falmouth, UW Newport, and UWE Winchester in.

Adding 6 teams in one year strikes me as a pretty good indication of the direction of volleyball in the South West. That’s nearly a 25% jump in the amount of playing opportunities on offer in the region for a group of young people ideally situated to become future coaches. And of course the growth also means more coaching opportunities for those of us already in the field.

By the way, don’t go by the fixture list BUCS has posted on the site. They feel the need to fill that in and basically make stuff up. The recent history of the Western league is to due tournament style competitions as much as possible.

Graphic Help Wanted!

I need a couple of graphic elements designed for the website and related social media, if anyone out there has the skills and creativity.

Website Banner
The banner you currently see on the site is just a stock one which came with the blog theme. Obviously, I’d like something much more appropriate to the coaching volleyball concept. That banner is 940×150 pixels in size.

Twitter Photo and Header
Ideally this would match up with the website banner for the sake of consistent branding. The header has a recommended size of 1252×626 pixels, while the photo is only 73×73.

Facebook Cover and Photo
Same idea as with Twitter – something that will have brand consistency with the website banner. The photo is 160×160. The cover looks to be something like 840×310, keeping in mind that the photo overlaps part of the lower left area.

Business Card/Stationary Logo
It would be nice to be able to hand out business cards or other print materials (or PDF versions) featuring a logo for the site.

If you would like to give one or more of the above a go, let me know. You can leave a comment below or use the contact form.

Welcome to Coaching Volleyball!

The primary motivation of this website is to bring together volleyball coaches from England to their mutual benefit. The hope is that along with providing information these pages – and the associated Facebook group, Twitter account and YouTube channel – can become a virtual meeting place where the country’s volleyball coaches can collaborate and cooperate toward building a stronger base of coaching talent. That should, in turn, contribute to a stronger, richer volleyball community.

One could think of it as a kind of fraternity. The idea behind Coaching Volleyball is that it acts as a platform for the free sharing of information, ideas, opinions, and opportunities. And not just in the virtual world, but in the real world as well.

In an ideal world there would be a top level organization providing a strong platform for those interested or involved in coaching volleyball. We all know, however, that Volleyball England has limited resources, and what it does have to invest in things like academies. There’s also no big volleyball coaches group in England, like the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) in the States. The hope here is that this website can at least partly help to fill the gap for local coaches.

To help that along, the expectation is that this site will offer …

  • Programme/Club Administration and Development insights and ideas
  • Practice and Training Plan development recommendations and considerations
  • Drills & Games to use in training and practice sessions
  • Coaching Education resources and suggestions
  • Volleyball Career information and advice
  • Reviews of volleyball coaching related products, services, and other offerings

Look for articles and feature content to start filling in over the next few weeks. I will author a lot of content myself based on my own varied experience coaching volleyball at various levels and operating in numerous administrative capacities (my bio). I’m expecting, though, that others will contribute based on their own experiences. And of course discussion will be encouraged at all times.

Most important than the content, though, is the opportunity for volleyball coaches to come together in a collegial fashion to exchange information and ideas. Part of that will naturally be online through discussions, but it is hoped that there will be some live events as well – either online or off – to further the connectivity and collaboration. I’m hoping for that to include things like:

  • Webinars on topics of interest
  • Social Meetings to develop personal relationships
  • Instructional Sessions to share knowledge and experience
  • Training Cross-Collaboration to help each other out and gain added experience
  • Mentorships to help new coaches develop

To facilitate the fraternal sense mentioned above, and to keep the group small and close-knit (at least for a while) the site will be run on a membership model. In the mean time, while the site is being fleshed out and shaped, it will be open for general access.

Suggestions are more than welcome! Feel free to use the contact form to offer them or to ask any questions you might have.

Best Regards,

John Forman
Head Coach – Exeter University Volleyball Club BUCS teams
Coach – Devon Women’s Volleyball Club (NVL1)