Archive for Volleyball Coaching News & Info

Year in Review: 2015

Well, 2015 was certainly an interesting and eventful year!

Job

On the personal front, I went through an often frustrating job hunt process in which I put in for over 100 college coaching jobs in the States and only managed to get a single interview out of the process. That all ended positively enough with me landing my first ever job in professional volleyball, though.

Education

I also went through an often frustrating PhD completion process. Things just seemed to drag out. Part of it was semi-intentional related to my funding, but there were long periods when I just wished certain things could move more quickly forward. Again, though, that all ended positively.

Travel

Aside from traveling around Sweden and the Copenhagen area while coaching Svedala, I got in four volleyball trips in 2015. Most of them were to Germany. The first was to hang out with with Mark Lebedew of At Home on the Court. and his then team Berlin Recycling Volleys (Mark now coaches for Jastrzębski Węgiel in Poland). I got to watch them play their big domestic rivals and a CEV Champions League match.

That was in January. Shortly afterwards, Berlin was selected to host the Champions League Final 4. I went back to watch in late March. Pretty cool experience!

In August I made a return visit to TV Bühl. You may recall I spent about 10 days with them in 2014 as well. This time it was closer to three weeks altogether. They were going through the early stages of their preseason. I used it as a kind of coaching preseason of my own as the trip was right before I had to report to Sweden to start work with Svedala.

The single non-German trip was the one I made back to the States in February to attend the USA Volleyball High Performance Coaches Clinic. That was a really worthwhile experience. I came back with a lot of things to think about – and write about, as you may have noticed. Unfortunately, I can’t go again this year. The Svedala schedule is quite full for January and February. I’d do it in a heartbeat if I could, though!

I did contemplate going to the AVCA convention last month. In the end, though, it would have been a really tight thing to schedule. Plus it would have put a strain on the budget.

New Project

Alongside finishing my degree and starting a new coaching job, I also began the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project with Mark Lebedew. That has been a really cool new adventure. Yes, it’s been a TON of work! It’s also, however, given me the chance to connect and talk with some really great coaches. We’ve done something like 25 interviews so far, with many, many more folks on the list for future conversations. What’s been really interesting is that the coaches we’ve interviewed are some of the biggest supporters of the project. They all thinks it’s a great idea!

The Blog

Coaching Volleyball crushed it in 2015. It’s as simple as that!

The blog had more than twice as many visitors and page views than it had in 2014 – nearly 60,000 and 130,000 respectively. December, which has normally been one of the quieter months in terms of traffic, saw four days of over 1000 pages views thanks largely to the Rules for coaching volleyball from John Kessel post [with a little help from Volleyball calendar girls (and boys) on one of those days]. The “rules” piece seems to have gone viral on Facebook. Before that one went up, the highest single day for pages views was in the 800s, I believe.

Here’s where the visitors came from.

CoachingVB-2015-Geo

The king of page views for 2015 is the Volleyball Try-Out Drill Ideas post, though. That one garnered over 13,000 looks. Not surprisingly, they were clustered mainly around the start of the school season and the Juniors club season. As such, it was responsible for establishing a new monthly high readership of over 21,000 views in August.

It may not come as any surprise that search engine traffic was the largest contributor to page views given all the interest in the try-out post. Facebook was a distant second. Interestingly, nearly five times as much readership came from there than from Twitter. This is despite the blog having basically the same number of followers on both platforms.

Magazine articles

For a while now the folks at the AVCA have pulled selected posts from the blog to include in the Coaching Volleyball 2.0 online magazine. In 2015, though, I finally got into the main flagship Coaching Volleyball magazine with the first in a series of articles about my experience coaching overseas. I’ve already written a second that should be included in the next issue, though they could use it (and the others to follow) on one of their other platforms.

Looking forward

Honestly, I have no idea where 2016 is going to take me!

With any luck, it will involve a bunch of winning with my Svedala team. Our first shot at hardware (at least in the regular season) is coming up next weekend. We’re the top seed for the 4-team Gran Prix tournament. The club won two years ago, so we’re looking to repeat. After that, it will be all about going for Svedala’s first Elitserie championship. You can keep track of our progress via my coaching log.

Of course, work on the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project will continue. Aside from the interviews themselves, the podcast is something Mark and I have fun doing. It gives us a chance to talk about all the interesting stuff we’re hearing from the Wizards.

The huge number of page views for the try-out drill ideas page makes it pretty clear that there’s a lot of demand for information and ideas on that subject. One of my plans for the new year is to develop something – maybe a mini course – to help folks out there. I’d wanted to do it in 2015, but never seemed to get around to it.

Beyond that, who knows? I’m only on a 1-season contract at Svedala, so at some point I’ll have a decision to make about my future in coaching. At the same time I have a bunch of non-volleyball stuff I’m working on as well. I guess we’ll see where it all takes me! 🙂

Taking a bit of a break

Just a quick note to let you know that I’ll be taking a bit of a break from the blogging and stuff.

The first half of the season ended for Svedala on Tuesday. That’s a bit ahead of much of the league, which finishes up this weekend. I’ll have a final 2015 coaching log entry on Monday with all the final details.

Other than that, though, I’m going to take a break from volleyball to get some other things done between now and when we get back together on the 28th. If you find yourself suffering from withdrawal, be sure to check out the Volleyball Coaching Wizards Podcast for some interesting coaching discussions.

You can call me Doctor now

Well, I’m not sure what the timing is in terms of when the degree is officially conferred, but effectively it’s a done deal. I’m a freshly minted PhD. 🙂

On Monday I was back in Exeter doing what they call “viva” in UK academic terms. It’s roughly equivalent to what would be referred to in the US as a doctoral defense. Basically, I met with my two examiners – one from the Exeter faculty (internal) and one from another university (external) – in this case from the University of Reading. They received copies of my thesis shortly after I submitted in in early October, reviewed it, then discussed their views on it between themselves.

The viva was basically me talking about the thesis with them. I was asked to do about a 5 minute summary and then we went over the full document. They asked questions about the theory that went into it and the analytic methods I used, and pointed out a handful of minor issues. I then left the room for a couple minutes as they conferred.

When I was called back in, they shook my hand and congratulated me. The official result is I’ve been awarded my doctorate subject to completion of minor corrections to the thesis. Today I was provided a list of those corrections (they really are minor) by the internal examiner. I’ll get an official letter shortly with the same details. Once I’ve made the corrections, I’ll have to submit the final thesis along with a letter outlining the corrections I made to my supervisor and that will basically complete the process.

And so ends 3+ years of struggle and strain!

Can’t complain too much. I got back into coaching volleyball while I was doing it. 🙂

 

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Turkey Day to all the readers in the States and to all my fellow ex-pats where ever you are in the world.

Thanksgiving

Some things to make volleyball better

There’s an article on Volleyball Country in which a contributor talks about three things he thinks would make volleyball better. This is from a spectator’s perspective They are:

  • Emotions
  • Live statistics
  • Better video challenge

The other two are fairly straightforward. In terms of emotion, the author’s idea is to allow players to basically taunt the opposition. For example, a blocker would be able to scream in the face of a hitter they just roofed.

Maybe he doesn’t remember, but that sort of thing used to be allowed – at least in men’s volleyball. On the women’s side the rules of conduct were more strict in my remembering. I recall always thinking it was stupid that a girl would get a yellow card, or at least a warning, for something that boys did all the time. These days male and female players basically operate by what I remember were the expectations for girls when I was involved in high school volleyball in the late 80s.

Personally, I’m fine with things the way they are. I think there’s plenty of emotion in the sport. The author specifically mentioned football as an example of a sport with a lot of emotion, but the NFL banned taunting years ago.

For me, there’s a real difference in watching men’s volleyball live vs. watching it on TV. I much prefer the former because you experience the emotion, the athleticism, the power and speed, etc. in a way which has yet to really translate through the broadcast medium. I think women’s volleyball, with it’s generally longer rallies and lesser reliance on physicality, is a better TV/streaming watching experience.

Of course, the quality of the broadcast is a central factor, which speaks to the live stats and video replay improvement desires.

Ding dong, the thesis is gone!

It’s a joyous day today the world over!

I have finally sent my PhD thesis in for printing and initial submission. Talk about a gigantic weight off my shoulders!

This isn’t the end of the process. I have to go through what is called “Viva” at a time which is to be determined. Basically, it’s me sitting down with my two thesis examiners to talk things over. In the US it would be called a “defense”, though I don’t know if they are quite the same. In any case, barring some major issue, after the viva I will probably have to do some minor edits before final submission and at least earning the right to be called Dr. Forman.

The major work is done, though. Three years of reading academic research papers, running untold numbers of regressions and other forms of statistical analysis, and trying to turn it all into some sort of cohesive and meaningful document are finally at an end.

Of course all this just means I can shift my focus to other work that’s been awaiting my attention. :-/

 

New Volleyball Coaching Podcast Up and Running!

I’ve mentioned before (here and here) my intention to eventually get a volleyball coaching podcast going. It’s finally a reality!

The Volleyball Coaching Wizards Podcast went live on Monday. The first episode, which is dubbed Episode 0, is simply an introduction from myself and my co-host, Mark Lebedew from At Home on the Court. We share our own coaching histories, what motivated each of us to develop the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project, and some thoughts on interesting things that have come out of the interviews done so far.

Starting next week, the podcast win running on a weekly basis with regular episodes. They will each run about 30 minutes. The subject matter will mainly come from the Wizards interviews, though we’ll also mix in some interesting coaching and volleyball stuff we come across or hear about more broadly as well.

I know we’re not the first or only volleyball podcast out there. The Net Live is one both Mark and I listen to regularly. That one is very US-focused and covers a lot of ground between beach and indoor, college and international play. There’s a Canadian volleyball podcast with a similar concept at the Volleyball Source. There are even a couple of volleyball coaching podcasts that have started up in the last year or so. Technical Timeout is run by a former Canadian national team player. USA Volleyball technical guy Joe Trinsey also has one.

What’s life without a little competition, though! 🙂

Don’t worry if it gets a bit quiet

I might be a bit quiet these next couple of weeks.

My PhD thesis submission deadline is September 24th. Needless to say, when I’m not in the gym with the team – or planning training sessions – I’ll likely be mainly focused on putting the finishing touches on that document. This is initial submission – the first step in a 3-stage process of finishing my doctorate.

I will maintain the coaching log, though.

Being ready is often a function of trust

A while back, Mark from At Home on the Court wrote a post on the subject of technical vs. non-technical reasons for errors in volleyball. In it he blamed lack of readiness for many of the mistakes we see in play. He recently specifically highlighted that with regards to players playing the ball with their feet.

Now, we’re not talking about a player sliding toward the sign boards or the score table. We’re talking about a player who has their weight on their heels and basically has no option but to perform a “kick save” type action. Their lack of defensive readiness prevents them doing anything else.

I’ll add a layer of readiness to the mix by including trust in the discussion. Specifically, I’m talking about the trust between players that someone is going to make a play.

This is something that was very much on my mind following Monday’s first training session with Svedala. I saw players making really outstanding plays on the ball. They were recovering balls from out of the net, chasing balls down all over the place, and keeping what looked like sure-thing kill balls from hitting the floor. Too often, though, I saw teammates not anticipating and being ready to make a good next contact.

The same can be said to apply to hitters with respect to sets. While I was at Exeter I had a setter one year who loved to do counter-flow back sets to the Zone 2 pin. This sometimes caught our hitters flat-footed because they weren’t expecting it, even though it was exactly the right set to make in the situation.

Trust in one’s teammates to do their job and to make plays goes a long way toward being ready.