Archive for Volleyball Coaching

Reversion to the mean and why you need to understand it

The term “reversion to the mean” or “regression to the mean” may sound complicated, but it really isn’t. In statistics the term mean is the same as saying average. Reversion or regression in this context just indicates moving back to. Put it all together and you get moving back to average. Pretty straightforward, right?

Why is this important for you to understand as a coach?

Because it speaks to how we react to players under- or over-performing. Even more, it speaks to the cause we link to the effect of a player doing better or worse in the future.

Let me use the following graph to explain.

What you see above is a fairly typical bell curve. It indicates the likelihood of something. In this case, let’s think in terms of a volleyball player’s performance. The horizontal axis is performance from very bad to very good. The vertical axis is probability, from low to high. As you move along the bell curve line you get the odds the player performs at a given level. The odds are low that they perform either very poorly or very well, while the odds are relatively high that they perform somewhere around their average.

Here’s where the reversion or regression part comes in.

Look at the red X. That indicates a pretty bad performance, right? Notice I put a green arrow pointing to the right next to the X. Why? Because, all else being equal, chances are the player will do better in their next opportunity.

Similarly, you’ll see that I put a red arrow pointing left next to the green check mark at a pretty good performance point. Odds are the player won’t be as good next time.

Think about what all this means for how you react to the player. If they just had a bad performance and are probably going to have a good one next time out because the odds favor it, will you yelling at them or punishing them accomplish anything?

Flip that around. If the player just did very well and is probably not going to do as well next time, does it make sense to get overly excited about it?

Here’s a video where John Kessel from USA Volleyball talks about this using a basketball analogy.

So chances are what we say or do is not the cause that leads to the effect of the player doing better or worse next time.

All else not equal?

You’ll note that I said expectations of future performance were, all else equal, that they’d be somewhere around the average. That “all else equal” bit is important and is part of the side of coaching that’s likely more art than science. How you react to a player’s performance has to be linked to whether there is an underlying cause or not. If there is an underlying cause, then what you’re seeing actually reflects the player operating with a different performance distribution than their usual one.

Let’s say a player is sick, as an easy example. If a player is not feeling well then you will think of their expectations in terms of a “performance when sick” curve rather than the general one we’ve been talking about up to now. It features a distribution somewhat left of the usual one. Average performance in this case is probably going to be at a level that would be considered poor by the players’ normal standards.

There are, of course, lots of possible reasons why a player’s performance distribution curve could be temporarily shifted left of where it usually is. Part of your job as a coach is to try to find a way to get it shifted back. That’s not realistic with a sick or injured player, but if it’s one who’s distracted, lacking motivation, or something like that, then it’s something you can address.

From the opposite perspective, maybe a player performs better when mom is at the match. Their performance curve when she’s in attendance is to the right of where you normally see it. From a coaching perspective, you should then be looking at how you can make that shift permanent – aside from assuring Mom’s at every match, of course.

Coach induced shifts

If a player is just having an off day with no real cause, you could actually make things worse by yelling at or punishing them. If it negatively impacts their mood, focus, etc. then you just became the source of the kind of left shift in their performance distribution I talked about above. The same could possibly be true if you excessively praise a player for a good performance. They might start feeling the pressure of expectations.

There are, of course, players who do better after some sharp words or when they know Coach is happy with how they’ve done. This is where knowing your players becomes extremely important.

Starters vs. Subs

It’s worth noting that generally speaking starters are the players with a higher mean level of performance. On average, they perform better than the non-starters. That’s why they are starters. This then ties in with the question of substitutions if a starter is under-performing or the team isn’t doing well.

I should note that players don’t all have the same performance distribution shape. Here’s an example of three different distributions with the same average.

Notice you have the one we’ve been using up to now, which is the one with the 2nd highest peak. You can also see a higher peaked, but more narrow distribution. That indicates a very consistent performer. The last one is wider and flatter, which is what you’d see from a player with very wide performance swings. They can be exceedingly good, but also extremely poor.

Here’s something else worth looking at.

In this case we have players with different averages. The better one has that narrow, tall distribution of the very consistent player. The one with the lower average has a broader range of performance. Generally speaking, the one with the higher average will outperform the other. We can see, though, that there is a little part of the other player’s distribution that goes further to the right. That means sometimes, though not often, they will be the better player of the two.

Raising the mean over time

At the end of the video above John talks briefly about how the job of the coach is the raise a player’s (and team’s) average performance. This simple graph is a representative of that.

You can see in the diagram how the distributions progressively shift to the right. Remember, the horizontal access is performance, so this shows someone getting better over time. In fact, if you look at the right-most curve it does not overlap at all with the left-most curve. That’s a situation where on their worst day a player will do better now than they could ever have done in their initial situation. Think about an 18 year-old player compared to their 14 year-old self. Naturally, the rightward shifts in the performance distribution become smaller as the player gains mastery and experience.

Our job as coaches is, through training and other developmental work, to keep the player’s mean performance rising. How we most effectively do that is the subject of other conversations.

Timeouts

Mark Lebedew and others have provided research into the effectiveness of timeouts. Basically, they find little or none (sideout percentages after timeouts are basically the same as their average). This is another area of coaching where reversion to the mean is a possible explanation for what we think we see. And of course there’s also the question of confirmation bias, but that’s a different subject.

Note: If you want to learn more about the concept of reversion to the mean and other things related to how we humans incorrectly link cause and effect and otherwise trip ourselves up in our interpretation of things, Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow is a good resource.

 

A college coach’s recruiting conundrum

Here’s an interesting situation presented by a college coach.

I’m in year one of a three year old program at a small Christian NAIA school. I’ve been told it’s my program as long as I get my roster number and run it clean and have good kids who are graduating and making strides in the community.

There’s a current group of juniors who have endured a couple of really bad seasons (this season should be our best in program history). As I’m reviewing my recruiting and commitments to the team next year, some player will lose significant playing time to newcomers. My question: do you recruit to replace your current players, add depth, get warm bodies, etc? I love for depth and people to compete for their time at this level but don’t want to make this first large class of seniors last year a bench warming experience. Thoughts?

This is from a Facebook group and got some interesting responses. One of them was, “Your job is to recruit better players than the ones you currently have. Full stop.”

I have a couple problems with that statement, but I’ll focus on the one related to priorities.

First, the priority

Review what the posting coach said the priorities are for their program. Make the roster number (some minimum squad size). Run a clean program. Have good student-athletes who graduate on time and are active in the community. I didn’t see anything about winning, or even being competitive, in there. Did you?

By the way, this type of attitude from the administration is not uncommon at the college level. There are many schools where competitiveness is not a priority. Some blame that on volleyball being a second tier (or lower) sport, which is certainly often true. There are colleges, however, that simply see athletics as part of the student experience – across all sports. Winning for them is just not that important.

It’s all fine and good to want to win. If, however, your boss doesn’t care about wins and losses, you have other priorities to consider. If you think you want to move on some day, you may think the winning and losing will matter to future employers. That’s probably true, but who is going to be on top of your list of references for future jobs. Your current boss (Athletic Director), right? If you don’t do the job they want, do you think they’ll give you a good reference? That’s assuming you don’t simply get fired.

So, for this coach the first recruiting priority is bringing enough players in to make the number. They need to be good students, as well as good citizens.

Of course, I’m not saying you can’t recruit good players and fulfill the above criteria. It’s just that when it comes to favoring one side or the other, the bias has to be toward the above.

Team chemistry

While it’s not specifically on the priority list outlined, you know at least a reasonably positive team chemistry is desirable. No Athletic Director wants to hear about disharmony in a team, especially if it means players (and perhaps parents) calling them to complain. Having a bunch of upperclassmen riding the pine is a quick way to having serious chemistry issues.

That is unless those seniors buy in.

Some times you get players who have suffered so long with the losing and poor performance they just want to be part of something good. They might be willing to sacrifice their own playing time for better overall team performance.

Of course sometimes they say that, then don’t actually live up to it.

So the question is whether you think you can keep those players “recruited over” reasonably happy. They won’t get the playing time, but are there other ways they can still have a role in the team that’s meaningful to them?

One way to go

If you think lack of playing time for upperclassmen is going to cause problems, maybe the best approach is to gradually trickle in higher quality athletes. Instead of bringing in five new players who could start, maybe you bring in 1-2 this year and then build things up over time. That also lets you build toward the type of team culture you want.

The bottom line is it isn’t always good to just go out and recruit the best players you can find.

Coaching Log – March 12, 2018

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2017-18 season.

It’s Spring Break as this post goes up. A little bit of a pause to refresh before things get serious during the last phase of the academic year. Nothing new on the the head coach position. At this point we’re still waiting for the official post to go up.

Recruiting

I mentioned in the last update that we had some pressure come up to make a move on offering a 2018 recruit. Shortly after, the same happening with regards to another. As a result, we had to move forward more quickly on things than desired. Nothing we could do about that, though. We had to make the decisions and line the commitments up.

The middle we offered accepted over the first weekend of the month.

Scheduling

One of the more fun aspects of Spring for college coaches is trying to figure out a schedule for team and small group practices. Player schedules are all over the place. It’s like a puzzle. In this case it was about looking at the post-Spring Break calendar and working out team practice times. We could have scheduled things for early mornings (I’m talking like 6am starts), but we decided not to go that route.

Monday is completely unworkable from a team perspective, so we made that a small group day. The rest of the week we shoehorned practices between class times. In some cases players will have to arrive late or leave early. Looks like Fridays we’ll get out on the sand.

We also had to plan out our Spring tournament the first Saturday of April. That was mainly about trying to line up the various requests of the five other teams that will play.

In terms of the 2018 season, we got the schedule for our second weekend tournament. We’re going to Nebraska-Kearney, who we played in 2017 (#9 in the final poll). I reached out to a couple of non-conference schools about filling our two unfilled dates, but they were already booked up. I’m not too worried about it. We’re going to play 4 out of 5 Tuesdays in October just for conference matches. Even trying to fit them in during September isn’t straightforward as we have to think about our weekend schedules and travel considerations.

Training

The final week of February/first week of March we had gym restrictions. As a result, we did one day of team practice and one day of overlapping group work. The latter was mainly about working on technical elements. Attack was the main focus as neither of our liberos was available.

During the full team session the main focus was a series of games with a certain scoring system. One of the things I’m trying to do when having the team all together playing is to create different types of challenges. This time I wanted the hitters attacking from non-traditional locations. For example, the middles might hit on the pin while the outside hit in the middle. The base scoring of the game was oriented toward first ball side out (FBSO). A team could only score on a kill from the first ball in serve reception. They received a bonus point if that kill came from a hitter hitting “out of position”. If there was no FBSO, then whoever won the rally earned the right to receive the next serve.

The first full week of the month we did hour-long full-team sessions on Tuesday and Thursday. On for Tuesday, expecting eight healthy bodies, I planned a doubles version of Speedball, then the high ball game we’ve played before. In the latter case with bonus points for kills from hand sets as well as for blocks. We ended up with nine, though, so I had to change things up a bit. Basically, I just had one more player on on side and used a rotation. There was a bit of time left over after the high ball games, so I filled in with Winners 3s where the off team came in from the side rather than serving in.

On Thursday I started them off with a competitive serving and passing drill for about the first 10 minutes. They were in teams by position – 2 middles, 2 outsides, 2 right sides, then our setter and a libero. From there we moved on to Winners 2s with a twist. The winners side had a setter, but the challenge side did not. So it was 3 v 2. And to further the twist, we rotated who that fixed setter was. Each player took a turn.

The last part of the session was a narrow court (about 2/3rds) 4 v 4 game. There were a couple of bonus point opportunities. A team got a point for any decent double block, regardless of the outcome (so in theory you could get multiple points in a rally). A team got two bonus points for a block-out kill, meaning 3 overall. Rallies were begun via alternating down balls from coaches, so the tempo was high. We got two games to 25 completed in I think about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, our strength coach had the players going strong in the weight room, along with a mixture of speed/agility and conditioning work in the gym.

Office clean-up

The Volleyball assistant coaches’ office was in desperate need of a clean-up. Over the course of a week or two we got everything organized (the office doubles as storage for things like uniforms and player gear). We also got rid of some junk and other stuff that wasn’t serving any purpose. All that was left was to have facilities come in and haul away some worthless old furniture type stuff. When they did so it really opened up the space!

 

 

Creating pressure in practice

How do you create pressure situations in your practice?

That’s a question coaches ponder a lot. Especially when they see their team crumble in intense match situations.

The fact of the matter, though, is that there are different types of pressure. Some are mainly individual, while others are more team.

Individual pressure

In the case of individual pressure, we’re talking about a situation where one player must execute. That could be at the service line. It could be in serve reception. Or it could be as a hitter. These are situations where the individual player feels the pressure to perform well. Actually, it’s probably more a “not screwing up” type of pressure in terms of their self-talk, but that’s a different subject.

Creating individual pressure requires putting a player in a position where they have to execute. There’s an example of this in John Cook’s book, Dream Like a Champion. In it he describes a hitter vs. defense game where one attacker must win a game against a full defense. If they lose, they play again. They repeat the game until the player wins.

Now, that’s an example of individual pressure in a very individualized situation. There are also ways to create individual pressure in a more team situation. The run-and-serve drill is an example of this from a serving perspective. If we think of serve reception, though, we can create a situation where one player receives every ball. Their team cannot execute the offense if they cannot provide a good pass. Alternatively, flip things around and say that only a specific hitter can score.

Team pressure

While individual pressure is about putting the spotlight on a specific player (or position), team pressure is about the collective. This is about the team needing to come back from behind, or perhaps to close out a set when ahead. It’s about them staying focused and connected when the pressure is on, and not falling victim to fear and doubt.

One interesting game you can play from this perspective is 25 or reset. I’ve also seen it referred to as “slip and slide”. Basically, if a team gets to 24 and does not score they have to reset back to wherever you started the score (e.g. 19). This combines the pressure to close a team out with the drive to keep fighting if you’re the losing team.

On a smaller scale, wash games are little pressure situations. The team must, for example, win two rallies in a row. That increases the pressure on the second ball – for both sides.

Consequences

A lot of coaches use some kind of punishment for losing to create pressure, like sprints. I’m not a fan of this, as I’ve discussed. Further, research suggests it actually may not improve motivation. If the desire to win is intrinsic, then losing should be enough of a punishment. You don’t need anything else. If your players aren’t naturally competitive, then you need to tie something they care about in terms of playing the game to winning. That, though, is a different topic of discussion.

Similarly, if a player cares at all about the quality of their play, then failing to execute at an individual level will leave them feeling disappointed. Why, then, is anything extra required? If your players are not worried about their quality of play, then you may have some other problems to address before worrying about how they do under pressure.

 

How to add conditioning to your volleyball practice

I came across the following question from a volleyball coach having to do with conditioning in practice.

Anyone have any conditioning drills? I don’t want to just condition my girls without adding some volleyball into it, as they have a whole other practice specifically for conditioning. But we are slow and need to build up speed and stamina. Drills that require constant movement, reps, etc.

Speed vs Stamina

Speed and stamina are two separate issues. Raw speed is a function of power production. That comes mainly from specific speed/power training. That’s not something you will develop while playing/practicing volleyball. It’s more about things like weight training and plyometric work.

That said, there are elements of a player’s overall speed and quickness which are a function of game training. They are technique and readiness. The more efficient and automatic one’s technique (see The Talent Code), the faster or quicker they will be able to execute that skill. Similar, if a player is able to anticipate something happening – thanks to good reading skills – they will be quicker to play the ball.

Developing Stamina

Building player stamina in practice is a much easier thing to accomplish. In fact, it’s really simple. You either have to increase intensity or make things last longer. The latter is straightforward as you just have to increase the time between breaks. Nothing complicated about that!

As for increasing intensity, what I’m talking about is increasing the number of repetitions in a given period of time. For example, in normal game play where each rally begins with a serve it might be 20 seconds per rally. If you play 22 v 22 where you immediately put in a second ball after the initial rally, though, you could perhaps get two rallies in 30 seconds (15 seconds per rally, on average). And if you want to really ramp it up you could play something like Scramble where you might have four rallies in 30 seconds (averaging 7-8 seconds each).

The Second Chance idea is along those same lines. With it you could almost create what is a non-stop rally. It’s not exactly like that, but there’s very little time between the time when play breaks down and you get it going again. And if the same player makes repeated mistakes, they get lots of conditioning!

Even pepper can be a form of conditioning.

No need to lose practice time to conditioning

Because you can control intensity and/or duration in your practice, there’s no need to waste volleyball time on conditioning work (e.g. sprints). Why do something without the ball you can easily accomplish the same with it?

Now, if you only practice a couple times a week, that might not be enough total work. In that case, you’ll want the athletes doing something to keep/get their fitness level up. Cardio is not the answer here, though, especially during season. Volleyball has about a 1:3 work to rest ratio. That means a player is active for say 10 seconds, then rest for 30 – on average. This is very different from running or biking for 30 minutes straight. In fact, those sorts of longer duration exercises are counterproductive for volleyball as they train slow, repetitive movements rather than quick, explosive bursts.

Using competition in training, even for skill development

Mark Lebedew wrote a pair of posts on the use of competition in volleyball practice, both from a positive and negative perspective. Basically, his view is that adding competition makes for better practices. At the same time, though, competition can also distract from your training focus. I want to speak here on the latter point.

Mark makes the following observation.

When players compete in practice they tend to play more conservatively. They don’t use the techniques and solutions that they have most recently learnt because they are not yet confident in those techniques and solutions. The imperative is to win.

To facilitate learning, sometimes it is necessary to program unscored drills and scrimmages in your practice.

I definitely agree with Mark. When players are judged on outcomes (winning) it is hard for them to be experimental. They will want to use what they feel is more proven and fall back on established habits.

What if the scoring, though, relates to what you want them working on?

I’m thinking along the lines of the bonus point scoring idea. Players earn points for executing a skill the way you are teaching them, or for attempting something they are trying to learn.

For example, let’s say you’re working on serve reception and you want the players focused on platform angle. Maybe they earn a point each time they hold their platform when they pass.

What about a situation where you’re encouraging more experimentation? Let’s think about hitters working on attacking the block rather than simply trying to avoid it. They could earn a point each time they clearly attempted to use the block, regardless of the final result.

At a team level we could think about certain types of plays. Say you have an inexperienced group and you want to develop the quick attack. They could earn a point each time they try it in a game play situation – no matter the final outcome

You can mix and match the things you score for such that different players each have their own ways to score. And maybe there are team opportunities as well. This way you can continue having competitive games – with or without the normal point-per-rally scoring included – while continuing to have players focused on learning.

There’s a game the USA women’s team uses called Bonus Point Bingo which incorporates these kinds of ideas.

Coaching Log – February 26, 2018

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2017-18 season.

Nothing new on the the head coach subject. As of this writing, the position has not yet officially been opened for applications.

Recruiting

We had a pair of 2018 prospects on campus on the 13th to work out with the team – one middle and one setter. On the 20th we also had 2018 setters visit. The setter is the bigger priority given the decommit we had. We’d like to add another middle for cover, though. It’s a bit risky to only carry the three we have at present.

Because we don’t currently have a head coach, we’ve been holding off of making offers. It’s something we’ve talked with each recruit about so they know the situation. Basically, we’ve told them to let us know if they start feeling pressure to make a decision. This came up in one case. As a result, I spoke with the Athletic Director. He said he’ll back us on the decision we make.

Looking ahead to 2019, it was back on the road to attend a North Texas regional event on the 24th.

Training

Because of the recruits coming in, our schedule was a bit inconsistent. Strength and conditioning work continued three mornings a week. The players did standing and approach jump testing on the 12th and 14th respectively. Some of the results were surprisingly. The real test, though, will come when they are re-evaluated later in the term to check their progress.

When the two came on the 13th we used our whole week’s allocation of court time in a 2-hour session. Evaluation of the recruits was our biggest priority, so we did a combination of activities. We got the moving and talking and competing by starting with some Brazilian volley tennis. From there we did 3s back row only Winners, then some target serving. That rolled into some serve receive-to-attack so the two recruits could get a sense of our offensive tempo. Then we basically played for the final hour. That was mainly a couple different versions of 5-a-side 22 v 22, but they played a short normal game of 5 v 5 at the end. We got the session on video for later analysis.

In a funny quirk, we actually had to push our practice on the 20th back to the 21st, then roll that whole thing into the 22nd. It started with a bunch of rain on the 20th causing outdoor sports to come indoors. We were also down a couple players to injuries. Then, the university was shut down on the 21st due to freezing rain conditions, so we couldn’t go that day. Poor road conditions kept campus closed on the 22nd as well. Thus, what was supposed to be a Tuesday/Thursday week became just a Friday week.

In the end, we decided to split into two groups and go about an hour for each. That was because they had a heavy morning workout, so going two hours wasn’t going to make a lot of sense. The pin hitters and liberos were in one group. They worked mainly on serving and passing. The middles and setters were in the other, working on set timing.

Community service

Saturday we did our second round of tutoring with the local area kids. A couple players weren’t available because of club coaching duties. One other had to go to Kansas for a family thing. A pair of our seniors filled in. It was funny talking to them after. In some cases, the stuff they worked with the kids on challenged the players. 🙂

 

Setting up your starting rotation: 5-1

How should I set my line-up?

I’ve addressed this in broad strokes in the Putting together a starting line-up post. Here, though, I want to drill down. I’m going to look specifically at how you place the players on the court by position.

Here’s the most common way teams line-up when playing a 5-1 system.

Let me explain the abbreviations.

S = Setter
M1 = Stronger Middle
M2 = Weaker Middle
O1 = Stronger Outside Hitter
O2 = Weaker Outside Hitter
OPP = Opposite

So, if someone (like me) talks about their O2 or M1, you know they are referring to positions relative to the setter. The 1’s are next to the setter.

Note: The fact that the setter in the diagram is in Position 1 isn’t meant to suggest that’s the best place to start them. There are a number of factors which figure in to whether you start there or in a different rotation.

Balance

The basic idea with the ordering of the player positions this way is balance. That’s how the above diagram came to be. The better middle is next to the setter and the weaker outside. Likewise, the stronger outside is also next to the setter as well as the weaker middle. Further, when the O2 and M2 are both in the front row, the opposite is also in the front row, providing three attackers, rather than just two.

Now, how you judge your stronger/weaker middles and outside hitters can vary. The initial thought may be balancing things offensively, but it doesn’t have to be that way. For example, if your setter is not a good blocker, you may put your better blocking middle at M1 to create more balance from that perspective.If your middles have similar attacking abilities, then looking at their blocking can be very useful.

Serve reception is another way you may try to balance things. I once saw a coaching friend of mine put his strongest outside hitter at O2 rather than O1. When I asked him why he told me it was about passing. In his system the O1 passed in the middle of the formation more often than the O2, but his stronger attacker was not his strongest passer. Moving him to O2 reduced his exposure in serve receive, helping to balance things out in that way.

Middle leads, or outside leads?

You will notice in the formation above that the M1 leads the setter in the rotation. We refer to this as a “middle leads” arrangement. Though it’s not as frequently seen, some teams do use an “outside leads” set-up.

Why is the middle leads system generally favored?

It comes down to serve receive. The system where the outside leads can create some awkward reception formations, and fewer options. The middle leads approach tends to offer more flexibility.

The above, though, assumes you’re mainly using your outsides and libero to pass. Most teams do this, of course, but you may find yourself in a situation where you can pull someone else in to pass. Maybe your opposite is a good passer, or even one of your middles. In that case, you may find it better to use an outside leads approach.

I definitely recommend that you take some time to write out each of your rotations. Map out a primary reception pattern and also look at alternatives. If nothing else, it’s good to know what your options could be if you need to change things up. Make sure you know how the overlap rules work and how they can actually be used.

Coaching Log – February 12, 2018

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2017-18 season.

As I noted in my last update, the head coach here at MSU resigned her position. While the process to decide on a new head coach is on-going, I am basically in charge of the program, with help from our graduate assistant.

Recruiting

We have continued to work on recruiting on two fronts. One is completing the 2018 class. Adding a setter to replace the one who decommitted is the top priority there, but we continue to look for a middle to add as well. We definitely need a setter as we currently only have one. We have three middle blockers (MB), so we could potentially get away with not adding there, but we’d very much like to have a fourth for depth and competition.

Of course, the second front is the 2019 class. We don’t actually anticipate a big need there. A right side hitter, who also has experience at MB, has already verbally committed. We will graduate an outside hitter (OH) and a libero next year. We’ll have three other defensive specialists remaining, so adding another isn’t a priority. We’ll definitely want to add another OH, though. We may want to add a setter, but if we have four MBs then we won’t look to add another in that position.

The first weekend of the month we attended a pair of large tournaments to evaluate prospects in both the 2018 and 2019 classes. The teams of three of our incoming freshmen where on-hand, though only one of those athletes was playing. One was out sick and another was being rested for injury reasons. The following Monday we had a 2018 MB on campus for a visit.

Training

While we have 11 players on the roster this semester, not all of them are active. The OH who injured her knee during season will remain in rehab mode throughout. Another OH has a back injury that has her inactive for a while. We’ve also had players out due to illness. Between those considerations and player class schedules, it’s been interesting to manage the two hours per week of court time we have available to us with each of them.

Until a new head coach is chosen, I feel like it’s probably best to leave any system-related training for later. In any case, we’ll have a whole bunch of new players joining the team in August. As a result, we’d have to redo that work then anyway. Instead, my focus is on individual technical improvements.

One big area of need for the group is setting with their hands. To work on that I had them play some out-of-system games where points could only be scored on kills from hand sets. Mainly, it was about developing the confidence to take balls overhand. Was it ugly? You bet! But it’s all about climbing mistake mountain.

Last Thursday we played a game I called 3-2-1. I think Mark Lebedew gave me the idea. It’s a normal game but with bonus point scoring. A team gets 3 points for winning a rally on a first contact, 2 if they use two touches, and one if they use all three allowed contacts. We decided blocks and aces were worth 2 points. The idea is to get them thinking outside the box and having more situational awareness, while also encouraging better defensive readiness and awareness.

Other stuff

We are likely changing equipment suppliers after being with Asics. This is a department level decision, not our own. We’ll need to replace one set of jerseys, for sure, and will have some other stuff to get for 2018. So we brought the team together and let them loose on the equipment catalog. 🙂