Archive for 2013-14 Exeter University

Coaching Log – Nov 27, 2013

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log.

I ran a strongly 6 v 6 biased training session to prepare for Saturday’s matches in the case of both the first and second teams. My assistant managed the second team while I focused on the first team. The main intention for the first team was to evaluate the two potential starting setters, so I concentrated training on short games to be able to swap the setters in and out. I used a combination of 22 v 22 and straight scrimmage play games to 7.

After a pre-match type warm-up sequence and a team talk, we went right into 22 v 22. I think we did 3 rotations worth for the A side, which actually means a total of 12 games because I had each setter go through both the serving and receiving sides for each rotation. After that is was the short regular games. The intensity levels there weren’t great, though, so I used the last 15 minutes to go back to 22 v 22 in order to challenge the A side again.

In terms of general team observations, I was a bit disappointed with the hitting overall. Too many errors. It was a marked drop-off from Monday’s performance. I told them before we started that I wanted them to really take it to the B side as if they were our Saturday competition. Maybe that had an impact. They weren’t really tentative as they had been in the past, though. Perhaps the switching in and out with the setters – and the setters themselves not being on the court for spells – had an impact.

I was pleased, though, that the team seemed to be focused on really trying to put the B team under pressure – especially in terms of serving. They were targeting passers and moving their serves around in ways they haven’t done a lot this year to far.

In terms of the setters, the hitting stats were very comparable in the base readings – kill % and hitting efficiency. The difference comes in set distribution in particular. The starting setter up to now (call her Setter A) set more than half her balls to the middle while the other (Setter B) only gave the MB the ball 22% of the time. They were relatively close in terms of balls to the OH. The difference is balls to the right. Setter B went that way 19% of the time vs. only 5% of the time for Setter A. This is a serious discrepancy as our OPP is perhaps the best attacker on the team (though she struggled last night). Also, the league leaders we play first on Saturday are big in the middle, and we don’t want to be setting into that block frequently.

I need to have a conversation or two to get some other impressions beyond the figures. One impression I got, though, was that the team was a bit more efficient when Setter B was in. By that I mean they won games more quickly. Unfortunately, I didn’t record any stats to be able to measure that.

Coaching Log – Nov 25, 2013

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log.

With matches for everyone coming up, playing 6 v 6 in segregated teams was the main theme of training. The B side focus was on teamwork, calling the ball, staying switched on, and not looking for someone else to play the ball. I told the B side focus was on continuing to be aggressive in attack, but underlying that was also an evaluation of the setter position. This harkens back to my observations from the Student Cup performance.

One of my primary OHs thus far is also a capable setter (sets for her German club team). I haven’t used her there thus far because I saw her value as an attacker as being in the area of greater need. Even had to use her at MB on a couple of occasions when we were thin on bodies. In the last match of the Cup I had her do some setting for the first time and it was an eye-opener just from the warm-ups. With other hitters coming along, I no longer feel so concerned about losing out on her as an OH.

At the same time, our starting setter up to now is only here for this term. As a result, I need to evaluate our setting options moving forward in any case. One of the teams on the schedule for the upcoming matches is currently top of the table, having beat us a couple weeks ago. We need to be at our best for the rematch, so I took a hard look at the setting in training to start evaluating who would give us our best chance at victory.

Following what was basically a pre-match warm-up, we went straight into 6 v 6. It started with a game featuring one side serving 3 times in a row (not counting missed serves). I put the starting setter with the B team (their setter was missing) and the other one with the A team. I used that to gauge a rough baseline point differential I could use to spot the B side in the straight-up games to follow. I came up with 8.

We then played two regular games which started with the B side serving, up 8-0. In the first the starting setter was with the A side. I then flipped setters for the second game. The A team lost the first set 25-20, and the second 25-23.

Stats were kept for all three games to evaluate offensive effectiveness as a way to compare the setters. More of this needs to be done in the next training, but the early results show quite a stark difference. The kill % for the team when the starting setter ran things on the A side was was 21% vs 36% for the former OH, while the hitting efficiency numbers were .063 vs .190. Need to see if that gap holds up.

Coaching Log – Nov 23-24, 2013

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log.

Had two sets of competition over the weekend. On Saturday the second team players had their first league fixture, along with a friendly match. Unfortunately, due to absence, we fielded a weaker team than would have otherwise been the case. That probably was the difference in the tight loss suffered to a relative good team. I was generally not displeased with how the players executed their skills. It was mainly a question of being ready to play the ball and not looking for someone else to do so, resulting in balls dropping on a few occasions. There were also some missed serves we could have done without.

That group has a pair of league matches coming up on Saturday, so I will have them play together a lot this week in preparation.

Something approaching a first team line-up played a pair of regional league matches on Sunday against not particularly strong opposition. I very much focused on continuing to build confidence and aggression in the hitting game, and in serving as well. There were a couple of wobbly moments, but the matches were comfortable wins in the end. The hitting numbers, while not spectacular, where probably the best we’ve seen thus far by a comfortable margin. Attackers were going for it when they had the opportunity, which was good to see.

The first team has three important league matches on Saturday, so my plan is to keep the focus on the attacking, go for the win, mentality.

Coaching Log – Nov 20, 2013

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log.

The team played its fourth league match of the season against one of the weaker teams, with fairly predictable results. We won the first set easily, 25-13, though I was not particularly pleased with the performance. There were communications lapses and the sort of little errors that shouldn’t be present in a team that’s played a number of matches together already. I expressed my disappointment between sets.

The second set was quite nervy. It finished 25-18, but we didn’t pull away until it had gotten to 12-12. We’d actually been behind most of the time up to then. I made two changes in the line-up to get my bench players in – one at M2, and one at O2. The latter had been a starter most of the time thus far. She wasn’t on the Cup trip, however, and one of the other OHs who was also had a good practice session the other day, so I’d wanted to reward her with the start. The MB was someone who I hadn’t been able to see in match play for a while, so I wanted to give her a run out.

The change in MB created some issues. Not that she played poorly, but she tends to take any ball that comes near her and is big enough that no one is going to be able to contest her. I felt like this impacted our S and O1. The latter set several ‘tweener’ sets between the MB and the OH, which led to issues over who was going to hit the ball, and some rather flustered play, though it eventually settled down.

Although the opposition didn’t serve particularly hard, our passing was relatively poor. We also reverted to tentative hitting, which was disappointing. Granted, the sets weren’t great, but there were opportunities to hit the ball hard. Obviously, I need to keep focusing on aggressive hitting in training. After Monday’s work on hitting mechanics, I need to build in attention to explosive approaches as that’s part of where the tentative swinging begins.

On Saturday the 2nd team will be in action in their first second of Division 2 fixtures. We’re a bit thin on bodies, but should have enough quality to play effectively.

Coaching Log – Nov 18, 2013

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log.

Coming off the Cup weekend, I started training with a team talk to give the players a chance to express their thoughts on how things went and to share my own about where we need to get better to be competitive down the line. At this point I feel like the team largely knows what it needs to do to win league matches. The group still needs to keep developing that winning mentality and go into things each time out expecting to win and playing to win, but it’s coming along. The confidence at all levels is progressively building. I’m looking to keep that coming along while working on the aspects of the game we’ll need to be better at to compete with the teams we could see in the post-season.

Hitting with power and confidence remains the big developmental need at this stage, so I spent most of the first hour of training working on that. It started with having all the players doing wall hits from about 7-8 meters from the wall where they could work on proper body mechanics and armswing to generate power and I could coach them individually. That progressed to hitting lines, starting with back row attacks to keep them working on high reach and deep swings. They then moved on to hitting through 4, working to go down the line, and finished working hard cross-court angles.

After some target serving, I had them do some positional digging to work on being able to control harder driven balls as we continue to have issues with overpasses, swinging at the ball, rising up, etc.

I finished things up with 22 v. 22 in hopes to foster the “terminate the first ball” mentality, but there were only a couple successful first-ball kills. There were some good attacks, but I’d have liked to see more. That needs to get better, but we were missing a few of the better players due to minor injuries or illness. Had to punish a handful of no-effort balls to the floor.

Wednesday the first team plays another league match. The second team gets its first league play on Saturday.

Coaching Log – Nov 16, 2013

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log.

Competed in the Volleyball England Student Cup in a 6-team pool. Hard going! We had to play 4 straight matches. The 10-minute break we got between the 3rd and 4th was hardly generous. The first two matches were teams we knew would present a major challenge. I was generally happy with how we played in terms of building the team’s confidence in attacking the other side with some confidence.

Since we didn’t have any real chance of advancing out of the group, I used the remaining matches to get players court time and do a couple of different things. We ended up splitting a pair of matches (just played 2 sets rather than best-of..) which could have and probably should have been swept.

I still feel like the team is under-performing. The energy is better (though that’s tough to support over 5 matches, especially when the competition goes down hill after the first two) and they are definitely starting to be more aggressive in attack. There remain some real limitations that may have to be addressed by personnel and/or position changes.

We have one training session before another league match on Wednesday.

Coaching Log – Nov 13, 2013

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log.

The team played last year’s league champs at their place not knowing exactly what we were going to see. I’d been told they had a very limited squad in terms of numbers, which proved to be the case. Still, they had a couple useful players, so it wasn’t like a team of scrubs.

The match was a decidedly mixed bag. We won the first set easily, and had a hitting efficiency of over .500. We hit slightly negative after that, though, largely because we weren’t getting enough kills. The opposition gets part of the credit for playing good defense. We loss the second set after falling behind early. I had some concerns about the team’s mentality crumbling during a frustrating stretch. They did enough, though, to claw their way to a win in the deciding set. Winning in this fashion might just be the sort of result that gets them over the mental hump.

Our defense was solid and our serving game created all kinds of problems for the opposition. Unfortunately, we just weren’t able to put that to good use. We couldn’t turn those free balls and down balls in to points, and that’s something we need to fix. Getting faster in the middle and working in some other things for OH and OPP to go more aggressively at the opposition. Unfortunately, we have Student Cup play on Saturday before our next training session on Monday.

Coaching Log – Nov 11, 2013

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log.

After a ball-handling warm-up which feature rotating partner pepper, I had the team go straight into game play to work on things in preparation for our match on Wednesday. Carrying on from the mental tentativeness that’s been a problem, I focused on two things.

First, I told the players that any time they made an individual error they would have to say “I’ll do better next time.” I’ve used this individually with players who were overly hard on themselves to short-circuit their negative self-talk., but this is the first time I made it a team-wide thing.

Second, I had the play a game where they could only score “real” points. By that I mean they only earned points on aces, kills, or blocks. The idea was to get the focus on being proactive about scoring.

The two moves definitely had an impact on the play. The hitters in particular became more aggressive and there were more hard-hit balls. Perhaps more significantly, forcing the players to say “I’ll to better next time” after errors actually brought smiles to their faces when they said it. At least in the short-term, that is a great outcome as it clearly breaks the negativity right away.

Now to see if it can carry over into the match Wednesday. I will definitely be pushing for it to happen.

Coaching Log – Nov 10, 2013

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log.

The team played its second BUCS match of the season on Sunday. Actually, as a collective the team played a total of three matches as we also had South West league fixtures. We were missing three players due to various other commitments, including both of our alternate setters.  Then my planned starting M2 sprained her ankle Friday night. That left us with 12 total. We were able to bring up a setter from the intermediate group to set for the team playing SW, so at least we didn’t have to play some kind of 6-6 like system.

Because of the need both for leadership and scorekeeping, I opted to have my next choice MB go with the SW team. I also sent the other MB with them as I viewed it as a chance for them both to get at least 6 sets worth of practice as opposed to potentially only 2 if playing the BUCS match.

So what I ended up doing was bringing my third choice OH into the BUCS team and have one of my OHs play MB for the day. It was mainly an offensive decision. I had no doubt she would be able to hit effectively there, though she’s too small to be much of a block.

In hindsight could I have fielded a better team? Bringing my next choice MB would have made for a bigger block, which may have helped. We may also have been that little bit better on defense with my OH playing her normal position rather than being in the middle, Given how close the match was (23-25, 20-25), maybe that would have tipped the balance, but generally I didn’t feel like their players were any better than ours.

The major concern was the mental side of things. The team lacked the energy and intensity required to win. They remain tentative under pressure.

Our serving put the opposition under considerable pressure all day, though we missed more serves in the first set than we should have done. Our passing was generally solid, as was our defense. The opposing coach even commented on the latter, though we could have been a bit better here and there. We got several blocks and generally dug their harder attacks. The attack needed to be better is what it comes down to, and that is where the tentativeness really manifests.

We’ve got another league match on Wednesday against the defending champs. I will be focusing 100% on attitude in training ahead of that.

Note: The SW team won easily in one match, but lost 0-3 in the second to the defending champs. Reports suggest the latter was well played, though.