Coaching Log – Apr 11, 2016

This is an entry in my Midwestern State volleyball coaching log for 2015-16.

Monday
Not a great session overall. Whether it was simply a Monday morning issue or there was lingering fatigue from Saturday’s play, the team was a bit listless. Communication wasn’t where it needed to be and neither was focus.

Deep serves and serve reception were two of the focus points for this sessions, and they got threaded into things throughout.

The session started with some short court play based on balls in/near the net – including jousts. We had them play a trio of 3 v 3 games to 7 with a coach initiating a ball to start each rally. After that we progressed them to simple target serving. They had to put 10 balls into about the last meter or so of the court.

This was followed by 3s games. That brought serve reception in. We used Tennis Serving to encourage the players to keep working on the hard deep serves. Also, because we wanted to keep working on block positioning and penetration over the net, we put them on a narrow court and allowed front court attacks. That encouraged them to have someone at the net blocking.

From there we moved to full court back row Winners 4s. This was mainly about working on defense against back court attacks and getting hitters to do more transitioning ahead of their attacks. We used fixed MBs at the net (so three teams of three with a MB joining each team on-court), which let them work more on blocking. Tennis serving remained in place.

After that we did a hitter transition exercise. It was 4 v 6 with the 4 side having two hitters in their positions (e.g. two OHs – one front row, one back row), plus a defensive player and the setter. The 4s side defended one half of the court and received a down ball from over the net to start each rally. They then played out the rally. If a hitter failed to transition properly, the 6 team received a point. Otherwise it was normal scoring for a fixed time. We did one round each of OHs, OPPs, and then MBs. We then did a second round where we pair an OH and an OPP attacking through Zone 4.

From there we moved on to a first ball kill drill. One side received every serve until they got three first ball kills (otherwise the rally was played out). We started with Rotation 4, which was our weakest side out rotation on Saturday. After that we progressed through a couple of others that also had some struggles.

We finished up with a couple rounds of Scramble. That was included to work on calming down the more panicky stuff we were seeing.

Although there were a couple of lapses, the group was probably most focused during Scramble. That was probably the general best segment of the session. We were happy, though, with what we saw in the serving. In contrast to Saturday where many of our misses were in the net, in this case the misses in this practice during the game play were main long, which is definitely the more desirable.

Tuesday
This was an off day. NCAA rules require that players be given at least 2 days off each week during Spring training. Since were playing on Saturday we had to give the team a day off during the week. Tuesday is normally group sessions rather than team, so it made sense for this to be the day chosen.

Wednesday
The two major things we worked on today was serve and pass and hitters working on scoring against a well-formed block. In the case of the former, we played games of servers vs passers where we gave the passers a point for a 3 or 2 pass, and a point to the servers for aces or 1 passes. We didn’t penalize servers for missed serves unless they were in the net or were back-to-back. In those cases we gave a point to the passers. We played games to 10-12 points. They ended up being pretty competitive in terms of the scores.

For the hitting we did something motivated what I saw at the 2015 USA Volleyball HP Coaches Clinic. It features a narrow pin hitting zone defined by antennae put about 6′ (2m) apart. We had two hitters alternating swings against a double block with a pair of defenders playing behind them. The hitter’s side had a setter and two others to cover them.

The goal for each hitter was to get 5 points. If a ball was blocked, covered, and then was killed, they got 2 points. Otherwise, kills were worth a point. Errors were not counted to encourage aggressive swings. When a hitter reached 5 points they were replaced with another hitter.

Thursday
Team practice was replaced with a session with a sports psychologist. He took the team (and staff) through a basic DISC analysis. It was interesting to see the distribution. Of the 10 players on-hand (one is off to a SAAC conference), 2 were D’s, 2 were I’s, 2 were S’s, and the other 4 C’s. Interestingly, the coaching staff was evenly divided between I’s and C’s. Want to guess which category I fell into?

Friday
We introduced the team to two new games today. The first was the “Brazilian” 2-ball volleyball tennis game we played regularly when I was coaching at Svedala. Not surprisingly, they had fun with it. The second was the Belly Drill. Maybe that one wasn’t quite as fun – at least not in the same way. 😉

The rest of practice was primarily comprised of the servers vs. passers game we played on Wednesday and the first ball kill drill we did on Monday. In the case of the latter, we went through all six rotations to get ready for Saturday’s home tournament.

Saturday
We hosted a Spring tournament. We were supposed to play four matches, but one team needed to turn up late, so we sacrificed our first match to allow their opponent to still have a match in the early time slot. Probably for the best. We did a lot of player rotation, but it would have probably been too much as we’ve got a few players who are banged up one way or another.

The competition in our first two matches wasn’t great, though one of the teams did put us under a fair bit of pressure in serve receive. The last match was against Lone Start Conference rivals Cameron. They didn’t serve particularly tough, so we passed well. We did get stuck in rotations a couple of times.

The other two assistants stepped up the stat-keeping by doing in-rally work using Rotate 123, so we have some hitting figures beyond the kills and errors. We hit .260 in our first match, which wasn’t a great performance. Things got better in the second one where we hit .462. In the Cameron match we hit a respectable .315.

That last match was very closely contested. We should have won both the full sets as we had late leads, but lost by 2 in both cases. It was similar to the second set in our final match the week before. The offense clearly did well. We just needed to a be better on defense and exhibit some higher Volleyball IQ. In the first set we actually put three free balls we had to send over out of bounds.

So, some good stuff with plenty of room for improvement.

Three of our incoming players were at the tournament, plus a likely transfer was there playing for one of the other teams. After play ended we did a little clinic for some youngsters, then went out to the football stadium for the Spring Game festivities.

John Forman
About the Author: John Forman

John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women’s team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women’s professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women’s Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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