Coaching Log – April 2, 2018

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

Last week was a short one. MSU was on holiday from after Wednesday evening classes through the rest of the week for Easter.

Monday

We had the third of the three setters we’ve been looking at for 2018 on a visit. She was able to work in with the second and third of our small groups. That gave her a chance to work in with one of the middles as well as with pin hitters.

The sessions with the middles and setter were highly technical. We interspersed hitting for the middles – mainly in transition after blocking – with defensive work for the setter and the libero who was in the second group.

The pin hitter session was much more game focused. We did do some pass-to-attack as a chance for the recruit to work on more standard sets. Wrapped around that was a 3 v 4 exercise (setter on one side) where the players first attacked back row only, then were allowed to hit on the net and a set of narrow court 4 v 4 games.

Tuesday

For the first half of the session we used two courts. The first exercise was the same 4-person over-the-net pepper exercise we did last week. I think it went a bit better this time, though could still use a fair amount of improvement.

We then did a 2 v 2 narrow court 2-touch game. There were 5 players on each court, four playing and one off. After each rally, the player who made the mistake on the final ball was subbed out by the player waiting. As that happened, a new ball was fed in to the winning side. Players kept track of their own rally wins. After 2.5 minutes of essentially continuous play, the top players moved up to/stayed on the top court, while the bottom players moved down to/stayed on the bottom court. We played three total rounds.

The last part of this two court phase split the team to work on different phases of the offense. On one court the outsides worked on attacking out-of-system balls to the corners, while the middles and right sides worked on back side combination sets. The two liberos split time across the two courts, swapping midway through. We then switched it up, moving the right sides over to work on corner swings while the outsides worked with the middles on front side plays.

The rest of the session was 6 v 6 game play. Our senior middle wanted to get some court time in ahead of playing with the team next week, so she joined us around the halfway point. On top of that, the trainers cleared our junior outside for full play, or at least nearly so. She missed a lot of time due to back problems.

This particular game featured one side serving 3 good serves, then the other doing the same, after which both sides rotated. I added in a second chance element in the case of rally-ending errors (mainly hitting/setting). We played through one full set of rotations. Then I swapped a couple of players and repeated the process.

Wednesday

I made a decision to have a very challenging session. It was our last one for the week and the players didn’t have an overly tough morning workout. So I wanted to challenge them both physically and mentally.

Knowing we had some players coming late, we started with progressive triples. That’s basically a situation where the players start playing 3 v 3 with down balls, then go to easy jumps, and finally go to full back row attacks. It’s essentially a warm-up progression. In this case, though, the last part of the exercise was the Hard Drill. In this case I allowed unlimited “washes” so long as they kept the ball in play. Their goal was 10 good attack-dig sequences. We got to 8 before I had to put a stop for time reasons. I could have kept it going, but I’d kind of thought of doing 7, and 8 provides a good sign post for the next time.

Next up was an around the world serving exercise. That’s hitting targets 1 through 6 in order. They had to start back over at 1 if they served into the net.

From there we progressed to a MB/RS vs MB/OH game play exercise. To keep the tempo up, every rally started with a coach’s down ball. Because our other coach was setting for one side, I had to do both sides. Rather than trying to walk back and forth to hit balls over the net to the receiving team, I just did three consecutive balls to one side, then three to the other. After nine total balls to each side, I rotated the pin attacker around.

One of our MBs had to leave for class, so for the last part of practice we played a set of 4 v 4 games. One side played 3 up/1 back. They had the remaining MB, a front row setter, an OH, and one of the liberos. The other side played 2 up/2 back, with two pin hitters in the front row. We played a total of four games to 10. The players served to start each rally, and it was normal scoring. This was a slower exercise, but having to cover the full court put a lot of pressure on the defense. I was quite happy to see the hitters taking advantage of that.

We ended up finishing in less than 2 hours. The players were clearly tired. One of them actually asked if we intentionally made it a hard session. 🙂

Head coach search

The posting of the head coach position finally went up late Tuesday. As I understand it, the posting must remain up at least 12 days.

Recruiting

On Thursday we heard from one of the 2018 setters we brought to campus earlier in the term. She informed us that she can’t wait any longer to find out who the new coach will be and has accepted an offer to go somewhere else.

We started making arrangements to bring 2019s to campus. Obviously, we would prefer to have a head coach in place during this process. Our window, though, is too short to wait. We only have four weeks left where we can have recruits play in with the team (officially, this is considered a tryout). After that is the mandatory off week before finals, then finals themselves. Yes, recruits can come visit in that period. It’s just less optimal. So we’re looking to get the top prospects we’ve identified so far to visit in these next few weeks.

Other

On Wednesday morning I attending a fundraising meeting for the head coaches. It was partly to give us an understanding of what the university wants to do (the president did the introduction) and partly a discussion of best practices.

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.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.