This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2017-18 season.
This was the final week of our Spring training period, and the final week we were allowed to work with the players for the 2017-18 school year.
We had a 2019 recruit on campus – the third in as many weeks, and also an OH. Unfortunately, since Monday is small group day for the team because of class schedules, she couldn’t play in anything like full-sided play. Instead, she took part in the two sessions we ran. The first was with our setter and one of the middles. In it she did some attacking vs. a double block, blocking as part of a double block, and passing and hitting.
In the second group we had a little more time and more bodies. This group featured all our healthy pin hitters, plus one of our liberos. The middle from the earlier group came back as well, which gave us six. We sandwiched a back court 3s game and a narrow court regular play 3s game around a servers vs. passers exercise. That’s not quite the same as playing 6 v 6 or 5 v 5, but it covered all the major areas of play we needed to evaluate. Besides, we saw her play with her juniors team over the weekend.
While this wasn’t our last practice, it was the last one where we had all of our reasonably healthy bodies available all together the whole time. Our freshman who hurt her knee back during the season is finally cleared to play, though only up to about 75% effort. Our OPP who hurt her ankle a couple weeks ago was also back in limited capacity. Since that was the case, I let them decide what they wanted to do, which is always an interesting experience.
Their first choice was to do the progressive triples exercise we do sometimes as a competitive ball-handling oriented warm-up. It goes from down balls to easy jumps to full back row attacks. After that they played all four variations of the cross-court game and we finished up with a pair of 15-point 5 v 6 games.
We started this session with some light ball-handling work in the form of a 4-person serve-pass-target drill. In this instance the focus was on taking balls with their hands. We then progressed to a 4 v 4 back row game, with rotation so that everyone took turns setting and hitting (if they were able). From there it was on to narrow court (a bit wider than half) doubles Speedball.
The remainder of the session was 4 v 4 normal play on the same narrow court we used for the doubles. The first two games were basically RS vs OH in structure, with serve initiation. Only earned points counted (kills, blocks, aces). Both times the OH side won, so we played one more game as a tie break. Games were to 11 points.
I gave the players the option of picking which game to play for the tiebreaker. They went with the 4 v 4 game we played a few times earlier in the term where you can only score if a hitter gets a kill off a hand set. This time coaches initiated the ball to the winner of the previous rally. This game was also to 11. The faster pace, though, made it pretty tiring. I gave the players a 30 second timeout at one stage to rest a little.
This was the final practice of the Spring, and it was all about game play. We started with Brazilian volley tennis to get warmed up, then jumped into Winners back row 4s. After that, it was a 6 v 5 game until our setter had to leave for class. Once she left we played 5 v 5, 2-up/3-back.
Strength & Conditioning
This was final testing week for the team. Monday they started with standing jump in the gym, then move on to the power clean in the weight room. On Wednesday they did approach jumps, then finished up with back squats. Friday – their last formal session – the strength coach had them play a variation on Ultimate Frisbee in the gym using a small football. It was his last time working with them as he’s a grad student and is finishing up his degree in May.
The players’ involvement in the interview process for the next MSU head coach disrupted this week somewhat. It caused late starts to practice on Monday and Thursday. Further, because their meeting on Friday was in the middle of our normal practice time, I just cancelled that session. So what did we do with our time? Budgeting for August!
On Sunday we had a speaker on campus to talk to the athletes on the subject of drug and alcohol use and abuse. This was something arranged by the Athletic Director. The speaker did a very good job. The session was extremely interactive and engaging.