Coaching Log – March 26, 2018

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

Spring Break has passed and it’s time to get back to work!

This is the non-traditional part of the NCAA season. In Division II we’re allowed a 45-day period during which we can do 15 hours per week of athletically-related activity. That’s 5 hours less than what we’re allowed during the regular season. We also have to give the players at least two days off per week, compared to one day off in the Fall. As in the main season, we have to stop no less than one week before finals begin, which means late April.

Monday

This remains a small groups day because of class schedules. We have one middle come in with the setter for about an hour, then the other middle and one of the liberos working with the setter for a second hour. Lots of blocking and working on shoot (31s) and slide footwork/timing/setting, with a bit of defense mixed in for the setter and libero.

The third group was all the pin hitters. They started off with a 3 v 3 serving and passing game. From there we progressed to narrow court doubles Neville Pepper. Then it was two versions of a 3 v 3 game where only kills counted for points (winner of the rally receives serve). First it was back row only, then we allowed hitting on the net. So they got a lot of everything. In the future we might make this a more technical session, but this allowed them to get back into things after the break.

Tuesday

The first full team session of the Spring season was a mixture of elements. We started with Brazilian volleytennis as a warm-up. We then shifted to serving, first to warm-up, then focused on targets. The third segment was a serve-pass-attack exercise.

The rest of the session was all game play. We did a 3s version of Neville Pepper on a narrow court. It was only OK with 10 players. The tempo didn’t feel right to me. I probably won’t use it again in that fashion – at least as our team comprises right now.

A series of 5 v 6 games took up most of the last hour. The scoring was earned points only (kills, aces, blocks), so we just went to 10. The rally winner served the next ball, giving them the first chance to score. After the first game I flipped the right sides, then I flipped the outsides after the second. The setters were back row the whole time, along with the liberos. Had we played another game I was going to move the setters to front row so I could get at least one of the pins playing back row.

After practice we had a team meeting to go over a few administrative things and to talk about the big focal points for the next several weeks. That’s basically getting better on offense.

Wednesday

This was a challenging session because some players had to arrive late and/or leave early due to classes. Also, I had to run things myself and we had two courts going. We used both throughout at least the first half of the session. It started with 2 v 2 pepper where on one side the players had to hit straight balls on 3rd contact while on the other side they had to hit cross. From there we did some serving, then moved on to a position focus. The pins and liberos did serve and pass while the middles and setter worked on their timing.

After that they were all on one court for some game play. At first it was an unscored middle/left vs middle right 5 v 5 game. We couldn’t go as long as I’d have liked as one of our two middles had to leave. We finished with a pair of cross-court 4 v 4 games. Scoring was earned points only. Balls hit off the block, but into the out-of-bounds part of the court were a wash. The players served to start each rally.

Thursday

We started this day’s session with 3-person and 4-person over-the-net pepper. From there we moved on to serving, with work on serving deep line and short cross. That progressed into a variation of serving and passing quads where we had the passing target set to an outside target. That means everyone got some hand setting in.

Next up was serve-pass-attack as a prelude to playing 5 v 6. The other day we did that with the setters in the back row. This time the setters were front row, and I had the outsides and rights switching around between playing defense in the back row and hitting through 4.

The setter had to go to class, so we finished up with some out-of-system work. We played two games focused on attacking the corners.The first one was back row only swings, with one player up to set/block, and three in the back row. The second game it was two up and two back. The scoring for both was 1 point for any attack to a corner, as long as it was in the court. If one of those swings resulted in a kill, a second point was awarded. Anything else did not count. I think next time I play something like this we’ll do -1 for a hit in the net.

The intensity took a clear dip during the last phase. It was a challenging exercise and the frustration level was higher than usual. As a result, the players turned more inward. It’s something I talked with them about afterwards.

Friday

This was our first sand session of the year – one of four we’re likely to do, depending on weather. This isn’t as much as we did last year went we hit the sand twice a week. That’s a function of scheduling considerations, primarily.

These sand days are all about competition. I split the team into two groups of 5, they each were at the court for 2 hours with one of those hours overlapping. When each group was on it’s own we set them up to play a series of 10 rounds of a doubles version of Neville Pepper. That allowed each player to partner with all the others. The three that were not the pair on the “winners” side rotated around, since we couldn’t do multiple teams. The plan is to mix the groups up each time out, keeping score throughout to see which player finishes with the most points on the “winners” side.

For the overlapping period, we mostly did a 3-player version of the same thing, though for the last 10 minutes our so we did Speedball 2s.. This was necessarily slower, with all the extra players, but two hours at the doubles pace would have been too much. As it was, the second wave players were clearly fatigued toward the end of their hour. Though, a couple of them are not currently at optimal fitness levels.

Strength & Conditioning

The team continued to do their Monday/Wednesday/Friday morning work with our strength coach. He pared back the load, though, to accommodate the increased court time. Mainly, that meant less sprint work and more agility type stuff when he had them in the gym.

Recruiting

I attended the North Texas Region’s 18s national bid tournament. Primarily, that was to see our early signees in action, as I haven’t had much chance so far. In particular, I wanted to see our incoming outside hitter, as I haven’t seen her play since last club season. There were also a few 2019 kids playing on 18s teams that I had a look at, along with one of the 2018 setters we’ve had visit.

Community service

As we’ve done monthly through this term, the team did two hours of tutoring help with local disadvantaged kids on Saturday. Well, those who were available, as several had coaching duties. I did not attend because I was doing another thing (see below). Apparently, there was some grumbling, though, about how strict the guy running the tutoring program was. Our other assistant, however, didn’t think he was over the top – just holding his usual line of discipline (which is very high).

Other

On Saturday I got to help man a table during a big Admissions open house on campus. They provided lunch for the attendees in our coliseum and various groups and departments had booths/tables set up. Athletics was one of them. Myself and a couple of others hung out answering what questions we could questions. Mostly, it was the more junior assistant coaches, though the head football coach did stop by for a while after his team finished with practice.

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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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