An abrupt change of direction

Little did I know when I finished it that this coaching log entry was the last of the Svedala 2015-16 updates.

I was told the next evening the club was terminating my contract with immediate effect.

Yup. That happened.

That Sunday evening the chairman asked me to a meeting starting an hour before Monday’s training. It wasn’t a surprise. We were the league’s top team the first half of the season and qualified for Gran Prix for only the second time in club history. Recent results were not good, though. We went 1-3 over our initial set of league matches in the second half. Two of those losses were against legitimate contenders  The last one, though, was against a team we beat twice before and should have beat that time.

After that match I had a snide comment thrown my way by a parent (yes, there are parents at the professional level). Then, during the day on Monday a board member basically told me “When the team loses three in a row it’s the coach’s fault.” I didn’t argue.

In a situation like this, it can’t be a shock to be asked to a meeting. I figured it would be a “How will you fix this?” discussion.

The chairman and another board member were there. He didn’t waste any time. They’d decided to terminate my contract. He said it was due to “differences in coaching philosophy and a lack of feedback”. Actually, he looked a bit embarrassed saying that. The other member said something encouraging about my job prospects.

I think the chairman expected a push back. I didn’t. My one comment was it would have been nice to get some indication along the way that the board wanted something different. He admitted the club made some mistakes.

The Sport Director/Manager who hired me, and was my assistant coach, took charge. Apparently, he was meant to be at the meeting, but couldn’t make it because of job requirements. I never heard anything from him.

Time to move on

When I told my friends and contacts in the European coaching ranks, they all found it a strange development. A couple of them suspected performance wasn’t really the issue. They thought it was finances. I suspect that was at least part of it. Honestly, at the time I did not really care. I wished the players well, as they were a really good group, but I moved on.

The fact of the matter was I knew for a while that I wasn’t carrying on with Svedala past that season. I was proud of what we accomplished with a short-handed and relatively inexperienced squad. The situation just wasn’t a good fit for me in the broader scheme, though.

So as much as it stung to be let go, I was not overly upset about it. I just left Sweden a couple months earlier than planned. Of course the sudden development meant I had to scramble a bit to figure out where I could hang out until it was time to take on my next challenge.

See my coaching job search log posts. I was already working from that perspective before all that came down.

Coaching Log – Feb 1, 2016

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

On Sunday Engelholm beat Hylte 3-1 at home. Combined with our loss on Saturday, the results created a log jam at the top of the standings, with four teams within 2 points.

ElitSerie-Table-012516

The Elitserie schedule for the week was a fairly full one. Engelholm hosted Gislaved on Tuesday and RIG hosted Örebro on Wednesday. On Saturday, alongside our trip to Gislaved, Örebro hosted Hylte and RIG hosted Lindesberg. The only possible question mark in there in terms of expected outcomes was Örebro vs. Hylte, so in order to keep our position among the top group we needed to match everyone else and take a win against the 6th place team.

The concern I had starting the week was our seeming reversion back to the team we were when we gave up winning positions against Engelholm and Hylte to lose those matches in our first league meetings. We were not mentally tough against Örebro and our serving in recent matches has been problematic at the very least.

The struggles with the offense I outlined in the last entry are something we need to work on from a technical perspective. Missed serves and poor passing, though, are mental issues rather than technical ones for the most part. Obviously, being resilient in the face of adversity falls into that category as well.

I have to confess, I do have some concerns about fitness levels which could be contributory. I don’t have anything objective to point to from that perspective, though.

Monday
During the day I took the 3rd set from Saturday’s match, added notes and highlights to the video, and posted it for the team. That took most of my afternoon. I got it done only a short while before having to leave for practice, so there wasn’t enough time to expect the players to watch it. I spoke to it a bit at the start of the session and the players talked about a few things in terms of moving forward. The gym was too cold (again) to just be standing around chatting, though, so we swiftly got to work.

After warm-ups I had them do the final part of the Twenty-one drill as something to have them moving and being active from the start. I followed that with Continuous Cross-Court Digging. Then it was on to Winners 3s, back court attacks only.

The bulk of the session was spent doing serve receive and attack against three blockers to work on reception, attacking the block, and blocking. Myself and my assistants did the serving. I switched the players around from hitting and blocking and setting, blocking, and hitting in the case of the setters. The passing started off rough, but seemed to improve as the exercise progressed. My OPP in particular looked good in attack, though continues to have technical issues with her blocking.

We finished up with a couple of minutes of narrow court Winners 2s.

Tuesday
We had a young guest player in training – a girl trying to make a decision between potentially playing for Svedala next year and going to RIG and being in the academy program there. We also had our usual visiting player from the second team and our former player, giving us a full gym. That always makes things more fun and interesting.

After pre-hab and some group pepper as a ball-handling warm-up, I split the group. On one court the MBs worked on transition attacks coming off of blocks. On the other court, the OHs and RS were doing serve reception and attack.

I then brought them together and played a variation on Winners 4s – one I’ve used before. The setters were fixed (rally-winning setter goes to/stays on the winning side). The MBs did their own winners rotation, with the rest of the group on the usual one. Normally, I have them play on a narrow court, but this time we went full court. This was basically a build-up of the attacking work to add the block.

From there we did hitters vs. a full 6-team unit, taking things up another level. They played out any rallies which ensued.

I then moved them on to 22 vs 22 to bring in the serve reception element. Because of the mixture of ability and experience, I set the teams to have the starters against each other in the front row for the first two games (one side was the server in each), then flipped front and back row for the second two games.

We finished up with a regular 25-point game using the same teams.

It was a good session. The energy level was high. The players were generally more aggressive in attack. I saw more block-out, high hands swings, which is something we’re trying to work on. Serving was pretty good. Defense was very strong. It was good to see. The second team coach was in the gym with us, providing a bit more technical coaching.

Wednesday
I think lifting before training tends to take a bit out of the players (not surprisingly) and lead to less energy and intensity. That certainly seemed to be the case in this session. Though, my young MB did ask about how much jumping there would be given that they’d done a fair bit on Monday and Tuesday, so there was perhaps a little bit of an overall fatigue.

As per usual on Wednesday, the session started with 2-ball volley tennis. That was followed by cooperative cross-court hitting in which I had the group first do attacking through 4, then attacking through 2, then 2 and 4 and finally 4 and 2.

The second team was still going on center court, so I needed to extend our time on the side court a bit longer. I had the team do serve and pass 3s. That hadn’t been in the plan, but it served the time-fill purpose.

Switching to the center court, next up was back row Winners 3s to get into game play and competition. That was followed by a new version of the servers vs passers game, which the passers won again.

The primary full game play exercise was a 5 v 5 focused on right side vs left side. Each team had three back row players, but only two in the front. On one side, it was OH and MB. On the other it was RS and MB. We played games to 5 with one side serving each ball and playing two games before I rotated players around to get different hitting/blocking match-ups.

The 5 v 5 games end up being lower intensity and focus than I’d have liked. After going through a few rounds, I decided to do something much more uptempo. I had 3 front row players and two back row on each side. I alternated tossing a free ball in to each side and let them play out the rallies.

We finished with target serving. At the end, my American MB did some work with the young Swedish MB on her arm swing hitting off a box.

Friday
This session was a classic build-up one, starting with fairly simple and progressing to complex. After warm-ups and pre-hab I had them do a 4-corner setting drill. That was followed by target serving where I told them to do 10 good of the best serve, than work on their next best. I gave them about five minutes.

Next up was servers vs. passers. This time I only went to 15 points and started the score at 4-0 for the servers. No bonus points. The game ended up much closer this time, though the passers won once more, 15-13.

From there it was back row Winners 3s to get in attacking and defense, with some “live” serve reception. I then progressed that to Winners 4s with fixed setters and middles (one of the others was front court as well). That kept the passing and added in the middle attacks and blocking.

After that it was more full game play – though one side only had six players so Zone 6 was out. I used 22 v 22 as the structure. We did 3 total rounds of that, by which time the players were looking fatigued, so I called it a day.

After training the MBs once again did work on arm swing. The two passers who struggled last weekend also wanted to stay and do some more passing. We talked a little about technique and ready position, but the biggest issue for both is what’s going on between their ears. They pass well in drills (though are very hard on themselves if it”s not perfect), so I told them it’s all about clearing out the negativity come playing time.

Saturday
That match didn’t go as planned. I had a warning during our warm-ups that we perhaps weren’t as focused as needed. During the defensive drill the team does (2 hitters, a setter, 3 defenders rotating in and out) there were balls getting hit between players not getting dug – to the point where I stopped them for a few words. That’s the first time I’ve felt the need to do anything like that.

The first set was nip and tuck early, but eventually they got out to a 14-10 lead, and then 17-12. We clawed back to 19-17, but it ended 25-18. Part of what saw us fall behind was missed serves in the early going, which was theme through the match. We seemed to have them in clusters near the start of sets, but got much more consistent after that and ended up with 11 aces to 11 errors for the match.

We actually passed fairly well in the first set, but our hitting was poor. We only sided out at 44%.

The second set saw things turn around sharply. We got out to a 9-4 lead, which ended up extending to 19-9. We had no service errors in that set, but managed 4 aces.

At 19-10 I subbed in our back-up setter for the starting one. The starter had just finished serving, so she was in 1. Unfortunately, the passing let her down and she maybe could have made a better decision on one of her sets. We gave up I think 4 points and I had to put the starter back in. Even from there they managed to keep coming back and get to 20-16. From there it was even and we won 25-21.

Hitting in the second set was miles better (13 kills against 1 error). We sided out at about 62%, though our passing was a little worse than in the first set.

The third set saw our first four servers miss three serves, though we missed none after that. It was tight up to 10-10, then they nosed ahead to 13-10. From there we never got back to level, though we fought hard. We weren’t helped by some poor officiating. Our hitting was pretty solid and our passing decent, we just struggled with stopping them from scoring (only 32%).

The fourth set had a very similar beginning. We missed 4 serves in our first trip around the rotation – once more not missing any after that. Our passing dipped a bit in this set, though our offense overall remained pretty effective (17 kills vs. 3 errors). Again the issue was stopping the other team from scoring (33%). It was very even up to 13-13, then they nosed ahead  to 18-15. We came back and eventually reversed things to 23-22, but then gave up the last three straight points.

This one hurt. We were clearly favored and had beat Gislaved three times before. They were a team on the ropes having gotten pounded on Tuesday and with a bunch of players recovering from injury and illness. We needed this one to stay in the fight for a top playoff seed. Losing puts us in a bad position given our remaining schedule.

As much as we looked great at times – especially on offense – we had quite a few lapses. Hitters didn’t expected to get set. Players didn’t cover their hitters or expect a ball to get played by teammate. A few execution and decision errors. My concern is that the team was mentally and/or physically fatigued, which led to the focus issues. Some of the players are also dealing with minor injury issues.

Thoughts, observations, and other stuff
On Tuesday Engelholm beat Gislaved rather easily. Apparently, Gislaved was dealing with a rash of injury and illness issues. Their top OH, for example, was relegated to playing Libero. Not that we’d have expected them to beat Engelholm in any case. Similarly, Örebro won 3-0 at RIG on Wednesday night.

On Thursday we found out that Engelholm had replaced the American MB they’d had to send home due to a back injury. The player is reportedly a part of the Canadian nation, so a potential upgrade in quality. That team has used it’s middles very little offensively, so it might not add much to them from that perspective, but it could improve their block.

Saturday’s other matches saw Lindesberg win easily at RIG, as expected. The more interesting match was Örebro hosting Hylte. The visitors won a tight one, 3-2.

More on servers vs. passers games

volleyball serve

I want to follow up on my serve reception scoring philosophy post. After some consideration, I experimented with a different scoring version. This was motivated by a discussion with Mark from At Home on the Court.

The scoring was as follows:

Pass is a 3 or 2 (positive pass in DataVolley) = point for passers
Pass is a 1 or overpass, or get aced = point for servers
Missed serve = -1 for servers

The game started at 3-0 in favor of the servers. That allowed the servers to miss a reasonable number of serves.

I set the game up to go to 25. Unfortunately, I quickly realized the game was going to take too long. As a result, when the first group reached 15 (passers in this case), I told the team it was bonus time. Moving forward, aces and 3 passes (perfect) were worth 2 points. That sped things up. It also led to the score being tighter in the end.

I will experiment with this further. One thing to look at is shorter games. So too is going with the 2 point plays from the beginning. Also, I need to think about the number of missed serves to allow for with the starting score. It has to be based on the number of serves made to be more fair based on how aggressive you want to the servers to be.

Team policies – why you need them

Dan Mickle at The Coaches Mind wrote a while back about the need for clear, defined team policies. It is the core idea in a piece which begins with a discussion of “parents today” or “players today” and all the things we coaches are prone to complain about. Dan’s main argument is that we coaches – or program administrators – should have policies in place and, equally importantly, stick to them.

I’ll leave you to read the post for a broader discussion. The specific areas of focus Dan mentions for having written and communicated team polices, though, are:

Key areas for team policies:

  • Playing time
  • Team Philosophy
  • Communication Rules
  • Practice Policy
  • Rules
  • Grievance Policy
  • Repercussions

Some of the above team policies will naturally come down from above. If you coach in a school, it or the athletic department dictates certain things. If you coach for a club, there are policies which come down from the club director or board.

team policies held reduce stressYour own team policies have to get in there as well. These, at least in part, should be based on your coaching philosophy. If nothing else, you don’t want there to be a conflict between your personal philosophy and the policies. Should there be one, it’s bound to cause a problem at some point. If you have a philosophical conflict with the policies coming down from the school or club then you probably shouldn’t be coaching there in the first place.

But back to the broader point.

The main motivation for having clear team policies that are communicated is to minimize both the frequency of issues with players and parents. Further, they reduce the amount of trouble they create if problems do arise. If you don’t have them, you should very seriously consider developing some – and Dan’s post is a good starting point for doing so.

Are your players mentally or physically fatigued by training?

Orest Stanko at the Pak Men blog wrote a post mainly focused on the value or lack of value in physical consequences (punishment) for the failure to do certain things in training. An example is push-ups when one does not call the ball. It’s worth reading from that point of view. It follows along the lines of some things I’ve written before (see On the question of punishment in volleyball training).

Though only briefly mentioned early on, one idea Orest presents really grabbed my attention. It was that coaches should focus less on player fatigue as a training objective. Rather, your goal should be mental fatigue. Sports are generally viewed as mainly operating in the physical realm. It is therefore easy to see why coaches would think having physically tired athletes at the end of practice is the objective.

Obviously, there is a strong physical element to training. In particular, if you believe that the best form of conditioning work for your team is what you do in training, then it’s reasonable to think in those fatigue terms.

But as coaches we don’t just focus on developing physical abilities. A massive part of our role is to help our athletes the mental side of the game – reading, decision-making, etc. You may even be able to say it’s the bigger aspect of our job.

That’s where the idea of mental fatigue at the end of training comes in to consideration. How do you challenging players mentally as much as you do physically (or more)?

The answer is pretty simple. You put them in positions which force them to read and make decisions. Importantly, you also have a feedback mechanism with respect to that reading and decision-making so the players can judge their performance.

Think about the implications of those requirements,

A different approach to training mechanics

John Kessel wrote and article on the subject of coaching feedback. You should definitely take some time to give it a read.

The main thrust of the piece is that the sort of mechanics feedback/coaching I’d venture to say most of us have long engaged in (left foot there, elbow up, arms in this position, etc.) isn’t the best way to go about things. In fact, it may be counter-productive. The better approach is to talk about things from a kind of desired outcome perspective. The former approach is called internal while the latter is external.

I couldn’t help but chuckle at the first example of the difference between the two John provides – elbow high (internal) vs. swing fast (external).

You see, the night before I read that article I overheard my young middle talking about how her last coach had spent two years telling her to get her elbow up. It didn’t really work. 🙂

I later had a conversation with my OPP about her blocking technique. She commented on how it didn’t really help to have people talk about what she should be doing with her arms, feet, hands, etc. It wasn’t useful feedback for her because she couldn’t translate that into something actionable. In part that was because she needed to see what she was doing (advocating video use). It was also because those verbal cues didn’t have any resonance with her in terms of desired outcome.

If nothing else, this discussion of internal vs. external highlights the need to find key words or phrases or cues that work with each individual player. At some point we have to recognize that saying the same thing over and over isn’t working.

Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing repeatedly expecting a different result?

If so, many of us coaches could be said to at least have bouts of insanity. That’s above and beyond our decisions to become coaches. 😉

Anyway, give Kessel’s article a read. I could change how you think about the way you coach the technical elements of the game.

Coaching Log – Jan 25, 2016

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

Along with our Saturday match, the weekend’s Elitserie fixtures included Hylte hosting RIG and Örebro hosting Lindesberg on Sunday. The latter match was the more interesting of the two as it was far more likely to have implications on playoff standings. With both teams virtually assured of 12 points from their four matches vs RIG and Sollentuna in the second half, if either Örebro or Lindesberg is able to win both of their matches against each other – especially if they are 3-point wins – it will put them in position to seriously challenge for a top-3 playoff seed.

We’d have liked to see Lindesberg win 3-2. Alas, after a tight first set, Örebro ran away with a fairly easy 3-0 victory. Hylte also won easily. Basically, that means the standings to start this week had the same order as they did to end the first half of the season. The only difference is that Örebro has played an extra match.

Monday
Our Monday practice gym was cold, so I made some adjustments to the session I had in mind to try to make sure the players stayed active and didn’t cool off between activities. We started talking a bit about Saturday’s match, and then a bit about Wednesday’s opponent, Hylte. I had observed that they did some different things with their line-up in their weekend match than they did at Gran Prix. They started the setter in the same position, but they swapped the position of their OHs and their MBs.

After the talk and warm-ups, we did some 3-person over-the-net pepper, followed by serving-and-passing 3s. That was followed by servers vs. passers, with an adjustment in the scoring to have the passers target 2.2 rather than 2.0 as an average.

After that, I had them down continuous cross-court digging. That was something I hadn’t planned, but inserted for the “keep warm” factor. After that, we did some hitting and blocking with pin hitters going 1 v 1 against pin blockers. After doing a bit of Winners 3s, we finished up with a few 7-point games of left side vs right side.

Tuesday
We had two extra players on-hand – ones I’m hoping will be a fixture on Tuesdays from now one. They’ve both been with us several times before, but not on a consistent basis. Having them will definitely help doing more full-team type work – especially on what will often be the training before a match in the weeks ahead.

We had an opportunity to look at some video from Hylte’s weekend match, so spent a bit of time talking scouting. It wasn’t a lot of new stuff, though. More a reminder, seeing as we’ve played them 3 times already this year.

After warm-ups and pre-hab, I split the group over two courts and had them do a 3 v 3 cooperative back court game. The first part was just a warm-up extension, but after a few minutes I made it competitive in that the first court to get to 10 consecutive good pass-set-hits won.

From there we had the pin hitters on one court working on their directional hitting. I had a couple of blockers in place for them to work around. On the other court, the MBs were working on their attacks.

I then brought the groups together to do hitters against blockers and defense. Basically, this was the same thing we did last week where the block and defense were working on their positioning and reading and the hitters were working on their audible calls. They did play out the rallies.

From there we progressed to 6 v 6 play. I made about even teams and we played a variation on the 2-in-2 game. Instead of it being 2 serves and a point scored only if a team wins both rallies, otherwise it was a wash, we did alternating serves until a team won two in a row. That sees points scored more quickly. I had the games be to 4 and we went through four rotations.

Lastly, we played a regular 25 point game. This was A team vs B team, so to speak. It ended up being 25-15. There were some good rallies, but I think I probably won’t do that again. Just too lopsided.

I was really happy with what I saw of our defensive play. That facet of our game has really come along lately.

Wednesday
Let’s just say this wasn’t our best performance. During the first two sets we both served and passed serve poorly. The third set was much improved in both respects, but through the whole match we were constantly playing from behind. It was a tight affair, with no more than a 3 point margin in any given set, but we lost 0-3. That’s our first home league loss and the first time we didn’t get at least a point.

In the final analysis we came out ahead in terms of blocking, we had more aces, and we passed better. Our kill % was at the 40% level we’ve been working toward reaching. Our sideout percentage was high, but there’s was just a little higher. We simply made too many mistakes – particularly in the areas of attack and serve. In the case of the latter, not only did we miss nearly 20% of our serves, but they often came at bad times. The fact that we saw a similar issue against Sollentuna, I’m worried that we’ve fallen back into old habits.

Our O1 didn’t have her best match, which hurt us. We are heavily reliant on her scoring for us. This is something I feel like we need to remedy. We’re predictable. That’s fine against lesser teams, but against the better ones it means we’re constantly facing a bigger, better formed block. It’s going to take some of our other hitters stepping up to ease that pressure – and some better sets.

Friday
One player was missing because she needed to work. We also had a shortened time slot for training due to a floor ball match being played immediately afterwards. Given the early start and long ride for Saturday’s match this probably wasn’t a bad situation.

After warm-ups and prehab, I had them do some serving. We then did a cooperative cross-court team pepper. I made a few adjustments, though. In this case, the setters and the defenders were fixed. I had the two OHs and MBs rotate between front row and back row. One of my MBs defends in 6, while the other defends in 5. The OH played in the same position as the MB when in the back row. I allowed for both attacks through 4 and in the back row in this variation.

From there we went through the rotations. Because my OPP was missing, I had my back-up setter play in her position. The team received serve and attacked, then defended and transitioned against an attacked ball through 4 from me on a box. Not something I normally like doing, but I had to deal with the constraints.

We finished with back row Winners 3s.

Saturday
We were on the road at about 6:40 for our trip up to Örebro.

2016-01-23 14.09.03

The team was in pretty good spirits and energy going into the match. Unfortunately, the serving issues we’ve been having of late showed themselves again. We missed 11 serves in the first two sets, which prevented us from really taking hold of the match at certain times. We won the first set 21-25, but lost the second 25-19.

Serving improved in the third set, but our passing started to break down as that game when along. We jumped out to a big early lead – 14-4, I believe – but got stuck at a couple of points and ended up letting them back in. A combination of poor reception and not taking key chances eventually saw us lose that one 31-29.

The four set started of badly. I think we went down 6-0 based mainly on bad passing. We eventually recovered and were level on 8-8, but never could quite get on top of them. They ended up winning 25-19.

As noted, we started off serving poorly, but we passed pretty well – 2.00 and 2.14 in the first two sets. Serving was improved in the latter two sets – at least in terms of misses, but passing plummeted – 1.55 and 1.57. Basically, our Libero and O2 completely lost the plot. They combined for 9 aces or overpasses and recorded 22 1-passes.

Not that this was our only issue. A big problem was a lack of kills from our attackers. The setter did a pretty good job distributing the ball and getting lots of 1-on-1 situations, but we couldn’t put the ball away. Our O2, OPP, and M2 had kill percentages of 17%, 18%, and 7% respectively. This is a major issue. We need at least one of them to step up and produce because otherwise our O1 and M1 are just going to face bigger and more well-formed blocks, making them less and less effective.

Sunday
This was a recove

Thoughts, observations, and other stuff
On Tuesday, Engelholm won 3-1 over Amager in the Oresund Liga. That drew them level with us on 13 points, but into second on set differential. Here’s the current table:

OresundLiga-012016

There isn’t another Liga match until we host Amager the first week of February. That same week, Brøndby will host Engelholm in a match with major championship implications.

In the Elitserie, RIG also hosted Sollentuna on Wednesday in a battle of the bottom two teams. As was the case in the first half, Sollentuna came away with the win. Sollentuna was also in action on Saturday, making a trip down to Gislaved. As expected, the home team won 3-0.

Developing young coaches in a club

While coaching in Sweden, board members of my employer club brought me into a conversation. Svedala has it roots in youth volleyball. In many ways it was still primarily a youth-oriented organization. It was facing one of the issues I think every youth/juniors club has. That’s attracting and retaining coaches to run training and manage the teams in competition.

The question posed to me was how to develop more coaches internally. In particular, how do you encourage older and/or more experienced players to be more active as coaches. The three Americans in the Elitserie team I coached all coached the younger players. It was part of their contract. Periodically, other members of the team also helped out at training as well.

The foreign players, though, turnover frequently at clubs like Svedala. They needed a more stable core group of coaches in the club. The board members asked me for ideas on how to facilitate creating such a cadre.

How do we create coaching cadre?

My main suggestion was to make it a regular feature that members of the older teams at least help coach younger players. For example, Elitserie player could help with the second team, the second team could help with the next oldest age group, and so on down the chain.

To my mind, there are multiple benefits to this kind of arrangement. Obviously, increasing the number of coaches is one of them.

The other benefit is providing the younger players with role models in their development. We want younger players to develop a connection with the older ones. It encourages them to be more involved as spectators at the older team matches. It also encourages them to try to be like their “heros”.

A further plus to having older players coach younger ones is that it makes them better players. The process of teaching is a great way to learn. I know I found that myself in my own coaching (when I was still young and fit enough to be an active player), and I’ve heard others say the same thing on numerous occasions.

On top of all this, creating a structure where players coach players can help to develop a stronger collective sense of club and community.

How do we implement that?

The follow-up question is how then to implement something along those lines. I like the idea of having a master coach who is in charge of directing training overall. The other coaches, who presumably are only in their early stages of coaching development, would then operate under that person’s supervision in running training sessions – and potentially in coaching teams during competition.

I think either way there needs to be some kind of coach development process in place. You can’t just throw a 15 year old in to coach a bunch of 12s and expect them to immediately know what to do. Guidance and support is required.

Above and beyond all of this, there needs to be a concerted effort toward coaching talent identification. I personally am always on the lookout for players who seem to have the right mixture of temperament and talent to eventually move into the coaching ranks. We need to foster these individuals in their development.

Philosophy question: serve reception scoring

One of the things I started doing while coaching at Svedala was incorporate more competitive servers vs. passers games. I discussed that in this log entry, Basically, I put the three primary passers (Libero plus the two OHs) out receiving against the rest of the team. Each server gets 2 serves. The goal of the passers was to average a pass rating of 2.0.

For example, let’s say I have 7 servers. At 2 balls each, that’s 14 total serves. To average a 2.0 the passers need to collect a total of 28 passing points based on the rating of each pass.

We played the game probably half a dozen times the first week I used it and the passers won all about one of them. That struck me as unusual given that on the season our passing average is below 2.0 and our team is one of the best in the league at serving.

Thinking about that, I realized what was happening. In my scoring I counted a missed serve as a 3-pass. In determining the match stats, though, missed serves are not counted.

Should we count missed serves toward pass ratings?

That led me to wonder a couple of things.

First, if missed serves counted as 3 points, what would the equivalent be of a 2.0 average pass rating? I don’t want to have the missed serves not count because I want the game to apply to the servers as well. If they can just go back and let it rip with no consequences it doesn’t help their development.

Second, if we include missed serves into our team passing rating for matches, what would our target rating be? Most teams say 2.0 on the 3-point scale when excluding missed serves.

That second point has me really wondering. One of the things I talk with my teams about is setting up serve reception not just to put our best passers in place to take the first ball, but also to put the opposing server under some pressure. Give them a different look. Make them aim for a small area of the court if they’re targeting a specific passer. Give the appearance of something being open or not open. That kind of thing. Missed serves should really factor into looking at serve reception effectiveness from that perspective.

Something to contemplate.