Communicating playing time prospects to non-starters

A question recently came up on the subject of talking with non-starters.

So many times when the discussion of playing time comes up, either the player or parent is asking what they need to improve on, or the coach uses improvement in particular skills as a prerequisite for more playing time. Now the paradox: As a coach, don’t you expect improvement from Everyone on your roster? If everyone improves, including the non-starter, is your starting team going to change? (probably not!). So by tying more playing time to improvement, aren’t you setting this player up for more disappointment?

This definitely represents an interesting conundrum for us coaches. In order for a non-starter to become a starter they need to get better. Either that or a starter needs to have a dip in form. You certainly hope and expect that the starters will continue to improve, though. If that’s the case, then the non-starter should never get into the starting lineup. So how do we handle this?

Control what we can control

First and foremost, it is important to get the non-starter focused on what they can control. They cannot control what others do. They can only control their own effort and attitude. It’s about putting in the work with intention. A potentially big part of this is making sure you give them at least as much attention as you give your starters. That way they don’t feel left behind or left out.

Different rates of improvement

A major consideration in this whole scenario is a kind of assumption that players improve at the same rate. This really isn’t the case, though. Player’s progress at different rates. That means non-starters can definitely overtake starters over time. This is especially true when you’ve got players at different points in their development. Younger players tend to make gains more quickly than older ones.

Don’t tie playing time to improvement

Here’s the mistake coaches can make. We obviously want to see our non-starters improve. Even if they never make the starting team, their better play in practice will at least create a higher level of play in that context (see A-team vs. B-team), challenging the other players more. We cannot, though, tie playing time to improvement – at least not in a nominal sense.

By that I mean we can’t tell players they just need to get better because the reality is that they need to be better than the starter(s) ahead of them. Thus, it’s a relative thing, not an absolute. You thus have to frame it more along the lines of, “You need to be better than (or at least as good as) Jane in …” That gives you room to base things on the relative levels of the player rather than absolute changes by the non-starter.

Note that all of this can tie in with your decisions on substitutions as well.

Common coaching mistakes

There’s an article on Volleyball Toolbox which lists out eight coaching mistakes. I thought I’d take some time to address them myself. Here’s the list.

  1. Focused on Outcomes (Instead of Learning)
  2. Focused on Being Serious (Instead of Enjoyment)
  3. Tried to Inspire by Demeaning (Instead of Being Demanding)
  4. Took Credit for the Good and Blamed Others for the Bad (Instead of the Opposite)
  5. Did Lots of Talking (Instead of Listening)
  6. Acted Like a General (Instead of a Teacher)
  7. Used Fear as a Motivator (Instead of Love)
  8. Knew it All (Instead of being Humble)

Let me take these mistakes one by one.

Outcome focus

While I agree with the motivation behind #1, there’s a bit of nuance required in the thinking. Yes, there can be a tendency to focus too much on winning and losing as the outcome. We cannot, however, say we are just going to focus on the learning side of things, though. Why? Because the outcomes are – at least partly – why we are training. My point is that what our players are learning needs move them towards the outcome we seek. We are not just teaching them a set of skills.

Too serious

In terms of #2, there is a difference between being serious and being focused. You can have fun and be focused. Practice doesn’t have to be a serious thing. I know I personally prefer a bit of levity. Otherwise, it can be kind of dull. That’s not to say it’s all laughing and joking. It’s about allowing them – and us as coaches – to enjoy themselves. Allowing that while maintaining focus is part of our coaching role.

Demeaning

I think #3 probably doesn’t require much comment. Belittling has no place in coaching in my view. If we cannot get our point across without demeaning our players we have serious short-comings as teachers and leaders.

Credit and blame

There are a couple of factors that can contribute to #4. One is overconfidence – specifically, something referred to as misattribution or self-attribution. That means we think a given positive outcome (e.g. winning) is thanks to our own talent, knowledge, skill, etc. At the same time, we attribute negative outcomes (e.g. losing) to things outside ourselves (refs, players, court conditions, etc.). In other words, we don’t see correctly our contribution to the outcome, and also we fail to realize that sometimes random chance plays a major part.

The other factor in this is Mindset. If we have a fixed mindset, then our view of ourselves and our personal self-worth is closely tied with outcomes. That means we are going to favor things which tend to support that view (we’re a good coach). At the same time, we’re going to tend to discount things which don’t support this view.

Talking too much

Related to #5, I wrote previously in The more you talk, the less they train that especially newer coaches can easily fall into a trap of talking way too much. My main point in that post is that if we’re talking then they aren’t actually practicing. Beyond that, though, we aren’t giving them a chance to figure things out for themselves, which is much more powerful than being told what to do. Further, if all you’re doing is talking then you’re not paying attention to what’s happening. That means you could miss important things.

Playing general

The focus of #6 is on making all the decisions as coach rather than letting the players get on with it themselves. Basically, your trying to control everything. Think of it as micromanaging.

This is something I wrote about in Calling plays from the bench. We have to accept that we cannot dictate everything. Even more, if we make all the decisions we are short-changing the players’ development. In other words, we’re failing as teachers. This might be fine if you’re playing for gold in the Olympics. If you’re coaching a bunch of 14 year-olds, though, it’s a problem.

I should note that good generals know that they need to let those below them just get on with doing what needs to be done without constant oversight and interference.

Fear and intimidation

My thinking for #7 is similar to #3. If you require fear and/or intimidation to motivate your players, you’re failing as a coach. You need to find a better way. Coaching is about convincing – getting players to buy in to your perspective and sense of direction. Legendary coach Julio Velasco spoke about this very thing at the 2015 High Performance Coaches Clinic.

Know it all

One of the common themes from the Volleyball Coaching Wizards interviews is that as young coaches we don’t realize how little we really know. As the saying goes, the older we get, the less we know. This should both make one humble as a coach and motivate an attitude of life-long learning.

UK university volleyball options for Americans

I received a question from an NCAA Division I assistant coach asking about US players going to the UK to play volleyball as post-graduate students. In this post I will address that subject as best I can.

The 2017-18 figures released by USA Volleyball show at least 45 players receiving international transfer certificates to play in England. There could be more playing for UK universities who did not get an ITC because they don’t play in the top level of the National League (NVL) there. For example, I had a couple of Americans play for me at Exeter. Since we did not play in the NVL they didn’t need ITCs.

The point I’m trying to make is there are quite a few Americans playing in England each year. A number of them are even on scholarships. Mainly, those are post-graduates. Think players who finished their NCAA playing career, but weren’t quite ready to stop playing competitive volleyball.

If you’re looking for a scholarship you need to find a university where volleyball is a performance sport. Most universities have volleyball clubs that compete in BUCS, which is the rough UK equivalent to the NCAA (the NAIA might be a better comparison). The performance programs, however, are a different situation. They are much more akin to what we would call varsity sports in the US. There aren’t that many of them, though.

Universities with performance volleyball programs

Here are at least some of the universities that have volleyball as a performance sport. I’ve included links to their information web page.

On the women’s side, Durham and Northumbria have been the top teams for several years. For the men, Sheffield Hallam and Northumbria have consistently been at the top, but Bournemouth is a regular championship contender as well. Essex and East London in recent years have also pushed themselves into the conversation.

Bournemouth was in the same BUCS league as Exeter when I coached there. I also got to coach against Durham (men) and Northumbria (women) in Final 8s.

Recruitment

If you go to a university without a performance program – or you just want a less intense volleyball experience – you’ll simply be part of the school’s club program. Generally speaking, that just means turning up for their tryouts or something along those lines when school starts. Easy enough.

If you want to go the performance route, however, you should think of it like the college recruitment process. You’ll want to reach out to the program(s) you’re interested in, provide them information about yourself, give them some video, etc.

Placement service

Several years back a service was developed by a woman who herself played in the UK as a post-graduate. It is called TeamGleas. Think of it as an athlete promotional service that universities subscribe to. They don’t just cover the UK. If you, or someone you know, is thinking about playing and going to school abroad, it might be worth having a look.

There may be other services out there as well. I just don’t know of them.

Keep in mind

A word of warning is required here. You should not expect the same level of support and facilities in the UK as you see at US colleges and universities (especially the higher level ones). Volleyball just isn’t that big a sport over there. This goes doubly when talking about the non-performance club programs. Training for them might only be once or twice a week, possibly with no coach.

And the competition in BUCS won’t be spectacular. Since most teams are club programs, they just aren’t that strong. The performance programs, though, are generally linked in with a club playing in one of the top divisions of the National League. That’s much more serious, and in some cases includes professional (or at least semi-pro) players.

I bring this up not to discourage anyone from going to the UK to study and play volleyball. I just want to make sure the expectations are realistic. If nothing else, it’s could be a great experience on many levels. Certainly, it provides opportunities to do some interesting travel.

Questions?

I hope this post provides the information you need to at least start thinking about things and exploring your options. If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them if I can. If I can’t, I might be able to get them from my contacts among the coaches over there.

The two biggest jobs of a coach

When it comes to coaching a team there are two main responsibilities. I’m not talking about off-court administrative requirements. Those can vary considerably between teams and organizations. I’m talking here about on-court, in the gym. That’s the common ground for all coaches. Those two responsibilities are setting priorities and deciding who’s on court during matches.

Setting priorities

As coaches, one of the most important things we do is assess our teams and players, and set training priorities. We decide which skills and/or tactics to focus on in practice. We decide which part of a player’s game we want to get the most attention. These priorities then filter in to how we develop practice plans and where we concentrate our feedback. At least they should!

You may be the best in the world technical training. If you don’t pick the right skills to develop, though, you’re wasting time and effort.

Think of it this way. The first thing you have to do as a coach is decide where you want the team to go. That might change along the way, but you always need to have a destination in mind. Once that’s in place, you then map a course to get you there. If you have no destination, who knows where you’ll end up.

Playing time

When it comes to match-day coaching, the most important thing we do is decide who’s playing and in what role. That’s a combination of starting line-up and substitutions.

Obviously, there are things you can do in terms of strategy, managing the team’s emotional state during play, and the like. All of that, though, follows on from your team selection. If you don’t get the personnel on court right, the rest of it probably won’t matter too much.

Yes, there is more to it

Of course there is more to successful coaching. For example, recruiting is extremely important in the college and professional levels. Keeping kids academically eligible is important in any school team situation. There’s scheduling considerations and any number of other off-court details that need to be managed.

When it comes to on-court stuff, however, good prioritization and line-up decisions are the key factors in coaching success. Everything else comes in to play from there.

The NCAA’s Performance Indicator

If you follow college sports in the US then you’ve probably heard about the RPI. I’ve written about it before. It’s also something I’ve brought up in my coaching log entries. It’s a highly quantitative way of ranking teams toward NCAA tournament selection, or the playoffs in the case of college football (FBS).

The RPI is actually only part of the selection process. The other criteria look something like this.

  1. Overall Division II won-lost results.
  2. Opponents’ average winning percentage.
  3. Opponents’ opponents’ average winning percentage.
  4. Head-to-head competition.
  5. Results versus common opponents.
  6. Results versus Division II ranked teams (all regions – once ranked, always ranked).

The first three on the list above are actually part of the RPI calculation.

Apparently, a move was put forward to drop the results vs. Division II ranked teams. In it’s place goes the Performance Indicator (PI). Never heard of it? I’m not surprised. It’s been around for a while. It doesn’t get much press, though.

The PI has a very similar thought process as the RPI, though with a meaningful addition. Like the RPI, it values winning strongly, while also giving a boost for playing better teams. One thing the PI factors in that the RPI doesn’t, however, is whether the results are home, away, or on neutral ground.

Calculating the PI

23 − Win on road against a .750 or above team
22 − Win neutral-site game against a .750 or above team
21 − Win at home against a .750 or above team
20 − Win on road against a .500-.749 team
19 − Win neutral site game against a .500-.749 team
18 − Win at home against a .500-.749 team
17 − Win on road against a .250- .499 team
16 − Win neutral site game against a .250-.499 team
15 − Win at home against a .250-.499 team
14 − Win on road against a .000-.249 team
13 − Win neutral site game against a .000-.249 team
12 − Win at home against a .000-.249 team
11 − Road loss to .750 or above team
10 − Neutral site loss to a .750 or above team
9 − Home loss to a .750 or above team
8 − Road loss to a .500-.749 team
7 − Neutral site loss to a .500-.749 team
6 − Home loss to a .500-.749 team
5 − Road loss to a .250-.499 team
4 − Neutral site loss to a .250-.499 team
3 − Home loss to a .250-.499 team
2 − Road loss to a .000-.250 team
1 − Neutral site loss to a .000-.250 team
0 − Home loss to a .000-.250 team

Divide the total by matches played and you have the PI.

Impact on scheduling?

So first priority is to win, and especially to win on the road. If you’re going to lose, then you want to lose on the road against very good teams. We joked in the office while going over this that no one will want to host anymore since even if you lose you get more points doing so on the road. 🙂

Honestly, I don’t think the PI will factor into things for most teams. For some conferences the only realistic way to get into the NCAA tournament is to win the league title, so the teams there don’t care overly much about these other considerations. Perhaps teams that dominate a given conference care, as it goes toward their NCAA tournament seeding, but that’s about it.

In the more competitive conferences, however, the story is a bit different. For example, in the South Central region the Lone Star Conferences and the Rocky Mountain Conference contribute 7 of the 8 teams to the NCAA tournament at the regional level. That means each year there is not only a battle for who makes the tournament, but also for who gets seeded where (and by extension, who hosts).

Note, though, that there are several other important criteria, two of which related to direct comparison between teams. That means you can’t necessarily just focus on maximizing PI.

Where should you focus your coaching attention during matches?

It’s match time. As coach, what should you do with yourself? That’s what the following coach wants to know.

What have you found to be the most effective area to focus your attention during a match as a coach? I’ve found that it’s easy to get distracted watching the “game” like a spectator. I was just wondering what you smart people focus on or how you are practically spending your time (charting, calling plays, whatever).

For example, as a head coach, do you spend most of your time watching the other team’s defense so you can lead the offense? Or do you spend your time watching your team to see who is doing well or losing points at X, Y, or Z?

I think a lot of us, especially early in our careers, probably found ourselves watching the game like a spectator. As you get more experienced, though, your vision changes and evolves. You learn to take things in even while watching the game as a whole.

That said, there are a couple of ways to get more out of watching from the sidelines.

Focus on your priority

What is the most important information you can provide your team during the match? This should dictate where you focus your attention. Is your team still learning its defensive responsibilities? Then you should focus more on their movement and positioning and not focus much on the other team. Do you need to help your setter with their decision making or your hitters with finding ways to score? Then you likely need to focus more attention on how the opposition is setting up their block and defense.

You may even have situations where you need to focus on just one player. Maybe there is an injury question. Maybe you are worried about their mentality. This usually isn’t something you do for long periods, but it can be very important for the team’s performance overall.

This isn’t to say you can only watch one thing. I’m merely suggesting that you should give more of your attention to that area of the court which will give you the information you need to provide your players.

Taking stats

If you don’t have another source of statistics, then taking at least some of them during a match can be quite helpful. The trick is being able to do so while also giving enough attention to what’s happening on the court. I personally have always struggled when a head coach to also take stats – even end of rally type stuff. I always feel like I’m missing something when I have to turn my attention away from the court, however briefly. You may find it easier.

Regardless, you must decide what information would be helpful during the match and not worry about stuff you could later pull from the video. You also want to make taking those stats as simple as possible, and that you are able to reference and interpret them at a glance.

Delegating

If you are a head coach then maybe you can delegate part of what needs to be watched to someone else – assistant coach, parent, etc. Statistics especially can be delegated quite easily. You just have to provide very specific and clear instructions on what you want collected and in what format you want to see it. For example, if you have someone take serve reception stats, make sure they know exactly how to score each pass.

At some levels assistant coaches are responsible for certain parts of the game. One may watch the block and defense. One may focus on the offense. This allows the head coach to focus wherever they think is most important at the time, while still collecting other information.

Avoiding Overload

One thing to make sure to avoid is overloading your players. This can happen when multiple people are telling them different things. This can also happen when you give the team too many different things to focus on. Players – individually and collectively – can only keep so many things in mind. And the less experienced the players the lower than threshold is. Keep this in mind both as you prioritize your focus, or what you delegate, and in information transmission.

Overload applies to you as coach also. If you try to look at too many things you’ll probably not actually take in anything meaningful. In that case you’re back to being a spectator.

Coaching Log – January 3, 2018

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

It’s been nearly a month since my last update. Obviously, we haven’t been in the gym, but that doesn’t mean things haven’t been happening.

Roster changes

Recall that we did a tryout last month for prospective transfer middles and liberos. As it turns out, one of the liberos was someone already committed to transfer to MSU – as a freshman. Literally that same day she met with a counselor about her schedule for the Spring semester. She’d played a fair amount as a defensive specialist for her prior school – a Division II program in our Region – but opted to transfer for non-volleyball reasons. She was club teammates with of one of our current freshmen, and did well at the tryout, so we felt she’d make a good addition to the team. Even better, she can be with us through second semester to get integrated with the team.

Recruiting

We’ve still been looking to add one or two additional players to our 2018 freshman class. A middle we offered, and thought we’d get, opted for another school. So it was back to work trying to find someone in that position. We plotted out the tournaments we’ll look to attend during this year’s juniors seasons to come and submitted the requisite travel authorization requests.

The first of those tournaments is actually this weekend. Nothing like jumping right into it in the new year!

Other stuff

There’s never a time when nothing’s going on, especially while school is still in session. The week after our tryout was the last week of classes – and the last time we were all going to be in the office at the same time for a while. We started putting together the Spring semester schedule, continued to do academic monitoring, and dealt with gear. Of course there was plenty of recruiting stuff to do, particularly with the juniors season starting to get rolling.

Review of 2017, look ahead to 2018

Well, 2017 was certainly an interesting year!

As is my habit at the turn of the year, I want to take a little bit of time to review the last 12 months. I’ll also get into some thoughts about what I see for the year ahead, as I did last year. I already did a review of the 2017 volleyball season. This post will focus on other things.

Travel

With Midwestern State I visited a couple of new locations during the course of our season. We played at Austin in a pre-conference tournament. While recruiting I also got to visit San Antonio. At this point, the only major Texas city I haven’t visited is Houston. Not sure that one is in the plans any time soon, though.

Personally, I made two big trips. The first was to the Olymic Training Center in Colorado Springs in February. I was there to attend my second High Performance Coaches Clinic. Here is my report on that. This time I also added in the Coaches Accreditation Program (CAP) Level III coaching course. I also wrote about that experience. I believe I have completed the requirements for my certification, but I’m waiting for final word at this writing.

My big trip was back across the Atlantic in May. The main part of that was spent in Poland where I hung out with Mark Lebedew while he ran pre-World League training camp for the Australian national team. I also spent a couple of days in Germany visiting with a coaching friend there. Of course I had to hit England as well. I spent an afternoon with a coaching friend there, visited with an old friend, and got back to Exeter for a meeting with my PhD supervisor to talk about our joint academic research work.

And then there was the MSU team trip to Buenos Aires. That was my first ever trip south of the US border, and also my first to a Spanish speaking country. It was a great experience, both in terms of the tourist side of things and volleyball.

Projects

It was a rough year for my various projects. Frankly, I did not get done nearly as much as I thought I would. All the organization for the Buenos Aires trip sucked up massive amounts of my non-coaching time. That was especially true over the Summer, which is usually a good time to get big things done. Not so much this year.

At the same time, Mark taking on the added work of coaching a national team alongside his work coaching a professional club team in Poland made it hard for us to collaborate on additional Volleyball Coaching Wizards work. It was my hope to have at least one new book published, but it just didn’t happen.

I did get do some work in the academic arena, but didn’t produce the second paper I had in mind. I also didn’t get a new edition of Inside College Volleyball published, as I wanted. Oh, well. It was still a worthwhile year.

The Blog

Once more I can report growth in readership of this blog. Quite big growth, actually! The year ended with over 100,000 visitors and nearly 220,000 page views, up about 35% from 2016. Honestly, that blows my mind. Along the way the site crossed half a million page views all time since it was launched in June 2013. It got just about 14,000 views that first year.

Again, readership has been basically global, though obviously the US dominates.

 

The most read posts for 2017 were the following.

  1. Volleyball tryout drill ideas
  2. Volleyball set diagram
  3. The qualities of a good team captain
  4. Putting together a starting line-up
  5. Game: Winners (a.k.a King/Queen of the Court)
  6. Scoring serving and passing effectiveness
  7. Getting volleyball players to talk
  8. Volleyball camp drills and games
  9. Are your warm-ups wasting valuable time?
  10. Volleyball conditioning – a sample program

The blog now has over 900 posts. I imagine I’ll cross the 1000 post mark in 2018. Kind of crazy to think about reaching that milestone!

Looking forward to 2018

I enter this new year with a wait and see type of attitude. The one thing I know with certainty is that staff changes are coming at MSU. Our graduate assistant will finish his degree in May, so for sure a new GA will be required. Where things go with that is an open question. Add in the big turnover in players (7 out, and probably at least as many new players in) and you get the prospect for a lot of changes in the program. We’ll see how that all plays out.

In terms of my various other projects, there are three big things I want to complete early this year. One is publishing the second Wizards book, which should happen shortly. Another is updating Inside College Volleyball and getting that out the door. I also have another, non-volleyball, content project I’m working on.

Looking at the rest of the year, there are some other things I want to do as well. Mark and I need to get back to recording and publishing Wizards interviews, and I’d like to publish another book from the project later in 2018. I would also like to develop some longer-form coaching education content. Think an online course, or something like that.

See shall see where things take me!

I have some extra money. What should I buy with it?

From time to time a coach in a forum or discussion group looks for some advice about buying new equipment. Often it starts with something like this:

I have $1000 left in my fundraising account. What should I buy with it?

My personal philosophy on this sort of thing is to think about what you’ll get the most use from over its lifetime. Maybe that comes from my background in business and finance. 🙂

Anyway, with that in mind, here’s what I would look at in order of priority. I should note, I’m thinking here in terms of stuff to help from a coaching perspective. I’m not thinking about things like uniforms and other player gear.

Balls and ball carts

There is definitely a limit to how many balls it makes sense to have. You need space to store them, and the size of your gym plays a part.

For example, when I coached at Exeter our main practice gym had almost no space around the court. That means stray balls were always at risk of getting underfoot. As such, having a big number of balls didn’t make sense. I think we had 18s balls maximum. Different situation at MSU where the gym is much larger and balls roll well away from the court, allowing us to have four or five ball carts full of balls.

At a minimum, you probably want at least one ball per two players. That allows you to do partner work. More is definitely better, though. It lets you keep drills and games going without needing to stop to collect the balls. Granted, you can use that as a break, but you don’t want to have to halt things too often. So get as many balls as you can reasonable handle.

As for ball carts, you obviously need at least enough to hold all the balls. Beyond that, think about how you can distribute carts around your gym to facilitate ball entry and the like in your exercises. For example, if you like to do station work or otherwise split the team, you probably need at least one cart for each group.

Poles, nets, and stuff for additional court(s)

If you have the opportunity to increase the number of courts you can set up in your gym, grab it! That could be something as simple as creating a situation where you can suspend a long net across to run mini volleyball courts. Or you could set up full competitive courts. Whatever the case, you can add more nets to use for practice – perhaps to do stations or small group work. You can also potentially use the extra courts to host tournaments, and maybe even make some money in the process.

Video equipment

These days, if you are not using video in your practices you are behind the times. It could be something as simple as an tablet you use to record players doing reps and playing it back for them. Or it could be an delayed video system. This is the sort of thing where you can find a solution that fits your budget.

Addition coaching help

If you’re in a situation where you don’t have a full staff and could use a bit more help in the gym, maybe you can put the money to use on an assistant. This is not something you’d think of as having a long-term benefit, which is why I put it here. You never know, though. An extra pair of eyes or another voice in the gym could make a big impact with lasting effects, even if it’s just for a short period.

Coaching education

Can you use the money to go to a coaching clinic or convention? If so, that might be a great investment. Increasing your coaching knowledge is something that can have both an immediate positive impact and long lasting ones.

Ball throwers, targets, and other devices

As it’s position on the list implies, I think investing in one of the many devices available on the market should be a low priority. Most of the time these devices are quite expensive and are not used all that often. You have to really look your situation and make a realistic estimate of how often you’d use the new piece of equipment your considering. Then you should probably reduce that estimate because we all tend to overestimate these sorts of things. We have all sorts of grand ideas, but then the reality of having to pull the device out of storage, set it up, and take it down hits.

A serving machine is a prime example. First, you want to consider whether you really want players passing off a machine instead of from an actual server where they are also learning to pick up on visual cues. Second, could you not simply use real servers, thereby also giving them serving practice?

Admittedly, there are situations where a machine makes sense. For example, in men’s volleyball it is hard to get a high volume of reps off a live jump serve because of the physical demands on the servers. A serving machine in that situation makes quite a bit of sense.

Another situation where it might make sense is in a small group or individual training session. Maybe you don’t have someone who can serve, or at least serve the way you need. That’s another time when it makes sense to have a serving machine. Even still, you have to consider how often that kind of situation comes up to decide whether the machine is worth its large price tag.