Tag Archive for college volleyball recruiting

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.

A college coach’s recruiting conundrum

Here’s an interesting situation presented by a college coach.

I’m in year one of a three year old program at a small Christian NAIA school. I’ve been told it’s my program as long as I get my roster number and run it clean and have good kids who are graduating and making strides in the community.

There’s a current group of juniors who have endured a couple of really bad seasons (this season should be our best in program history). As I’m reviewing my recruiting and commitments to the team next year, some player will lose significant playing time to newcomers. My question: do you recruit to replace your current players, add depth, get warm bodies, etc? I love for depth and people to compete for their time at this level but don’t want to make this first large class of seniors last year a bench warming experience. Thoughts?

This is from a Facebook group and got some interesting responses. One of them was, “Your job is to recruit better players than the ones you currently have. Full stop.”

I have a couple problems with that statement, but I’ll focus on the one related to priorities.

First, the priority

Review what the posting coach said the priorities are for their program. Make the roster number (some minimum squad size). Run a clean program. Have good student-athletes who graduate on time and are active in the community. I didn’t see anything about winning, or even being competitive, in there. Did you?

By the way, this type of attitude from the administration is not uncommon at the college level. There are many schools where competitiveness is not a priority. Some blame that on volleyball being a second tier (or lower) sport, which is certainly often true. There are colleges, however, that simply see athletics as part of the student experience – across all sports. Winning for them is just not that important.

It’s all fine and good to want to win. If, however, your boss doesn’t care about wins and losses, you have other priorities to consider. If you think you want to move on some day, you may think the winning and losing will matter to future employers. That’s probably true, but who is going to be on top of your list of references for future jobs. Your current boss (Athletic Director), right? If you don’t do the job they want, do you think they’ll give you a good reference? That’s assuming you don’t simply get fired.

So, for this coach the first recruiting priority is bringing enough players in to make the number. They need to be good students, as well as good citizens.

Of course, I’m not saying you can’t recruit good players and fulfill the above criteria. It’s just that when it comes to favoring one side or the other, the bias has to be toward the above.

Team chemistry

While it’s not specifically on the priority list outlined, you know at least a reasonably positive team chemistry is desirable. No Athletic Director wants to hear about disharmony in a team, especially if it means players (and perhaps parents) calling them to complain. Having a bunch of upperclassmen riding the pine is a quick way to having serious chemistry issues.

That is unless those seniors buy in.

Some times you get players who have suffered so long with the losing and poor performance they just want to be part of something good. They might be willing to sacrifice their own playing time for better overall team performance.

Of course sometimes they say that, then don’t actually live up to it.

So the question is whether you think you can keep those players “recruited over” reasonably happy. They won’t get the playing time, but are there other ways they can still have a role in the team that’s meaningful to them?

One way to go

If you think lack of playing time for upperclassmen is going to cause problems, maybe the best approach is to gradually trickle in higher quality athletes. Instead of bringing in five new players who could start, maybe you bring in 1-2 this year and then build things up over time. That also lets you build toward the type of team culture you want.

The bottom line is it isn’t always good to just go out and recruit the best players you can find.