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Tag Archive for university volleyball

Decisions in the try-out process

Life is definitely not easy for me this week. As I have been documenting (see this and this post), the university teams I coach are going through try-outs now. Most of the work of player identification took place on Friday. This week is more about refining player analysis and starting to fit together line-ups. That stuff can be tricky enough when you have to worry about fielding a single team out of a group of players. Imagine if you had to field two teams out of that same group.

That is my current situation. This season we will field men’s and women’s teams in both the Premier League and Western Division 2A of BUCS. We did the same thing last season (though it was Division 1 rather than the Premier League), basically using a split squad system whereby everyone trained together, with the first team players taking the higher league matches and the second team players the lower league.

This year we will do the same again for the men. Not much choice in the matter as the club simply doesn’t have enough male players to run two full separate competitive teams. Numbers are definitely not a problem on the women’s side. The issue there is where the talent split falls. Are there enough players of comparable level to make a 10-12 person first team? If so, running two separate teams in possible. Otherwise, like with the men, it will have to be a joint group as it was last year.

And of course running these joint groups creates its own set of challenges. How do you develop trainings that bring the weaker players along while also pushing the stronger players the way they need to be pushed?

These are the things very much on my mind at the moment.

It’s trial day!

This is a story from back when I coached the teams at the University of Exeter (U.K.).

I have to run two try-out sessions this afternoon for the university teams I coach. The first is for the women. The second is for the men. Each will be an hour in length. We were supposed to have 3 hours, but somehow had the last hour we requested lopped off. We only found out yesterday! I will be the only coach there, though I should have a bit of support from returning players. At least I will for the women’s session, anyway.

How many prospective players will turn up is a big question mark. Last year we had about 24 women and 18 men on the first day of the 3-day trials. On the men’s side we took things a bit slow. We did not feel rushed to make any immediate cuts, but we wanted to try to trim the numbers for the women right away in the case of the obvious No’s. We cut about half a dozen after that first session, but ended up with something like 26 players for the second one!

No surprise if something similar happens this year. Yesterday was the last of the club’s “taster” sessions. They use them to introduce themselves prospective new members. There were about 80 of them, mostly female.That’s been the clear pattern in my time at Exeter.

I was on-hand for the taster (the third and final held during Freshers’ Week) to scout out prospective BUCS players and to advise the club leadership on ways to run the session more smoothly (different drills and games they could employ). We don’t normally see a lot in the way of likely BUCS contenders at the tasters, as mainly the experienced ones go straight to try-outs, but sometimes one or two will turn up worth having a look at. Ended up being a few more than that this year – particularly for the women.

Today’s the real test, though. This is when we find out if the rumors about this player or that player which always seem to be flying around are actually true.

The situation is this. The women return only three from last year’s BUCS semifinalists, while the men have back four of the guys who featured in their victory over Durham in the 7th place playoff at Final 8s, plus a few of the second team members. I saw a few women during the tasters who could probably be in the team, potentially even as starters. Wasn’t quite so dazzled by the men, but maybe a couple of squad players.

Adding complexity to all this is the fact that we have to consider things from the perspective of two teams for each gender. The club runs teams in the new BUCS Premier League (teams promoted up from Division 1) and in Division 2. Last year we just trained them all together as one unit and had the second string group play the Div2 matches. Don’t know yet if we’ll do the same this year. The gap between Premier League and Div2 will be markedly bigger than the one between Div1 and Div2.

Fortunately, we don’t have to make final decisions today. We have sessions the first half of next week as well to be able to take a longer look.

Looking back to think ahead

This is a review I wrote of my second season coaching at Exeter. I wrote it a few months later as I was starting to think about the new one ahead.

The other day I talked about facing the start of a new volleyball cycle and my coaching commitment moving forward. Over the next couple of posts I want to take some time to reflect on last season’s coaching and where I would like to take things this season.

2013-14 Recap

Last season was really intense. The Exeter university club (EUVC) expanded by one men’s and one women’s team. That put as at one each in BUCS Division 1 and Division 2 for each gender. The BUCS1 and BUCS2 teams (as we call them internally to designate 1st and 2nd teams) trained together, splitting out for competitions. The BUCS2 teams both played in the Western Conference Cup as well as league play. As unified squads, both groups played in the regional league (SWVA) and in the Volleyball England Student Cup qualifiers. Adding in the post-season play for the BUCS1 squads, the teams had a combined 87 matches

It ended up being a very successful year for EUVC.

The BUCS1 women finished 8-2 in their BUCS league, putting them in a first place tie. The tiebreak went against them, but it was still their best result in many years. They went on to Final 8s where they reached the semifinals. That’s likely the best an Exeter women’s team has ever done. The BUCS2 squad also finished second in their league. They fell in the quarterfinals of the Conference Cup. The combined squad went 14-4 in SWVA to take third place. This would have been second were it not for a bit of a facilities snafu on the last fixture date. At one point they’d won 30 straight sets.

The BUCS1 men finished 4-4 in their BUCS league. That saw them finish 2nd in the table for the second year running. They went on to Final 8s where they took 7th, improving on the prior year’s finish. The BUCS2 team finished third in their league and made the semis of the Conference Cup. The combined team finished 6th in SWVA play.

All together, the EUVC BUCS teams collected the third highest total points of any school. Both BUCS1 teams also gained promotion to the newly formed Premier League.Not bad for a club with no scholarship athletes.

I personally coached almost 60 matches all together. Most of the ones I did not coach were the men’s SWVA matches as I only coached the women in that competition. The rest I mainly could not coach due to schedule conflicts between the teams. In May I also coached the women in South West Championships. We finished among the NVL 3 teams in the middle part of the standings (tournament included teams from NVL1 down to SWVA). Some of the guys also played in the tournament with their NVL 3 team Exeter Storm (moving up to NVL 2 next season).

Reflections – Women

The advantage I had with the women was the common objective. They wanted to make BUCS Final 8s and the returning players knew from the prior year’s playoff experience that we needed more offense to be competitive with teams at that level. Having everyone on the same page made it really easy for me to sell the process to the team. I’d seen the women’s teams at Final 8s the season before. That  mad it so I could communicate requirements to the players. It also gave me an added measure of authority with them because of it.Importantly, the squad’s new players offered sufficient talent to give us confidence in having the strength to do well.

Everything we did was with an eye toward being able to play at the level of the teams we might have to beat in the playoffs to reach Final 8s. More than that, we wanted to have a good showing once there. With that season-long objective in mind, and the confidence that we’d finish high enough in the league to qualify for Championships given the strength of the squad, I was able to take a patient long-term approach.

I think a couple of things I did along the way were beneficial. One was making everything very team focused in a positive and supportive context. I tried to spin everything in terms of how what each player was doing contributed toward the team’s play. I also wanted to make them feel less uptight about making errors. The time and focus on serving I think paid off quite a bit. I also I feel I did a good job in matches against weaker teams of keeping the team focused on things other than the score. Having individual meetings with players each term – and getting feedback from them between terms – I think was important. It made sure players knew their roles. They understood what as going on, could feel connected to the process, etc. I didn’t do them the year before and regretted it.

What I feel like was a big factor for me was my total commitment to doing whatever the team needed for their consistent development and success. If that meant saying I’d wear a kilt if they reached Final 8s (it was in Edinburgh), then I’d do it. If it meant giving up some of what should have been my PhD time to focus on team stuff, so be it. That sense of commitment and my part of the team effort was important, I believe.

In terms of the things I think I could have done better, integrating the quick attack was one of them. That actually links in with passing. I just wasn’t as consistent in working on those things as I probably should have been. As a result, we never got it into the offense. Player availability was a factor there, but that speaks to an issue regarding planning I’ll circle back to later. I could have spent more time on blocking as well. It wasn’t something that hurt us, but we could have done better at times. In the first term there were probably a couple of situations regarding individual players I could have handled better.

Reflections – Men

The men were coming off their first Final 8s appearance in a number of years, but doing so having lost several key players including their captain and setter. We started the year with a very thin squad in terms of talent and experience. In all honesty, the expectations for the year were low. I thought just finishing high enough in the league to qualify for Championships was going to be a challenge. If I’m fair, that may have tainted my attitude toward coaching the men, though it wasn’t helped by other issues which developed at times.

Throughout the year I had a feeling of unevenness about the guys’ training because of the nature of their coaching situation (at least partly). On the women’s side I was the lead coach without any question. On the men’s side there was another coach as lead, though he could only run trainings one night a week and couldn’t attend matches. This had been the case the year before as well, but the other coach had so many schedule conflicts that year that I basically ran everything almost the whole year. This time around the schedule conflicts were few, resulting in an inconsistent approach to team coaching as who ran training alternated. The other coach and I communicated about focal points, but more needed to be done to ensure a smoother progression.

The diversity of skill level in the team (keeping in mind BUCS1 and BUCS2 trained together) created a number of challenges which we coaches probably could have handled better. Either or both may have also tied in with some issues we had on the commitment and attendance front. One particularly angering instance during first term really turned me off coaching them and encouraged me to focus even more on the women’s team, which is probably not the reaction I should have had. The uneven commitment was also probably contributory to the unevenness I perceived in the training focus.

A major issue with the guys was that they played too little as a unit and too much as a collection of individuals. They handled adversity very poorly. It was so glaring that even the women’s team became incredibly frustrated watching them play – or even train. Some of this was poor leadership in the squad that needed to have been addressed from the outset.

The setting position was problematic. We probably stayed with one setter much longer than should have been the case because the other option was such a useful attacker. This only became clear at Final 8s when illness forced a change.

Overall

Just the other night I was talking with one of the women’s team players about how amazing the season was. None of us would have even dared think that we could be national semifinalists. I noted some things I felt I could have done better, but when I look back on the 2013-14 season where the women were concerned I can’t help but feel like it went just about as well as any coach could ever hope. The men, of course, were a different story. Even they, in the end, surpassed expectations, though. I feel like I’ve learned from both experiences, though. I share some of the lessons I’ve learned in the next post.

The new annual volleyball cycle begins

Back when I was coaching in the States, August was generally the month when things got going for the new season. The turning of the calendar over from July usually was the trigger for the serious planning process for preseason training which started later in the month. Here in England, my on-court work with the university teams won’t start until late September when school begins once more. I still can’t help but feel those old “getting started” feelings now that August has come around again, though.

Last year I spent a chunk of August and early September visiting with the USC, UCLA, Long Beach State, Rhode Island, and Cal State San Marcos women’s volleyball programs while they were in their pre-season and early season training mode (read about that here). For me that trip served a couple of roles.One was to reconnect with US collegiate volleyball, which I’d been away from since the end of the 2006 season. Another was to see what kind of developments there have been in training techniques and tactics in the last several years.

This year I’m again going to be spending a fair portion of August with teams in pre-season training. This time, though, I’ll be headed east rather than west. I’ll be hanging out with teams in the German professional league. The details are still falling in to place, but it will most likely be a combination of men’s and women’s teams. I’m always interested in seeing other coaches at work, so that’s part of the motivation. A higher priority, though, is gaining a deeper understanding of how things operate at the professional level. I will, of course, report what I see and hear along the way.

After Germany I’ll begin what no doubt will be my final season in Exeter. In fact, it may not even end up being a full season. As you may be aware, I am doing my PhD at the university here. I’m aiming to submit my dissertation by December or January. That won’t mean I’m finished then, though, as I’ll still have to go through my Viva (defense) within 3 months and potentially make corrections before my final submission, so it could be upwards of another 6 months before all is said and done. It will mark the end of the main sustained research and writing effort and I intend to start looking for jobs after I submit. That impacts on the commitment I can make to coaching the university teams.

I’ve told the club captains that I can commit to the first semester in terms of training and BUCS matches for the first teams – men and women. I cannot commit to second team BUCS matches or to South West league fixtures as my PhD workload will dictate that on a week-to-week basis, depending on my progress. Of course there’s no telling how long the job hunt process will take, so it could very well be that I’m available for the whole season (which ends in March). I just cannot make that commitment at this point. The club is in the process now of trying to find some additional coaching to work alongside me, and prospectively take over when I leave.

I’ll admit to having a number of conflicting thoughts about what sort of coaching commitment I could/would make for the upcoming season. At points I was thinking for a number of different reasons I shouldn’t coach at all and just focus on my PhD work. Part of that thinks was how much it would bother me to leave in the middle of the season if that comes to pass. At the same time, though, I really do want the experience of coaching in the new BUCS Volleyball Premier Leagues after doing everything we did last year to get there. I’ll be with the teams for enough matches that hopefully we can assure them of at least staying up for another season before I have to move on.

As for what those teams will look this year, it’s an open question. The women have lost the majority of last year’s national semifinalist squad. At most only three will return, so we’ll be very reliant on the incoming class to reload. It’s a better situation on the men’s side (7th at Final 8s last year) where a solid core of players will be back. A couple of positions need filling, but it should at least be a competitive group.

I’m sure I’ll report more on all of that once we get things rolling next month. Chances are I’ll resume the coaching log entries I did last year. That was specifically done for one of my Volleyball England Level 3 coaching certification requirements (which I’ve now completed), but it was also a generally useful exercise for me – and hopefully something others found interesting as well.

In probably my next post I’m going to do some looking back in terms of what I think I did well last year and what could be improved upon for the new one.

BUCS volleyball 2014-15 schedule out

BUCS has posted the schedule for the new UK collegiate volleyball season ahead. It actually strikes me as being earlier than was the case last year, but don’t hold me to that. With the introduction of the new Northern and Southern Premier Leagues for the upcoming season, there’s had to be a restructuring through the divisions and various competitions. Somewhere along the way, it was decided not to do the relegations from Division 1 they had originally signaled, as I wrote about in early June.

As it turns out, that means the Exeter women’s 2nd team won’t move up to Division 1 after all. That may have an impact on how we structure training this year. Last season we trained the Division 1 and 2 teams together. I don’t know if that will be practical this year, though. I’m sure I’ll write about that later as things develop.

The introduction of the Premier Leagues has resulted in a shift in the structure of the Championship and Trophy competitions. In the past, the top 3 teams in each of the five Division 1 leagues qualified for Championships with Final 8s capping off the season. The rest went to the Trophy competition, which is a knock-out cup structure. Moving forward, only the Premier League teams will qualify for Championships. If the Final 8s structure is kept, which I think is the plan, then presumably there would be some kind of preliminary entry play-off, perhaps with the top teams byed. All Division 1 teams now go into the Trophy bracket, which turns into a season-long cup competition – in addition to regular league play, of course. The lower divisions retain their League Cups alongside the regular season.

The promotion/relegation system for the Premier League will involve the last place PL team in each league playing off, presumably against the winners of the geographically appropriate Division 1 leagues. That means relegation isn’t automatic, unless that bottom team has forfeit one or more matches. In the case of the Northern PL, two teams will be brought up this year to get their final count to 6 as they only start with 5.

As for scheduling, we shall see. I’ve written before about my frustrations with how that’s been handled. BUCS has posted a schedule based on their standard Wednesday fixtures. Given the distances involved for the PL teams, they have at least made a pair of concessions. The first is that they seem to have had both the men and women for schools where both genders are in the PL playing at home on the same dates, and playing other schools with dual participation on the same dates. This is what the Exeter schedule looks like:

Men Women
15-Oct @Warwick @Sussex
22-Oct Cambridge Cambridge
29-Oct @UEL @Oxford
5-Nov UCL KCL
12-Nov @Bournemouth @Bournemouth
19-Nov Warwick Sussex
26-Nov @Cambridge @Cambridge
4-Feb UEL Oxford
11-Feb @UCL @KCL
18-Feb Bournemouth Bournemouth

You’ll notice that the Exeter teams play the Cambridge and Bournemouth squads on the same dates, both home and away. Both teams are also home on the same dates. Not only does this help out in terms of travel, it also helps out in terms of coaching. I have coached both the men and women the last two years. Mostly, it wasn’t an issue because we generally avoided direct conflicts in the schedule. The risk this year was that there was going to be a load of conflicts, making it quite unreasonable for one coach to handle both squads. The schedule above only has three conflicts when the teams are away at different places.

Again, who knows if this will all hold. Exeter is certainly not keen to host on Wednesdays and I know some of the other schools – based on conversations I’ve had with coaches – aren’t keen on playing Wednesdays in general terms. They prefer weekends. We may yet end up with a very different looking schedule – perhaps one which features triangulars or something along those lines.

Actually, something does need to happen to adjust things. The last round of fixtures is currently scheduled for after the February 11 cut-off to get them all played!

However they do it, I hope it at least is sorted out ahead of time. There’s very little that’s much more frustrating than not knowing from week to week what the match schedule looks like.

BUCS Volleyball Structure for 2014-15

BUCS has published the provisional leagues for the 2014-15 season. It’s always interesting to see which schools are added or dropped and which expand the number of teams competing (as I observed last year). For the upcoming season, though, we have the addition of northern and southern premier leagues sitting above Division 1.

The advancement of teams up from Division 1 and into the Premier Leagues meant there would have to be additional teams promoted up from Division 2 beyond the league winners already designated to do so in place of the bottom Division 1 finishers who would be relegated.

The Men’s Premier Leagues are as follows:

Northern Southern
Northumbria East London
Strathclyde Bournemouth
Durham Exeter
Sheffield Hallam UCL
Edinburgh Cambridge
Warwick

The Women’s Premier Leagues are as follows:

Northern Southern
Northumbria Oxford
Durham Kings
Glasgow Exeter
St. Andrews Bournemouth
Edinburgh Cambridge
Sussex

Both leagues were meant to have six teams (as I noted previously). Not sure why the North only includes five in both cases. The documentation says they will expand that to the full allotment for 2015-16.

In terms of my own coaching, as you can see, both the Exeter women’s and men’s first teams earned a spot in the Southern Premier League for the new season. They move up from Division 1 on the basis of making Final 8s this past season.

At the lower levels, the women’s 2nd team has gained promotion to Division 1 from Division 2 thanks to a second place league finish last year. This would not normally be enough to gain promotion as only the first place team advances. The way it fell out, though, was that the two bottom teams from Division 1 were relegated (Bristol and Cardiff), so with Exeter and Bournemouth promoted you get 4 spots to fill. As a result, the top two teams from Divisions 2A and 2B (A/B being a geographic split) were promoted.

On the men’s side it was a similar situation. Two teams were relegated from Division 1 (Southampton, plus Gloucestershire by dint of withdrawing) while Bournemouth and Exeter were promoted up. The four slots were filled by the top two finishers in Divisions 2A and 2B. Unfortunately, the Exeter 2 guys finished 3rd last season, so they remain in Division 2.

One could certainly question relegating two teams from Division 1 and bringing up four from Division 2. The formula isn’t quite made for these sorts of situations. There doesn’t look to have been anything said yet about promotion/relegation to/from the Premier Leagues after next season. We are all quite curious to find out what BUCS is planning on doing for scheduling.

A number of new schools/teams are shown in the chart of the provisional league assignments, but we need to wait and see how that all falls out. Some of the names I see were listed as being in the mix last year, but didn’t end up taking part in play for whatever reason. We’ll see what ends up happening there.

Volleyball Academy: Indoor or Beach?

I recently had an exchange with a volleyball dad. He was looking for some advice regarding his daughter, who at 16 is an England international at the U19 level and has aspirations to play collegiately in the States. She’d been accepted to attend one of the academies next school year, but was then invited to become part of the England sand volleyball training program run by a former beach pro in a similar academy sort of situation. My advice was sought on the decision with regards to the impact on recruitment prospects. Below are the thoughts I shared with this father, but I’d be interested to hear other views.

So the question is to attend the indoor academy and train with other members of the England youth national team mix or go the beach route to train under a former professional and with other England beach internationals. The player in question is an outside hitter, though capable of hitting anywhere on the net. She’s approximately 5’10”, with a good jump and long reach (slender build). She both hits and blocks well and generally has good ball skills. This past season she had some back issues, but otherwise I’m not aware of any injuries. If she goes the beach academy route, part of the deal would be that she’d continue playing indoor ball in the National Volleyball League.

Now generally speaking I almost always encourage my indoor players to get out and play beach or grass doubles. It’s a great way for them to improve their abilities and have a different kind of volleyball experience. That’s not the same as making a choice between training full-time as a beach player vs. as an indoor player, though.

If this girl played another position, like middle blocker or perhaps setter, I may feel differently, but in this case I think going the beach academy route makes a lot of sense. As a prospective college OH she’s going to be expected to have solid skills all around – not highly specialized ones as would be the case in other positions. Beach volleyball will help her continue developing those skills. I also think training in the sand will cut down on some of the pounding her body would take as a full-time indoor player, which could have long-term benefits.

From the recruiting perspective, the math is fairly simple. There are WAY more indoor programs and scholarship opportunities, and that won’t be changing any time soon (if ever). As such, focusing on the indoor side in the recruitment process offers more opportunities, especially given the way the NCAA counts volleyball scholarships (an indoor scholarship athlete can play sand without issue, but a sand scholarship athlete cannot play indoors unless being counted toward the indoor scholarship limits). That said, being a dual-surface player would make one quite attractive to schools where players are part of both the indoor and sand teams (rather than the teams being run separately).

All things taken together – working on her all-around game, the opportunity to train under a former beach pro, still getting to play indoor competitively – I think going the beach academy route in this case makes a lot of sense. That’s what I told the father.

Agree? Disagree?

Dealing with cases of (apparent) cheating

There’s a bit of a dark cloud hanging over BUCS volleyball at the moment.

Yesterday the 2013-14 championship finals were contested, with both being hotly contested. It was Durham downing Northumbria on the women’s side and Sheffield Hallam beating Northumbria on the men’s. Both were upsets as neither Northumbria team had lost this year, nor did either lose last year. Moreover, both Durham and Sheffield had lost to their Northumbria counterparts three times already this season before yesterday. Both were worthy championship matches.

The problem that’s come up is lower down in the ranks, specifically in Division 2. At that level there is no overall championship as there is in Division 1. Instead there are conference cup knock-out competitions, which also saw their finals played on Wednesday. There has been controversy over at least two of them. It comes from questions of eligibility.

The BUCS rules on players playing for different teams in the same sport are as follows (from the Individual Eligibility section):


REG 7.5    Team Selection

REG 7.5    In team sports which incorporate competition below First Team level, each team should be selected as though the other teams would be playing in a match of equal importance at the same time.

REG 7.5.1 It would be expected that the first team would always be the strongest team available to represent that institution.

REG 7.5.2 Teams must be selected as if all teams are playing on a given day, for example, if the first team does not have a match but the second team do, no players who would normally represent the first team are eligible to play for the second team.

REG 7.5.3  Individuals may not play or be a substitute (playing or non-playing) for different teams on the same date, but may play for a different team in a different sport on the same day.

REG 7.5.4  Knock Out: Individuals may not play for different teams in the same round of cup competitions in the same sport even if those rounds take place on different dates i.e. may not play for the firsts in a semi-final and seconds in semi-final; but may play for a different team in a different sport on the same day. Selections for knock-out competitions must adhere to REG 7.5-7.5.3 Team Selection, any dubious selections will need to be justified and substantiated if appealed.

REG 7.5.5   Appeals regarding contravention of Reg 7.5-7.5.4 must be accompanied by substantiating evidence including the name(s) of any player(s) in question and photographic/video evidence as a minimum.


At Exeter we apparently have competed against at least two teams which failed to abide by these rules. In one case we were told about it by another university who observed someone playing against us at Final 8s who had played in a conference cup competition, meaning a player selected to their Division 1 team (firsts) had played on their Division 2 team (seconds) at the same level in the competition. In another case it was a team from our own conference we witnessed doing the same thing.

Our club leadership has been pondering how to handle this situation. On the one hand we don’t want to see our peers at other clubs face major sanctions which negatively influence our sport. Also, we don’t want to elevate ourselves – or be seen to be trying to do so – at someone else’s expense by tattling on them. On the other hand, though, we jumped through major hurdles in pulling together teams to play in the cup competitions specifically to avoid eligibility issues. We literally had to bring up players from our intermediates group (non-BUCS) to play and obviously that meant we didn’t do as well as we could have done. As a result, we haven’t accumulated as many BUCS points as we could have done, and other teams have collected more than they might have if they’d abided by the rules..

I’ve heard it suggested that in some cases players from the 1st team were used in alternate positions in the 2nd team cup matches. For example, an opposite played setter or a libero played outside hitter. Conceptually, I get the argument being made there, but I don’t see anything in the rules which provides an exception based on playing a different position.

It’s my understanding that one of the club captains is drafting a letter to BUCS expressing our concerns. Hopefully, something is done to address this issue, at least on a moving forward basis. If I’m honest, though, I don’t have particularly high hopes in that regard. BUCS doesn’t seem to give volleyball a particularly large amount of attention.

Shifting into off-season mode

Last Friday was the end-of-year dinner for the Exeter University Volleyball Club, effectively marking the end of the 2013-14 season. The men’s team had a pair of South West league matches on Sunday and there are still training sessions scheduled for tonight and Wednesday, but from my perspective the job is done. The academic term ends this week and I have no further coaching duties, so I’m shifting into off-season mode.

What exactly does that mean?

Well, for starters it means quite a bit more focus on my PhD work. That is, after all, my reason for being in Exeter in the first place! I have a major deadline in mid-May in terms of work submission, then also have to do a presentation about my work to-date the last week of May. The next few weeks, therefore will be about running statistical analysis, reviewing the literature, and turning it all into something which at least marginally contributes to our understanding of things.

Of course the end of the season doesn’t mean the end of thinking about volleyball. I’m not in the situation like I was in coaching back in the States where the off-season involved loads of recruiting, plus various types of training sessions for the players who would be returning for the next season. Still, there is the need to think about what’s going to happen with Exeter in the 2014-15 season. Even as we all basked in the glow of the club’s Final 8s success, the leaders and myself and my fellow coaches have been thinking and talking about the implications of what happened this season. There are a lot of questions yet to be answered and decisions to be made.

As for myself, I don’t plan on making any major decisions regarding my coaching or anything else until after I get through May. I need to see how some things develop before I commit myself to anything meaningful one way or the other.

That said, if I do coach next year I have a hard time seeing how it could be at the same level of commitment as it was this year. All together I was on the bench for 54 matches. I will be in the last year of my PhD funding next season (though will have another year of acceptance/student visa), so will need to make sure I make the most of it by either finishing my degree or at least getting very close to having done so. I may also have teaching duties, which I haven’t had in any meaningful way this year.

I’ve talked about this issue with folks. It may be that I could only coach one teams, not both men and women. In fact, it seems likely with Exeter being in the new premier league next year that it would be impossible to coach both teams on match day as I have been able to do with very few conflicts the last two seasons, though I could still run both trainings. The funny thing is the other night at dinner one of the departing men’s players told me he’d heard that I was going to resign from coaching the guys. I haven’t said anything so definitive, but you know how it goes with the rumor mill.

In any case, I will spend some time pondering my coaching and the bigger picture of my life in general. Eventually I’ll get around to making some decisions, but not today. 🙂