Tag Archive for university volleyball

Technical Coaching at the Top Level

This update comes just after I completed phase three of my summer volleyball adventure. It featured two days worth of observing Long Beach State going through the last of their 2-a-days for the 2013 season. Coach Gimmillaro is well known as a very technical coach. He spent many years producing coaching videos and doing clinics all over. His training sessions those two days were no exception.

In particular, ball control technique is a major focus of his in the gym. It all starts with the unique warm-up Long Beach uses – both in training and pre-match. Here’s a sample of it:

It definitely doesn’t stop there. Coach Gimmillaro is very active and hands-on in working with his players. He gets them playing both serve receive passes and dug balls in a very specific fashion which focuses on footwork and platform.

I chatted with Coach about the Long Beach sand program implementation (they won the 2013 National Team Championship). We also talked jump float serve mechanics, some volleyball business stuff, and a few other things. He even expressed a willingness to travel to England to run a clinic if there’s an interest in doing so.

Naturally, I got some drill and game ideas from watching training, which I have shared since. It is worth noting, though, that there was very little actual variety in the training sessions. The clear dominant focus was on really working serving and passing – building the foundation for everything else.

BUCS Volleyball showing 13%+ growth y/y

A little while back I posted about the growth in the number of Western League volleyball teams competing in BUCS for the 2013-14 campaign. As I noted then, we’re seeing net growth on both the men’s and women’s side such that in both cases there will A and B sub-divisions within Division 2 whereas in 2012-13 there was only Division 2A for both genders.

Being the curious sort, I decided to take a look to see if there’s growth in other parts of BUCS system. As it turns out, there is.

On the men’s side, excluding the Western League, there’s a net gain of 12 teams for the new campaign. The Midlands and Southeastern Leagues are both growing by 5 teams, leading to the addition of a Division 3 in both places where none existing last season. The Northern League added a pair of teams, while the Scottish League held steady.

On the women’s side the gain was six teams. The Midlands League gained 5 teams, resulting in a split in Division 2 in to A and B groups. The Northern League actually lost 4 teams, seeing Division 3 dropped. The Scottish League gained 2 teams, causing Division 2 to be split to create Division 3. The South Eastern League gained 3 teams on net, adding a Division 3B.

So here are the total 2013-14 net team gains by League:

Midlands +10
Northern -2
Scottish +2
Southeastern +8
Western +8

That gives us a total net gain of 26 teams in a single year, which is just over 13%. That puts BUCS volleyball up through the 200 team mark. Not bad for a place that supposedly doesn’t care about volleyball.

BUCS 2014 Volleyball Final 8s to be in Edinburgh

BUCS announced on Thursday that the 2014 edition of the volleyball Final 8s will be held at the University of Edinburgh. I’m not familiar with the gym and can’t find a photo of it online, but the press release says it’s been “…used several times for BUCS Home Nations events and again, an Olympic training venue.” That at least makes it sound better than the gym at Leeds Met where the 2013 Finals 8s were held. That place was widely reviled by the participants for having insufficient service area or overhead space, lacking in air circulation, having a dance studio as a warm-up area, and generally being a tight squeeze for the 16 teams playing on the two available courts.

That said, Edinburgh is by no means centrally located. That likely will mean added travel costs for everyone involved. Last year, for example, the Western league sent 4 teams to Finals 8s – Bournemouth men & women, Bristol women, Exeter men. Leeds was already a lengthy trip from down in the South West. Edinburgh would require just about all day travel via ground transport.

It will be interesting to see the scheduling on this. At Leeds the last time around they did alternating men’s and women’s waves of play on the two available courts. Literally, the Pool A men would play two matches, then the net would be lowered and the Pool A women would play two matches. Each team plays 4 matches – 3 pool + 1 cross-over. If Edinburgh has 4 courts then at least the pool play can be done on Saturday. That would leave just the cross-over matches to be played on Sunday, allowing teams an early departure time.

My August Volleyball Coaching Developmental Traveling Plans

Back in Summer 2013 I planned a trip back to the States for August. In part it was my plan to get in some academic meetings in support of my PhD work. Mainly, though, I was looking at it as an opportunity to reconnect with the US collegiate volleyball game. I was away from it since the end of 2006. I watched a number of matches on television in the interim. Aside from attending a UCLA vs. Standford match in September 2011 and a Harvard vs. Princeton match later that season, however, I was out of the gym entirely for nearly 6 years.

A big reason for that was the feeling I needed to concentrate on my new corporate job for a while. My concern was I wouldn’t be able to resist the coaching urge if I didn’t stay away. Even doing so, there were times when I felt the pull to get back into it. Given how strongly everything came back when I started coaching the Exeter teams in 2012-13, I think I was correct in my assessment.

Now, with the coaching bug fully infecting me, I looked at this trip back to the States as an opportunity for some professional development and networking. The plan was to spend a couple of days with a few different teams as they go through their pre/early-season training.

Two significant programs on the plan
The two schools I knew from the start I’d go were the University of Southern California (USC) and Long Beach State (properly known as California State University at Long Beach – CSULB). You may know Long Beach State from one of it’s most prominent alumnae, Misty May-Treanor. She was a setter in her collegiate playing days.

The coaches of those two programs are among the legends in the game. Mick Haley at USC rose to prominence when is University of Texas team became the first non-West Coast squad to win a volleyball NCAA Division I championship. He won two titles at Texas, and then two more at USC. He had with four years as coach of the USA women’s national team (up to the 2000 Olympics) in between. Before Texas he was a very successful Junior College coach as well.

Brian Gimmillaro at Long Beach has 3 national championships to his credit as well, and has long been one of the leading lights in coaching education. He readily shared his methods through videos and seminars for many years. His 1998 team became the first ever to go undefeated for a whole season (36-0).

I also arranged to meet up with Stein Metzger. That year he coached the UCLA Sand Volleyball team and was an assistant for the women’s indoor team. Stein played on the pro beach tour and has coached a number of other pros (including Devon’s own Denise Austin).

Others to be determined
A few other schools got added to the list later, but that was all still in the works.I provided updates when things got finalized. I also did post updates from the road to share what i saw and heard.

Needless to say, I was really looking forward to this trip – and not just for the SoCal sunshine! 🙂

Book Review: The Volleyball Debate by Vinnie Lopes

Vinnie Lopes, who runs the Off the Block blog focusing on US men’s collegiate volleyball, recently authored and published a book titled The Volleyball Debate. The book is essentially a history of the Ball State men’s volleyball program. For those who don’t know, Ball State has long been a dominant program in the Midwest, one which has compiled over 1000 victories. Only one other men’s volleyball program has reached that mark – UCLA. Unlike UCLA, though, Ball State has yet to win a national championship (Penn State remains the only non-West Coast team to do so on the men’s side).

After a bit of back story history about the early years of both volleyball and Ball State, the book begins with the initial formation of the men’s volleyball club during Don Shondell’s time as a Ball State student (he graduated in 1952). Things really get going, though, with Shondell’s return to Ball State as a faculty member after his military service. This is when he re-formed the club, which had gone away in the interim. The story then focuses on the period from 1960, when it played its first matches, until 1964 when after a couple of years of battling the team was granted varsity status. It ends with a bit of a look at the history of Ball State men’s volleyball since then – kind of a where are they now view.

Don Shondell went on to coach the team until 1998 when he finally retired. During that time he compiled over 750 wins. He was also actively involved in volleyball management and development, having helped form the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) and acting as its first president. He co-edited The Volleyball Coaching Bible, which I reviewed earlier.

Probably the most notable of Shondell’s former players is Mick Haley. Haley is currently the head women’s coach at USC, but has a long history of coaching success going back to his days as a junior college coach. He was the first coach to lead a non-West Coast team to a National Championship when he coached the University of Texas women to the title in 1988 (I remember watching that match). He also coached the US women’s national team in the 2000 Olympics.

In terms of my feelings about the book, I think if you like reading about the history of the sport, you may find The Volleyball Debate interesting. As a I noted, it has a bit about the general history of volleyball in the US as well as the specific history of Ball State men’s volleyball. For my peers in U.K. volleyball where the fight to develop the sport is ongoing, there is probably a fair bit to which one can relate. That could make it an interesting read in and of itself.

I must make one negative comment about the book, though. It is in massive need of an edit. I’m not talking about there being loads of typos and such, as there really isn’t. Rather it’s the frequent repetition of things already mentioned which bothered me. I came away with the impression that the chapters were written as separate essays, then put together. The author is also clearly biased toward showing Ball State volleyball in the best light, and his enthusiasm for the subject is pretty obvious, but that’s understandable given he’s an alumnus of the university (though not as a player).

2013-14 BUCS Men’s and Women’s Western League Teams

The BUCS website has been updated with the the teams for the upcoming season. The Western league is the one in which teams from the South West compete. Here are teams for Division 1.

Men’s Division 1
Bath
Bournemouth 1st
Cardiff
Exeter 1st
Gloucestershire
Southampton


Men’s Division 2A
Bristol
Bournemouth 2nd
Exeter 2nd
UC Falmouth
UWE Winchester


Men’s Division 2B
Aberystwyth
SW Pontypridd & Cardiff 1st
SW Pontypridd & Cardiff 2nd
Swansea
UW Newport

Women’s Division 1
Bath
Bournemouth
Bristol
Cardiff
Exeter 1st
Swansea


Women’s Division 2A
Gloucestershire 1st
Southampton
Marjons
Exeter 2nd
UC Falmouth


Women’s Division 2B
Aberystwyth
Gloucestershire 2nd
SW Pontypridd & Cardiff 1st
SW Pontypridd & Cardiff 2nd
UW Newport

Bournemouth won both the men’s and women’s Division 1 last season. Aberystwyth was relegated out of both men’s and women’s Division 1, with Gloucestershire moving up on the men’s side and Swansea earning promotion on the women’s side.

It’s worth noting that last year there was no Division 2B for either men or women. There were 8 women’s sides last year in Division 2A, so we’ve seen a net addition of 2 teams there – Southampton Solent out; Exeter 2nd, UW Newport, and UC Falmouth in. On the men’s side there were only 6 teams in Division 2A, so it’s a net pick up of four teams – Southampton Solent out; Bournemouth 2nd, Exeter 2nd, UC Falmouth, UW Newport, and UWE Winchester in.

Adding 6 teams in one year strikes me as a pretty good indication of the direction of volleyball in the South West. That’s nearly a 25% jump in the amount of playing opportunities on offer in the region for a group of young people ideally situated to become future coaches. And of course the growth also means more coaching opportunities for those of us already in the field.

By the way, don’t go by the fixture list BUCS has posted on the site. They feel the need to fill that in and basically make stuff up. The recent history of the Western league is to due tournament style competitions as much as possible.

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