This probably won’t be the most detailed of weekly entries. Normally, I’d be filling in my thoughts and observations as the week went along, but all my spare time last week was taken up watching Olympic volleyball!
Our general schedule on training days was to have one session in the morning that finished at 11:00, with a second in the afternoon finishing no later than 5:00. Start and stop times varied from day to day based on what we were doing and how long we planned to run the sessions.
NCAA Division II rules permit no more than 6 hours of activity per day, with at least three hours break between physical sessions. Additionally, you are allowed only 5 hours of physical activity.
This was basically a meeting day. We met with the team for about 2 hours to start the process of defining the program and team identity. It was a process we coaches guided via the questions we asked. Beyond that, however, it was the players doing the thinking and talking. The players were broken up into groups of three, then brought back together to share what they talked about.
We went from the meeting to dinner at the house of a local player. Then it was back to campus for the players’ Compliance meeting. After that, they picked up their practice gear.
The day started with a fitness test – the first part of a 3-part test. This part was the suicide test. Players had to run 5 total suicides with a minute’s break between the two. The objective was to run the first in under 23 seconds, the second in under 24, and the final three in under 25. A player was considered to have passed if their total time was no more than one second over the total allowed time.
Our morning session focused on game play. We did a series of small-sided games to give the players a chance to start the process of working together. It was also a chance for use to do some initial evaluations.
In the afternoon session we started to work on skills – in particular serving and passing.
After the afternoon session we spent about 30 minutes continuing Sunday’s work on team culture.
This day the players did the second of their fitness test parts. This one was a three element jump-rope exercise. The requirement was to do 155 rope skips in a minute. They also had to do 55 cross jumps. Those are ones where you cross your arms over in front of you (left hand on right side, right hand on left side). The final element was 30 double-unders where the player spun the rope under their feet twice on one jump.
Our strength coach introduced the players to a set of pre-hab exercises to be done once or twice a week. The different positions were provided with their own plans.
We had the setters and liberos/DS’s come in early for the morning session to work on individual skills. I ran the setters. My main focus was to take a look at their mechanics and start the process of making corrections where necessary. Later in the day we put the setters together with the OHs to work on the tempo of the outside sets.
The rest of the day was spent working more on individual skills in the morning, and more team stuff in the afternoon. Competitive opportunities were incorporated throughout, however. They came either through competitive drills like servers vs. passers, or via actual games.
This day started with the last part of the fitness test, which was the timed mile run. The objective was 7 minutes. The players were allowed to run it either outside (2 laps around the building) or inside (11 laps around the coliseum stands).
One of the things we identified as a developmental need in the team was being more intentional on first ball contact. To help with that we played a 2-touch game with four players a side. It seemed to have a real impact.
This day we also spent time with the setters and MBs working together on middle sets. There was more serving and passing, of course, to include taking passing stats throughout. As in prior days, lots of competitive opportunities.
In the evening we had a team dinner hosted by a local friend of the program. She had the players watch the following video, with a bit of a discussion afterwards.
Not surprisingly, there were some heavy legs and tired bodies for the morning session. Focus was a bit of a struggle for at least a handful of players during the first half of the practice when the tempo was a bit slower. That mostly picked up as things got more game oriented and up-tempo, though.
We continued working on serving and passing, naturally. Our defensive focus increased this day as well. That included blocking, which we’d started working in prior days.
We also worked on hitters attacking the block. This was mainly done via a game where we used extra antennae to create outside attacking zones. Points could only be scored through them.
We gave the players an extra hour between sessions this day, then spent nearly the whole afternoon session in 6 v 6 play.
Again, we spent about 30 minutes continuing our cultural work. That basically wrapped up what we wanted to do in terms of the broader themes.
The day started with the first weight training session of the year.
The MBs and setters got to do some work together again in the morning session, while the rest worked on serving and passing. This time the focus was mainly on transition attacking.
Another thing we worked on collectively was running faster back row attacks. Importantly, we also worked on running back row attacks only in-system and forcing the ball to the pins when out-of-system.
We continued to collect passing stats off serve reception. On this particular day, however, we encouraged more aggressive serving by allowing players to re-serve if they missed their first attempt. This looked to have a very meaningful negative impact on the passing numbers. Obviously, from a serving perspective that’s exactly the point.
Saturday & Sunday
The first week with a team is always a mixed bag. Some things are better than expected. Some are worse. We were pretty happy with the general level the players were at in terms of their play. That reflects, I’m sure, the fact that many of them were in the area over the Summer, getting some playing time in together. They did a lot of small-sided game type stuff, as far as we were aware.
Of course when you play mainly 3 v 3 and 4 v 4 then the nuances and higher precision of 6 v 6 play won’t be there. Not surprisingly, that’s what we saw.
There are plenty of things we need to work on and sharpen up. We’re in the process of looking at our priorities and seeing where we want to focus our primary efforts. One of the things we’re really pleased with, though, is how competitive the group is. They love to play and they love to compete!