Tag Archive for university volleyball

Coaching Log – August 22, 2016

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2016-17.

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.

Sunday

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.

Monday

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.

Tuesday

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.

Wednesday

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.

Thursday

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.

Friday

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

Days off.

Observations

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!

College volleyball outside the USA

In the U.S. college volleyball is a pretty big thing. As I show in this post, the number of schools with varsity teams approaches 2000. The vast majority are women’s teams. These numbers don’t include school club teams. There are hundreds of those as well.

For none American readers, a varsity team is one administered by the school. It’s budget is part of the Athletics budget. A club team, in contrast, is student run. They might get some funding support – often through something like the school’s recreational program – but otherwise they are self-funded and self-managed.

College volleyball outside the U.S.

In Europe and elsewhere there are also college (university) teams. They follow a primarily club structure, however. It’s much like the one US college club teams use.

Let me use the University of Exeter (U.K.) as an example.

When I coached at Exeter the club comprised of something like 120 members. It had a board lead by a pair of Club Captains. All board positions were elected annually, toward the end of the Spring term. Members of the club paid an annual fee, part of which went to the Athletic Union (AU) to cover administrative and facilities costs.

Think of the AU as the Recreation Department for the school. It oversees all sports clubs, manages facilities scheduling, and ensures clubs stay within their budgets. The AU also manages the clubs’ relationship with BUCS, the rough U.K. equivalent of the NCAA. Actually, it’s probably closer to the NAIA in terms of its rule set.

The Exeter volleyball club featured three levels of participation. At the top were the teams playing in BUCS competition. In my last two seasons there we had two each for the men and women. Those teams also played in regional adult club tournaments, and some individual players played on higher level National League (NVL) teams.

Below the BUCS teams were the Intermediates. They played in an Exeter city league. There was also a Beginners group run entirely in-house.

All three levels had weekly training sessions.

Very loose rules

I mentioned above that the BUCS rules are probably closer to NAIA than NCAA. The bottom line is there aren’t a lot of rules. Pretty much as long as you’re a registered full-time student at the school you’re eligible to play for the team. Doesn’t matter whether you’re brand new to the sport or have played professionally.

There also aren’t any sorts of limits on training/playing hours. Nor are there differences between what you can do in-season and out-of-season.

Really, the focus of the BUCS rule book is on scheduling and competition. Everything else is at the discretion of the universities and the clubs.

Multi-national competition

Recently, one of the top U.K. college programs – Northumbria – competed in the European University Games (EUG). There’s a short write-up about how their men and women did here. The 2016 Games took place in Croatia and featured university teams from some interesting places. I count 13 different nations on the men’s side and also 13 on the women’s side, though not all the same. Not surprisingly, the host country had more entries than most. Overall, though, Germany was tops in terms of team count.

One can’t help but wonder how a U.S. college team would do in this kind of competition. The European teams would almost certainly have more experience given the inclusion of older players. The U.S. teams, though, would very likely have more in the way of resources and support.

As and aside, I saw that the University of Split was one of the entries on the men’s side. I’ve been to Split and really liked it. Wouldn’t mind coaching there. 😉

Coaching Log – August 12, 2016

This is the first entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2016-17 school year at Midwestern State University. The players officially report tomorrow, though they have all been around for most of the last week. Many of them were here most or all of the Summer, during which time they worked with our strength coach.

My last log entry came back at the beginning of May, shortly after we finished Spring practices. The end of our time in the gym did not mean the end of the work, though! In this post I will share with you some of what I’ve been doing over the last three months. I figure it might be of interest to those who don’t have college coaching experience.

From here on out I’ll probably just do weekly log entries. Doing them daily would be a bit much. As with my Svedala log, I’ll think posting them on Monday after the weekend’s matches makes the most sense.

Recruiting

I mentioned in my last entry that we had six prospective recruits on campus during our last week of Spring practices, and that one of them in the 2017 class committed. Three others committed in the weeks following. These are verbal commitments. Nothing official can be done until November.

My only recruiting trip during the last three or so months was to the North Texas regional bid qualifiers in the Dallas area. We were still looking for a strong OH in the 2017 class, so I watched that group in the 17s qualifier. Then I spent a day looking at 2018s in the 16s qualifier to start ramping things up in that class.

We have a couple of players we’re talking with to round out the 2017 class. We’ve also had some issues develop with a couple of those who already committed.

Camps & Clinics

We ran three MSU-linked programs.

The first was what we called an academy program that was run with a fundraising focus (though the coaches working it were paid). Basically, it was a clinic series that went 1.5 hours a session, three nights a week for four weeks. It ended up being mainly attended by 11-14 year-olds.

We also ran two camps. They were both 3-day commuter deals (not overnight). The first was for pre-high school ages, with the second for high school players. We didn’t really have it initially in mind to make the latter a recruiting camp, but it kind of worked out that way. Our three incoming freshmen all attended, as did three of our four committed 2017 players, along with a handful of other potential recruits. That made for one pretty good court and one with a much lower standard. We’ve already started talking about how we might adjust things for next year.

Sitting Volleyball

It’s worth mentioning that we had several members of the USA sitting volleyball program at our first camp for the afternoon session of the first day. It was something I arranged with the North Texas region. They gave a demonstration, taught some skills, got the kids playing, and generally made it a great experience. We invited some of the area high schools and folks from outside the university (I called the local VA clinic).

Planning a foreign trip

Since we expect to have a strong incoming freshman class next year to go along with what should be a group of returning players capable of having a good season, we decided to try to do an overseas trip next Summer. Including the freshmen requires working around NCAA restrictions, but it looks doable.

As much as I am always up for a trip to Europe, that isn’t a realistic option for us. Too expensive, especially that time of year. Plus, the big time change is problematic when you’re talking about a trip that probably at least overlaps with our preseason – meaning it would be very close to the start of our season. Jet-lagged players would not be a good thing.

On top of that, we decided to take more of a training camp approach. By that I mean staying in one place rather than doing a tour. That reduces the amount of travel and bouncing around. Not only does that add a bunch of logistical stress, but it also means more fatigued players.

So what did we decide?

Since I have coaching friends with lots of contacts there, I suggested Buenos Aires. The head coach really likes that idea. If we can go and stay in one place and make arrangements with local clubs to train and compete, we don’t need a tour company. That will save a bunch of money.

I wrote up a proposal for the trip to go to the Athletic Director. In it I figured we would be looking at a cost of somewhere around $2000 per person. Now we need to get that fund raised!

Season prep

Of course, no Summer goes by in college volleyball that doesn’t include a lot of administrative work to get ready for the upcoming season. Our schedule was mostly set, but there were some little tweaks, and refs had to be confirmed. We had to arrange hotels and put in travel authorization requests. And we had to make sure the incoming players took care of all their academic and medical requirements.

A bit broader, we also did a lot of thinking and planning about things around the team. I’m talking about community outreach and developing support for the program. Of course, that’s an on-going thing. We did, though, need to put some plans in place for events and activities during the season.

High School kick-off event

The local area high schools started their competitive season on Tuesday. Some of the local area coaches are MSU alumnae, and the idea got put forward to host several matches in our gym as a fundraiser. We would get the gate receipts and concessions.

We ended up hosting a total of 11 matches between our two gyms. Two were freshmen, two were junior varsity, and the rest varsity. I think in total 10 schools attended.

It ended up being a long day, but it went quite well. There was some grumbling about ticket prices (which we didn’t even set), but it sounds like otherwise people really thought it was a good event – including the local media. There’s talk about making this an annual thing. And we managed to raise a chunk of money.

Thinking about the team

From a volleyball perspective, probably our biggest single effort went into evaluating and updating the team handbook. Part of that was going through what we want to do in terms of systems of play. We didn’t really need to make a lot of changes there.

The bigger thing was looking at the culture side of things. We did a lot of talking and planning in that area. Developing a championship culture at MSU is very much a work in progress. The head coach is only going into her second season here and it’s been a long time since the program had a winning record. Last year they went 0-16 in conference.

We saw a lot of growth in the Spring. The team will definitely be better this season. I believe they had 19 on the initial roster last year. There were only 16 on the season-ending roster, so already the process of weeding out those who didn’t fit with the new attitude had begun (2 quit, 1 cut). Since then, one graduated and six others won’t return.

That means we have nine returning players. Of that group two were on red shirts last year and one was sitting out a mandatory year following her transfer, so only six have played for the current head coach. Among that group only five played in more than half the team’s sets 2015.

We’re adding two former players back to the roster. One was a 2-year starter before leaving the team (she’s back as a grad student). The other was on the team in 2014, but not in 2015. A freshman JUCO transfer joined during the Spring. Plug in the three incoming freshmen and you’re up to 15.

Getting the picture as to why we think we need to dedicate a lot of focus on developing the right team culture?

By the way, continuing the culture development process is part of the motivation for the foreign trip mentioned above.

Journal book

The head coach had the team do some journaling last year, but wanted to make it better this time around. In the end, we decided to combine the team handbook with the journal. The new spiral bound book we put together includes a section on the team rules and stuff. It also features an area where the players can write things down related to team and personal goals, etc.

The bulk of the book, though, is pages for daily and weekly journal entries. There are also pages for writing down scouting report info and notes. I’m curious to see how it gets used.

Coaching Log – May 2, 2016

This is an entry in my Midwestern State volleyball coaching log for 2015-16.

Monday
The main gym was still not put back after the banquet, so we were once more in the secondary one. There were still three players out due to injuries, but we had a recruit on campus (was supposed to be two, but the other got sick) as well as a former member of the team from a couple seasons ago.

We started off with a series of games with the team split in half. It was basically a progression of 1 v 1 and 1-touch to 2 v 2 and 2-touch to 3 v 3 and 3-touch. The players rotated each time they sent the ball over the net. We finished that sequence with 4 v 4 back row (fixed setters, other rotating out after hitting) where you could only score earned points.

After that we split them up to have one group working on defense and the other doing some technical serving work focused on toss and contact. From there we progressed to a serve receive offense drill where the attackers on the receiving team had to get at least 5 balls to a target zone in a given time period.

We finished up with 6 v 6 that was a wash type game. This one was all based on serve reception. Basically, a team had to win two reception rallies in a row to earn a point. If, however, they passed perfectly and got the kill on the first serve, they earned the point straight way without having to do the second ball. Winning a rally earned the right to receive serve.

Tuesday
We actually reverted back to small-group sessions for this day. In the first one we had our setter, a defender, and two middles. Each group worked on their own specific needs (setting, passing, and blocking respectively). The second group featured two defenders and two net players, so it was serving and passing for the former, and again blocking for the latter.

This was the first time in a while that we were able to really have the staff closely working with only 1-2 players at a time. Lots of feedback. My personal focus was on setting in the first group and serving in the second.

Wednesday
Back to the team training, though we continued along with Tuesday’s themes in that we dedicated a lot of focus on passing, blocking, and setting with regards to feedback. We did some breakout worth with blocking on one court and passing on the other. After that, we brought them together to work on things in a unified fashion, during which I continued to work with the setter – primarily on her positioning.

Thursday
We had two prospective recruits in the session with us. It ended up being a pretty intense, up-tempo practice. We started off with a sequence of small-sided games that eventually became a type of back court attack Winners 4s. We sandwiched rounds of servers vs. passers games around a narrow court version of Winners 4s with fixed setters and MBs.

The last part of the session was 6 v 6 play in a kind of modified version of 22 v 22. In this case we designated a position to be the point scoring hitter (e.g. MB). If that player got a kill on a first ball (receive ball or dug ball), the team automatically got the big point. Otherwise, the team winning the initial rally received down balls until either the designated scorer got a kill or they lost the rally. That means a team could receive multiple down balls.

The idea behind this game was to stimulate a couple of different things. Obviously, the first is getting the defending team to think about the degree to which they want to commit their block to the designated hitter. Another is the setter decision-making process in terms of knowing when to set that hitter and when they’d be better off going to someone else. Finally, it puts that hitter in a position of having to beat a team that knows they’re getting the ball.

Friday
We had a second pair of prospective recruits in this session. Again, game play was heavily featured. It started with a 4 v 4 back row game with fixed setters and rotating back court players. Again, servers vs passer games were mixed in to slow things down a bit.

The main feature was a variation on the game Baseball. In this case we retained the designated hitter idea from Thursday, with a twist. For the first time a team received free/down balls (meaning they won the serve receive rally) they could only score “runs” if the MB got a kill. Otherwise it was wash. The second time the designated hitter was the OPP, while the third was the OH.

Note that in this approach the OH probably will not be the designated hitter very often because in order for them to be the team would have had to win all three serve receive balls. That tends not to happen very much. So if you want the OHs getting the ball most, you’d want to put them first instead of the MBs.

Additional Notes
This was a busy week on the recruiting front with 6 prospects visiting campus following on from having spent last weekend evaluating players at the Lone Star qualifier tournament. We needed to squeeze them in because this was our final week of Spring training. Along the way we got our first commitment for the 2017 class.

Since we won’t be back in the gym until August, this will be the last of my updates for this academic year. I’ll start a new log for the 2016-17 cycle when we bring the players together once more for pre-season.

Coaching Log – Apr 25, 2016

This is an entry in my Midwestern State volleyball coaching log for 2015-16.

Monday
Because most of the staff was coaching their club teams at the Lone Star tournament, we didn’t have practice.

Tuesday
We took the team out to the sand court again. This time there was more of practice type focus in terms of doing some drills to work on ball control type activities – mainly in terms of serving and attacking. We wanted a little more focus than we had last time out. We did play some 2 v 2 + setter games at the end, though.

Wednesday
We were forced into the secondary gym because on Tuesday they started setting things up in the main gym for Thursday night’s sports banquet, which won’t get broken down again until Monday.

We started off with a variation on the cooperative cross-court hitting drill (team pepper). Previously, we started with them attacking through 4 and then switching to attacking through 2 with the objective of getting 5 consecutive dig-set-hit sequences in each configuration without stopping through the transition. This time we had them do a line-line version, so attacking through 4 and 2 and then 2 and 4. They were given 8 minutes to finish, which they did managed to do – just.

After that we did Run & Serve for the first time. We said they needed to get all the serves into the last 2 meters of the court and allowed for one missed serve by the group. It took them two times through to finish. Our thought for the next time is to exclude Zone 6, so force them to serve corners.

From there we moved to a servers vs. offense game which was an extension of the servers vs passers game we’ve been playing. This time we incorporated attacking. The receiving side earned a point if they got a good kill past the block (hard hit ball), and 2 points of they got a block-out kill. The servers earned a point for a 1 or overpass and 2 points for an ace. The receiving team was also given a point if the servers missed in the net or missed back-to-back (but not if they missed long or wide). Games were played to 15. The servers won each time, but the games were generally fairly close.

We finished up with a series of 5 v 5 games. Each side had a setter and MB at the net, and three back row players. Only earned points counted (ace, kill, block), but we subtracted a point on hitter errors in the net. Games were played to 8.

Although we normally go 2 hours, we decided to cut things short at about 90 minutes. We’d done all we planned and liked how the last couple of mini games went.

There was an assistant coaches meeting scheduled at 8:00, which I’d completely forgot about. We remembered right at the end of practice (just after 8:00), so I was late for what was only a 20-minute get-together. Whoops!

Thursday
No practice today as there was the sports banquet. Only the head coach attended out of the staff as the rest of us were involved in the USA Volleyball High Performance try-out that evening in Dallas. This was the second try-out for us having done the one the prior Friday as well. The first one, though, was mainly young kids. This second group featured more kids of recruiting age.

Friday
I ran this session as the head coach was in Dallas for a combination of recruiting and club coaching at Lone Star. We only had seven healthy bodies, but there were a couple of assistants available to jump in. The intended main focus was on blocking and defensive intensity.  Because the main gym was still set up from the banquet the night before, we were in the secondary gym.

We started of with over the net pepper in groups of 3 and 4. After that, I had them doing a serving warm-up, then worked on some tough serving. They had to get +10, with a good strong serve being +1. If they missed a serve they would re-serve. If that serve was good, then it was a wash. If they missed the second, it was -1. I had it go for time.

Honestly, I’m kind of blanking on the rest. I know we did a 4 v 4 at the end where one side had a setter in 1, RS in 2, MB in 3, and a defender in 6, with the other side having a setter in 1, MB in 3, OH in 4, and defender in 5. We played 22 v 22 with serving done only into half the court. The players were pretty gassed at the end, and we only ended up going about 90 minutes.

Weekend
I spent Friday afternoon through to Sunday afternoon in Dallas recruiting at Lone Star.

Coaching Log – Apr 18, 2016

This is an entry in my Midwestern State volleyball coaching log for 2015-16.

Monday
This week’s Monday morning was a bit better than last week’s. At least the player didn’t seem to be a leg-weary as they were. The head coach did need to “remind them” that we don’t let balls drop uncontested in our gym early on when we had them playing some 2 v 2 2-touch games.

From there we split them up between serve reception on one court and more blocking work on the other. In the latter case the focus was block penetration, with use of an elastic.

Some target serving followed, working on deep corners. We then did the Hard Drill on each court to work on multiple elements – defense against back attacks, being intelligent in bad-ball situations, staying aggressive under pressure, etc.

The remainder of practice was 6 rotations worth of a 6-v-6 drill where the serving team had to register three straight points. We called serves missed long or wide as washes, but a serve in the net sent the team back to 0. Each team had a turn passing and serving. Afterwards we talked about amping the drill up a bit by may be making it first-to-3 so either team could “win”.

Tuesday
No practice sessions today. Instead we had two groups of player in to watch video from the weekend for about an hour. A lot of the focus ended up being on defensive positioning and movement. We also briefly met with the team at the end of the day before they did a group activity together. At that point we basically progressed the team chemistry development process in the direction of accountability.

Wednesday
Illness and injury had us down a couple of bodies in this session, then we lost another one as part of a collision during the first half to bring us down to only eight. It ended up being a challenging session from a frustration perspective. This was largely driven by a couple of cooperative drills where the team (or groups) had consecutive sequence targets.

The first was a simple 3-person over the net pepper. We gave them a target of 10 straight dig-set-hit sequences, allowing them to hold their count level if they couldn’t get a good sequence, but kept the ball in play. This was in 3 groups on one court. That obviously creates issues due to the small space, but the bigger issue was simple lack of clean execution. By the point when we called time, one group had managed 5 and the other two 4.

After doing some serving and passing, we did the other cooperative drill, which was basically an out-of-system focused activity. This one was a 4-corner set-up with players in 1, 2, 4, and 5 on each side. Balls had to be attacked cross-court. If the ball was dug by the back row player, the other back row player had to set the ball (to either pin hitter). If the front row player dug the ball, either back row player could set.

The goal was 8 consecutive good sequences. It took probably close to half and hour. At one point relatively early on when it was clear they were struggling I brought them in to get them thinking about how communication could make it better. Later on we had them take a team timeout.

At noon we had two players who couldn’t make the video sessions on Tuesday in for their own session.

Thursday
We gave the team the morning off from lifting as a break from the early wake-ups and because there are a few banged-up bodies. For afternoon team practice we took them out on the sand court at a local school. Basically, they just played games. It was rough going at the start as some of them clearly had little to no sand experience. By the end, though, they were starting to have some pretty good rallies.

Friday
We tried a variation on volley tennis to start this practice. Basically, it was 2 people on court on each side, with one ball in play as opposed to the two balls from the Brazilian variation we did before. Instead we had one player on each side holding a ball which they had to pass to their partner if they were going to play the ball coming over from the other side. Some refer to this as “don’t drop the baby”. We found, though, that by the end both sides had adopted a strategy of one person holding the “baby” while the other ran around the court playing the ball. So it became pretty much 1 v 1. We decided that the next time we tried it we’d make it a 2-touch game rather than just 1-touch.

After that we had them to serving and passing triples as warm-up for then moving on to the servers vs passers game we’ve been playing.

We then had them do the hitters vs defense where the antenna is set up so the attacker can only go through a narrow channel dominated by a double block. Last time we had them hitting through 4. This time it was through 2.

Next up was Pin Magic, which is a 5 v 5 game. You have pin hitters in the front row and three back court players. Each rally is started with a bounced ball which acts as the first contact. That side’s player in 5 must set the ball, and the ally goes from there. Points are only scored on kills which are set by the player in 5 (on either side).

We finished up with a couple of rotations of 22 vs. 22. We used the variation where a first-ball kill in the initial rally earned that side a big point (no second ball).

Coaching Log – Apr 11, 2016

This is an entry in my Midwestern State volleyball coaching log for 2015-16.

Monday
Not a great session overall. Whether it was simply a Monday morning issue or there was lingering fatigue from Saturday’s play, the team was a bit listless. Communication wasn’t where it needed to be and neither was focus.

Deep serves and serve reception were two of the focus points for this sessions, and they got threaded into things throughout.

The session started with some short court play based on balls in/near the net – including jousts. We had them play a trio of 3 v 3 games to 7 with a coach initiating a ball to start each rally. After that we progressed them to simple target serving. They had to put 10 balls into about the last meter or so of the court.

This was followed by 3s games. That brought serve reception in. We used Tennis Serving to encourage the players to keep working on the hard deep serves. Also, because we wanted to keep working on block positioning and penetration over the net, we put them on a narrow court and allowed front court attacks. That encouraged them to have someone at the net blocking.

From there we moved to full court back row Winners 4s. This was mainly about working on defense against back court attacks and getting hitters to do more transitioning ahead of their attacks. We used fixed MBs at the net (so three teams of three with a MB joining each team on-court), which let them work more on blocking. Tennis serving remained in place.

After that we did a hitter transition exercise. It was 4 v 6 with the 4 side having two hitters in their positions (e.g. two OHs – one front row, one back row), plus a defensive player and the setter. The 4s side defended one half of the court and received a down ball from over the net to start each rally. They then played out the rally. If a hitter failed to transition properly, the 6 team received a point. Otherwise it was normal scoring for a fixed time. We did one round each of OHs, OPPs, and then MBs. We then did a second round where we pair an OH and an OPP attacking through Zone 4.

From there we moved on to a first ball kill drill. One side received every serve until they got three first ball kills (otherwise the rally was played out). We started with Rotation 4, which was our weakest side out rotation on Saturday. After that we progressed through a couple of others that also had some struggles.

We finished up with a couple rounds of Scramble. That was included to work on calming down the more panicky stuff we were seeing.

Although there were a couple of lapses, the group was probably most focused during Scramble. That was probably the general best segment of the session. We were happy, though, with what we saw in the serving. In contrast to Saturday where many of our misses were in the net, in this case the misses in this practice during the game play were main long, which is definitely the more desirable.

Tuesday
This was an off day. NCAA rules require that players be given at least 2 days off each week during Spring training. Since were playing on Saturday we had to give the team a day off during the week. Tuesday is normally group sessions rather than team, so it made sense for this to be the day chosen.

Wednesday
The two major things we worked on today was serve and pass and hitters working on scoring against a well-formed block. In the case of the former, we played games of servers vs passers where we gave the passers a point for a 3 or 2 pass, and a point to the servers for aces or 1 passes. We didn’t penalize servers for missed serves unless they were in the net or were back-to-back. In those cases we gave a point to the passers. We played games to 10-12 points. They ended up being pretty competitive in terms of the scores.

For the hitting we did something motivated what I saw at the 2015 USA Volleyball HP Coaches Clinic. It features a narrow pin hitting zone defined by antennae put about 6′ (2m) apart. We had two hitters alternating swings against a double block with a pair of defenders playing behind them. The hitter’s side had a setter and two others to cover them.

The goal for each hitter was to get 5 points. If a ball was blocked, covered, and then was killed, they got 2 points. Otherwise, kills were worth a point. Errors were not counted to encourage aggressive swings. When a hitter reached 5 points they were replaced with another hitter.

Thursday
Team practice was replaced with a session with a sports psychologist. He took the team (and staff) through a basic DISC analysis. It was interesting to see the distribution. Of the 10 players on-hand (one is off to a SAAC conference), 2 were D’s, 2 were I’s, 2 were S’s, and the other 4 C’s. Interestingly, the coaching staff was evenly divided between I’s and C’s. Want to guess which category I fell into?

Friday
We introduced the team to two new games today. The first was the “Brazilian” 2-ball volleyball tennis game we played regularly when I was coaching at Svedala. Not surprisingly, they had fun with it. The second was the Belly Drill. Maybe that one wasn’t quite as fun – at least not in the same way. 😉

The rest of practice was primarily comprised of the servers vs. passers game we played on Wednesday and the first ball kill drill we did on Monday. In the case of the latter, we went through all six rotations to get ready for Saturday’s home tournament.

Saturday
We hosted a Spring tournament. We were supposed to play four matches, but one team needed to turn up late, so we sacrificed our first match to allow their opponent to still have a match in the early time slot. Probably for the best. We did a lot of player rotation, but it would have probably been too much as we’ve got a few players who are banged up one way or another.

The competition in our first two matches wasn’t great, though one of the teams did put us under a fair bit of pressure in serve receive. The last match was against Lone Start Conference rivals Cameron. They didn’t serve particularly tough, so we passed well. We did get stuck in rotations a couple of times.

The other two assistants stepped up the stat-keeping by doing in-rally work using Rotate 123, so we have some hitting figures beyond the kills and errors. We hit .260 in our first match, which wasn’t a great performance. Things got better in the second one where we hit .462. In the Cameron match we hit a respectable .315.

That last match was very closely contested. We should have won both the full sets as we had late leads, but lost by 2 in both cases. It was similar to the second set in our final match the week before. The offense clearly did well. We just needed to a be better on defense and exhibit some higher Volleyball IQ. In the first set we actually put three free balls we had to send over out of bounds.

So, some good stuff with plenty of room for improvement.

Three of our incoming players were at the tournament, plus a likely transfer was there playing for one of the other teams. After play ended we did a little clinic for some youngsters, then went out to the football stadium for the Spring Game festivities.

Coaching Log – Apr 4, 2016

This is an entry in my Midwestern State volleyball coaching log for 2015-16.

It occurred to me that this is the first time I’ve begun work with a team in a Spring training type of situation. In basically every case up to now I’ve started coaching a team at the start of the season. The one exception is when I took over the Devon Ladies halfway through the 2012-13 NVL season in England. It’s in an interesting new situation.

Anyway….

We started MSU team Spring Training on Wednesday after the team got back from Spring/Easter break. The schedule we’ve got worked out looks like this:

Monday and Wednesday: 6:30-8:30am team practice
Tuesday: 6:15-7:30am team weights, 7:30-9:00am group practice 1, 11-12:30 group practice 2
Thursday: 6:15-7:30am team weights, 4-5:30pm team practice, 6-7pm pool workout
Friday: 6:30-8:30am team practice, 12-1:30pm weight training group 1, 2-3:30pm weight training group 2

Thursday’s are actually a bit of a mix. That day is impacted by some different other activities going on. I’ll speak about them separately as they occur.

Wednesday
We decided to have blocking as a focal point in this session. That meant doing some station work during the first half of the practice where we had the front row players blocking in a rotation by position. This wasn’t against live hitters, though we did have an assistant setting the ball so they would have the timing element and basic set placement to work with. I was running this court and was basically using the exercise to evaluate where they were at with their footwork and to have them focus on getting good penetration – shooting the hands over rather than going straight up and then (maybe) pressing.

Generally speaking, the footwork was solid. There was one player using swing block mechanics for a very short move (maybe half a step) that I had her change to just a simple slide/shuffle. Other than that, though, I didn’t see any major issues with their movement. There was a bit of floating going on by one or two of them, which seems to be always the case.

We then had them face live hitters in game play. That’s where some developmental needs surfaced. Mainly that had to do with block positioning, though I did provide feedback on some hand stuff as well.

While I was working on the blocking station the head coach was running the others through some serving, passing, and a bit of defense on the other court. I didn’t really get to see any of it, though.

Straight after practice I had to spend 2.5 hours going through new hire orientation. Fun times!

Thursday
The day started early with the team doing weights, and then a suicide test where they had to do 5 timed suicides with about 30 second breaks in between. The target times were 23-24-25-25-25 seconds. This was all run by the strength coach. He then administered a punishment to the on-campus freshmen in the form of having to do another 5 suicides because of tardiness to a session with him.

We did a team training in the afternoon – but only 75 minutes. We continued working on blocking, this time with the pin blockers starting off going 1-on-1 against assistant coaches hitting in their approach line. The idea was to get the blockers focusing on their positioning. We later added the middles. Behind the block we had defenders working on reading the hitters and positioning around the block. We finished up working on a couple of rotations ahead of our tournament on Saturday by playing the 22 v 22 game.

In between the morning and afternoon activities we had a bit of drama. One of the defensive specialists announced that she was quitting unexpectedly – at least in terms of timing.

Friday
We had a prospective recruit visiting and playing in with us. Lovely early wake-up for her and her parents!

After doing some small-sided game play to begin practice, we split off the setter and middles to do some block-transition-attack work on one court while everyone else worked on serving and serve reception. After that, we returned to 22 v 22 to do the four remaining rotations, then wrapped up with a regular game.

Saturday
We played in a Spring tournament at Oklahoma Baptist University. That’s about a 2.5 hour ride from MSU. We went in style.

2016-04-02 07.08.12

The format was basically an hour per match, inclusive of 10 minutes of warm-up time. So call it about 50 minutes of play per match. That basically translates to two full sets and part of a third.

The competition was St. Gregory’s, Northwestern Oklahoma State, and then the host team. St. Gregory’s is an NAIA school playing in the Sooner Athletic Conference. The other two are NCAA Division II teams who play in the Great American Conference. The latter is generally a weaker league than the Lone Start Conference were we play.

Our first match was pretty comfortable. St. Gregory’s finished low in their league last season and we handled them pretty easily. We played a 5-1, rotating our 4 defensive specialists and our two OPPs. Our two OPPs also can play MB, so we gave each some time through there as well.

The second match we shifted to a 6-2, but not a “legal” one. Basically we had our setter go back to 1 each time she rotated to the front row, and then subbed OPPs. The first set was a bit rough, and we lost by a large margin. We turned that around in the second set, though, for a comparable win. We then won a close short third set as well.

The last match, against OBU, was the toughest. We went back to the 5-1 to start. The first set was a bit rough. In particular, we got stuck in a rotation (which happened in the first set of the second match as well), and never quite got back to level terms. We changed to the 6-2 for the second set and performed a bit better. Arguably, we should have won, but gave up a late lead. The short third set was kind of poor, the players were clearly tired and lacking focus.

Overall, I think we were generally happy with how things went. Obviously, there were plenty of things that we want to get better at, but it was a decent day in terms of how the team played. A couple of players really put in good performance as well.

I was told OBU would generally rank as a middling team in the Lone Star Conference.

Coaching Log – Mar 25, 2016

This is an entry in my Midwestern State volleyball coaching log for 2015-16.

We’re actually on Spring Break this week at Midwestern State. In fact, that will be extended by Easter coming up this weekend as well, which the school gives off, so we won’t be back in the gym until the 30th. That’s when we’ll officially start our non-traditional (Spring) season. Lest you think I’m just kicking back and relaxing while the players are away, though…

Hah!

We’ve had multiple meetings as a coaching staff to develop our priorities for the Spring season, to talk about recruiting, and to start getting things going for the camps and clinics we’ll be running over the Summer. We’ve also been looking at ways of getting more technology (video especially) incorporated into our training to increase effectiveness.

I’ve had to develop a flyer for our Spring tournament and coordinate with Sports Information on getting the word out about that. I need to do something similar for camp. I’ve also have to shop for equipment. Of course there’s been a bunch of stuff I’ve had to do as part of starting a new job. And of course I’ve had loads and loads to do to get my new apartment furnished and configured.

And it’s not like I don’t have other things on my plate either, like preparing papers for academic publishing. It’s been a busy couple of weeks!

I’ll have more technical stuff in the next log entry after we get the team training going. The planned schedule is to do team training four days a week (three of them with 6:30AM starts!), and a group work on the 5th day. Along with our home tournament on the 9th we’re going to an away tourney on the 2nd, which is a bit quicker than you’d normally prefer. That will pretty much the schedule all the way through April.