Team Try-Outs Part Deux

In yesterday’s post I told the harrowing tale of expecting 20-something women to try-out for the university women’s team I coach and ending up with 40-something. After making many, many cuts, we got down to 17 players to invite back, along with 15 on the men’s side.

These were not expected to be the final rosters, however. It was anticipated that additional players would turn up this week – players who hadn’t arrived to campus yet (classes started on Monday), didn’t hear about Friday’s trial, had a conflict, etc. That meant I had to plan Monday’s sessions in much the same manner I did for Friday’s in terms of being flexible enough to account for an uncertain number of players – potentially something into the 20s.

One big constraint for Monday was court space. These sessions were in our primary training facility, which has just one court and very little room around it. Basically, everything happens in the space of the court itself. Fortunately, we were up to 90 minutes for each group.

For the women especially, Friday’s try-out was mainly about seeing who wasn’t up to the standard because of the massive numbers. Having been able to cull that list, Monday was now about getting a good look at what we really have and starting to think in terms of team composition. Yes, some more new faces might have needed to be evaluated, but it would be a minority part of the group, and as such it wouldn’t force a different approach.

Key areas of focus

It will come as no surprise that the two biggest areas I wanted to focus on to have a serious evaluation were setter and middle hitter. I haven’t seen too many situations where identifying OHs and OPPs, along with a libero, is a major challenge.

In the men’s case we have two guys back who set last year. In an ideal world we’d probably want a new setter coming in, but we could get along without one. Only one of our primary MBs from last year returns, maybe with one other, so that is really an area in need of new bodies. In the women’s case we lost all of our setters and primary middle players from last year. We have one returner who could set and one who could play MB, but we’re probably best if they didn’t have to.

The Plan

So with those priorities in mind – and given the requirement to be flexible in terms of the number of players to be accommodated – here’s what I came up with. Start with dynamic warm-up, then move on to pepper. If the numbers allow, do rotating partner pepper to get the players mixed up working together. Then do serving & passing, with setters in setting the ball to 4. From there, on to hitting by position. Finish up with some version of winners, depending on numbers.

The Reality

Shock of shocks, I didn’t have to deal with an excess of players. In fact, both teams were missing a couple of bodies from those called back, though there was 1 new male player. That let me basically run things to plan. With the men’s team I didn’t include setters in the passing drill because I pretty much know who they are, but instead shifted to a targeted good pass number (30), with a -1 for an overpass and back to 0 on a no-effort ball (they had to restart once). For winners I had the women play 4s because of the higher numbers (15), and the men play 3s on a narrow court.

Another session tonight and tomorrow for the women, tomorrow and Thursday for the men. I will need to make further cuts, at least on the women’s side.

John Forman
About the Author: John Forman

John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women’s team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women’s professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women’s Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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