Keeping up with my tradition of commenting on my experience attending the AVCA Convention (2021, 2020, 2019, 2016, 2013), here begins my log of activities for the 2022 event. Partly because of a tight budget this year and partly out of a desire to see what the virtual convention looks like when there’s an in-person event happening, I opted for the virtual version this year. Obviously, that means missing out on the in-person activities. It also means, however, that because everything is recorded, I didn’t have to pick and chose between things happening at the same time.

So here goes with what I did on the first day!

Opening Session Part 1: If Gold is Our Destiny – How a Team of Mavericks Came Together for Olympic Glory

This is obviously a session based on the book of the same name I reviewed earlier this year. The presenter was the book’s author, Sean Murray. He started talking about the (in)famous Outward Bound experience of the 1984 men’s Olympic team discussed in the book. I wasn’t thrilled by beginning there as I think it puts too much focus on a style of team building I’m no big of. He did progress, though, into how that team developed a new style of play. They did so by borrowing from others and making it their own. Finally, he shared the importance of the way the team came to treat each other.

Technical issues

After that, things rather broke down. Opening Session Part 2, which was supposed to be a look at the four semifinal teams, didn’t stream properly. The recording was available shortly afterwards, though. The next session – which was a pre-recorded one – didn’t initiate as it should have either. Eventually, though, they got the video to show up.

Serving & Passing Systems

This was the third session I mentioned above. Interestingly, the now former Missouri head coach (let go at the end of their season) presented it. As it was pre-recorded, he was in full Mizzou gear.

He started with a talk about how they teach float serving. No real surprise on most of it. Contact the center of the ball. Keep the serve low to the tape. The whole flat and clean (flean) idea. My one niggle was in how he mention “popping”. As I’ve written before, I find that to be a counterproductive thing for servers to do.

He progressed then into a discussion of serving strategy (something I recently posted on). The one thing I did find interesting that isn’t something you hear a lot of talk about is targeting seams rather than zones. He showed an example of a classic 3-person reception pattern. It featured seams numbered 1 through 4 from left to right, starting with the one between the sideline and the passer in Zone 1.

After showing some drills and such, he then moved on to passing. The one thing in his comments that stood out as likely causing some controversy was “Midline passing should be avoided when receiving float serves.” I’ve written on the midline subject. Basically, the argument is that midline makes it almost impossible to pass well a ball that stays up rather than dropping down into the platform. The serve jams the passer in the chest/shoulder with no way to get their platform on the ball.

He had a solid discussion of getting a read on the server in terms of what to look for.

Learning Lab – John Dunning

Next up was a zoom session with former Stanford and Pacific head coach John Dunning. The subject was middle attacking. It wasn’t a presentation, per se. More of folks asking John about different subjects related to MB attacking. As such, it covered a lot of ground. John’s got a great mind for the game and explains things well, so it was a very good exchange.

Unfortunately, I had to cut out about 10 minutes early to do a recruiting call. That recruiting call also kept me from being on a second Learning Lab focused on setting with the Navy coach. I’ll have to circle back and watch the recording later.

Preparing The Mind and Your Volleyball Team for Battle

Another glitch caused a tardy start to this one (also pre-recorded), but better than the earlier ones. The presenter was Dr. Larry Widman. The focus was on training an elite mindset. Honestly, I didn’t make it more than 20 minutes. Too much self-promotion.

That’s it!

There was one more session on feedback. I have a lot of interest in that subject, but 90 minutes was too much at the time. I just couldn’t make the commitment to something that long, so I held back to take in at a later time.

Here’s my report on Day 2.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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