Archive for Volleyball Coaching News & Info

Off to the Convention!

I’m heading back across the Atlantic – and then some! – today. I’m off to Seattle for the 2013 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) convention. It runs from Wednesday through Saturday, in conjunction with the NCAA Division I Final 4. That means along with the convention activities I’ll also be able to watch the national semifinals and finals – and even the open team training sessions if I like.

As for the convention itself, it’s looking like a few busy days! I’ve been invited to attend a education & publications committee meeting on Wednesday. There are some social events on the program, particularly the first night, and no doubt there will be several informal social gatherings as well. I hoping I’ll have a chance to meet up with one of my former players who lives in Seattle at some point along the way to catch up with her. And of course there’s loads of educational sessions to choose from throughout.

I’ll endeavor to post daily about my convention experiences, though I can’t make any promises. Who knows what the 8-hour time change is going to do to me! 🙂

Cutting back on the coaching a bit

Yesterday I coached my last match for the Devon Storm Ladies. This is a move that’s been on my mind for a while now. I just simply need to reduce my volleyball commitments. Since we added Division 2 teams to the Exeter University program, my workload has gone up there quite a bit, and that has always been my priority. Even with EUVC, the demands are such that I have to prioritize at times which on which team I focus. Fortunately, I’ve had a fair bit of assistant coaching help this season to be able to have teams covered when there’s a scheduling conflict.

Granted, coaching the Devon team only meant a single training session a week and a handful of matches each month. As any teacher will know, though, there’s a lot more time that goes into it than just turning up and doing a job – especially when it’s not just doing extra sessions for the same group you’re with normally. All the prep work takes time and occupies mental bandwidth, as does the after-action analysis and assessment. Add to that some long days of travel and you get a real time commitment.

If you’ve read my bio you’ll know that I’m in Exeter working on a PhD. That work, however, has fallen markedly behind. My supervisor had already expressed some concerns about volleyball’s influence on my productivity near the start of the current term and I have a meeting with him again in a few days during which it will no doubt come up. If I’m to stay on track and retain my funding (the only thing keeping me in England at this stage) then I need to show considerable progress in the second term.

Even after stepping away from Devon coaching, though, I am still likely to have a very busy period in January and early February. The uni men will have 9-10 matches between the Div 1 and 2 teams, while the Div 1 women will have 3 as well. Both groups also have a pair of SW league dates scheduled, so it’s going to be a packed first month back. Somehow I’m still going to have to keep moving my research along at an acceptable pace.

New BUCS volleyball premier league play for 2014-15

BUCS volleyball will be getting a premier league in 2014. Actually, it will be getting two of them on both the men’s and women’s side of things.

It’s been announced that there will be new 6-team premier leagues formed for the North and the South to begin next season based on how teams finish this year’s campaign. The Northern Premier League will be selected out of a group of teams from the Northern and Scottish leagues, along with the more northerly of the Midlands league. The Southern Premier League will be drawn from a group of teams from the South East and Western leagues, plus the more southerly of the Midlands league.

Promotion to the new premier leagues will be based on the finish in this year’s Championships. That works out to between 6 and 9 teams being eligible for each premier league, depending on which Midlands teams finish in the top 3 in that league. If more than 6 teams from one of the new premier league regions makes it to Final 8s then which teams get into the league for next year will be based on final standings. If fewer than 6 teams from a region advance, then those who lost during in the round of 16 will be subject to a play-off to decide who make the the cut (unless of course only 6 teams in total are eligible – such as in the case of all the Midlands teams being eligible for the other region).

Here’s the full details.

The question I have is how Championships will be run moving forward, and what the promotion/relegation mechanism will look like.

Volleyball over academics?

Back in 2013, there was a story going around the US volleyball community that caught my eye. A college biology professor threatened to fail a volleyball player if she missed another class to play in national championships. The player already had to miss three classes due to volleyball travel. That’s not at all uncommon during the season for athletes. The news report indicated that the school would fly the player to the competition separately to avoid her missing class again.

This recalls to mind a story from several years back. There was a team at a prominent liberal arts college in the Northeast of the US. It was not allowed to take part in the national championships because they fell during final exams week. I can’t recall the school, nor the sport, but I remember it was a big talking point at the time.

I can appreciate the academic side of these cases, especially as a former Ivy League school coach. However, I think sometimes things go a bit too far. Part of being a college/university student is the experiences you have. It’s not just about the courses you take. Competing in a national championship could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Besides, as one commentators opines, if you’re keeping up with the work and are generally a good student, I don’t see a problem with missing class.

Obviously, I have a bias, though. I’d like to hear what others think.

Catching up quicker in rally scoring?

While watching a US collegiate volleyball match once, I heard the announcer and analyst working the match talk about the difference between rally and sideout scoring. The analyst was a former long-time college volleyball coach. Their career spanned both scoring systems (as my own has done), so it’s natural to want to hear what someone like that thinks. Unfortunately, in this case, it wasn’t the brightest observation in the world.

Basically, what the analyst and the former volleyball coach said during the broadcast was that in rally scoring you can catch-up much faster than you could in the old sideout system. Think about this for a second and you should quickly realize why this is totally incorrect.

In sideout scoring the only way to get points was if your team served and won the rally. Thus, in order to catch-up after falling behind you must score an unanswered string of points while serving.

In rally scoring you get points any time you win a rally. In order to close a gap, though, you need to be able to score points when your team is serving. That is, score points in a row. It’s exactly the same idea as in sideout scoring.

The illusion of faster catch-up probably comes from the fact that when a team gains the serve in the first place they score a point. For example, if the score is 10-6 and the losing team gets a sideout the score becomes 10-7. If, however, they cannot win on their serve, the score becomes 11-7, so no gain is made. The gain only comes if the losing team can win when they serve.

So closing a gap has exactly the same requirements whether you’re playing sideout or rally scoring. You have to score when you serve. The difference is one of time.

In the sideout days you could go multiple rotations without either team scoring a point. That gave teams behind on the scoreboard more opportunity to mount a comeback. They could chip away slowly so long as they could sideout effectively. For example, if each one of your servers got one point during their rotations and you were able to sideout each time the other team served, you would make up 6 points against them. If you were down 11-5 the score would be 11-11 and you’d be right back in it.

In rally score, though, points accumulate quickly. Teams no longer have the luxury of time to slowly whittle away at the opponent’s lead. All the other team has to do at that stage is keep siding out to win. Using the above example of each server scoring a point in their rotation, your team would still make up 6 points, but it would be in a 12-6 fashion rather than a 6-0 one. If you’re in the fifth set and it was 11-5 you probably ran out of time because the other team reached 15 before you got close enough to push it to extra points.

Why are we still developing the BUCS volleyball schedule?

I have to let loose on a rant.

Sorry, but this is driving me crazy.

The Western League for BUCS is a complete shambles. Maybe other leagues are the same, but I can only speak for my specific experience.

Last year was pretty bad. Schedules were changing day to day for matches to be played that week or weekend. BUCS posted a schedule full of Wednesday matches, which many players then used for planning purposes (for those who don’t know, the traditional sports day in the UK is Wednesday). The problem was that most matches ended up being scheduled on weekends in a tournament type format, creating conflicts.

Now, I have no problem with schools favoring more of a tournament or tri-match style of approach as it tends to make things more efficient and cost effective. It would just be good to know in advance what’s happening. I’d have liked to do some travel on my free weekends, but I couldn’t do it because I never knew what was going on. Then, after primarily doing multi-match dates through the first term, come January it became a case of midweek matches to round out the schedule. And getting them played as a major undertaking.

That was bad enough. This year it’s worse.

The whole schedule is being negotiated between the respective AUs (rough equivalent of an athletic department). BUCS has again provided a Wednesday-based schedule. Some schools are forcing that to be used for their designated home matches while others are trying to arrange tournament style scheduling once more. On top of that, some schools are running best of 3 set matches and others best of 5. The BUCS rules state that in the case any matches are to be done tournament style then all matches have to be played best of 3 for the sake of consistency, which is required for handling tiebreakers.

So what you end up with in cases is teams traveling a long way to play hardly at all. For example, the trip from Exeter to Bournemouth is about 2.5 hours one way. A 3-set match is generally done in 1.5 hours or less. That means 5 hours of driving to get 90 minutes of playing, tops. Major waste.

Oh, and we’ve got a potential situation where instead of a double-round of matches against each team in Division 1 we could end up with just a single. Who then gets priority for being the home side in any given fixture arrangement when BUCS has proscribed a double round?

It’s a total mess. I can’t help but think that BUCS needs to enforce a policy and make the schools adhere. Or at least require that the schools get their scheduling done before school starts so people can make plans. This doing it on the fly stuff is rubbish.

Just how big is volleyball in the US?

A while back the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) put together a set of info graphics which shows how big women’s collegiate volleyball is in the States. That’s both in terms of teams and scholarship funding. Here’s what the structure looks like.

US Womens Volleyball Team Counts

You’ll notice there were some cut-paste issue with the NCAA Division numbers. The actual D1 number is closest to correct. As of the 2017 season, there were 334 teams in Division I, 297 teams in Division II, and 444 in Division III. It was 222 for NAIA.

The NCAA and NAIA both comprise of 4-year colleges and universities.

Alas, men’s volleyball is only a fraction of the size of the women’s game.

For more info comparing US volleyball to other countries, check out this article I wrote for an Argentinian coaching magazine.

Extending my volleyball coaching certification

This post comes from early in my second year in England.

Today I’m starting the Volleyball England Level 3 course. It was supposed to run back during the first week of August. That would certainly have made things easier on my schedule, but they had to postpone. The result is that I’m going to miss several training sessions and a pair of matches for the teams I coach. If you’re a typical coach, you’ll know how much that bothers me.

My coaching certification process began years ago while taking USA Volleyball’s CAP I course. These courses naturally change and adapt over time. Based on these observations of the program these days, though, at least some of what I learned then has stuck. In particular, these foundations are a major part of how I coach today.

  • The game teaches the game.  Skills are transferred best in game-like situations. 
  • Principles matter more than methods.
  • The pleasure of competition should always exceed the pressure of competition.
  • Effective coaches will tell their players what they want to see them doing, not what they did wrong.
  • Teach the whole rather than the part, for example teach the full spike rather than breaking it down in parts.  
  • A team’s practice must be deliberate and focused.
  • Specificity is a key in motor learning. Give students specific cues such as “Good job reaching for the ball.” This is more helpful than being a cheerleader and saying, “Good shot.”
  • There is a greater transfer in skill in random training rather than block training.

I had a chance to take the FIVB Level 2 course, which runs immediately following the VE 3 one. It’s 2 weeks long, though. No way I can miss that much time away from my teams – not to mention by PhD studies!

Anyway, my plan is to provide daily updates on how the course goes, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, here’s the course outline provided to me to give you an idea of what we’re covering.

Update: Here are my thoughts from Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, and Day 5 of the course.

100 days, 100 posts

This post marks the end of the first 100 days of this blog. It’s also marks the 100th entry in the blog. It’s a nice milestone for something I started as a little side project. Got myself on a pretty good roll there during the summer months.

My various experiences coaching have provided considerable fodder for new material, and my August trip to several college programs in the US was quite useful as well. At any given point I’ve had several posts pending publication. I’m not sure how long that will be the case, especially with the other demands on my time I expect to have now that school is getting back in session. For now, though, I’m enjoying being able to keep putting my thoughts and ideas in print.

As noted on the About page, I started this website out as something to use in helping coaches in the South West of England where I’m located – and the broader English coaching community as well given the contacts I’ve started to develop from coaching in BUCS and NVL and attending coaching meetings. Thus far I’ve done very little to actually promote the site and what I’ve done has been mainly England focused. Interestingly, though, the traffic to the site has been very much multinational.

Distribution of Visitors to Coaching Volleyball in the first 100 days

A close examination will show that the UK is the next darkest country on the map, though the number of visits from there falls way behind those from the US.

As you’d probably expect, the home page of the site has been the most visited page. Here are the pages which round out the top 10:

Game: Bingo-Bango-Bongo
Volleyball Set Diagram
Are your warm-ups wasting valuable time?
Proposed FIVB rules changes ahead
Drill: Run Serve Receive
Volleyball Conditioning: A Sample Program
First things first, know your priorities
Volleyball Drills (main category page)
Making Mentorship Part of the Process

I’ve got loads of ideas for stuff I’d like to do with the sight and related social network platforms. If you have any ideas or things you’d like to see, definitely let me know through the Contact page, the Facebook group, or via Twitter.

By the way, the Facebook group now has over two dozen members and the Twitter feed has over 100 followers. Not bad for virtually no promotional effort thus far.

One thing I want to do is get some additional contributors pitching in their own thoughts, experiences, drills and games. It would be nice to have some varying perspectives.

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