Archive for Volleyball Coaching News & Info

Heading off to the States

As I mentioned previously, I’m attending this year’s USA Volleyball High Performance coaching clinic. The clinic actually runs from Thursday evening through Saturday (see the schedule here), but I started the trip yesterday because of the challenges of actually getting to Colorado Springs from Exeter – at least if you are trying to make it as cost effective as you can. I will be connecting through Dallas, so the full trip is Exeter to London to Dallas to Colorado Springs, and back along the reverse path.

Two things made it a pain to plan. First, I needed to arrive at my final destination before 5pm because of when things get going. I could find no flights/connections that would accomplish this, though, meaning I have to fly over the day before (today). I will overnight in Dallas. I was last there for an AVCA Convention back in 2004 or 2005. I then connect on to Springs tomorrow.

The second issue was that the London-Dallas flight is too early for me to get a train from Exeter to London. That meant starting the trip with an initial overnight stay in London (last night).

The back-end of the trip was equally interesting to work out. It was at least Β£200 ($300+) more expensive to fly back on Sunday than on Monday. So I’m staying an extra night at the Olympic Training Center ($45). Of course, the Dallas to London return will be on a red-eye, so I won’t get back until Tuesday.

In total, it’ll be an 8-day trip for a 2.25 day clinic. Better be worth it!

I’m sure it will. Educational stuff aside, I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to connect with a whole bunch of coaches. The schedule actually is set up to encourage regular participant interaction.

I don’t know to what extent I’ll be able to get anything posted during the trip. The clinic schedule is quite full, though obviously I’ll have plenty of down time outside that. Just depends on my connectivity. You can count on full reporting at some point, though.

Great volleyball atmosphere in Berlin

I previously mentioned my trip to Berlin and how I was attending a pair of professional men’s volleyball matches. In case you haven’t seen it, here’s video I took of match point from the first match. The actually volleyball action isn’t very clear, but I was more trying to capture the atmosphere in the arena, which was pretty awesome.

The crowd was over 7300. On Wednesday night it was a smaller one (about 4300), but still great to see and hear. Here’s a picture from my VIP seats.

The home team, Berlin Recycling Volleys, is on the right. You can see their supporters club all together wearing their orange t-shirts.

Back in Berlin

Taking a bit of a break from the job hunt work – which has practically become a full-time job! – to spend a bit more time with the pros. I’m back in Berlin hanging out with Mark Lebedew and the BR Volleys boys. Yesterday they had a big home match against their chief domestic rivals VfB Friedrichshafen, with the latter currently sitting atop the Bundesliga standings. Berlin won. Great crowd and atmoshphere – and a win for the home side. On Wednesday they host Budvanska Rivijera Budva from Montenegro in the CEV Champions League. A win will assure them of advancing out of the group stage.

It’s now been over a month since I was last on-court, so this trip is a bit of volleyball fix to ward off the withdrawal symptoms. Maybe I’ll be able to get some interesting video and/or audio to share after I get back on Thursday.

Anything in particular you’d like to see?

Looking forward to 2015

Welcome to 2015!

Ready to make it a good one?

I have to admit, in many ways it will be hard for me to match my 2014, as I wrote about yesterday. In other ways, though, the new year could be really fun and exciting. One way or another it’s going to present new challenges. I will almost certainly be coaching in a different country as my time in England winds down. Not sure yet if that will be back in the States in the collegiate game or perhaps in Europe among the professional ranks. Maybe neither.

The only thing I know for sure is that my volleyball coaching adventure will take a new course and I’m looking forward to it.

As I said last year, I don’t really do resolutions. I do have a few things in mind for the year to come, though. Some of it I would love to get your thoughts on.

Continue my education and development – This is just a given as a permanent state for me. I’m always looking to learn and grow. Formally, I’d like to do the USA Volleyball CAP III course, but we’ll have to see how things work out. Beyond that, I’ll do the usual informal things like reading, watching, and getting out among my fellow coaches to see what they are doing.

Write a coaching book – I’m not talking about some massive text here. More like a practical user’s manual. I’m thinking something that shares ways to get the most out of limited resources (time, space, equipment, etc.). This is something that has been a major consideration for me the last couple years in England, so it’s fresh in my mind. Of course I also think it could be quite useful for a lot of coaches. I’ve written and published books before (like Inside College Volleyball), so know what it takes. Heck! My PhD thesis is basically a book. Your ideas are certainly welcome.

Develop a coaching course – I’d like to create an online course that fills in some of the gaps left open by the traditional coaching certification programs. There’s plenty of good material out there on the subject of teaching skills and countless drill and game resources. I want to focus on the elements of coaching that surround those things – the stuff that’s very important but tends to get little attention. Input in terms of subject matter is definitely welcome.

Grow the readership – As I said, I don’t know where my coaching path will lead, but I intend on keeping this blog going wherever that may be. More than that, I want to see it continue to grow and become even more of a resources of coaches around the world as it did so nicely in 2014. That means I will probably get more active in terms of actually promoting it rather than just allowing things to develop organically as has been the case thus far.

Write Down My Coaching Philosophy – You often hear the advice that you should write down your coaching philosophy and revise it over time as needed. I’ve started writing down my own philosophy, but need to finish doing so. I’ll post it to the website when it’s ready.

There are some other things I have in mind to try to do this year. I like to keep myself busy, after all. πŸ™‚ Depends on where my path takes me and what that means in terms of schedule, finances, etc. Regardless, I hope I get to connect and cross paths with loads of my fellow volleyball coaches.

Happy New Year!

Coaching Volleyball 2014 look back

About this time last year I wrote a post detailing how things went for the blog in 2013. At that point there had been around 4600 visitors and 14,000 page views. The tally for 2014 in contrast, was over 22,500 visitors and more than 61,500 page views. I’d call that a good year-over-year improvement, even considering the blog was only active for about half of 2013.

Visitors continue to come to this site from all over the world, though the US remains the clear leader, which comes as no surprise.

VisitorMap-Jan15The vast majority of visits and page views to the site come from search engines. It will probably come as no surprise that social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest are the next largest sources of incoming visits. Among the other places visitors reach this website from the list includes Coaching Volleyball 2.0 magazine (via, VolleyTalk, Coach Rey, Volleyblog and Volleywood.

Here are the 10 most viewed pages, not counting the home page:

  1. Volleyball Try-Out Drill Ideas
  2. Volleyball Conditioning – A Sample Program
  3. Drill: Run Serve Receive
  4. Are your warm-ups wasting valuable time?
  5. Volleyball Set Diagram
  6. Game: Bingo-Bango-Bongo
  7. Scoring Serving and Passing Effectiveness
  8. Game: Winners (a.k.a. King/Queen of the court)
  9. Drill: Passing Triplets
  10. Planning your volleyball strength and conditioning training

All of those posts are actually ones I wrote in 2013, which comes as no real surprise since they’ve had more time to attract visitors. In terms of posts written in 2014, here are the ones that have received the most attention:

  1. Game: Neville Pepper
  2. Game: 7-point Rotations
  3. Setter Training: Hand Position
  4. Common violations of defensive principles
  5. The qualities of a good team captain
  6. Volleyball player efficiency ratings
  7. Book Review: Thinking Volleyball by Mike Hebert
  8. Washing to increase scrimmage intensity
  9. On the question of punishment in volleyball training
  10. Reader Question – Developing a 3-Middle Hitter Scheme

One of the most rewarding aspects to this year’s growth in the blog has been the increase in visitors sharing their thoughts via comments and creating some interesting discussions. These posts, in particular, were good ones in that regard:

Here’s hoping 2015 continues to see the interest and attention given to this blog grow and expand. I will certainly be doing my best to keep writing useful, interesting, and thought-provoking to that end.


My 2014 volleyball coaching year in review

It’s that time of year again – time to look back on the 12 months which have gone by. In this post I want to take a more personal view of things. I’ll follow up with a report on how the blog has done for the year.

Team Coaching
This is going to be a year I always look back fondly upon from a coaching perspective because of the run the Exeter University women made to the BUCS national semifinals. I’ve coached league and tournament championship teams, but this one was really special. More than being something no one ever expected, it was also the culmination of a season in which a group of young women committed themselves to a common goal at the start and remained steadfast to it throughout.

More than that, the whole experience of Final 8s in Edinburgh was amazing. The men and women supported each other fantastically. The guys may not have had the best year, or even their best tournament overall, but they pulled off the upset in their final match of the season to make it all worthwhile. It was a very happy bus full of volleyball players for the long ride back to Exeter! The women later went on to have a very respectable South West Championships tournament to round out their season.

The 2014-15 BUCS season has been much more of a struggle. Part of that is a function of playing in a stronger league now that both teams are in the new Premier division. Part of it was my need to concentrate much more on my PhD work to the detriment of volleyball. Part of it on the women’s side was the lack of an experienced setter in the squad. These things happen in sports. Not every season is a good one and it was always going to be hard to follow up on 2013-14.

Coaching Development
A definite on-going theme for me in 2014 was my continued education and development as a volleyball coach. I completed the requirements for my Volleyball England Level 3 coaching certification (in record time, I was told). I also got my USA Volleyball CAP II re-certified. Part of the process for both was attending some general coaching seminars, as well as attending Volleyball England’s annual coaching conference.

Perhaps most significantly, though, I gained quite a bit of exposure to professional volleyball. It started with a visit to Berlin in April to watch BR Volleys, coached by Mark Lebedew of At Home on the Court, train ahead of the German championships (which they went on to win). Then, with Mark’s help, I was able to spend about 10 days each with a pair of teams during their preseason training in August. As I wrote, it was a great experience and really expanded my knowledge of the sport.

Other Stuff
During the summer I helped out at trials for the English girls cadet and juniors national teams. That gave me the opportunity to further develop my contacts at that level and to see how some of the talent pathway designs I’ve heard about were being put into practice. I also consulted with the Volleyball England Technical and Talent Director, Audrey Cooper, on the subject of US collegiate volleyball recruiting for up and coming English players.

In terms of something with more of a forward-looking focus, the latter part of the year saw me start applying for coaching jobs back in the States. No doubt this is something I’ll document more in the weeks ahead as I work my way through the process. At this point it’s still relatively early days.

Beyond volleyball
The main focus of my life aside from volleyball the last year has been, of course, my PhD. It was a pretty productive year from that perspective. I got a lot accomplished, especially in the latter Spring and over the summer, that set me up to be able to (hopefully) be able to submit my thesis in the next few weeks or so. By the end of 2015 you’ll have to call me Dr. Forman. πŸ™‚

Turning participation into competition

A while back I wrote about the participation vs. competition conflict. It was mainly from the perspective of English volleyball, but with wider implications. Later, I received an email on the subject from Amy Dennis, the Young People Manager at Volleyball England. I want to share what she said.

This isn’t the full text of the email Amy sent me. It’s the stuff that I think speaks to the main points and will be of most interest to readers, though.

A defense of HEVO

Since the HEVO programme has been in place (over the last 4 years) there has been an increase in BUCS teams. While this will not all be due to the programme, there is link to universities starting recreational activity and then linking to BUCS. Albeit, it’s at the lower end of the leagues. Still, it is increasing the number of competitive opportunities for students to play volleyball. It could be argued that a competitive player does not just apply to experienced players. You can still be competitive as a beginner. Beginner players can be developed through a strong club structure that supports the player to progress into a BUCS team (depending on what the Club Development plan focuses on).

However, the students view point needs to be considered. They may be happy just being a recreational player and have no desire to play competitively in the BUCS league. I have some great examples from Universities where volleyball started as a recreational sport through the HEVO programme, developed into BUCS competitive teams and is now a performance sport at the university. The University of Derby and University of East London, to name just two.

Changes and developments

The recent changes to the league structure, introducing the Premier league has allowed for motivation and a goals for institutions regarding volleyball competition in BUCS. Many of these players also play in the National League teams in the Super 8s/ Div 1, so the level is clearly high. It is also important to offer competitive outlets for all levels of students, though. We have found where there is entries into local leagues this has both retained students and increased the ability of those playing. You have this set up already within Exeter so this is great and will develop the club for the long-term.

The English player verses international player debate is a difficult one. There are developments in place both within Volleyball England and BUCS to look at this. Volleyball England just launched our Senior Academy Programme. That will extend the athlete pathway within England. BUCS have also recently shared a proposal for an English Universities structure, which is due to vote on in December. It has not been confirmed which sports this could involve, though.

My points hold

This response obviously defends the HEVO program and the participation side of things. That’s totally fine. They are fair comments. I wasn’t really attacking it. I just said I’d like to see more effort put in to help develop and improve the competitive side of things. I’m talking about things like sharing best practices, etc. between and amongst university volleyball clubs. HEVO was, in my mind, in a prime position to facilitate.

AVCA Convention reports?

I’m feeling incredibly jealous of everyone who’s attending this year’s AVCA Convention. Getting to hang out with your fellow coaches. Attending interesting seminars. Watching some excellent volleyball. Alas, it just wasn’t in the cards for me this year – though I did at least get to watch the matches.

Last year I blogged my own convention reports (here, here, here, and here). I would love to hear from any of this year’s attendees what they saw, did, thought, etc.

Stoked for the next round of NCAA matches

The NCAA Championships continue this weekend with the Round of 16 on Friday and the Elite 8 on Saturday. ESPN has all the coverage, which means for online viewing it will be WatchESPN for those in the States and ESPNPlayer for those of us abroad.

Here are the match-ups for Friday:

05:00 PM ET #2 Texas #15 vs. Colorado State
05:00 PM ET #4 Wisconsin vs. Ohio State
06:00 PM ET #1 Stanford vs. Oregon State
07:00 PM ET #5 Penn State vs. #12 UCLA
07:00 PM ET #7 North Carolina vs. #10 Oregon
07:00 PM ET #6 Florida State vs. BYU
08:00 PM ET #8 Florida vs. #9 Illinois
09:30 PM ET #3 Washington vs. #14 Nebraska

I think the Washington-Nebraska and Penn State-UCLA will probably get a lot of attention seeing as they’re match-ups of former champions. I will be interested to see how North Carolina does against Oregon. The Oregon offense is quite fun to watch – very fast!

You can see the full bracket here.

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