Archive for Volleyball Coaching Q&A

What do you do the first day of practice?

Came across the following question from a coach taking over a new team.

First day of practice. What do you do? Start fast and set the tone for practice expectations, go over team rules, paperwork requirements?

Let me take this in pieces.

Don’t waste gym time

Most of us only have a limited amount of court time with our teams, for one reason or another. I would not waste any of that on paperwork, team meetings, or anything that doesn’t involve a volleyball. I even want my warm-ups to be a productive from a volleyball perspective as possible. Do the administrative and other non-volleyball stuff outside of gym time.

Set the tone?

The author of the question above mentions starting fast and setting the tone for expectations. While I do think establishing expectations from the outset is important, that doesn’t have to come from a fast start. In fact, a fast start might not even be advisable. Depends on your situation. To reduce the risk of injury you don’t want players going from little in the way of high intensity work, straight into a heavy load. Better to build into it.

Straight at it or build it up?

Depending on your situation, you could either go right into working on team things the first practice or take a more measured approach. If you have a lot of returners and/or only have a short amount of time before your first match, jumping right in is probably the way you want to go. In that case, you’ll think about running a fairly standard practice based on your key priorities.

If, however, you need to do a bit more in the way of assessment you’ll probably want to take a different approach. Same thing if you are integrating a bunch of new players into the team. This was the approach I took to my first practice session coaching in Sweden. I used that session to get my first real look at the players and to start them getting to know each other as players.

Player endurance during tournaments

Here’s an interesting question I saw posted in a discussion group.

Q: In tournaments endurance is critical. Please send answers for the following 3 areas:
1) building endurance?
2) nutrition/best foods: pre, during, after
3) other things to do: stretches, massage, mind/mental stuff?

Let me address each component.

Building endurance

The physical side of this question is actually one that might be pretty unique in sports. In most cases I’d venture to say that team practices last longer than tournament matches. Let’s use Juniors in the US as an example. Club teams probably have something like 2-hour long practices as the norm. When they play in tournaments, though, they generally last less than an hour. In fact, it’s probably only about 45 minutes in most cases.

What about the case of college teams playing two best-of-5 matches per day during early season tournaments? Well, in that case we’re talking mainly about teams that have been doing 2-a-days for some period of time up to that point.

This being the case, I would suggest no additional “endurance” training is necessary. If you have a sufficiently high training tempo then the players should be more than reading for the tournament physical demands.

Nutrition and hydration

To my mind this is probably the most impactful area to focus on. If you want your players to perform at their best throughout an event they need to have the necessary energy reserves and access and must be properly hydrated. This starts the day before the event and carries through it. Aside from what players take in there is also the question of when.

I am not a nutritionist or any kind of expert on this subject. I’ve been in seminars on the subject, though. There are different things to consider here, depending on your circumstances. My recommendation to you is to sit down with someone qualified to speak about your specific situation. That way you have the most relevant information to pass along to players (and parents) and for your own planning purposes.

The other stuff

For me the other big thing is recovery. That means getting enough rest between matches – and in the case of multi-day events, sleep. You don’t want your players needlessly burning energy (kind of like my thoughts about match day serve & pass). Keep in mind, though, that the mental side of things is just as important as the physical. If you have the team doing stuff like scouting or other brain work, it could be just as draining as doing something physical, if not more so.

As for things like stretching, massage, etc. I think there’s probably a situational element. These are definitely much more meaningful considerations for older, more advanced athletes. Again, I’m not expert. I will defer to a trainer, a physiotherapist, or someone like that. I think, though, that time between matches matter. You probably don’t want to do something that will relax the muscles too much if there isn’t much time before you play again. And obviously if there’s an injury situation with a player there are probably things they’ve been advised to do, or not do.

Sit quietly or stand and talk during matches

I came across the following question on a Facebook group.

During a match which coach makes players better? The one quietly sitting on the bench or the one standing at the 3 metre line constantly talking to players?

This is a subject one can approach from a couple of different perspectives.

What do great coaches do?

There were a lot of different responses. At one point someone asked for the names of great mainstream sports who just sat quietly and didn’t spend the game talking to their team. For me, that one was easy. Just look at many of the top soccer managers. A lot of them speak relatively little to their teams during play.

That said, I think it’s hard to compare coaching across sports in this way. Football coaches call plays for their teams. Baseball managers do the same. That necessarily means constant talk with the players. More continuous action sports like soccer and hockey are different. The coach can’t tell players what to do at every point – assuming players even hear what the coach is saying.

Other sports aside, my automatic answer to a question like this one for volleyball is Russ Rose. He’s a clear Hall of Fame coach who sits pretty quietly on the bench making his notes.

Make them better

The question above has an interesting wording to it – “makes players better”. If you interpret that to mean long-term player development, then the answer is clear. The less you as the coach talk, the more the players have to figure things out for themselves. That is good for their growth and education. Alexis at Coaches Corner wrote about this. It also relates to what I discussed in The more you talk, the less they train.

Obviously, I’m not suggesting you don’t say anything. Guidance and feedback are critical to development. What we can’t do, though, is always give the players the solution to the situations they face. First, there are way too many possible situations to do that. Second, the solution we come up with might not, in fact, be the best one for that player. Finally, when players come up with their own solutions they are much more likely to be retained.

Further, if we’re telling the players what to do all the time they don’t develop the ability to work together to solve problems. They don’t learn to communicate properly and don’t trust either themselves or each other to do what needs to be done in the situation.

Performance on the day

Having said the above, sometimes the coach’s focus is optimizing performance in the moment. I would still argue that for the most part we have to let players do things for themselves, but here there is certainly more room to provide information and direction. You may spot a way to more effectively attack the other team, or defend against their best hitter, for example. These are things you clearly should communicate to the team.

I am definitely not a fan of providing a lot of technical information during play. After all, this isn’t where you should be teaching them skills. The occasional reminder by way of a specific cue is fine, but anything beyond that is likely to distract them from simply playing the game. Feedback at this stage should be much more tactical than technical.

Then there’s the question of cheer-leading. For some teams, and in some situations, this is and important job for the coach. Some of the great coaches I’ve interview for Volleyball Coaching Wizards have talked about how they didn’t normally do much, but sometimes it was what that team needed in that moment.

What about …?

The other thing I thought of when I saw this question is what about the coach who stands, but isn’t constantly talking to the players? You see quite a few coaches like this. I count myself as one of them, as I’ve written about before. I stand for a couple of reasons. One of them is to have a better angle on the action so I can gather more, better information. I guess that’s kind of a hybrid thing. 🙂

What to do on half a court during warm-ups

I got the following question from a reader named Mike.

I have a question about useful activities that can be done sharing half court with the other team–you know–that 15 or so minutes before the refs call for captains.

Most of the teams I see just do pepper or hit down balls to 3 passers. But I’m wondering if there might be something that will get in more game-like reps even without the use of the net.

This is an interesting subject, and one I’ve had a lot of thoughts about over the years. In the Improving pre-match warm-ups post I sort of touched on it.  Mainly, though, I focused on what you can do when you have the court to yourself. So let’s look at what we can do before that time – or the shared hitting time if that’s the structure you have.

Pepper has a purpose

We all know the pepper isn’t very game-like. It does have a purpose during warm-ups, though. First, it replicates some of the physical movements the players will do in the match – especially arm-swing. As such, it does have a physiological use. Second, it has a mental element. The players use it to connect with each other on the court. This can actually be very important time for them, even though what they’re doing (like bouncing the ball off the floor) might not accomplish much in other respects.

A suggestion from John Kessel

My immediate reaction to Mike’s email when I saw the “game-like reps” was to think of something John Kessel often suggests. It’s something he likes for when you don’t have use of a net. He calls it something like “loser is the net”. Let me explain.

Imagine you’re playing Winners (Queen/King of the Court). Normally, you’d do it over a net. In this case, though, one or more players act as the net. For example, you could have three players. Two of them play 1 v 1 while the other is the “net” they have to play over. When the rally ends, the loser and the “net” change places.

You could do something similar with doubles. Two players are the net, perhaps by holding a rope between them. When the rally is over, they rotate out and the losers form the net.

You can probably fit at least three mini doubles courts on your side during pre-game warm-ups. Playing this game would certainly be a way to get game-like reps.

Stuff you want to work on

Something work thinking about as you ponder your pre-match time is what you might want to use the time to reinforce. You don’t want to be teaching new things before a game starts, but you can work on things you’ve already introduced. For example, lots of teams do blocking footwork during their warm-up. It can help reinforce those patterns, especially if you’re providing feedback. You don’t want them working on the wrong patterns, after all.

Mike brought up the idea of the coach hitting balls at three passers. There are lots of variations on this sort of thing. I’m not a huge fan, broadly speaking, but it can have its uses. One of them might be to reinforce team defensive movement and positioning.

While they won’t be particularly game-like, there are lots of little things like this you could potentially work on in the pre-game time. Maybe there’s some eye work for your setters, or transition footwork for your middles. Whatever it is, just make sure it doesn’t distract from match preparation. You don’t want your players thinking about something other than playing the game once the whistle blows.

Remember the purpose

Remember that what matters most during your warm-up is that the team is prepared to play – both collectively and individually. This is your primary objective. What they need to be there can vary from team to time. There is obviously a physical element. That’s pretty consistent across team, possibly with small variations for individual player considerations.

It’s the psychological aspect which varies more.

Some teams are ready to go mentally as soon as they walk into the gym. Others need some help to get themselves in the right mindset. It’s up to you as the coach to figure out what your team needs – realizing that it can change.

Be consistent

One thing players don’t like in their warm-ups is change. They can be easily rattled if you change things up unexpectedly. Should it be that way? No, but such is life. As such, it’s generally a good idea to introduce significant warm-up changes beforehand so they are prepared.

Thoughts on second contact when setter-out

A reader sent in a question about who should take the second ball when the setter makes first contact (setter-out).

I have a question about emergency setting. Up until this year, I’ve always used my right side player (in a 5-1) to take second ball whenever my setter (in right back) takes first ball. It has worked well enough since I’ve been lucky enough to have right sides with decent hands. The major downside, as far as I can tell, is that you take one potential hitter out of the equation, and the passing angle from RB to RF can be awkward at times. That said, it’s always worked well enough for me.

But now the trend seems to be to have the libero take second ball and to set to one of the pins, usually to the left. That also raises the question (for me anyway) as to whether it is more efficient to have the libero set out left back or middle back (not to mention worth worrying about the “finger action” rules that restrict the libero…)

It seems to me that a libero coming out of left back (especially in perimeter or even “middle middle” defense) is going to have a more favorable angle for a set to the right side pin, if the setter is passing high to the middle. It also seems like s/he will have an easier time getting to second ball.

But what if it is overall more sound defensively to have your libero in middle back? In that case, is it even worth having your libero as your emergency setter? Wouldn’t it be harder to get to second ball from middle back (or even middle middle)? Wouldn’t the angles be a little more awkward for setting to the pins?

Does anyone use their outside hitters (in left back) to take second ball? (It seems to me that that would mean you would have to train both of them which wouldn’t be as efficient as training just one person)

Just wondering what people do. And whether or not there is a consensus on what works best, with respect to emergency setting.

I previously addressed this topic from a different perspective. In that case a reader asked about moving the libero from left back to middle back. As such, I’ll leave out that element in my response here.

It is now definitely the preferred approach by most coaches to use the libero, playing in left back, to take the second ball in these situations. You see it at the national team level on down. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best solution for your particular team, though. Let me address it form a couple different angles.

Front row player

As the emailer suggests, one option for taking the second ball is the right front player. Usually, this is the Opposite. This was the favored approach for many years. I used it to good effect coaching the Exeter University women as my OPP had excellent hands and we didn’t run a fast offense.

The biggest question for me using the OPP is the middle attack. Can they actually set it? If not, then it really narrows the offensive options down considerably. For a lot of teams it means the ball can only be set to the Outside Hitter. Maybe you have a back row option as well. You don’t have a quick attack option, however, nor do you have a right side hitter, making the block’s job much easier.

If the OPP can set the middle, then it opens things up considerably. That only holds, though, if the ball is dug close enough to the net. If not, you’re in the same situation as if the OPP couldn’t set the middle attack. This is a real issue when teams are often coached to dig the ball to the 3m line.

An alternative to the OPP taking the second ball is the Middle Blocker doing so. This is actually the cornerstone of the standard 4-2 offensive system where the setter plays middle front. If you have an MB with good hands who can set both front and back, it can work. Since they can set both pins, the opposing blockers can’t stack up on just one.

The challenge for the MB, though, is that they usually are coming down from a block. They are programmed to get ready to attack, so setting is an adjustment. And if the dig is well off the net there just might not be time for them to get to it.

Back row player

As the reader notes, the player in middle back probably has the furthest to go to take a second ball. Also, their direction of approach can make the angles difficult, unless they have really good footwork.

That basically leaves left back as probably the best choice back row player to take the second ball in a setter-out situation. Whether that is the libero (or MB) or the OH is it’s own consideration.

Obviously, the libero has limitations when it comes to using their hands. That may not be as big a deal as you might think, though. First, if the OH isn’t a confident setter, they’ll probably bump set the ball anyway, just as the libero would. Second, libero’s can develop pretty good jump sets for use on balls just beyond the 3m line – in some cases, even quick sets. Finally, so many digs end up at the 3m line that situations where you really want a hand set (e.g. to set quick) are probably going to be limited.

All things considered

When you consider all the factors, you’ll see why so many teams have the left back person – mostly the libero – take the second ball. If the dig is close to the net, it might make more sense for a front row player to set the ball. If it’s not, though, then using the back row player allows for a larger number of attacking options.

So it really comes down to where your setter digs the ball.

One final thought

The emailer uses the term “emergency” to describe these situations where the setter takes the first ball. I don’t think that term applies, though. In the modern game, teams are out-of-system a large percentage of the time. That makes it a quite normal situation which should be trained in line with how often it happens.

The other thing I would add is that the situation where the setter has to play the first ball is not the only time a team is out-of-system. Sometimes the first contact is poor and the setter can’t get there. Or someone else is in a better position to put up a good set. For that reason, every player on the court should be able to step in and put up a hittable ball.

How to add conditioning to your volleyball practice

I came across the following question from a volleyball coach having to do with conditioning in practice.

Anyone have any conditioning drills? I don’t want to just condition my girls without adding some volleyball into it, as they have a whole other practice specifically for conditioning. But we are slow and need to build up speed and stamina. Drills that require constant movement, reps, etc.

Speed vs Stamina

Speed and stamina are two separate issues. Raw speed is a function of power production. That comes mainly from specific speed/power training. That’s not something you will develop while playing/practicing volleyball. It’s more about things like weight training and plyometric work.

That said, there are elements of a player’s overall speed and quickness which are a function of game training. They are technique and readiness. The more efficient and automatic one’s technique (see The Talent Code), the faster or quicker they will be able to execute that skill. Similar, if a player is able to anticipate something happening – thanks to good reading skills – they will be quicker to play the ball.

Developing Stamina

Building player stamina in practice is a much easier thing to accomplish. In fact, it’s really simple. You either have to increase intensity or make things last longer. The latter is straightforward as you just have to increase the time between breaks. Nothing complicated about that!

As for increasing intensity, what I’m talking about is increasing the number of repetitions in a given period of time. For example, in normal game play where each rally begins with a serve it might be 20 seconds per rally. If you play 22 v 22 where you immediately put in a second ball after the initial rally, though, you could perhaps get two rallies in 30 seconds (15 seconds per rally, on average). And if you want to really ramp it up you could play something like Scramble where you might have four rallies in 30 seconds (averaging 7-8 seconds each).

The Second Chance idea is along those same lines. With it you could almost create what is a non-stop rally. It’s not exactly like that, but there’s very little time between the time when play breaks down and you get it going again. And if the same player makes repeated mistakes, they get lots of conditioning!

Even pepper can be a form of conditioning.

No need to lose practice time to conditioning

Because you can control intensity and/or duration in your practice, there’s no need to waste volleyball time on conditioning work (e.g. sprints). Why do something without the ball you can easily accomplish the same with it?

Now, if you only practice a couple times a week, that might not be enough total work. In that case, you’ll want the athletes doing something to keep/get their fitness level up. Cardio is not the answer here, though, especially during season. Volleyball has about a 1:3 work to rest ratio. That means a player is active for say 10 seconds, then rest for 30 – on average. This is very different from running or biking for 30 minutes straight. In fact, those sorts of longer duration exercises are counterproductive for volleyball as they train slow, repetitive movements rather than quick, explosive bursts.

Pin hitter in volleyball – what is it?

What is a pin hitter in volleyball? This is something wondered by a visitor to the blog. It’s a term readers may have seen me use in places like my coaching log. So what does it mean?

First, we need an equipment terminology explanation. In volleyball, people sometimes refer to the two antennae attached to the net as pins. For example, someone might say, “Set it to the pin.” By that they mean set out to the antenna.

See where this is going?

Pin hitters are thus the attackers who generally hit wide sets out toward the antenna. I don’t know when the term came into common use, but it’s been out there for a while now. Some people use the term specifically to refer to outside hitters – those who attack in Position 4. Really, though, the term applies to both left side and right side attackers.

Now, just because someone is a pin hitter it does not mean they only attack wide sets. There is absolutely no reason a pin hitter cannot hit balls out of the middle of the court. For example, they could come inside to hit a 2 ball. They can also attack the ball out of the back row. That is a regular feature of men’s volleyball, and is becoming more a part of women’s volleyball as well.

The term pin hitter in volleyball does not put an attacker in a box. Rather, it is mainly a reference to a player’s position on the court. The pin hitters are the players whose front row position is closer to the antenna. This is obviously in contrast to the middle hitter, who generally plays in the central part of the court. They sometimes hit balls near the pin (slide attack), but are still middle players.

I hope that helps clear things up for you. If you have any questions about it, definitely let me know.

What does out of system mean in volleyball?

What does out of system mean in volleyball? This is likely something most regular readers of this blog know, but not everyone else does. Someone came here with exactly that question in mind, so let me provide an explanation.

In volleyball, a team is fully in-system when the serve receive pass or dig is good enough that the setter has all of their attacking options available. From a statistical perspective, that means a 3-pass in the 0-3 scale (or a ++ in the ++/+/-/0 system described in this post). In other words, the setter can set left, right, or quick to the middle.

You could also say a team is in-system with a slightly lower quality pass or dig. It’s not as good as on a perfect pass, but the setter still has multiple options.

By contrast, a team is considered out-of-system when they pass or dig poorly. This generally leads to the setter having only one setting option. If the first ball is poor enough, someone other than the setter must take the second contact.

There is also the case where the setter plays the first ball. Regardless of how well they dig the ball, the fact that someone else then takes the second contact means the team is out-of-system.

So basically, out-of-system means either the setter cannot play the second ball or only has a single setting option.

Why is this important?

Because it is very likely that the team’s offense is less effective when out-of-system. The sets are not as accurate or consistent. They offense does not run as quickly, and as a result there is usually at least a double block facing the hitter. That is why one of the strategies you will see is to intentionally attack the other team’s setter. That automatically puts them out-of-system, making a good return attack less likely.

Hope that makes things clear. Let me know if you have any questions.

Picking your libero

A coach thinking about team selection asked the following question about deciding which player should be the libero.

How do you decipher who would be your libero and who would be the defensive specialist?

Serve receive

First and foremost, you need to rate and rank your libero candidates by serve reception ability. I don’t mean you have to prioritize that, necessarily. You do, however, have to know how they all stack up. Reception, after all, is a big part of the libero’s job.

By the way, it’s best to rate players based on game passes. The scores you get from passes made in a scrimmage are a better indication of match performance than scores from a passing drill. A lot of elements contribute to this.

Now for the defensive considerations.

As a starting point, you may want to consider how you want to play defense. Do you play your libero in Position 5 or Position 6? If you know where you’ll place your libero, the decision process if fairly straightforward. You are looking for the best person to play that spot. It’s that simple.

Broadly speaking, you want someone mobile with good reading skills to play in Position 6. They tend to have more side-to-side responsibility and may have to chase balls down off the back of the court. In Position 5 you’re usually looking for someone quick and aggressive moving into the court. They have responsibility for setter dumps and tips, and when they do defend hit balls their area of responsibility is usually more narrow.

The above is how things usually go for a standard perimeter defense. Your system might vary from that, though, so think about each position’s requirements.

If you are more flexible with how you use your players, then the thinking is a bit different. Here you want to find the best available player, and then put them in the position that works best.

What’s your priority?

You’ve rated and ranked your libero prospects by their passing skills. You’ve also looked at who plays best in your defensive system, or ranked your players on their defense. Now you need to combine the two factors.

If your best defender is also your best passer, life it good. Easy decision. On to the next one!

If, however, you have a different top passer than top defender, you have a decision to make. Do you prioritize passing or defense higher? This should probably be based on which side of the game you think your libero will have the biggest impact. How you use them likely will factor into your evaluation here. Also, the abilities of the other players around them factor in here.

Think of the decision like this. Are you more comfortable with your libero being strong in serve reception, but weaker in defense? Or are you more comfortable if your libero is a strong defender, but not so strong in passing? And at what point does the weakness in the secondary skill become too big?

My own thinking

Personally, I will probably favor serve receive over defense when making a libero choice. I say that because it’s usually harder to hide a poor passer than a poor defender. Getting stuck in a rotation because your libero can’t pass the ball is worse than missing a few digs.

That doesn’t mean, though, that I’m only going to decide based on passing. If Player A has an average pass rating of 2.20 and Player B has a rating of 2.10, but is a much better defender, I’ll probably go with Player B. The small difference in passing quality is outweighed by the large difference in defensive capacity.

Don’t forget personality

Keep in mind the libero is going to be on the court most of the time. You want them to have the type of personality that contributes to and/or supports the mentality you expect from your team overall. You might have a player who doesn’t come in tops in passing or defense, but who makes the team better on the court. If that’s the case, you probably need to make them the libero. Don’t leave this part out of your decision-making.

nike tn pas cher nike tn pas cher nike tn pas cher nike tn pas cher air max pas cher air max pas cher stone island outlet stone island outlet stone island outlet stone island outlet stone island outlet stone island outlet barbour paris barbour paris barbour paris barbour paris barbour paris piumini peuterey outlet piumini peuterey outlet piumini peuterey outlet piumini peuterey outlet piumini peuterey outlet canada goose pas cher canada goose pas cher canada goose pas cher canada goose pas cher canada goose pas cher canada goose pas cher woolrich outlet online woolrich outlet online woolrich outlet online woolrich outlet online woolrich outlet online woolrich outlet online Fjllraven Kanken backpack Fjllraven Kanken backpack Fjllraven Kanken backpack Fjllraven Kanken backpack Fjllraven Kanken backpack Fjllraven Kanken backpack woolrich outlet online piumini woolrich outlet moncler outlet online moncler outlet piumini moncler outlet moncler outlet online peuterey outlet online peuterey outlet cheap oil paintings pop canvas art