This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2017-18 season.

With our one tournament behind us, all that is left of the year is three weeks of training. This was the first of those three. Since we have no competition to prep for, my concentration is heavily on small-sided play. These give players lots of experience reading and anticipating.


I decided to skip the group training and provide a bit more recovery after Saturday’s exertions – and for those who had to coach their juniors teams on Sunday. They did, though, still have their morning strength and conditioning session.


I gave the players an assignment after Saturday’s tournament to watch video of at least two of the sets we played and be ready to talk about what they saw. I started by having them talk about what they thought we could do better, then shifted to what went well. Our other assistant watched all the video himself during the day, so contributed his own thoughts as someone who wasn’t there. For the most part, the team did a good job of hitting on key things. They even brought up a thing or two I didn’t pick out myself.

Here’s a really interesting thing, though. I asked them what they thought our team kill percentage was. They estimates were 50% to 60%. They were quite surprised when I told them it was only 29%. That says something about perceptions, doesn’t it?

Practice itself started with 3-player over-the-net Pepper. We followed that up with some serving, then move on to the Belly Drill.

During the talk before we got going I told the players that our big focus for our remaining Spring time was on getting better at reading and anticipating. Toward that end, our next exercise was a series of 7-point 3v6 games. A ball was initiated to the 3 side, then they played out the rally. Only blocks and kills counted for points.

We finished with a 5 v 5 game where position 6 was out of bounds.

This was a slower session without a lot of intensity. Not surprisingly, the generally feeling was that it wasn’t very good and lacked energy. My comment to the team was that sometimes you’re going to slower sessions like that. When we do, it’s beholden on them to generate their own energy and to keep the focus high.


We only had eight available for practice, and it worked out that one came in (from an advising meeting) just as another had to leave (for class). With this in mind, I put together a session completely based on small-sided games. This provided the players lots of contacts and read opportunities.

We started with a progressive triples game. It starts with down balls, then progresses to easy jumps, and ends with full back row attacks. Coaches alternate initiating balls over the net to start each rally. At each attack level we played a game to 8.

Up next was a pair of doubles exercises. First it was 2-touch volleyball. Since we had 4 teams, we played a round robin. After that, it was doubles Speedball. All games were half court (split lengthwise) to encourage rallies.

The last pair of games were 4 v 4. We played the first on about a 2/3rds sized court. The second one was full court, but we did not allow shots inside the 3m line. Serves initiated all the rallies.


It was another thin bunch for practice – seven much of the time with a short period during which there was an overlap of one who came late (advising) and one who left early (class). We could have had one more, but the player the trainers held out Wednesday because of back issues did not take part for a second day. This time it was as much my call as any. I wanted to make sure she was available for sand practice on Friday, so figured it was best to hold her out one more day. Our primary trainer concurred.

Keeping the focus on reading, we started the session off with a pair of tennis games. One was just a simple short-court game, while the second was Brazilian. After doing some serving, focusing in mixing short and long balls, we did a couple different 4 v 4 games.

In the first game there was one hitter up, with three back row players. The players were not allowed to play shots in front of the 3m line. Scoring was kills only. We played a couple of games to ten, mixing the front row hitters around.

The final game featured 3-2-1 scoring. That’s where a team gets 3 points for scoring on first contact, 2 points on second contact, and 1 point for scoring on the third touch. We only counted earned points (kills, blocks, aces). Blocks and aces were both worth 2 points. Using this type of scoring both makes players think more in terms of finding different ways to score and encourages them to be more alert and ready on defense.


We were back out on the sand once more. The plan was one similar to what we did two weeks back, with two groups of five. The group assignments were randomized, except for two players who had schedule constraints. This time, though, we went with 5-minute rounds rather than 4-minute. I also cut out the overlap period of play. I’m glad I did as it was hot enough (about 85F/29C) that the heat was a factor for the players.


In conjunction with the annual Spring football game, the MSU Athletic Training department did mass physicals for incoming freshmen athletes. Four of our 2018 recruits were able to attend to get that all done and out of the way. The others will have to come at some point over the Summer so it’s all taken care of and they are cleared before we start pre-season. Some of the incoming players are planning to do Summer II classes (starting in early July) so they can be on campus for workouts with the strength coaches. Completed physicals are mandatory before starting those sessions.

Head coach position

On Monday I noticed that the posting for the head coach vacancy was no longer on the MSU website. This was in line with the 12-day posting period the Athletic Director told me about. On Wednesday the A.D. said his plan was to announce the new head coach within about 10 days.


Tuesday was the start of the normal NCAA signing period for volleyball (there’s an early period in November). We sent National Letters of Intent to the two players we committed earlier this term for them to sign.

Friday we found out another setter we had on our list for 2018 opted to go somewhere else. This did not seem to be directly linked to the lack of a head coach, but could have been indirectly related.

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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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