This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log.

As I noted in the last log update, we found out that a league match has been scheduled for Wednesday. At this writing we still don’t know when, and there’s even some question as to whether the match will even be played or whether it will be postponed. Having to act as if we’re playing the match, I had no choice but to have a major 6 v 6 focus for the session to prepare the likely starters.

We had a guest player named Ellie in training for the first time. She’s an England Junior I’ve coached a bit at the NVL level. She’s going to attend our Monday trainings. From our perspective she brings hitting and blocking skills we don’t have in the squad, giving the players the chance to train against a higher caliber than what they normally see, including in our primary competition. The idea is to prepare them for the higher power teams we’ll see when getting to BUCS Championships. From her perspective, it’s added reps with a friendly group who works hard and has a good spirit in training. The level of play doesn’t match what she experiences elsewhere, but it comes with less stress and expectation.

I had a talk with the players before we got underway to talk about what’s to come. If we win the Wednesday match we guarantee no worse than 3rd in the league and a spot in Championships. I talked about not taking the team lightly as they’ve taken sets off our main rivals for the league title. At the same time, I reinforced that we want to remain aggressive and take it to them.

After the dynamic warm-up, we had to do a couple minutes worth of tardiness punishment. I then had the group do the Touch & Go game as a communication and light ball-handing warm-up. That was followed by a bit of serving. Then it was straight into 6 v 6 games with starters against second teamers. The first game was 2 in 2, which I picked because it’s got a strong serve receive focus. We did that through all six rotations, then switched to baseball to add in a bit more free ball and over-speed type work (by over-speed I mean rapid ball initiation after the completion of rallies).

It was a bit of a ragged session. At a certain point during the first game I had to stop things because there were simply too many bad errors being made (overly aggressive attacks, free balls put into the net, etc.). I hadn’t seen that sort of stuff in a long while and it seemed to me like there was a bit of tension in the gym not normally present. I don’t now if it was because of Wednesday’s match, having a new player in the gym, players trying too hard to earn/keep first team spots, or what. I encouraged them to relax and play smarter.

Things did get better, but it was still a bit of a struggle at points. In particular, there were more hitting errors than usual. It wasn’t something that I commented on at all, though. I want them to be aggressive in their attacks and that means at times I have to accept there will be misses.

The second team side was quite competitive throughout. Having Ellie in with them serving tough and pounding outside attacks at the starters helped. 🙂

At the end I talked with them about how I knew there must have been some frustrations about the quality of play. I told them, though, that this is all part of the developmental process. They are getting better as individuals and as a team, which means it takes more to score points against each other. There aren’t many short rallies in training. Hopefully this was one of those times where a poorish practice precedes a strong match.

In terms of future considerations, Ellie’s hitting definitely exposed the weakness in our blocking which needs to be addressed. That’s one of the reasons I brought her in, though.

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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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