Coaching Log – Nov 2, 2015

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2015-16.

There was only one other match besides our last week, with Örebro beating RIG. No surprise there. That pushed them to the top of the Eliteserie table on 8 points to our 7. They’ve played 4 matches, though, to our 3. There were no other Oresundliga matches, so Engelholm’s win over us sees them to of the table there on 7 points from 3 matches. Everyone else only has 2 matches, aside from Gislaved (our opponent this week) who is 0-3 thus far.

I spent a lot of time in the latter part of the prior week working on getting hold of and analyzing the video from our match. Technology issues really slowed things down. I basically ended up manually going through every attack for both teams and coding the rotation, the pass/dig, the type of set, the type of attack, and the outcome. I really wanted to take a look at our set distribution and effectiveness.

Two things really jumped out. First, the disparity between when we pass well and when we don’t. Obvious, you expect to be more effective with better passes. When we passed or dug a 3 (see the rating system) we had a 55% kill rate with only 7% errors or blocked. When our pass/dig was a 2 we had a 45% kills rate with only 5% errors/blocks. When we passed/dug a 1 our kills were only 8% and the error/block rate was 20%. I’d like to see us push the 3s up maybe 10 points and get the 2s up to 50%. As for the 3s, I think we need to flip the percentages around, more or less.

The other thing that jumped out was how few middle quicks we ran – just 7 total. Part of that was a match-up thing for that match as we ran more slides, but even still those numbers need to be much higher. I also wasn’t happy with our overall numbers for right side attacks.

Monday
We had a pair of guest players in training. They both play at RIG, but were on a school break. One of them is from Svedala and has played in various teams with the Swedish players. The other is from Ystad, which is the home town of one our players, so again known to most of the groups. That gave us an even 12.

Ball-handling was a major focus for this session. After warm-ups we did Continuous Cross-Court Digging. I instructed the hitters to pick up the power of the attacks to increase the challenge. From there we shifted to some serving and passing. I began with the setters and middles (4 players) serving to everyone else on two sides – so 3 passers and a target, with a passer rotating to target after two good passes.

To continue working on middle quicks I then shifted the setters and MBs to the net. I left two passers in on each side covering half the court, with the other two players serving. Again, a passer rotated out to go serve after two good passes. At the tail end I added in a pipe attack.

I then shifted that into Speedball Winners with fixed setters and MBs. This time the setters were back row to work on the timing with their transitions. We finished with Bingo-Bango-Bongo. I mainly did that to work on Rotation 1 when we’re in transition after reception (so the OH in 2 and OPP in 4), but we did all the rotations.

Tuesday
I met with the team for about 15 minutes before training to talk about my analysis of the video from our last match. We talked about looking to get kills more out of our good passes and digs (mainly about speeding up the offense) and in better dealing with things when we’re out of system. In the case of the latter the focus was on bettering the ball and getting our back row attackers more active. We also talked a bit about improving our block/defense, in particular with regards to how the defenders in 6 play.

Just one of the RIG players in training this session, plus our part-time MB. After warm-ups and pre-hab exercises I had the player do some partner 2-touch pepper over the net to warm-up their shoulders. That was followed by a variation of passing triplets. In this case, to work on proper platform angles I had them dig/pass down balls coming at them down the line (1 to 5, 5 to 1) to properly redirect them toward target in Zone 2.5.

My American OH had an idea of a drill to do to work on block positioning and penetration, so I let her run that next. Basically, it was liberos hitting from boxes at the pins (they tried from the ground, but they were having to hit upwards too much) against a 3-person block with the MB closing to double and the off blocking moving into defense. The blockers got a point for a stuff block or a touch that could be played by one of the 3 involved. They went until they got 50 points.

From there I broke the group in half to work on offense. The OHs and Liberos were on one court with one setter. I had one of each serving, with the other two OHs and the other Libero in serve reception working on faster sets. The OHs rotated on 5 good kills and at the same time the Liberos swapped.

On the other court I had the MBs and OPPs with the other setter. They worked on middle and right side attacks with the OPPs passing coach-tossed balls. There were 3 MBs, so one was the attacker for 5 good balls, while one was the opposing middle and the other the opposing OH for blocking purposes. After the OHs on the other court each got 1 round of 5 good sets, I had the setters switch courts. The MB/OPP group came up with some interesting play options that are worth developing further.

We finished up with 22 v 22 to get both serve receive and transition work in. The games were quite competitive, so we only got through rotations 1, 4, and 6. I had the MBs rotate so one of them was playing defense each round on the team with only one OH.

Wednesday
This was a very technically oriented session with just the core group. After warming up I had them do some positional digging in groups. Basically, on a rotating basis each player dug a ball from 2 and one from 4 (hitters on boxes), with a group target of net good digs (-1 for overpasses). We went through positions 5, 1, and 6. Then we did combined digging of cross-court balls for defenders in 1 and 2 and 5 and 6 to work on seams and tips.

I then split the team to have the setters and MBs working on the timing of 1s. The others did serving and passing. Two players passed half the court. There was a target and the other three players serving. The passing pair needed to get to +20. They got 2 points for a 3 pass, 1 point for a 2 pass, -1 for an ace or overpass.

The last exercise was a 5 v 5 game. One side had an OH, a Setter, a Libero and both MBs. The Setter was back row, leaving one MB to block in 2. The other side had one OH and a RS hitter front row, with a Setter, Libero, and OH back row. I coach served every ball to the no-MB side. The focus was on faster balls to the pin hitters, plus pipes. The receiving team got a point if they got a kill or caused the defensive team to dig 1 ball, otherwise the defensive team got the point. They played out the rallies, but I scored only based on the first attack. We played 3 games to 10 to rotate the OHs through, also moving the setters and liberos around.

The players said they liked the training – all the technical work. Honestly, though, a big part of its motivation was that they worked really hard the night before and had weight training immediately prior to practice this night. If we’d pushed things with another high intensity game-play session they probably wouldn’t have lasted very long – at least at the level of focus and effort I’d want to see.

Thursday
Our Saturday opposition (Gislaved) played a match on Tuesday night. After getting it downloaded, I created a trimmed version (no timeouts, no between set breaks, etc.) and then focused on just the 2nd set when Gislaved was nearest the camera. I made some notations in the video, then posted it up for the players to watch (with a link to see the full one if they wanted).

This time I went back to focusing on how we can attack their block/defense. For the last match I isolated the swings of their major attackers, but this time around I wanted to focus on what we’re doing. Basically, a return to the approach I was taking before.

Friday
No no returning guest players, meaning only had 9 in training (see Other stuff for the reason it wasn’t 10). After warm-up and pre-hab and some ball-handling I had the players do back court winners 3s to work on both back row attacking and defending against it as we’d likely see plenty of it on Saturday. I then ran a servers vs passers game with the OHs and RS going against the Setters, MBs, and Libero.

Basically, the rest of the session was spent running through the rotations in a 5 v 4 fashion. On the 4 side I had the Setter front row along with a MB and OH, and an OH in 6. On the 5 side the Setter was back row with the Libero and 3 front row attackers. The OH on the 4 side served to start each sequence. After that rally ended, I gave the 4 side a free ball. Rallies were played out where possible, but the scoring was based based on the first attack (kill or + attack = point for the receiving team, otherwise point for the defending side, except for a covered block which was no point for either side). We played games to 10, flipping the Setter and RS player on the 5 side, and switching the back row OH from the 4 side with the OH from the 5 side. The teams were set so they matched rotation personnel.

The offense run during that last phase was quite aggressive as we started working the OHs in some different faster sets.

Saturday
Match Day started with team photos at 10:00. We did them once in September for league website purposes, but this was actually the official shooting with all the right numbers, etc. That was followed by our hour of serve & pass at 11:00, then team lunch following. The match was at 15:00, with Gislaved in town for the first of our 4 matches against them this regular season. You may recall they were the first team we played in pre-season.

As seems to be the case so often, we really got on top of the other team early in the match. Our serving pressure really put Gislaved off their game – even forcing their best hitter to be subbed out in both sets 1 and 2 – resulting in 25-15 and 25-20 scorelines. Set 3 was one of those weird ones that happens at times. They got on top of us early and we never could claw back. It ended up 15-25. The fourth set was pretty tight, with some back and forth momentum swings. We were able to pull it out 25-22 in the end, though.

The funny thing is our passing was markedly better in sets 3 and 4 than in the first two. We sided out better in the weaker passing sets than in the better ones, though. We struggled with block positioning when we played this team the first time and did so again once more. Yes, we got 9 blocks, but that’s actually a bit below our average.

Thoughts and observations
Overall the energy and intensity level was good. We did some interesting new things on offense in terms of diversifying the attack and going faster. I still think our defense could be much better in certain respects, though being better in the block is part of that.

Other stuff
One of my liberos spoke with me before training on Tuesday. She’s going to be starting a new job in the not-too-distant future. The result is that she probably won’t be staying with the team. In fact, on Friday at about midday she let the team know via the Facebook group that she wouldn’t be training that night or attending Saturday’s match. Surprise! That sees us down to 9 for the core squad, which is tough. I need to look at options for getting more alternative bodies involved.

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John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women's team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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