This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log.

Last week, while I was on the Volleyball England Level 3 coaching course, the team played their first match of the BUCS campaign at Bath. The match was a 3-2 win. Observations from the coaches covering and the team captain, though, indicated that the opposition was of inferior quality and should have been beaten fairly easily. This was demonstrated by the team on multiple occasions getting out to good sized leads and giving them up. Indications pointed to nerves of the “afraid to lose” variety being a major culprit.

On Sunday the team played two SW regional matches. It wasn’t the full starting team, but rather a mix of starters and second teamers – two of which were playing in their first match of the season and in relatively new roles. The match results were a 3-1 win and a 3-1 loss. The team shouldn’t have dropped a set in the first match, but got tight late in a set they were leading. They should also have gotten at least two sets out of the second match as after winning the first, they were well up in the second late and again got tight at the end and let the other team overtake them. Serves were twice missed on set point.

So essentially Sunday’s play confirmed the reports of how things went against Bath. I held a team meeting before Monday training to talk about both matches. The players were largely on the same page in terms of the analysis of the situation.

There was also talk about intensity levels and avoiding the roller coaster. During the second match Sunday the players were very high energy early on, but that flagged. There was too much excitement about plays that really didn’t warrant it. We need to be playing on a more even plan, but with the ability to lift the intensity when the situation demands it.

The mentality that needs to be developed in this group is that of killer instinct – staying aggressive, maintaining focus, and sustaining a high standard of play regardless of the opponent. They need to have the mindset that they are likely to be the better team in most matches they play and have to play like it.

I spent a lot of the day Sunday keeping the players aggressive – both as a group and as individuals in a few cases. This is something I will look to reinforce in training and in the upcoming BUCS and Student Cup matches. Part of it will be verbal, and part of it will be environmental by way of making sure making mistakes while playing smart is not being punished. It will also be about using drills and games which work in that direction.

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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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