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

There were some interesting results in the Elitserie over the weekend, most notably Engelholm beating Gislaved in three. The official stats, for what they are worth, suggest that Gislaved simply couldn’t deal with the Engelholm attack. We certainly don’t mind if the other teams in our southern group knock each other off. That should make it easier for us to qualify for Gran Prix. I was initially thinking we’d need 6 wins out of our first 10 matches, but we’ll see.

I was generally please with how things developed last week in terms of being more focused on being effective in the middle. Our passing was better and we hit for a much higher percentage in Sunday’s match. We also had a much more balanced attack. Those are things I want to keep building on moving forward.

This was a challenging week from a training perspective. Our two young Swedish players were away with the U19 national team playing in the NEVZA Championships through Thursday (they won gold). That meant having only 8 of the core group, with just one setter and one regular MB. One of our part-time players was available to fill in for Tuesday’s match, fortunately. Monday was always going to be a lighter session being in between Sunday and Tuesday matches, so the lack of numbers wasn’t a big deal. Training later in the week was more the issue. I talked after Sunday’s match with the 2nd team coach about bringing in a couple of his players to have more bodies, and in one case to offer something specifically useful.

The main focus of this session was keeping the player fresh for Tuesday’s match by having them do a bit of everything at a moderate intensity while also getting our part-time MB some reps with the setter. I had them play a different version of volley tennis after warm-ups. The rest of the session was a combination of small-sided games and some serving and passing with the MBs working on front and back quicks. They also did some slides at the end of training.

Our Oresundliga season began with a match against Danish team Holte. In the first set it was looking like we might be in for another short match as we jumped out to an early lead and ended up winning something like 25-10. After that, though, things got much more interesting and competitive. We ended up dropping the second set 23-25. The third set was a 25-18 win, though it was tight for the first half. The fourth was another tight one that we ended up pulling out 26-24.

After have two relatively easy matches to start the season, it was good to have a bit of a battle. As with us, Holte’s offense mainly when through two strong players – an OH and a MB. We definitely felt the absence of our young MB on the offensive side of the ball. The part-time player who filled in did well, but it was clear pretty early that offensively she wasn’t going to click with the setter. No real surprise given their lack of work together.

Holte likes to run a fast offense, which we struggled to cope with from a blocking perspective. Too much chasing of hitters. Fortunately, we kept them from being able to go fast for the most part. For our own part, we were able to take advantage of some match-ups, though I’d like to see us do even better there. My two big issues are that the offense just isn’t balanced enough in terms of points production and we continue to by hyper in situations.

Training was pushed to Thursday because the 2nd team had a home match. I went and watched their match. One of my current bench players was in the squad as a starter, and I wanted to see her in action. I also wanted to have another look at some of the younger players who we might bring in to training with the 1st team.

We were in the alternative gym again for two hours, which basically means training in parallel with the 2nd team. After talking with the 8 core players in attendance about Tuesday’s match, then warming up, I had the players do some passing and digging work. They were fairly “block” drills, which I don’t do much off. When I do them, the focus tends to be less on the physical execution of the skill and more on the mental side of things. In this case it was interesting to see some really strong expressions of frustration during the digging drill. Players were cursing, pulling faces, even slapping the floor in disgust at their performance. I spoke with them afterwards about that and how it’s one of the reasons I don’t do those type of repetitive drills much. Too easy to get in your own head, especially for a group of perfectionists.

Since I had 9 players total, including a guest, I ran them through the Belly Drill for 10 minutes or so next – back row attacks only. It served as both a continuation of the defensive work in one respect, and a game-play preparation in another.

The last part of training was dedicated to a 6 v 5 game. I was able to borrow a tall MB and an OH from the 2nd team. Our competition coming up on Tuesday features a tall OPP, so I used the MB as a blocker on the right side. She isn’t technically a great blocker, but she was in the team of 6 with our one on-hand middle so as to present a good sized block for the OHs to work on hitting against. That team served every ball. The other side had no middle, but did have the OPP in the front row, which gave them attacking options at either pin, plus the pipe (and sometimes a play set in the middle). Overall, I felt like the game served the purpose.

Our U19 players were back from NEVZA and I invited a local men’s player in to play OPP in training to replicate the big right side player we’ll see in our match on Tuesday. I had been hoping to also have the young OH from our 2nd team who trained with us the night before, but she wasn’t available. After pre-hab and warm-up, I had the players prepare for full game play by playing a couple of variations of Winners – one backrow 4s with fixed setters, one narrow court 4s with fixed setters and MBs.

The rest of the training was 6 v 5. I started off with a couple rounds of Scramble, then moved on to 22 v 22, rotating the OHs around so they all got a chance to work against the big OPP. For the first time this year, I introduced a kind of bonus play. If the receiving team scored on a first ball or the serving team got either an ace, first-ball stuff block, or a first ball transition kill, that team automatically got the point without a second ball. The result was faster games, though maybe too fast.

We finished up with 6 v 5 regular play (Zone 6 out on the side of the 5). Here I added bonus points for aces, stuff blocks, and quick set kills as well as for 1 v 1 attacking situations for the in hitters. Service aces ended up being probably the main bonus point driver, which is both a positive and a negative.

Thoughts and observations
Friday’s training wasn’t the most focused and intense. A couple of the players were clearly tired. Hopefully, that will be remedied by our first full weekend off since we got started. I do think, though, the players are eager to get at our next opponent, Engelholm. On Wednesday and Thursday I spent a lot of time reviewing their weekend match and preparing video for the players.

Overall, I think it was a good week. The team got a good battle at Holte, which it needed. At the same time, the two U19 players got in several matches, including competing for a championship, which is always a good experience.

Other stuff
During Friday’s training I introduced something new to combat the persistent issue we’ve had with hyperactive play. Basically, I blew the whistle to stop a rally when a ball was played 1-handed/armed when in my judgement it could have been reasonably played with two. As I told the players, the idea is not only to encourage them to slow things down a bit, but also to better control the ball.

On Friday I was also finally able to incorporate video delay in training. Basically, I needed to get an HDMI to VGA adapter to be able to connect an Apple TV device to the Sport Hall’s projection system so I could then stream delayed video from an iPad to the big screen. We still need to work through a few things in terms of best lag time and camera location, but it’s a starting point for allowing all the players to get immediate feedback.

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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.

    3 replies to "Coaching Log – Oct 19, 2015"

    • Rnn

      John again thank you for sharing and look forward to your progress..great reading

    • Julio Cruz

      Love your coaching logs… I just started with a U13s team this season… we haven’t even started practicing yet as HS volleyball is still going on. Keep up the good work and throw any tips and ideas for U13/U14s my way. Thanks.

      • John Forman

        Glad you get some value Julio.

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