This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for 2014-15.

On Friday I had a meeting with the club and team captains for both the men’s and women’s squads I coach. The subject was the disparity in training intensity between prospective first team players and the rest. Basically, we have a situation in both teams where the first teamers were being pulled down by the lack of technical ability and focus among the second teamers, particularly when it comes to anything game-play oriented. Too many balls dropping is one obvious symptom, but there are numerous others which aren’t so easy to spot.

For example, the men’s captain described their match last week as featuring sets where they just could not maintain focus. I’ve seen the same with the women. Training at a persistently higher intensity, which forces a player to stay full switched on better and longer, tends to address this sort of problem. Rallies ending prematurely because an inexperienced player was out of position or not ready for the ball tends to have the opposite effect.

Another example coming from both teams was struggles in defense. For the men the problem seemed to be one of being able to control hard-hit balls resulting in many overpasses (at least as reported). For the women it was a bit broader in terms of blocking and positioning. In both cases, more exposure to better hitting would help considerably.

The bottom line is the better players need to be training with and against each other much more in game-play situations. At the same time, the less skilled players need much more in the way of focused technical work. The meeting was about working to correct that situation.

For the women’s team the on-going need to identify a primary setter has steered me away from some of the more focused skill development oriented activities. I’ve wanted to see the prospective candidates in game-like situations to be able to evaluate their movement, set placement, and decision-making. Unfortunately, that has to continue a bit longer still. I have one player who could set, play OPP, or be libero.

The decision on what to do with this one player – who I want on the court all the time in one fashion or another – actually has a significant impact on what I do with the rest of the line-up. If she plays OPP, for example, I can move my current OPP to O1. The team needs more punch at OH, which she is capable of providing. If we cannot get a consistent RS set – which we haven’t thus far – she is wasted over there (though she is a sizable block and good second ball setter).

We have our next BUCS match a week from Wednesday and after this Wednesday I won’t have all of the prospective starters for that match together in the same training session. If I want to training them as a group at least once, I basically need at least a short-term decision on this one player quickly.

Because we have a bit of time before that next match – and some clear developmental needs – I decided to spend a lot of time on technical work. I started them off with blocking footwork, moved on to Short-Long, then rolled that into a hit-and-dig-to-self partner drill. From there I rolled them into a serving & passing drill featuring a setter and an OH target that I had hit the ball. It ended up working out that many of the first team players were in the first group, and things looked quite solid. When players switched around, predictably things took a downward turn.

For the remainder of the session I split the court and had the six top players doing a 3 v 3 version of 22 v 22, while I had the other seven doing Player Winners. I spoke with the latter players both themselves and as part of the end-of-training team talk in terms of their needs and how we’re looking to get them more dedicated training opportunities.

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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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