This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2020-21 season.

Week two of conference play for the team. Once again, though, only a single match on the schedule.


We had 8 guys available for the day, but given a couple of them were banged up (including the one injured during Saturday’s match), so I opted for a team video session rather than practice. This was the first time doing on, which is another reason why I thought it was a good time. We watched the video from Saturday, basically up to the point of the injury. We talked about some positional things in defense and blocking, as well as decision-making in the offense. Afterwards, the guy who missed Saturday’s match gave us a scouting report on this week’s opponent.


We had all 9 for the session, which I used to look at potentially switching our OHs from 6 to 5 in defense. The big feature was a set of 4 v 5 exercises. I wanted the focus to be on defense and transition, so a the 5 side, which had 2 up and 3 back, served each ball. The other side had 3 front row (setter + 2 hitters) and one back. To finish up with some high energy stuff, I had them play 4 v 5 continuous play (new ball comes in immediate at the end of a rally) off free balls I tossed in to the winning side.


We were missing a guy for this session, so had an even 8. I made the decision to basically make this a nearly entirely 4 v 4 practice. After warming up with some 2 v 2 short court Speedball, then a bit of Serve & Pass, we did a bunch of 22 v 22 mini games. I started with a full court back row attacking game, with front row attacks allowed on free balls. I then shifted to a narrow court (about 2/3rds) version of 4 v 4 where each team was allowed two designated front row attackers. Finally, we finished with a continuous play version of the back row 4 v 4. It was similar to the one from Tuesday except that my assistant hit down balls rather than given them free balls, and we kept score to play a game to 25.

Broadly speaking, the session was well received. The guys liked all the competition and the tempo. There was a bit of a blow up between two players (who are also roommates) after practice, though. I didn’t hear the specifics as I was outside the gym when it happened. It ended up leading to a discussion about how there needs to be less arguing and whatnot after plays during practice. It’s actually something I specifically addressed at the tail end of a session last week. In other words, they basically need to doing more shutting up and getting on to the next play.


Had all 9 guys for this one, though one guy was maybe 30 minutes late. The two focus activities were a similar continuous 4 v 4 and more of the 22 v 22 stuff. In the case of the first, I made an adjustment to the initiation. Instead of free-balling the winners, I tossed a high ball to the losers for one of their hitters to attack. With regards to the 22 v 22, we played that in a 5 v 4 fashion with the setter on whichever side was receiving serve. That side needed to win 2 additional balls to win a big point while the serving team needed just the normal one additional ball. Since our OPP hasn’t played that position in a match since the first one of the season, a lot of my focus was on getting him good reps.


This was our longest road trip of the season to Latrobe, PA where we were hosted by Saint Vincent College. This is their first year in the AMCC, and only their second year with a men’s program. Not surprisingly, they aren’t a strong team. That really showed in the first set. I think we went up 7-0 and eventually won 25-14.

After that set I heard one of the guys say something to the effect of “Let’s keep them to single digits next set.” In my experience, that mentality never works out well. Sure enough, things got a lot more challenging moving forward. Our opponents played better and we clearly didn’t play our best. We went down 8-4 and while we got back to level a couple of times, we didn’t get a lead until 25-24. Then we couldn’t seal the deal. It took us 5 set points to finish it 35-33, and we had to fend off 5 of theirs.

The third set was slightly more comfortable. We got ahead 9-5, but they fought back and eventually went up 18-15 thanks to a 5 point run. We got back to level at 20-20, then out to 24-21, before finishing at 25-23.

I made a change in the second set, flipping my MBs and changing which player one of my DS’s went in for back row. Really, that shouldn’t have had any impact on how we played, but after that set’s performance I switched things back. And still our performance wasn’t great, clearly. The third set was our weakest in terms of offense because of an excess of hitting errors and attacks getting blocked.

Looking ahead

Two matches coming up this week. My feeling is we need to win at least one of them to make the conference tournament.

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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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