Tag Archive for team psychology

Playing time thoughts from Cup weekend

This is the story of my university of Exeter teams playing in the Volleyball England Student Cup in 2013. In particular, this was the qualification phase. That’s a set of 1-day events. Your qualification was decided by your pool finish and those of others from that event and the other ones taking place at other times and/or locations. The ladies played on Saturday and the guys on Sunday. On paper at least, the draw gave the men a significantly better chance to advance than the women. That dictated different approaches to how I handled the teams.

For the women, I was always going to give the main starters a lot of play. I wanted to keep them improving their individual and team psychology. This is stuff mentioned in my coaching log entries. At the same time, though, there was ample opportunity to work additional players into the line-up. I had 10 on the team in total. They all played in at least part of three of the five matches we had in total. I regularly mixed players around without concerning myself too much with whether it made for a stronger or weaker line-up.

I should say it was a hard day for the team. They played 4 straight matches with only an additional 5-10 minutes of break added between matches 3 and 4. Then they had a set’s worth of down time before the 5th match (all were 2-sets to 25). The last match was against a poor opposition. I sat several starters and had others playing in different positions to try some things out.

On the day we lost 0-2 twice, had two 1-1 splits, and won 2-0 once. Officially that worked out to a 2-3 overall match record.

The guys has a much easier schedule. They played 4 matches (pool of 5), with a match break in between each of them.

For the men I needed to be more focused on trying to get wins – and having a sustained period of seeing them in action as I’d only coached them in one match prior. The first match – against the team which ended up winning the group pretty easily – was a struggle. The attitude wasn’t good and the offense wasn’t working. The captain and one of the senior players suggested a couple of changes based on what they’d seen in recent South West league play, so I moved the setter to OPP, brought in the second setter, and swapped in a different M2. We played weaker teams after that, but it was definitely a much more dynamic attack from there on.

I will confess that a couple of subs I made might have cost us a shot at advancing in the Cup as one of the better 2nd place teams. Because matches were just 2 sets, the way they determined a winner in the case of a 1-1 result was total points. On two occasions, after we won the first set we then scored enough points in the second set to win the match, so I put in the second string players. Once that might have cost us a set as it ended up 25-27. In the other perhaps it meant not winning by the margin we could have.

I would have liked to have given some of the guys more time. Everyone played at least a bit. Given the trip’s length, it would have been nice for everyone to have at least as much time as I could with the women.

Playing time is definitely one of those things we coaches struggle with on a regular basis. At least we do when in a competitive rather than purely developmental environment. The need to go for results tends to create conflicts. In that regard, having smaller rosters can be quite useful. Tough to keep players 10 and up happy when there is only so much court time to go around.

Coaching Log – Nov 16, 2013

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log.

Competed in the Volleyball England Student Cup in a 6-team pool. Hard going! We had to play 4 straight matches. The 10-minute break we got between the 3rd and 4th was hardly generous. The first two matches were teams we knew would present a major challenge. I was generally happy with how we played in terms of building the team’s confidence in attacking the other side with some confidence.

Since we didn’t have any real chance of advancing out of the group, I used the remaining matches to get players court time and do a couple of different things. We ended up splitting a pair of matches (just played 2 sets rather than best-of..) which could have and probably should have been swept.

I still feel like the team is under-performing. The energy is better (though that’s tough to support over 5 matches, especially when the competition goes down hill after the first two) and they are definitely starting to be more aggressive in attack. There remain some real limitations that may have to be addressed by personnel and/or position changes.

We have one training session before another league match on Wednesday.

Coaching Log – Nov 13, 2013

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log.

The team played last year’s league champs at their place not knowing exactly what we were going to see. I’d been told they had a very limited squad in terms of numbers, which proved to be the case. Still, they had a couple useful players, so it wasn’t like a team of scrubs.

The match was a decidedly mixed bag. We won the first set easily, and had a hitting efficiency of over .500. We hit slightly negative after that, though, largely because we weren’t getting enough kills. The opposition gets part of the credit for playing good defense. We loss the second set after falling behind early. I had some concerns about the team’s mentality crumbling during a frustrating stretch. They did enough, though, to claw their way to a win in the deciding set. Winning in this fashion might just be the sort of result that gets them over the mental hump.

Our defense was solid and our serving game created all kinds of problems for the opposition. Unfortunately, we just weren’t able to put that to good use. We couldn’t turn those free balls and down balls in to points, and that’s something we need to fix. Getting faster in the middle and working in some other things for OH and OPP to go more aggressively at the opposition. Unfortunately, we have Student Cup play on Saturday before our next training session on Monday.

Coaching Log – Nov 10, 2013

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log.

The team played its second BUCS match of the season on Sunday. Actually, as a collective the team played a total of three matches as we also had South West league fixtures. We were missing three players due to various other commitments, including both of our alternate setters.  Then my planned starting M2 sprained her ankle Friday night. That left us with 12 total. We were able to bring up a setter from the intermediate group to set for the team playing SW, so at least we didn’t have to play some kind of 6-6 like system.

Because of the need both for leadership and scorekeeping, I opted to have my next choice MB go with the SW team. I also sent the other MB with them as I viewed it as a chance for them both to get at least 6 sets worth of practice as opposed to potentially only 2 if playing the BUCS match.

So what I ended up doing was bringing my third choice OH into the BUCS team and have one of my OHs play MB for the day. It was mainly an offensive decision. I had no doubt she would be able to hit effectively there, though she’s too small to be much of a block.

In hindsight could I have fielded a better team? Bringing my next choice MB would have made for a bigger block, which may have helped. We may also have been that little bit better on defense with my OH playing her normal position rather than being in the middle, Given how close the match was (23-25, 20-25), maybe that would have tipped the balance, but generally I didn’t feel like their players were any better than ours.

The major concern was the mental side of things. The team lacked the energy and intensity required to win. They remain tentative under pressure.

Our serving put the opposition under considerable pressure all day, though we missed more serves in the first set than we should have done. Our passing was generally solid, as was our defense. The opposing coach even commented on the latter, though we could have been a bit better here and there. We got several blocks and generally dug their harder attacks. The attack needed to be better is what it comes down to, and that is where the tentativeness really manifests.

We’ve got another league match on Wednesday against the defending champs. I will be focusing 100% on attitude in training ahead of that.

Note: The SW team won easily in one match, but lost 0-3 in the second to the defending champs. Reports suggest the latter was well played, though.

Coaching Log – Nov 4, 2013

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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