Tag Archive for US collegiate volleyball

Want to know what US college coaches do?

Thinking about a career coaching college volleyball in the US? If so, I’m about to educate on what you’re in for.

Below is the listing of job duties for an operations position, as posted by the University of Miami. At the upper levels of NCAA Division I the programs have people on staff with the titles Director of Volleyball Operations (DOVO), Operations Coordinator, or something along those lines. They are there to ease some of the administrative burden from the coaching staff.

The vast majority of college programs don’t have operations people, though. Nor do they have a technical coordinator, or someone like that, who runs the stats and video part of things. That means the coaches have to do it all themselves. And oftentimes it’s with fewer coaches than those big programs.

1. Works with compliance staff to create a culture of compliance to meet NCAA, ACC, University and departmental policies and procedures. Oversee compliance rules and regulations to maintain CARA hour and Time Management Plan limits and logs. Serves as a liaison to Compliance Office for National Letter of Intent Process. Insure that the NLI’s are prepared correctly and sent in the appropriate time frame. Works with coaches to get admissions applications returned and NCAA Eligibility items completed in a timely manner to facilitate final NCAA Eligibility Center certification on all student-athletes. Coordinates permissible correspondence to incoming student-athletes regarding financial aid, workout programs, orientation schedules, fall housing requirements, required physical documentation and equipment needs.

2. Coordinates all team travel with business office staff, including: coordination of flights, hotel and buses with travel coordinator, meals, submitting cash advance requests, tracking per diem distribution, creation of agendas and processes all spend authorizations.

3. Coordinate pregame meals for all home games.

4. Responsible for complimentary ticket lists for all ticketed events.

5. Assists in planning and execution of off-campus and on campus recruiting events. Serves as a direct representative of the University’s coaching staff to potential recruits and their families.

6. Coordinates all practice session scheduling and setup. Works with the game management and facility staff to coordinate home meets/games.

7. Processes all reimbursements and purchase requisitions.

8. Assists head coach and business office with monitoring of current fiscal year budget and formulation of next year’s budget.

9. Assist academic services with study hall and class attendance. Monitors the academic performance of the team with assigned academic counselor to achieve desirable academic outcomes.

10. Works with equipment staff to order and allocate all athletic equipment. Assist with creating purchase orders for equipment, outside services and office supplies.

11. Acts as a liaison to student athlete enhancement services including the student-athlete development staff, department nutritionist, department sports psychologist and strength trainer.

12. Plans and assists in the oversight of the annual team banquet.

13. Assist in coordination of scout video and statistical analysis both during competition and in preparation for competition.

14. Acts as a liaison to Marketing plan, sports information staff and fundraising efforts.

Now, lets add a few things to the list.

  • Planning and running practice, and match coaching
  • Develop scouting reports
  • Team and player meetings
  • Recruiting trips and recruit communication
  • Community outreach and press availability
  • Fundraising
  • Alumni relations

I could probably come up with a few more with some time, but I think that’s enough to make the point. College coaches are responsible for a whole lot of stuff! Kevin Hambly, shortly after taking over at Stanford, commented in an interview that only about 7% of his time actually involves working in the gym.

It’s worth noting that the majority of the stuff on the Miami list, and even some of the stuff I tacked on at the end, would be handled by a manager most places outside the US system. This is one of the things that can make it a real challenge for foreign coaches to make the jump into the US college system.

Volleyball Coaching Job Search Log – May 16, 2018

I haven’t been on the job market since taking the position at Midwestern State (MSU). I decided to re-enter after the 2017 season. It wasn’t a situation where I needed to find a new job as it was in early 2016 when I left Sweden, or back in 2015 when I was getting ready to finish my time in England. This was more about looking to see if there was anything interesting out there. If so, put my hat in the ring for consideration.

Tentative initial foray

I actually did my first application for the head coach position at Fort Hays State. That’s a Division II school in Kansas. I haven’t coached against them, but in the last couple years MSU has played against some of the other teams in their conference. The former head coach resigned very early in the season. As a result, they opened the job up ahead of the normal cycle. I got the “Thanks for your interest…” email in mid-December, which was fine. I wasn’t entirely sure I’d want the job if offered. I’d have made my decision based on what I saw of the campus, facilities, people, etc.

Getting more serious

The second job I put in for was at Brown in late November. As you may know, I was assistant coach there from 2001 to 2006. The head coach I worked for then announced her retirement after 25 years. I’ve always had thoughts about returning to the Ivy League to coach if the chance ever came. They never responded, though, and announced a hire in late January.

Shortly after Brown I also applied to Boston College and Georgetown. Neither are teams with much history of success. There are significant questions as to the degree of support they are given. Why would I be interested in either job? Honestly, it has a lot to do with the schools themselves. Both are high caliber academic institutions in good locations. It’s the sort of environment I feel like I would really like to work in long-term. Both filled their positions in early January.

Along a similar line is DePaul. I applied there in early December. I heard through the grapevine relatively shortly afterwards, though, that they were already talking to candidates. That was confirmed by the email I got just before Christmas saying, “We have reviewed your credentials and have carefully considered your qualifications. While your skills are certainly impressive, unfortunately we have decided to pursue other candidates at this time for this position.” That’s one of the more pleasant rejection notes I’ve seen.

I also applied to another Ivy League school in February – Penn. Columbia was looking for a new head coach as well, but I have no desire to live in NYC. I actually saw something in mid-March indicating Penn had sent out “thanks, but no thanks” emails already, though I hadn’t received one yet. It did eventually come near the end of March.

A couple of alternative targets

I applied in mid-December for the head coach job at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). The school doesn’t have the same academic reputation as the others I listed above, but it’s in an interesting part of the country. I did my grad school not too far away, so I’m familiar with the area. They filled the position in mid-February.

At the same time I applied to UMBC, I also put in for the head job at Arkansas Tech. This is a Division II program where the head coach stepped down after a pretty successful time at the helm. In 2017 they were 35-1 with their only loss coming in the NCAA tournament at the hands of one of the best teams in the country. I went back and forth on this one. The location isn’t something that got me excited. I also wondered what the upside could be. They aren’t in a great conference and have the misfortune of having one of the country’s best conferences in their NCAA Region. Yes, you can win a lot of matches if you do well, but for someone like me it would be a stepping-stone type of job – not a long-term situation. The position was filled in late January by an alum.

In February I applied for another Division II position – Fort Lewis, located in Colorado This is a team in the same NCAA Region as MSU. One of the motivating factors was the (now former) MSU women’s soccer coaching moving there. He’d actually coached at Fort Lewis before coming to MSU and was basically going home as far as he and his family was concerned. Fort Lewis is not a fully funded program, meaning in order get the full 8 scholarships allowed in Division II the coach needs to raise funds. They haven’t had a winning record in at least 10 years, but men’s soccer won a national championship, so competitiveness is doable.

A place I thought I’d really like

In the category of “I think I’d really like coaching there” jobs is the College of William & Mary. It is a school with a strong academic reputation and in an appealing part of the country to me. The program doesn’t have much of a history of success, however. The last winning season was 2009. They were bottom of the conference in both 2016 and 2017, and haven’t finished above 7th (of 9) since 2012. No response, even after the A.D. at MSU reached out to their A.D. on my behalf. The MSU A.D. was actually a bit annoyed that he never got a response. They announced a new hire in the latter part of January.

A local twist

Then an interesting, but not entirely unexpected thing happened.

When she returned from the holiday break, the MSU head coach announced her resignation effective at the end of January. She is married with an infant, but her husband (a basketball coach) worked in California. She spent the semester break out there with him and liked actually being a family. That might have accelerated a change that was probably coming before too much longer anyway.

It took the university until March 27th to finally post the position, so it was a rather lengthy process. I got a lot of questions from all angles about what was going on, as you might imagine. Naturally, I put in my application right away. The posting remained open for only the required 12 days.


In early March did a phone interview with Fort Lewis (I talk about one of the questions I got here). They told me at the time that they planned to move quickly as they currently had no volleyball staff. Through the interview it was clear they were thinking first about fit, which is not uncommon for a smaller school. I received an email about two weeks later that they’d filled the position. I was neither surprised nor hurt that I didn’t progress. So long as I was a real candidate for the MSU job, it would always be hard for me to accept a job for a less well-funded program, at a smaller school.

I got a call from MSU Human Resources on April 13th – while I was at team sand practice – to schedule my interview on April 19th for the head job. It wasn’t supposed to be the case, but mine ended up be the first because of someone’s getting rescheduled. They brought three others to campus the following week.

My interview featured four separate meetings. The first was the main search committee, as I understand it. The A.D. was there, along with the Athletics faculty liaison, the women’s basketball coach, our head trainer, and a booster who is also a local area volleyball coach. I then had lunch with two of the administrators, after which it was back for a second bigger meeting, That one featured our head strength coach, our department academic coordinator, and our sports information director as the primary questioners. The fourth and final meeting was with the team. The academic coordinator was in the room, but strictly in an observer capacity. She gave them a list of prepared questions they could use, but they also mixed in ones of their own.


There were three other candidates interviewing for the MSU head coach position. One was an junior college coach from the region, another was a former area junior college coach currently assisting at the NCAA Division I level, while the third was an NCAA Division II coach from the region. The last of the interviews was on April 27th. We expected a decision the following week, but it didn’t come.

I finally found out my fate on May 11th. The Athletic Director gave me the bad news. Some conversations I had with him prior tipped me off that I wasn’t clearly the top choice, so mentally I had prepared myself for this outcome. This is despite acknowledgement from the A.D. that no one could touch me from an administrative/organizational perspective. That didn’t mean I was pleased, though. Head coaches from other teams in the conference were stunned. One went so far as to say, “Definitely a mistake on their part.”

After some probing, I learned a perceived comparative disadvantage in recruiting was the reason I wasn’t top choice. It seemed that I was given no credit for the freshmen we brought in this year (my first recruiting class), or for those we have signed to bring in next school year. Of course, it’s too early to say how those classes will turn out, but it’s been well-acknowledged in the Athletic Department that the caliber of athlete we have in the gym now is a significant upgrade. I was the member of staff who was out recruiting more than anyone else the last two years because I was the only one on staff who never had a juniors coaching schedule conflict (or pregnancy). Did they think only the head coach, or only our other assistant, handled recruiting?

And of course there’s also the fact that I had documented success recruiting in other places before coming here. That seems to have been ignored.

Moving forward

I made it clear to the A.D. at MSU that if I were not selected to be the next head coach I would move on. As I told him, I need to continue to develop as a coach in my own right, and staying on at MSU under someone else is very unlikely to provide that opportunity. I’m to the point in my career where I either need to run my own program or work for someone with significantly more experience – or be in a different environment all together.

The big advantage to being the “local” candidate for the head job at MSU is that while I may not have gotten the job, at least I got some meaningful feedback about how I presented my candidacy. The A.D. told me I did very well in my interviews. Clearly, though, I need to hit the recruiting element harder when I present myself – at least in situations where that is relevant.

So, the search is on-going at this point.

Coaching Log – May 14, 2018

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2017-18 season.

This was wind down month for the year. The players finished classes the first week of the month, then moved on to final exams the second week. Then it was on to Summer break!

Team Meeting

I had a team meeting on May 1st to wrap up the Spring training cycle. Mainly, it was to provide details for the Summer – when our strength coach would give them their Summer program, start of preseason, camp dates, etc. We talked about how Spring went, both from their perspective and ours as coaches. The team’s mentality on the court was excellent, and I encouraged them to use the Summer to share it with the incoming freshmen as part of connecting with them.

The Athletic Director also took some time to speak with them. I can guess about what, but I wasn’t actually in the room for it.

Little details

There’s always little bits and pieces that come up near the end of the year. An example of this is the Summer Voluntary Workout Request Form. This is for those student-athletes who will be around during the break and intend to take part in the voluntary workouts run by the strength coaches. Some of the players actually found it a bit invasive.

There was also paperwork and online training for players who were going to work our camps and/or clinics. Background check and child safety type stuff.

Our strength coach gave the players their Summer workout program on the 4th. It comprises three 4-week training cycles. I passed it along to our signed incoming freshmen.

Fundraising Clinics

Starting the second week of May we ran 90-minute evening clinics Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings. These are targeted at 3rd through 7th graders, so it means a fairly wide range of skill and experience, not to mention stature. This is the fourth year in a row that we’ve been running these clinics as a way to raise a bit of money for the program. They don’t bring in a ton of money, but it all helps.

The one annoying thing about the clinics this year is that they’ve now been folded into the institutional structure used for camps. Because it was a fundraiser, we didn’t need to do that before. Putting it under the camp structure means a bit more administrative load and some costs we didn’t have before.

New head coach

The team was informed of the new head coach late in the day on the 11th. The press release went up on the 12th.

So ends the 2017-18 school year and season for MSU Volleyball and my log for the year.

Coaching Log – April 30, 2018

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2017-18 season.

This was the final week of our Spring training period, and the final week we were allowed to work with the players for the 2017-18 school year.


We had a 2019 recruit on campus – the third in as many weeks, and also an OH. Unfortunately, since Monday is small group day for the team because of class schedules, she couldn’t play in anything like full-sided play. Instead, she took part in the two sessions we ran. The first was with our setter and one of the middles. In it she did some attacking vs. a double block, blocking as part of a double block, and passing and hitting.

In the second group we had a little more time and more bodies. This group featured all our healthy pin hitters, plus one of our liberos. The middle from the earlier group came back as well, which gave us six. We sandwiched a back court 3s game and a narrow court regular play 3s game around a servers vs. passers exercise. That’s not quite the same as playing 6 v 6 or 5 v 5, but it covered all the major areas of play we needed to evaluate. Besides, we saw her play with her juniors team over the weekend.


While this wasn’t our last practice, it was the last one where we had all of our reasonably healthy bodies available all together the whole time. Our freshman who hurt her knee back during the season is finally cleared to play, though only up to about 75% effort. Our OPP who hurt her ankle a couple weeks ago was also back in limited capacity. Since that was the case, I let them decide what they wanted to do, which is always an interesting experience.

Their first choice was to do the progressive triples exercise we do sometimes as a competitive ball-handling oriented warm-up. It goes from down balls to easy jumps to full back row attacks. After that they played all four variations of the cross-court game and we finished up with a pair of 15-point 5 v 6 games.


We started this session with some light ball-handling work in the form of a 4-person serve-pass-target drill. In this instance the focus was on taking balls with their hands. We then progressed to a 4 v 4 back row game, with rotation so that everyone took turns setting and hitting (if they were able). From there it was on to narrow court (a bit wider than half) doubles Speedball.

The remainder of the session was 4 v 4 normal play on the same narrow court we used for the doubles. The first two games were basically RS vs OH in structure, with serve initiation. Only earned points counted (kills, blocks, aces). Both times the OH side won, so we played one more game as a tie break. Games were to 11 points.

I gave the players the option of picking which game to play for the tiebreaker. They went with the 4 v 4 game we played a few times earlier in the term where you can only score if a hitter gets a kill off a hand set. This time coaches initiated the ball to the winner of the previous rally. This game was also to 11. The faster pace, though, made it pretty tiring. I gave the players a 30 second timeout at one stage to rest a little.


This was the final practice of the Spring, and it was all about game play. We started with Brazilian volley tennis to get warmed up, then jumped into Winners back row 4s. After that, it was a 6 v 5 game until our setter had to leave for class. Once she left we played 5 v 5, 2-up/3-back.

Strength & Conditioning

This was final testing week for the team. Monday they started with standing jump in the gym, then move on to the power clean in the weight room. On Wednesday they did approach jumps, then finished up with back squats. Friday – their last formal session – the strength coach had them play a variation on Ultimate Frisbee in the gym using a small football. It was his last time working with them as he’s a grad student and is finishing up his degree in May.


The players’ involvement in the interview process for the next MSU head coach disrupted this week somewhat. It caused late starts to practice on Monday and Thursday. Further, because their meeting on Friday was in the middle of our normal practice time, I just cancelled that session. So what did we do with our time? Budgeting for August!

On Sunday we had a speaker on campus to talk to the athletes on the subject of drug and alcohol use and abuse. This was something arranged by the Athletic Director. The speaker did a very good job. The session was extremely interactive and engaging.

Coaching Log – April 23, 2018

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2017-18 season.

This was a rather choppy week thanks to a variety of factors.


The team did their morning workout with the Strength Coach. Because of some availability issues, and me not feeling particularly well, I cancelled group sessions. This was roundly applauded by the team. 😀


We had another 2019 recruit on campus. Unfortunately, our practice session was a pretty poor one. Balls were dropping between players. There was a lack of readiness. Basically, the little things just didn’t get done. If we didn’t have the visitors (recruit’s mom was there too), there would have been some sharp words coming out of my mouth. As it was, though, the players recognized at the end that it wasn’t good enough. They said so in our final huddle before I even opened my mouth. So there was that bright spot.

The practice itself started with 3-player over-the-net pepper, followed by some serving. Then we did rounds of 3s Neville Pepper. First it was back row only, then we allowed front row attacking. The rest of the session was given over to 5 v 5 play. We started with 3 up/2 back playing 22 v 22 for four games, allowing for the OHs to flip between front and back row. The last game was 2 up/3 back normal play.


No practice on this day. The team had morning strength training, but the annual sports banquet meant no volleyball.

Every team had honorees for Best Teammate (voted by the team) and top academic marks. Our sophomore setter garnered both awards. The Student Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) moved to introduce a new award the year, which they dubbed the Maverick of the Year. Think of it as the Newcomer of the Year. One female and one male were selected, and our sophomore transfer OPP was one of the winners.

There’s a big final award that is essentially the Student-Athlete of the Year. It takes into account academics and community service, along with athletic performance. Each team’s coaching staff nominated a member of the squad. Tuesday morning I had to record a video about our nominee, which was our senior setter. That makes two years in a row as our selection, but no joy.


This session was abbreviated for a couple of reasons. Between that and the fact that we only had one other practice up to this point I wanted to make it a higher tempo session. We started off with something new to get them moving and to give them a new challenge. That was the 2 v 2 side switch game. It served it’s purpose well, as they were definitely sweating at the end and I saw some good thinking about how to win.

From there we moved on to doubles Speedball on about a 2/3rds width court. There were two teams to a side and we played a combined side scoring game to 25.

After a couple of minutes of serving, the next exercise was a 4 v 4 game played using dig-or-die scoring. We played two games to 8. In the first one we started each rally with coaches initiating balls across the net on an alternating basis. To up the challenge some in the second game, we changed the ball initiation. This time the winner of the prior rally received a bounced ball and had two contacts remaining.

We had time for one more game after the second dig-or-die, so we put in 5 v 5 game, 2-up/3-back. I opted for ladder scoring, so if a team reached 24 and failed to win their score reset to 19. Serves initiated play.


Back on the sand for this session. I had to change things up due to player injury and absence issues. As a result, we only ran a single group rather than the two group structure of the prior two sessions. I kept the same Neville Pepper base, but shifted to triples rather than doubles, with four players rotating on the challenge side.

Strength & Conditioning

This was the last really training week for the team in this regard. Next week they do their year-end jump and lifting tests.


It was the last big recruiting tournament for us on Saturday and Sunday – the Lone Star national qualifier in Dallas. The event started on Friday, but because we had team practice we didn’t leave until after that. That meant missing the first day.

Community service

Saturday was the last of our community service dates for the year. Since we coaches were off recruiting, the players were on their own.

Coaching Log – April 16, 2018

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2017-18 season.

With our one tournament behind us, all that is left of the year is three weeks of training. This was the first of those three. Since we have no competition to prep for, my concentration is heavily on small-sided play. These give players lots of experience reading and anticipating.


I decided to skip the group training and provide a bit more recovery after Saturday’s exertions – and for those who had to coach their juniors teams on Sunday. They did, though, still have their morning strength and conditioning session.


I gave the players an assignment after Saturday’s tournament to watch video of at least two of the sets we played and be ready to talk about what they saw. I started by having them talk about what they thought we could do better, then shifted to what went well. Our other assistant watched all the video himself during the day, so contributed his own thoughts as someone who wasn’t there. For the most part, the team did a good job of hitting on key things. They even brought up a thing or two I didn’t pick out myself.

Here’s a really interesting thing, though. I asked them what they thought our team kill percentage was. They estimates were 50% to 60%. They were quite surprised when I told them it was only 29%. That says something about perceptions, doesn’t it?

Practice itself started with 3-player over-the-net Pepper. We followed that up with some serving, then move on to the Belly Drill.

During the talk before we got going I told the players that our big focus for our remaining Spring time was on getting better at reading and anticipating. Toward that end, our next exercise was a series of 7-point 3v6 games. A ball was initiated to the 3 side, then they played out the rally. Only blocks and kills counted for points.

We finished with a 5 v 5 game where position 6 was out of bounds.

This was a slower session without a lot of intensity. Not surprisingly, the generally feeling was that it wasn’t very good and lacked energy. My comment to the team was that sometimes you’re going to slower sessions like that. When we do, it’s beholden on them to generate their own energy and to keep the focus high.


We only had eight available for practice, and it worked out that one came in (from an advising meeting) just as another had to leave (for class). With this in mind, I put together a session completely based on small-sided games. This provided the players lots of contacts and read opportunities.

We started with a progressive triples game. It starts with down balls, then progresses to easy jumps, and ends with full back row attacks. Coaches alternate initiating balls over the net to start each rally. At each attack level we played a game to 8.

Up next was a pair of doubles exercises. First it was 2-touch volleyball. Since we had 4 teams, we played a round robin. After that, it was doubles Speedball. All games were half court (split lengthwise) to encourage rallies.

The last pair of games were 4 v 4. We played the first on about a 2/3rds sized court. The second one was full court, but we did not allow shots inside the 3m line. Serves initiated all the rallies.


It was another thin bunch for practice – seven much of the time with a short period during which there was an overlap of one who came late (advising) and one who left early (class). We could have had one more, but the player the trainers held out Wednesday because of back issues did not take part for a second day. This time it was as much my call as any. I wanted to make sure she was available for sand practice on Friday, so figured it was best to hold her out one more day. Our primary trainer concurred.

Keeping the focus on reading, we started the session off with a pair of tennis games. One was just a simple short-court game, while the second was Brazilian. After doing some serving, focusing in mixing short and long balls, we did a couple different 4 v 4 games.

In the first game there was one hitter up, with three back row players. The players were not allowed to play shots in front of the 3m line. Scoring was kills only. We played a couple of games to ten, mixing the front row hitters around.

The final game featured 3-2-1 scoring. That’s where a team gets 3 points for scoring on first contact, 2 points on second contact, and 1 point for scoring on the third touch. We only counted earned points (kills, blocks, aces). Blocks and aces were both worth 2 points. Using this type of scoring both makes players think more in terms of finding different ways to score and encourages them to be more alert and ready on defense.


We were back out on the sand once more. The plan was one similar to what we did two weeks back, with two groups of five. The group assignments were randomized, except for two players who had schedule constraints. This time, though, we went with 5-minute rounds rather than 4-minute. I also cut out the overlap period of play. I’m glad I did as it was hot enough (about 85F/29C) that the heat was a factor for the players.


In conjunction with the annual Spring football game, the MSU Athletic Training department did mass physicals for incoming freshmen athletes. Four of our 2018 recruits were able to attend to get that all done and out of the way. The others will have to come at some point over the Summer so it’s all taken care of and they are cleared before we start pre-season. Some of the incoming players are planning to do Summer II classes (starting in early July) so they can be on campus for workouts with the strength coaches. Completed physicals are mandatory before starting those sessions.

Head coach position

On Monday I noticed that the posting for the head coach vacancy was no longer on the MSU website. This was in line with the 12-day posting period the Athletic Director told me about. On Wednesday the A.D. said his plan was to announce the new head coach within about 10 days.


Tuesday was the start of the normal NCAA signing period for volleyball (there’s an early period in November). We sent National Letters of Intent to the two players we committed earlier this term for them to sign.

Friday we found out another setter we had on our list for 2018 opted to go somewhere else. This did not seem to be directly linked to the lack of a head coach, but could have been indirectly related.

Coaching Log – April 9, 2018

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2017-18 season.

This was arguably the central week of the MSU Spring season.


Because we were playing on Saturday, and NCAA require two days off per week, we did not do the normal small group sessions this day. The day off also applied to team weight training in the morning, so the players were free to lift on their own.


The focus for this week was getting ready to play on Saturday. As such, we started with a heavy team oriented session. We warmed up with 3 and 4 person over-the-net pepper, and then seam serving. That was followed by Winners back row 4s with fixed setters.

Next up was an unscored 5 v 5 exercise. Both sides had three front row attackers. In the back row, though, one had a setter and an outside hitter (OH) playing defense while the other had two liberos. We alternated initiating three down balls to each side. For the team with the setter, they had to set one to the OH, one to the middle hitter (MB), and one to the right side (RS). They could set wherever they wanted once into the rally, but the initial ball had to follow this requirement. Since the other team had no setter, they just did high balls to the hitters – with some 2s to the MB. After 9 balls to each side, we swapped hitters around.

About the last hour of practice was a series of 5 v 6 games. They were mainly serve initiated, but with a second ball twist. After the serve rally finished I initiated a down ball to the receiving team. We wanted to get some extra work in on defending against RS attacks, so the first attack off the second ball had to come from the right. After that, though, the set could go anywhere. Each team served three straight balls, then we rotated the team of 6. When we got through three rotations we swapped players around.

Not surprisingly, it was a bit rough at times technically after four days off. There was some interesting problem-solving during the 5 v 5 exercise, though.


Our senior MB was available to practice with us, so I made 6 v 6 play a central part of the practice plan – literally and figuratively. Our sophomore RS was to arrive about 30 minutes late due to class, while one of our freshmen MBs had to leave about 40 minutes early. So we had something like a 35 minute window in which we could play 6 on 6.

I used the first part of practice, before the RS arrived, as a serving and passing progression. We started with a partner serving warm-up. That then progressed to 5-player Serve, Pass, Set drill. We finished with a servers vs. passers game. By that point, the RS had arrived, so we could move on to game play.

Unfortunately, we perhaps only got about halfway through the time available for 6 v 6 action. At that point, the same RS injured her ankle on a play at the net. We had to finish up with a 6 v 5 exercise.

The last part of the session was a MB/RS vs. MB/OH set of 5 v 5 games.


This was a shorter, lower intensity session after a pretty intense one Wednesday, and ahead of a strong play-oriented session on Friday. Two players were late arrivals for academic reasons. So while we waited for them to join us the seven available did some over-the-net pepper, serving, and a variation of Speedball that had four players on one side (two teams of two) and three on the other (they rotated).

Once the two latecomers arrived we jumped into a serve-pass-to-attack exercise. This was basically just a lower intensity way for us to work on serve receive offense ahead of Saturday’s play.

Unfortunately, the last part of practice had to be given over to team punishment. There was an infraction of Athletic Training Room rules – a very serious one.


We had the first of our 2019 recruiting prospects on campus – an OH. Between that and getting things ready ahead of Saturday, it kept things busy.

I had to split our last practice before the tournament to both prepare the team and to evaluate the recruit. We again had our senior MB with us. I didn’t want to go too hard knowing what was coming on Saturday, so it wasn’t as intense a session as it could have been.

We started with Brazilian volley tennis for some fun and competition. Next up was some serving. After warming up their arms I had them simply work on being aggressive with their go-to serves. No specific targets this time.

We then did some pass-to-attack out of serve reception. This was to give the hitters some reps generally, but also to let the recruit get a sense of the set tempo. That was followed by back court 3s Speedball.

The last hour was given over to basic play. I had them do 15-point games. We fit in four of them, using different player combinations on the “starting” side, which just means the side with our setter. I told them to do slow (rather than quick) ball collections in between games and let the water breaks linger longer than usual to not over work them.

Unfortunately, Men’s Basketball also had a recruit on campus and needed to use the main gym after us. That meant we couldn’t set up the courts for Saturday after we finished practice. I got some basketball help do it after they were done, though.

Saturday – Spring Tournament

We hosted a 5-team Spring tournament. It was supposed to be a 6-team event, but we heard early in the week that one of the teams couldn’t come because they were down to only 5 players due to injury. That meant a complete format change. We shifted from each team playing three 50-minute timed matches to everyone playing four 45-minute matches with a 25 minute break in the middle. Because we only had one MB available, I scheduled our matches with breaks in between.

We played all or part of 9 sets and only lost one of the partials. The two full sets we won over our conference rivals, Cameron, at the end of the day were quite satisfying. I didn’t do a lot of actual coaching of the team over the course of the day. I did, though, talk with players on the bench about different parts of their play. Mainly, I just stood back and watched them work together to problem solve. It was good to see a lot of the stuff we’ve been talking about and working on put into action.

Long, busy day for me. I had to run things solo for the day as our other assistant coach was off coaching his Juniors team at a big tournament.

Coaching Log – April 2, 2018

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2017-18 season.

Last week was a short one. MSU was on holiday from after Wednesday evening classes through the rest of the week for Easter.


We had the third of the three setters we’ve been looking at for 2018 on a visit. She was able to work in with the second and third of our small groups. That gave her a chance to work in with one of the middles as well as with pin hitters.

The sessions with the middles and setter were highly technical. We interspersed hitting for the middles – mainly in transition after blocking – with defensive work for the setter and the libero who was in the second group.

The pin hitter session was much more game focused. We did do some pass-to-attack as a chance for the recruit to work on more standard sets. Wrapped around that was a 3 v 4 exercise (setter on one side) where the players first attacked back row only, then were allowed to hit on the net and a set of narrow court 4 v 4 games.


For the first half of the session we used two courts. The first exercise was the same 4-person over-the-net pepper exercise we did last week. I think it went a bit better this time, though could still use a fair amount of improvement.

We then did a 2 v 2 narrow court 2-touch game. There were 5 players on each court, four playing and one off. After each rally, the player who made the mistake on the final ball was subbed out by the player waiting. As that happened, a new ball was fed in to the winning side. Players kept track of their own rally wins. After 2.5 minutes of essentially continuous play, the top players moved up to/stayed on the top court, while the bottom players moved down to/stayed on the bottom court. We played three total rounds.

The last part of this two court phase split the team to work on different phases of the offense. On one court the outsides worked on attacking out-of-system balls to the corners, while the middles and right sides worked on back side combination sets. The two liberos split time across the two courts, swapping midway through. We then switched it up, moving the right sides over to work on corner swings while the outsides worked with the middles on front side plays.

The rest of the session was 6 v 6 game play. Our senior middle wanted to get some court time in ahead of playing with the team next week, so she joined us around the halfway point. On top of that, the trainers cleared our junior outside for full play, or at least nearly so. She missed a lot of time due to back problems.

This particular game featured one side serving 3 good serves, then the other doing the same, after which both sides rotated. I added in a second chance element in the case of rally-ending errors (mainly hitting/setting). We played through one full set of rotations. Then I swapped a couple of players and repeated the process.


I made a decision to have a very challenging session. It was our last one for the week and the players didn’t have an overly tough morning workout. So I wanted to challenge them both physically and mentally.

Knowing we had some players coming late, we started with progressive triples. That’s basically a situation where the players start playing 3 v 3 with down balls, then go to easy jumps, and finally go to full back row attacks. It’s essentially a warm-up progression. In this case, though, the last part of the exercise was the Hard Drill. In this case I allowed unlimited “washes” so long as they kept the ball in play. Their goal was 10 good attack-dig sequences. We got to 8 before I had to put a stop for time reasons. I could have kept it going, but I’d kind of thought of doing 7, and 8 provides a good sign post for the next time.

Next up was an around the world serving exercise. That’s hitting targets 1 through 6 in order. They had to start back over at 1 if they served into the net.

From there we progressed to a MB/RS vs MB/OH game play exercise. To keep the tempo up, every rally started with a coach’s down ball. Because our other coach was setting for one side, I had to do both sides. Rather than trying to walk back and forth to hit balls over the net to the receiving team, I just did three consecutive balls to one side, then three to the other. After nine total balls to each side, I rotated the pin attacker around.

One of our MBs had to leave for class, so for the last part of practice we played a set of 4 v 4 games. One side played 3 up/1 back. They had the remaining MB, a front row setter, an OH, and one of the liberos. The other side played 2 up/2 back, with two pin hitters in the front row. We played a total of four games to 10. The players served to start each rally, and it was normal scoring. This was a slower exercise, but having to cover the full court put a lot of pressure on the defense. I was quite happy to see the hitters taking advantage of that.

We ended up finishing in less than 2 hours. The players were clearly tired. One of them actually asked if we intentionally made it a hard session. 🙂

Head coach search

The posting of the head coach position finally went up late Tuesday. As I understand it, the posting must remain up at least 12 days.


On Thursday we heard from one of the 2018 setters we brought to campus earlier in the term. She informed us that she can’t wait any longer to find out who the new coach will be and has accepted an offer to go somewhere else.

We started making arrangements to bring 2019s to campus. Obviously, we would prefer to have a head coach in place during this process. Our window, though, is too short to wait. We only have four weeks left where we can have recruits play in with the team (officially, this is considered a tryout). After that is the mandatory off week before finals, then finals themselves. Yes, recruits can come visit in that period. It’s just less optimal. So we’re looking to get the top prospects we’ve identified so far to visit in these next few weeks.


On Wednesday morning I attending a fundraising meeting for the head coaches. It was partly to give us an understanding of what the university wants to do (the president did the introduction) and partly a discussion of best practices.

Coaching Log – March 26, 2018

This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2017-18 season.

Spring Break has passed and it’s time to get back to work!

This is the non-traditional part of the NCAA season. In Division II we’re allowed a 45-day period during which we can do 15 hours per week of athletically-related activity. That’s 5 hours less than what we’re allowed during the regular season. We also have to give the players at least two days off per week, compared to one day off in the Fall. As in the main season, we have to stop no less than one week before finals begin, which means late April.


This remains a small groups day because of class schedules. We have one middle come in with the setter for about an hour, then the other middle and one of the liberos working with the setter for a second hour. Lots of blocking and working on shoot (31s) and slide footwork/timing/setting, with a bit of defense mixed in for the setter and libero.

The third group was all the pin hitters. They started off with a 3 v 3 serving and passing game. From there we progressed to narrow court doubles Neville Pepper. Then it was two versions of a 3 v 3 game where only kills counted for points (winner of the rally receives serve). First it was back row only, then we allowed hitting on the net. So they got a lot of everything. In the future we might make this a more technical session, but this allowed them to get back into things after the break.


The first full team session of the Spring season was a mixture of elements. We started with Brazilian volleytennis as a warm-up. We then shifted to serving, first to warm-up, then focused on targets. The third segment was a serve-pass-attack exercise.

The rest of the session was all game play. We did a 3s version of Neville Pepper on a narrow court. It was only OK with 10 players. The tempo didn’t feel right to me. I probably won’t use it again in that fashion – at least as our team comprises right now.

A series of 5 v 6 games took up most of the last hour. The scoring was earned points only (kills, aces, blocks), so we just went to 10. The rally winner served the next ball, giving them the first chance to score. After the first game I flipped the right sides, then I flipped the outsides after the second. The setters were back row the whole time, along with the liberos. Had we played another game I was going to move the setters to front row so I could get at least one of the pins playing back row.

After practice we had a team meeting to go over a few administrative things and to talk about the big focal points for the next several weeks. That’s basically getting better on offense.


This was a challenging session because some players had to arrive late and/or leave early due to classes. Also, I had to run things myself and we had two courts going. We used both throughout at least the first half of the session. It started with 2 v 2 pepper where on one side the players had to hit straight balls on 3rd contact while on the other side they had to hit cross. From there we did some serving, then moved on to a position focus. The pins and liberos did serve and pass while the middles and setter worked on their timing.

After that they were all on one court for some game play. At first it was an unscored middle/left vs middle right 5 v 5 game. We couldn’t go as long as I’d have liked as one of our two middles had to leave. We finished with a pair of cross-court 4 v 4 games. Scoring was earned points only. Balls hit off the block, but into the out-of-bounds part of the court were a wash. The players served to start each rally.


We started this day’s session with 3-person and 4-person over-the-net pepper. From there we moved on to serving, with work on serving deep line and short cross. That progressed into a variation of serving and passing quads where we had the passing target set to an outside target. That means everyone got some hand setting in.

Next up was serve-pass-attack as a prelude to playing 5 v 6. The other day we did that with the setters in the back row. This time the setters were front row, and I had the outsides and rights switching around between playing defense in the back row and hitting through 4.

The setter had to go to class, so we finished up with some out-of-system work. We played two games focused on attacking the corners.The first one was back row only swings, with one player up to set/block, and three in the back row. The second game it was two up and two back. The scoring for both was 1 point for any attack to a corner, as long as it was in the court. If one of those swings resulted in a kill, a second point was awarded. Anything else did not count. I think next time I play something like this we’ll do -1 for a hit in the net.

The intensity took a clear dip during the last phase. It was a challenging exercise and the frustration level was higher than usual. As a result, the players turned more inward. It’s something I talked with them about afterwards.


This was our first sand session of the year – one of four we’re likely to do, depending on weather. This isn’t as much as we did last year went we hit the sand twice a week. That’s a function of scheduling considerations, primarily.

These sand days are all about competition. I split the team into two groups of 5, they each were at the court for 2 hours with one of those hours overlapping. When each group was on it’s own we set them up to play a series of 10 rounds of a doubles version of Neville Pepper. That allowed each player to partner with all the others. The three that were not the pair on the “winners” side rotated around, since we couldn’t do multiple teams. The plan is to mix the groups up each time out, keeping score throughout to see which player finishes with the most points on the “winners” side.

For the overlapping period, we mostly did a 3-player version of the same thing, though for the last 10 minutes our so we did Speedball 2s.. This was necessarily slower, with all the extra players, but two hours at the doubles pace would have been too much. As it was, the second wave players were clearly fatigued toward the end of their hour. Though, a couple of them are not currently at optimal fitness levels.

Strength & Conditioning

The team continued to do their Monday/Wednesday/Friday morning work with our strength coach. He pared back the load, though, to accommodate the increased court time. Mainly, that meant less sprint work and more agility type stuff when he had them in the gym.


I attended the North Texas Region’s 18s national bid tournament. Primarily, that was to see our early signees in action, as I haven’t had much chance so far. In particular, I wanted to see our incoming outside hitter, as I haven’t seen her play since last club season. There were also a few 2019 kids playing on 18s teams that I had a look at, along with one of the 2018 setters we’ve had visit.

Community service

As we’ve done monthly through this term, the team did two hours of tutoring help with local disadvantaged kids on Saturday. Well, those who were available, as several had coaching duties. I did not attend because I was doing another thing (see below). Apparently, there was some grumbling, though, about how strict the guy running the tutoring program was. Our other assistant, however, didn’t think he was over the top – just holding his usual line of discipline (which is very high).


On Saturday I got to help man a table during a big Admissions open house on campus. They provided lunch for the attendees in our coliseum and various groups and departments had booths/tables set up. Athletics was one of them. Myself and a couple of others hung out answering what questions we could questions. Mostly, it was the more junior assistant coaches, though the head football coach did stop by for a while after his team finished with practice.

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