This is an entry in my Technical Director’s log for the 2018-19 season.


After the first tournament we had some clear areas for development. We’d done quite a bit of 6 v 6 work in team systems leading up, so that stuff was largely well in place. Could we be better? Sure. From my perspective, though, improvement in individual skills was the area where we could get the biggest impact for our time.

The two areas I thought in biggest need for upgrade were serve reception and hitting. In the former case, the players were really having issues with deep balls. They needed work on using their hands and on taking balls outside their center line.

For the latter, attacking aggressively was a problem. A lot of the hitting errors from the prior tournament were the result of what I would call incomplete swings. That’s where a player swing to contact rather than through contact.

I don’t mean they weren’t following through. What I mean is that they weren’t attempting to hit the ball with power. Instead, they were making swings more aimed at not making an error than scoring. As usually happens in that case, many balls went long because they didn’t generate sufficient topspin to keep them in.

From a more team perspective, the one thing I did want to see us do better was the middle attack. Our middles got a fair number of sets during the tournament, but they were all over the place in terms of tempo. We needed to get things much more consistent and to start working in sets away from the setter – specifically the shoot (31) and the slide.

We did a lot of the passing and middle hitter work the first couple of days during the first week. The head coach also did work on a since serve receive rotation each day. Both days we finished with a variation of Winners that featured fixed middles and setters with teams of three back row players. Teams could only score points by getting a kill off a middle or pipe attack.

Then we went hard on hitting with power the third session. I actually ran the latter as the head coach was out sick. That started with a 2v2 over-the-net pepper, followed by a serving warm-up. Then I had them play a servers vs. passer game. Servers got points for deep seam servers – the sort of ball we’ve had problems receiving – while passers got points for good passes. From there, it was basically hitting lines where the focus was on elbow back and fast arms wing. That then progressed in to a Speedball variation. Setters were fixed and the rest were in teams of two. We first played left side vs. left side, then right vs. right. Only kills off legit swings earned points.

The second week followed a similar script. We kept up the work on serve reception and more aggressive attacking.

Delayed video

While we’d used it a little bit before, the week after the first tournament we started regularly incorporating delayed video in practices. It’s a similar system to the one I used at Midwestern State. It features an iPad running the Bust A Move (BAM) app transmitting to an AppleTV device via a dedicated wireless router. The difference is that here we have the AppleTV plugged in to a TV rather than a projector.

Second tournament

The second tournament was a JVA event, though still in South Carolina. It was definitely a deeper event than the first one. In fact, it was a 15s/16s combined field with a 7-team pool structure. The opposition was evenly split between the two age groups. Significantly, the top ranked 15s team in the Palmetto Region (according to the pre-event AES rankings) was in the pool. The other two Region teams were 16s – the rest being Carolina Region.

There’s no way around it. Not a great tournament. I wasn’t there, but I followed the results and got daily updates. We lost all six of the pool matches, which were played over the first two days. Two of them were 3-setters (best of three format), but it was a mixture of close sets and lopsided ones. That’s a pretty good indication of some mental weakness.

The final day of the tournament we were in a 3-team pool as our bracket. The competition were both from our Region – one 15s team and one 16s. Both were comfortable victories. I was told the competition was pretty weak. The result was a 19th place out of 21 teams.

A handful of Palmetto Region 15s team finished ahead of us in the tournaments, so we’ll be moving down the rankings as the results get processed.

Our next tournament will be February 9-10. That’s another Region qualifier.

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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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