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

The juniors season is now over! The Charleston Academy 15s team recently played it’s final tournament of the year.


We had three weeks of training after our last tournament. For the most part, I directed the trainings. They worked some on serve reception, and served in every session. For the most part, though, I went with very game-oriented sessions. In many instances I used a second chance approach. I let the players actually determine what we did the final day.


We played in the AAU national championship tournament in Orlando, FL. This was our second trip there. The other was for the USA Volleyball national qualifier.

Our AES ranking come in was 1255. That was up nearly 200 places following our last performance. The top two teams teams in our first day pool, however, ranked #14, #129, and #209. That’s right! We were back in Open again! We were in Pool A, so that means we had the overall #1 seed in our pool (southeast regional powerhouse A5’s top team) and we were the overall #52 (13 pools of 4).

Not surprisingly, we didn’t have a lot of success on the scoreboard. We did have some more general success, though. For example, in our second set against A5 we actually forced them to take the first time out.

Our Day 2 pool featured teams ranked #178, #265, and #574. It’s worth noting that the #178 team was the 3rd seed in the pool, which suggest they under-performed on Day 1.

This was an interesting day, as we were without our setter (absent for a funeral). Unlike before, we didn’t have a backup available to join the squad because of late notice, so our normal OPP had to step in to the role. We actually let the players figure out the lineup and how they’d play and let them run with it. Basically, they put our libero at OH and one of our OHs in the OPP position to reduce the blocking impact. They also came up with a plan for back row positioning on defense.

All in all it wasn’t a bad day’s performance. The team pushed the opposition to a deuce set in the first match of the day. They played pretty good defense throughout (though they definitely struggled with tips). The real issue was they struggled to score in attack.

Day three saw the format shift to pools of three, followed by a cross-over. Our pool featured the #661 and #559 ranked teams. It was an interesting pair of opponents. The first team had several bigger players who could hit, but overall they were not very good in reception. We played a pretty close pair of sets against them, but dropped both. The second opponent was a definite drop down in attack, but was much better in passing and defense. We really struggled to get much going against them.

Our situation wasn’t helped by one of our outside hitters being a bit gimpy. She hurt her ankle in our final match the prior day, and I saw her clearly struggling by the end of Day 3’s second match. We ended up having her play libero in the third match, but only for one of the middles. Our normal libero – a lefty – played OPP. That match was against a very small Hawaiian team who could really ball handle (they were ranked in the 1500s, but based on only a small sample of results). As was the case in the second match, they basically just made fewer mistakes than we did.

The net result was a spot in the bottom bracket. There we played a quarterfinal against a team from Idaho ranked #308. Funny, given the ranks of the teams we played the day before. They were better than those teams, though, so at least on that level it made sense.

Unfortunately, we didn’t finish the event on a high note. It was an 8am match and the players were very clearly tired. They had very little energy going in, and it was reflected in the score. Our wounded OH was feeling much better, but it didn’t make much of a difference. We lost an uninspiring match to finish the tournament.

Other notes on the tournament

First, I’d like to say I found the AAU tournament very well run. This was my first time attending. I’m not a big fan of Florida, generally, and Orlando can be a very challenging city to contend with. I have no complaints at all with the event itself, though, and found it well-run.

Playing Open at AAU Championships is definitely not the same as playing that level in a USA Volleyball qualifier. The drop off from the top teams you face in your initial pools to those you play in subsequent rounds is much larger – as the ranks I shared above tend to indicate.

As for myself, I was actually on the bench staff with the team on Day 1 (the assistant had to miss the first day). First time in over a decade that I coached a juniors team during competition. In fact, I was acting head coach for the first set of the day as the regular coach had to chase down a missing wallet. It was interesting to observe myself in action.

Moving forward

I’ll have a future log entry to wrap up this season and speak to the future.

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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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