This is an entry in my Technical Director’s log for the 2018-19 season.
It’s been a few weeks since my last post, reflecting the nature of this time of year. Competitions become much more spaced out after April – to the extent teams even continue on at all.
For most of the last several weeks we’ve mixed up the training schedule. One week we spent all three evenings on the sand because our indoor facility wasn’t available. The other weeks we did two indoor and one sand. Two things became pretty clear in that span. First, it was a lot of players (10) for training on one sand court. Second, a large portion of the group really wasn’t into it. As a result, we decided to just make the sand sessions for players interested in playing in sand tournaments. That sharply improved the quality of those sessions.
The other thing that came up was the start of high school practices for most, if not all, the players. I don’t know the rules about this in South Carolina, or how they run the sessions, but the girls had 2-3 school sessions a week. Then they came to us for club practices, usually quite tired. We decided to reduce our sessions from 2 hours to 90 minutes, but even that is still an issue. This is something that will need to be addressed bigger picture moving forward.
The sessions for youngsters have carried on as well. We’re doing them on Tuesday and Thursdays for 45 minutes each, though it seems like Thursday is the bigger one.
Of late I’ve really been pretty pleased with where the players are at. This really stands out in terms of doing cooperative activities like the Hard Drill. For a good chunk of the season they were flat out terrible. They had little directional control, no top spin on even down balls, and no real sense of how to play smart. Now they can sustain rallies with some legitimate attacking going on.
To get to this point we’ve had to work a TON on just the ability to hit a ball with top spin. It’s clearly paid off, though, as we can see considerable improvement in their hitting – both for power and control.
And, of course, when the players can sustain rallies it tends to raise the overall intensity and focus in the gym. That’s never a bad thing.
The team played in a 15s open tournament over the weekend – an “AAU Grand Prix” event. They went in as the #20 seed in a 20-team field (5 pools of four). Their AES ranking was 1325. The other teams in the pool were 96, 257, and 673.
Last week we had our setter come up lame with a broken toe. It happened earlier, but she got a diagnosis after practice on Tuesday. Not surprisingly, she missed the sessions on Wednesday and Thursday. Not knowing what her status would be for the weekend (we heard it was an “as tolerated” type of playing situation) we worked on a back-up setter situation.
The first day went about as expected, with lopsided losses against the top two teams in the pool. We did, though, play the third seed close, taking them the full three sets. Our setter did play, though not without pain, as you’d probably expect. Overall, the report (I wasn’t there) was a good one. I heard the team had their best day of play of the season. They even ran quite a few go sets (see the set diagram), which we worked on over the last few weeks.
Unfortunately, the first day’s good performance did not carry over into the second day. The first match – a crossover to decide final bracket – was against another Charleston club. The players have had some mental struggles in those sorts of situations, putting unnecessary pressure on themselves which recurred. Our setter wasn’t moving as well either. Add in some other issues (perhaps to include some emotion from losing that close final match) and you get a lopsided loss that wasn’t really what you’d expect against the 934th ranked team given the prior day’s result against a better ranked team.
The crossover loss put us in the bottom (copper) bracket. We won our quarterfinal match in three. It was against a team ranked worse than 2000, though, so on paper at least it shouldn’t have been that close. We lost the semifinal to a team ranked a littler higher than us. The end result is that we beat our seed, but from what I heard it was a disappointing finish.
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