This is an entry in my volleyball coaching log for the 2021-22 season for the Medaille College women.

I’m three days into preseason. It’s been quite eventful! Before we even started I had one drop because of concerns over the time commitment – another would-be returner from last year. That took our roster number from 13 to 12.

Friday – check-in

The two Canadian players on the team checked in on August 11th, as I noted in my last update. They and everyone else reported for preseason on Friday. The process was one where they first got tested for covid (coaches too). When cleared – which fortunately they all were – they did some compliance paperwork, went to any of the campus offices they needed to visit (e.g. student accounts), got their dorm access if they were residential, and then did their baseline concussion testing.

We had our team meeting at 6pm. One of the players didn’t attend, without notice. Said player decided to wait until 5pm that day to get her physical, which resulted in her not being cleared to practice Saturday morning. Off to a great start!

We had a good meeting overall, though.

Saturday – Session 1

My original plan was to have our strength coach use the first part of the session as an evaluation. Part of it would have been in the weight room getting a sense of their level(s). The rest was an evaluation of their plyometric capabilities (see this post for methodology) with an eye toward personalizing their workouts better. Unfortunately, though, our strength coach wasn’t available. So I did a fully court session.

After having them to do a stabilization routine, I started the player off with some serving over our two available courts. I then progress to some serve and pass. I separated out our setter, the put the rest into five groups of two. They then rotated through two exercises. On one court three of those groups divided up into two sets of three for serving & passing triplets. The other court was dedicated to Flip-Switch. One pair served while the other passed, with the setter as their target so she got reps.

Running them all through the two drills with 5-minute rounds took better than 30 minutes. I normally wouldn’t spend so much time on that kind of thing, especially the triplets, but I needed to get a look at all the new faces both in an individual and paired passing context.

After that, we did some simple hitting, then finished up with a reduced version of cross-court digging. Nice to have a couple of young arms to hit a few balls at the team. Gave me a chance to see how the team dug.

So basically you have a situation where I got at least a quick look at all the skills – aside from blocking.

Saturday Session 2

This was entirely a play session. I started them off playing Speedball triples. We spent most of the session playing 6 v 6, though. The player I mentioned who missed the Friday meeting (let’s call her Player X) was eligible for this one, but didn’t show up (no notice). My assistant jumped in to set one of the teams to round out the numbers. I opted for the 22 v 22 structure to continue to look at serve & pass as I did in the morning. Generally, the quality of play was pretty solid.

Sunday Session 1

Player X was again a no-show, though she texted me in the middle of practice to say she had to work. Meanwhile, we were also down another player due to illness (not covid, fortunately). That left us with 10 for the session, though one was slowed down by a tweak to her back.

I planned to do the plyo and weight training evaluations not done Saturday in this session as our strength coach was supposed to be available. Unfortunately, he had a close contact situation and had to withdraw. As a result, I ran the plyo evals myself, and my assistants oversaw the players doing a short lifting workout. I had several area coaches in attendance for a clinic I ran in parallel with our two sessions. While the players where in the weight room I spent a bit of time talking with those coaches.

We only went about an hour of court time after that. Once more, I had them serve, this time with some targets laid out. I then extended upon the triplets idea from the first day by making it 2 servers and 2 passers, with a target. Finally, I had them run some side v side to have everyone doing all the skills.

Sunday Session 2

Player X was still a no-show. I had no assistants for this session, so it was just me and the 10 available players – plus the clinic coaches watching. As a kind of warm-up so I could look at their footwork, I had the team go through some basic blocking moves.

One of the observations I had from Saturday’s 6 v 6 was that one of my MBs really needed development with respect to transition and timing. To start working on that, I put the team through a 5 v 5 exercise (3-up, 2-back) where the MBs blocked on a pin, then transitioned to attack, with me tossing in a ball over the block. The teams played out any rally that developed.

Because I have only two actual MBs in the team, I mixed in an alternate 5 v 5 where we went 2-up, 3-back and played with no MBs. The level of play wasn’t great. Partly this was fatigue as the players were clearly tired and sore (leading me to shorten the session). It was also a function of the two non-recruited players there just not being up to the level of the rest.

That led me to make a decision I didn’t really want to make, but couldn’t avoid. Barring seeing something well beyond what they showed me up to that point on Monday, I was going to have to let them go from the squad – though not necessarily from the program.

As for Player X, she had a mandatory covid test Monday morning at 6am. If she no-showed for that, he was out.


Unsurprisingly, Player X didn’t make her test and I put in the paperwork to drop her from the squad. I texted her to let her know and got an “I understand” response later in the day. Official roster now down to 11.

Practice stared with our trainer putting the team through a 5-exercise shoulder stabilization routine using therapy bands. I then added some core and lower leg elements to round it out. After a bit of pepper, it was serving again. The objective this time was balls served lower than the top of the antenna and deep in to the court.

To get ready for the next exercise, I had them do some simple hitting. We went from there in to a rotational focus on Rotation 1. Given the limited numbers, I split it into two forms. In one case, the two front row players were the MB (in Position 3) and the OPP (in Position 4). In the other it was the MB with the OH (in Position 2). So it was a 2-up, 3-back. I matched up the other side to have blockers against the two hitters, and also three defenders. They served every ball. That probably went about an hour with me rotating players around.

We finished with some Winners 3s to just let them have fun unstructured play. They showed a decent level of energy, which was good to see.

The two non-recruited players I mentioned above didn’t show anything more than I saw previously. As a result, I spoke with them after the session. They were both honest enough in their own assessment to understand that they were well behind the rest of the group. I was honest with them and said if they were to stay in the team I would have to leave them out of activities to allow the rest to play where they needed for their development. I offered both the opportunity to stay with the program as managers. One accepted. The other opted not to, but said she planned to work on her skills to give it another go next year. I definitely respect that. Roster down to nine.

I opted for only one training session that day. The team also had picture day in the afternoon, though.

6 Steps to Better Practices - Free Guide

Subscribe to my weekly newsletter today and get this free guide to making your practices the best, along with loads more coaching tips and information.

No spam ever. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

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.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.