Friday, October 29, 2010

Volleyball and Television Color Commentators

By Kathy DeBoer

The abundance of volleyball matches on television this fall has given us an opportunity, heretofore unavailable, to become critics of color commentators. I receive about a rant a week from one of you complaining about the quality of the analysis or the absence thereof. I must, at times, remind myself that a very short time ago we had no reason to whine about color analysts because there was no volleyball on TV to analyze. In other words, this is a better problem than the one we had before, but one worth addressing nevertheless.

To better understand how we, as a coaching association, could help, I made a trip to Knoxville, TN to catch up with Roger Wilson, a friend for many years. On this particular night he was the producer for ESPNU on a volleyball match between Tennessee and Kentucky. We visited briefly about the issues and he invited me ‘into the truck’ for the broadcast to view the broadcast from behind-the-scenes.

To say the scene in a production truck is chaotic is a gross understatement: picture ten women sharing a 10’x10’ bathroom and a makeup bag with a photo shoot in 10 minutes and, even though there are both men and women in the truck, you have an idea of the level of sound, anxiety and drama in this very tight space. The crew consists of a couple of people coordinating the four cameras on the floor, two or three information gatherers assigned to feed the analysts interesting facts, a couple of statisticians, a person typing labels, tags, or stats to pop onto the screen, an associate producer who times all breaks, makes certain the commercial inventory is appropriately inserted, takes calls with suggestions from those watching the broadcast in either Charlotte, NC or Bristol, CT, and the producer, who is ultimately in charge of the bedlam. After two-and-a-half hours of this frenzied, anarchic activity I was exhausted, and all I did was try to stay out of the way.

The exercise made me a more informed critic of the stuff we take for granted when we watch a broadcast. Good color commentators tell us things we did not see or did not know. They fill us in on the stories behind what is happening, a particular strategy a coach is deploying, or the reasons certain tactics are effective or ineffective. They help us get to know players and introduce us to personalities. My observation is that the good ones are not only knowledgeable about the sport, but also have a little ‘attitude,’ meaning they have opinions. They criticize play and second-guess decisions yet must do it without sounding arrogant or know-it-all. The challenge in volleyball is that the sport moves very fast so this enlightening critique must fit into the five to seven second between serves.

During the break between sets I went into the stands and visited with Joan Cronan, the women’s athletics director at UT, and a veteran consumer of sports on television. In answer to my question about developing on-air talent, she advised both critical feedback to those making their way as analysts, and a modicum of patience. Television is a very competitive business, she said, and those that are not good will disappear very soon. Former players will most likely be tabbed as analysts in the ‘new-to-tv-sports’, as name recognition, youth and attractiveness are strong preferences in the television marketplace.

She reminded me that broadcasts are not directed at coaches, but at fans, a much less knowledgeable but easily bored viewer. All coaches of a particular sport think the television commentary is ‘thin soup’ and most watch broadcasts with the sound turned off so as not to be distracted by the inanity of the chatter.

My conversation with her encouraged me to continue having dialog with you and our fledgling analysts and to celebrate how good it is to have this problem in volleyball!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Creating The Ultimate Home Court Advantage – The Unfair Fight

By Phil Bush

I am not a believer in Fair Fights. Just never have bought into the concept. I am a believer in Unfair Fights. The fact is, that in every sport the world over, Home Court Advantage is Critical. I can tell you from broadcasting in a packed arena in Brazil on multiple occasions and watch Brazils fans NEVER sit down for a 5 set match- that is an Unfair Fight. When you are broadcasting in Poland, and they play 5 notes of a song, and the entire 10,000 people in the building pick up on the song, that’s an Unfair Fight! Now, I realize the numbers we are dealing with are smaller, but the premise is the same: Defending the Home Court Is Job Number One for any Team in any sport!

So, once you have people in your building, it’s time to put them to work for you! There are a lot of ways to do this, but the first thing to recognize is that I am NOT suggesting anything that is Unsportsmanlike in ANY way. It is good to be hard on the opposition, but it is not appropriate to do anything that is Unsportsmanlike. Nowhere do I ever advocate jeering at the opposition, profanity, etc. I do however remember something I learned from one of the best “Promotional” Coaches I ever worked with: Jim Morris was the Head Baseball Coach at Georgia Tech before taking over the legendary University of Miami program. One night, the Georgia Tech fans had picked up on a particularly players name from the opposition (Creech, I believe it was) and every time he did anything they would ask him to do it again. So it became “tighten your gloves again, Creech” or “Pound your fist into your glove again, Creech-er.” The player actually smiled and played along with the crowd to some degree. I asked Jim what he thought and he said “If he’s paying attention to the fans, he’s not paying enough attention to the field.” Such is what a great home court can do.

You want to accomplish a few things:

1.) Have enough going on to entertain and get your fans up and active
2.) Have enough going on to annoy, distract, or pre-occupy the opposition

So, what are some of the ways to do this?

*Public Address Announcer: Good PA Announcers are not easy to find, I am the first to admit. You have to make sure that whatever type you have, he knows his role is to get the Crowd Into the match and Keep them into the match. This is easier said than done, but everything must be done with a high degree of engagement and entertainment in mind. I have seen great PA people take the most minimal event and really make it “Sing” when it comes down to it. Voice Inflection, etc. are the key thing. Bringing the team back to the floor and “training” the crowd when to cheer; focusing attention on each point scored.

*Cheerleaders: If you have them, use them to get the crowd into the match. One of the biggest mistakes I see made is the lack of a PLAN between the PA Announcer, Cheerleaders and the Band. Is there a method to having us all work together?

*Music: If you have a Pep Band- there needs to be agreement on what the Band is there to do: To Get the Crowd into the Match. I have been working with a number of schools with bands and the band is great- BUT- it plays like it is playing a concert. Songs should be done with a Purpose – not to simply have the crowd sit on their hands. If you have recorded music- figure out a few key pieces and don’t be afraid to play them repeatedly.

*Introductions: Make your intro Intimidating- lights, music, fog, etc. - anything that you can muster, you should use. After you introduce the opposing team starters, there is nothing like a special piece of music (Think Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan and the Alan Parsons Project – “Sirius.”) You can make a piece of music your own if you like.

*Contests that are disguised as promotions: On every Ace, you throw a t-shirt in the crowd- but you kind of wander around the building to see which section “Deserves it.”

*Creating a tradition where on every bounce of the ball for a Serve, the Student section does says something. I have seen it really throw off servers and get them out of their routine.

*Or- absolute Dead Silence is another one. It’s important that your fan base be “For” you and get in the habit of doing things that will- always politely- get under the oppositions skin!

Here’s the bottom line: It’s all about HAVING A PLAN. Without a Plan, you are simply “Hoping.” In trying to get a group of people engaged, I have never, ever believed in “Hope!”

(Phil Bush will be Blogging from time to time over the fall on Promotion/Production of Volleyball. Follow his thoughts at as well.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Look At The Weekend (Oct. 22-24)

By Jen Armson-Dyer

No. 5 California Takes Sole Pac-10 Lead With Win Over No. 2 Stanford
Paced by 21 kills by junior outside hitter Tarah Murrey, fifth-ranked California defeated second-ranked Stanford in four games (21-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-16) to take sole possession of first-place in the Pac-10. The win also marked the second time in the last three years the Golden Bears have defeated the Cardinal at home. In addition to her 21 kills, Murrey picked up 12 digs for her sixth double-double of the year while sophomore middle hitter Shannon Hawari added in 11 kills on .588 hitting (11-1-17) and freshman outside hitter Adrienne Gehan chipped in 10 kills. Senior setter Carli Lloyd dished out 52 assists and became only the ninth player in Pac-10 history to cross the 5,000 career assists threshold. Defensively, sophomore libero Robin Rostratter led Cal with a match-high 16 digs as sophomore middle hitter Kat Brown topped the blocking chart with six stuffs and Lloyd added in four. Lloyd also moved up in the career annals in blocks, moving into ninth all-time, and making her the only setter in Cal’s top ten for career blocks. "Every time Stanford gave us a little push, we pushed back a little bit harder,” head coach Rich Feller told the Cal student newspaper The Daily Californian. “I think we frustrated them a little bit. They're not used to that. It's kind of historic. I don't think Cal has ever been in first place in the Pac-10 halfway through the season ... It also means that the target on our back just got bigger.”

Indiana Sweeps No. 13 Michigan, Outlasts Michigan State
In its second win over a top-15 opponent this season, Indiana swept No. 13 Michigan (25-16, 25-15, 25-21) on Friday night and then outlasted Michigan State in five games (25-17, 18-25, 22-25, 25-23, 15-13) on Saturday. The Hoosiers are now winners of five of their last six matches and have moved into a three-way tie for fourth place in the Big Ten standings at the halfway point of the league season. Against the Wolverines, sophomore outside hitter Jordan Haverly pounded 14 kills as sophomore opposite Kelci Marschall and senior middle hitter Ashley Benson added in seven and six, respectively. Freshman defensive specialist Caitlin Hansen led the defense with eight digs as senior middle hitter Taylor Wittmer posted seven blocks, junior setter Mary Chaudoin notched six and Benson chipped in five. As a team, Indiana hit .383 to Michigan’s .092 and the Hoosiers outblocked the Wolverines 12.0 to 2.0. "It's a good night to be Hoosier, no doubt, but it doesn't get any easier tomorrow night with a very athletic Michigan State team coming to U-Gym,” said Indiana head coach Sherry Dunbar. “We better be ready to play or we won't win, it's that simple in this league." The following night against Michigan State, Haverly posted 22 kills and Benson added 19 on .545 hitting (19-1-33) to lead the Hoosiers in the win, as Benson also racked up nine blocks.

Wake Forest Upsets No. 24 Florida State
Led by junior outside hitter Kadija Fornah’s fifth double-double of the season (15 kills on .414 hitting, 11 digs), Wake Forest upset No. 24 Florida State in Tallahassee on Friday. It was the first win for the Demon Deacons over a ranked opponent since they defeated No. 24 Maryland in five games on Nov. 12, 2005. The win also snaps a nine-match losing streak to the Seminoles and is the first victory in Tallahassee since a 3-1 win on Oct. 4, 2003. Junior middle hitter Carlin Salmon added in eight kills on an errorless 20 attacks to hit .400 for Wake Forest. Senior libero Megan Thornberry picked up 12 digs to lead the squad with sophomore middle hitter Andrea Beck posted six stuffs. As a team, the Demon Deacons outhit the Seminoles .301 to .169.

DePaul Holds On Against Syracuse
DePaul picked up its first Big East win with a hard-fought five game win (25-21, 21-25, 17-25, 25-22, 16-14) over Syracuse. Three Blue Demon players reached double-digit kills in the win, led by sophomore middle hitter Rachel Aumann with 17 kills, senior middle hitter Katie Letcher with 14 and freshman middle hitter Chelsea Kirkpatrick with 13. Sophomore setter Samantha Geiger dished out 48 assists as senior libero Katherine Knutson led the squad with 20 of its 77 total team digs, which also marks her 20th match this season with double-digit digs. Letcher led the blocking front with five blocks, including one solo effort.

Air Force Snaps Conference Losing Streak, Defeats San Diego State
Air Force defeated San Diego State in four games (25-23, 16-25, 25-23, 25-23) to snap its 74-math Mountain West Conference losing streak that dated back to 2005. It was the first-ever win against a league school for the Falcon seniors and only the second-ever win over the Aztecs in series history, including the first since 1999. Senior outside hitter Caroline Kurtz led all players with a career-high 24 kills as freshman outside hitter Annalyse Schmitt posted a personal-best 18 and senior middle hitter Nichole Stilwell added in 10. Senior setter Jessica Hellmann directed the offense with a season-high 50 assists and senior libero Kelly Spencer picked up 16 digs to lead the defense. Stilwell and freshman Cami Richan each recorded two blocks in the win. "It feels awesome," said first-year head coach Matt McShane. "We knew we were going to win a match. Maybe not when, but we knew we were going to win one soon. I am so proud of the seniors. They have been working so hard and waiting for this moment. (The coaches) knew we were good enough to win, we just had to get the players to believe that they could win. They had to get the confidence to know they can win. San Diego State is a great team, we went in with a game plan and it all came together."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Volleyball and History

By Kathy DeBoer

Once you have lived a bunch of history, it becomes more interesting to you. This is why the 'old' are generally more fascinated with the subject than the 'young.' As I have been part of the volleyball coaching community since 1980 and part of the intercollegiate athletics scene since 1973, in other words, I have 'history,' there are times I become engaged by the 'I remember whens . . .' that, when I was young, made me roll my eyes.

This week has been one for the 'oldies.' The prompt was an article posted on Wednesday about Mary Wise’s 700th career win. The milestone, while significant, is not was pitched me into nostalgia as much as the story in the article of Mary’s start in coaching as the 21-year-old head coach of what is now a BCS-level program at Iowa State.

While certainly one of the youngest head coaches of a DI program, Mary Wise was, at that time (1981), not the only one to get a DI collegiate head coaching job at an early age and with no experience. Russ Rose was hired by Penn State at 24 in 1978. Dave Shoji and Kathy Gregory, at Hawai'i and UC Santa Barbara respectively, had almost a decade of coaching under their belts by 1981, and were just in their early 30’s.

In point of fact, I distinctly remember taking a call in the spring of 1985 from Bill Feldman who was writing a story for a volleyball publication on the 'new breed of up-and-coming young coaches.' As I puffed up, getting ready to talk about my career and success, he opened by asking, "So, what do you think of them?"

"THEM!!" I shrieked, "I’m 29, what do you mean, them?" He seemed startled. "I’m not trying to insult you," he said matter-of-factly, "but you’re a veteran at this point."

The times were very different. After Title IX was passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, colleges started adding sports for women at a very rapid rate. Frequently, a female faculty member in the PE Department simply had coaching a couple of teams added to her teaching load. Almost all of my college coaches, some good, some not-so-good, came from this labor pool.

Even when people like Mary, Russ, Dave and Kathy were hired with coaching as their primary role, the pay was part-time or the job included many other responsibilities – teaching classes, running intramurals, etc. Often both circumstances, part-time pay and other responsibilities, were part of the gig.

What may be more remarkable than the age at which these coaches started their college careers is the staying power they have had for 30-plus years. Mary Wise, the youngster in the group, has just passed 700 wins; Kathy Gregory passed 800 several seasons ago; and both Russ Rose and Dave Shoji have over 1,000 each.

Are there others? Absolutely, Nina Matthies of Pepperdine, Mick Haley of USC and Mike Hebert of Minnesota come to mind immediately, and I’m eager to hear your list of others. As the AVCA enter this, our 30th year, we have both our share of ‘historians’ and 'eye-rollers.' What’s missing today is the '29-year-old veteran.' I’m thinking for all the players of the volleyball world, that’s a good thing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Secret to Volleyball: An Invention

By Terry Pettit

This is going to take some imagination on your part. I’ve invented a device called The Secret of Volleyball. I know that may seem a little presumptuous but not compared to other names I considered like, Shock and Awe in the Arena and The Ultimate Coaching Decider.

The engine to The Secret (copyright pending Terry Pettit Coaching Enhancement) is the Overlapamatic, a compact spinner (propeller) in the shape of a referees hand signaling an illegal back row attack, affixed onto a four inch square piece of pressed cardboard on which are eight different zones. The zones are interchangeable. One set is made up of numbers; one set has pictures of you, your assistant coaches and support staff, another has Chinese images signifying koans or wise thoughts and a fourth set is composed of mildly confusing quotes and irrelevant information.

An instruction booklet accompanies the Overlapamatic that alerts the operator as to which set of images is appropriate to the question being asked. If you wanted to use Overlapamatic on the bench it would require an operator for each set of images, unless you had a volunteer assistant who had figured out how to successfully receive a mail in rebate from a large electronics manufacturer. Therefore, many of you will need to purchase multiple games, with the appropriate discount of course.

Here’s an example: Let’s say your team just set a new standard for shoddy play on the road and you are wondering whether you should yell at the team in the locker room before threatening them with the loss of pizza (ordered by the student manager between the fourth and fifth games) or wait until they get on the bus for the six hour ride home and threaten to meet with each one of them individually while not allowing them to watch The Wedding Planner for the sixth time this season on the crappy DVD system. What to do?

First look in The Secret Manual where it says, spin the propeller until the numbers one through eight appear in succession. At that point you can threaten the loss of pizza, video, playing time, or whatever as long as it is within NAGWS or NCAA rules or not likely to be reported. If after
2400 repetitions you have been able to channel numbers one through eight in succession you have to wait thirty-six hours before addressing the team regarding uninspired play.

Here’s an insight that the Overlapamatic can help you with. Let’s say during a competition with your conference rival it suddenly occurs to you that you don’t have any talent on the court. Go to the manual and you will see under the corporate vision section that you should load the Overlapamatic with images of yourself, your assistant coaches and your administrative support team.

Give the Overlapamatic a spin to warm it up but disregard the result. Then remove the other seven images from the board with the exception of your own image. Continue spinning until the propeller lands on your own picture. There you have it; the reason your team doesn’t have any talent.

Okay, how about this one. Your second assistant wants you to look at a video of a “tweener,” a player who could be a right side player or a middle blocker. Tweener’s are usually defined by what is missing. Logan Tom was not a tweener even though she could have played the left, right, and middle attacker positions, the four position in basketball and midfielder in soccer.

No, tweeners usually have size but lack arm-speed or lateral movement. They become more attractive to a coach the longer the recruiting season goes without signing your top choices. So when your assistant coach asks you either of the following two questions:
a. Do you think we can teach her to pass?
b. Do you think we can teach her an arm swing?

Pull The Secret out of the top drawer and load it with eight indecipherable but cryptic sayings: Spin the wheel and whatever comes up is the answer. Here are some possibilities:

Who are you? – Caterpillar: Alice in Wonderland
I think I turned in the wrong numbers on the lineup sheet: Terry Pettit on several occasions.
I love California; I was practically raised in Phoenix: - Former Vice President, Dan Quayle.

You get the idea. And you’re going to keep getting the idea for the next four or five years.

Finally, The Secret (available 24 hours a day at can be used by high school coaches as an accurate predictor of job longevity.

Place the winning percentage of your last five seasons in the Overlapamatic. Please round off to the nearest zero. In the other three slots place pictures of your athletic director, principal and superintendant of schools. Spin until you have landed on three spaces. Average the winning percentages. If you are 70% or above or you haven’t committed any crimes but coach at a charter school you are probably in good shape.

If the propeller lands on the superintendant, the AD, or the principal and they have a spouse who would like to be the head volleyball coach, you’re toast, regardless of winning percentage.

If you come away from this column wondering what it was about, before you write please note the following observation from Einstein (the genius not the bagel). One of the first signs of Alzheimer’s is the inability to recognize sarcasm.

Terry Pettit, author of the Talent and the Secret Life of Teams available at

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Look At The Weekend (Oct.15-17)

By Jen Armson-Dyer

Arizona State Shocks No. 5 USC, No. 10 UCLA
For the first time in 15 years, Arizona State swept both No. 5 USC and No. 10 UCLA this weekend. Previously, the Sun Devils had not claimed a victory over the two schools in the same year since 1995. On Friday night, Arizona State toppled Southern California in four games (29-27, 25-23, 14-25, 25-23) in Tempe, led by senior outside hitter Sarah Reaves with 17 kills and sophomore middle hitter Erica Wilson and freshman outside hitter Danica Mendivil with 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Junior setter Cat Highmark led the squad with 45 assists while senior libero Sarah Johnson posted a team-high 19 digs. Wilson also posted an impressive eight blocks in the win. The Sun Devils locked down the USC offense with 15.5 total blocks for the match. The following night, Arizona State shocked UCLA in four games (28-26, 25-19, 26-24, 25-20). Reaves again led the squad with 23 kills, with 11 of those coming in the first game. Three Sun Devil players racked up double-digit dig figures in the match, led by Johnson with 24, freshman Stephanie Preach with 20 and Highmark with 14. Arizona State again claimed the blocking battle, 13.5 to 7.0, led by junior middle hitter Sonja Markanovich with nine stuffs in the match. “We are letting people that don’t believe in us take a second look and [think] ‘actually this team can compete in this conference,’” Markanovich told the Arizona State student newspaper The State Press. “It brought up our confidence. It brought up the confidence of the people looking at our program.”

No. 15 Michigan Defeats No. 20 Northwestern, Shares Conference Lead
The 15th-ranked Wolverines knocked off No. 20 Northwestern in four games (23-25, 25-22, 25-21, 26-24) Friday night in front of a sell-out crowd at Cliff Keen Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich., to sit atop the Big Ten standings with Illinois, each with a 7-1 league record, the best-ever conference start for the school. Michigan (18-2) is off to its best start in program history through 20 matches. The previous best mark was 16-4 during the 2007, 2008 and 2009 seasons. Freshman middle hitter Jennifer Cross led Michigan with a career-high 16 kills and added in a team-high five blocks as junior outside hitter Alex Hunt chipped in 12 kills. Senior setter Lexi Zimmerman dished out 41 assists to go along with her seven kills and eight digs, while junior libero Sloane Dunhoff moved into seventh on Michigan’s all-time career digs list with 17 against the Wildcats. "I thought that it was a good learning experience today,” said Michigan head coach Mark Rosen. “We talk a lot about being a really good team, but we have to learn how to win when we have everything going and playing our `A' game and when we don't. And tonight, it wasn't there, no question. We struggled offensively; we struggled with our serving at times. But yet, they found ways to win and people stepped up when they needed to. To me, that is a good sign, but we do need to get our game back in order. We did not play well tonight. I have to give credit Northwestern. They are a good blocking team. They are a very good system team. They kind of pick on your system and figure out how to get you out of it. They don't make a lot of errors and do put a lot of pressure on you with the defense they play. Those are things that factored into it."

Louisville Takes Down No. 21 Cincinnati For Share Of Big East Lead
Led by sophomore outside hitter Lola Arslanbekova with 24 kills on .419 hitting, Louisville fought back from a two-game deficit to defeat No. 21 Cincinnati in five games (23-25, 20-25, 25-17, 25-22, 15-10). It was the first win for the Cardinals over a ranked opponent since 2007 when Louisville defeated St. John’s in three games. It was also the first comeback after being down two games for the program since 2007 when they fought back to defeat Duke on Sept. 8. The loss marks the first for the Bearcats in conference play. In addition to Arslanbekova’s 24 kills, junior outside hitter Anastasia Artemeva chipped in 15 kills and freshman outside hitter Emily Juhl posted seven. Freshman setter Taylor Brauneis dished out 48 assists and three Cardinal players reached double-digit digs, led by freshman libero Caitlin Welch with 23, Brauneis with 18 and junior defensive specialist Maci Wachtel with 15, marks that were career highs for Welch and Wachtel. Junior middle hitter Gwen Rucker came up big at the net, racking up a school-record 13 blocks, including three solo efforts. For the match, Louisville out-blocked Cincinnati 19.0 to 5.0. "I have been saying all season that the toughness of our non-conference schedule would pay off down the line," said U of L head coach Leonid Yelin. "I am very proud of the way we hung in there after we had our backs against wall. Our fans really helped us stay energized."

Virginia Tech Tops No. 26 Duke
For just the second time in program history, Virginia Tech defeated Duke in four games (25-18, 21-25, 25-20, 25-17). The win also snaps the Blue Devils’ 13-match ACC winning streak, dating back to Nov. 2009, and gives a loss to the last undefeated team in the conference. Felicia Willoughby led all players with a season-high 19 kills on .731 hitting (19-0-26) while Cara Baarendse and Justine Record tallied 14 and 13 kills, respectively. Erin Leaser dished out 49 assists and Morgan O’Neill picked up 17 digs. On the blocking front, Victoria Hamsher and Willoughby posted seven and six stuffs, respectively. Virginia Tech outblocked Duke 15-4 for the match.

Florida International Snaps Middle Tennessee’s Win Streak
Florida International handed Sun Belt Conference rival Middle Tennessee its first conference loss of the season in four games (25-23, 22-25, 25-23, 25-19) Friday night. The win also gives Panthers sixth-year head coach 128 career wins, making her the second-winningest coach in FIU volleyball history. Sabrina Gonzalez led Florida International with a career-high 17 kills on .484 hitting (17-2-31) while Andrea Lakovic posted 14 kills on .520 hitting (14-1-25) and Marija Prsa chipped in 11 kills in her first collegiate match. Natalia Valentin dished out 49 assists and added 16 digs for her seventh double-double of the season, while Prsa led the squad in digs with 17. Lakovic topped the blocking charts with five stuffs.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Volleyball and Ethics

By Kathy DeBoer

I attended a conference this week where I sat on a panel with Beth Bass, my counterpart at the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, and also listened to the new NCAA President, Mark Emmert, speak on topics of his choice. Beth stated very directly that the single biggest threat to collegiate women’s basketball is the deterioration of ethical behavior in the recruitment of student-athletes. Dr. Emmert, who had been on the job for only five days, said that while female student-athletes consistently outperformed male student-athletes in the classroom, women’s sports are starting to look more like men’s sports in the incidence of rule breaking by coaches.

My cynical side immediately associated these pronouncements as associated with ‘money sports,’ and exempted volleyball due to our relative poverty. Then, however, I remembered that almost every year the Division I Recruiting Task Force tries to get the membership to vote to reinstate the one-time transfer exception. The rationale for the request is always the same: accusations that coaches, both collegiate and club, are tampering with student-athletes and encouraging the unhappy ones to simply transfer to another program. Or, the routine comment that only the programs that are failing at recruiting are abiding by the contact restrictions for underclassman. Or, the throw-away remark that you need a young male assistant coach as your top recruiter because they can party with the club coaches at tournaments and, thereby, get you access to the top under-age prospects.

Throwing stones at other sports about ethical shortcomings is easy and false absolution, whereas addressing ethical issues ourselves is difficult and uncomfortable. I had another exchange at this conference that awakened me in to my own level of disengagement on this subject. After a banquet, I approached the Cal Athletic Director, Sandy Barbour, and thanked her for voting against the override of Sand Volleyball. “I don’t know why you did it,” I said, “but it was a close vote, and every ‘no’ vote was important.” I just assumed she had based her vote on a hardnosed calculation of competitive advantage, yet I knew Cal already had more sports than they could afford financially, so I could not see the pragmatic rational.

“You don’t know why I did it?” she repeated slowly her voice dripping with incredulity. “I did it because it was the right thing to do.”

I don’t repeat this story to re-open any debate on the sanity or insanity of adding Sand Volleyball to the Emerging Sports List. I repeat it because hearing an administrator talk unapologetically about right and wrong shocked me. I consider that more an indictment of my own state of mind than hers.

Maybe it is time we start having these discussions.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ideas to Boost Match Attendance

By Phil Bush

Jam The Gym, Cram the Cave, Pack the House – Some Ideas on Focused Attendance

Or, “I went to an Event and a Volleyball Game Broke Out.”

That last statement being somewhat cynical, but I want to encourage all coaches out there that are looking for people to show up to their events- Don’t Focus ALL of Your Marketing on “Pure” Volleyball. You only create new fans when you get people in the building who have not been there before!! Attendance is what it is all about.

Attendance is the area that we always come back to. It’s all about having “butts in seats!” No argument from me! I always feel like the biggest tragedy there is when matches are played with very small numbers in the building. It particularly drives me crazy if the Volleyball Team is playing in a huge building- and no one shows up. Then it’s not only embarrassing, it’s almost like the “Home Court Disadvantage.” College Coaches: If no one shows up to a match what does a Recruit think? “Boy, I want to play the next four years in front of ‘No One’?” I doubt that!
So, people invariably have that one or two nights where they are playing a great team, and that is part of the attraction “Come see #1 Penn State as we Jam The Gym” I am sure was a Rallying cry in the Big 10 over the last several years. Whatever the case, it’s not as simple as putting up flyers. There are some things to think about to pump up the attendance.

Focus on Groups. I have long helped our clients focus on Group Attendance. Groups WANT to find things to go do as a group. Volleyball is fun, entertaining, and a break from the everyday thing. So, wherever you are located, think of all of the Groups that are around:

School Groups: Fraternity, Sorority, Dormitory, ROTC – the list goes on and on
Alumni Groups: Instead of just meeting at a restaurant, go do something fun
Community Groups: Schools, Churches, Clubs, and of course Juniors

Once you identify some different constituents to focus on, it’s likely you will need to make a personal appeal. For those of you who are short-staffed (isn’t everyone?) maybe you can get an Intern to help out, make some phone calls, etc. Either way, it won’t happen just because you say “Match Tonight!” A personal phone call could work.

There are a lot of ideas. Some examples are listed below. Don’t ever forget that it is NOT about Volleyball to a lot of people- it’s about having fun! Create an “Event” type atmosphere and you might be surprised what else happens:

Attendance Contests: There is nothing, especially with Campus Groups, that gets the juices flowing more than Attendance Contests. If you offer up prizes based on the most present or highest percentage attendance, sponsors will often help out with basic things. Special Volleyball t-shirts for everyone in the winning group. Campus Groups love to fight it out amongst themselves.

Holiday tie Ins: Halloween is coming up- have a Group Costume Contest- yes, you can have a regular one, but does that drive numbers? Not really. So- make it a group attendance contest, where you must have a minimum of “X” participants. That way, the Group has to show up.

Recognition of the Group Aloud and on Scoreboards. Make sure if the group is there, you thank them for being there and make it public. Gives them a chance to scream about it.

Attendance Night Party: After one particularly Big match- host a party outside. I’m not suggesting a lot, but perhaps, a DJ, some drinks, and some food- again, everyone deals with budget, but you get the idea. Music is a great way for people to connect. The team can join the party as well, and say Thank You to everyone for coming out.

On Court Contests: Have a special set of contests that take place for the group or groups that are in attendance. This is often fun as they can cheer (Or heckle) their own!

Coach Pre-Game Talk: Head Coaches often have gaps in their schedule- they can go to a separate room and speak to the Group that is in attendance- that Group now feels like they are “insiders” for a night!

There are tons of ideas. I encourage you to come up with your own- but don’t just put up signs and say “Match Tonight.” You are likely to be disappointed!!

(Phil Bush will be Blogging from time to time over the fall on Promotion/Production of Volleyball. Follow his thoughts at as well.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Look At The Weekend (Oct. 8-10)

By Jen Armson-Dyer

UCLA Hands Stanford First Loss Of The Season
Behind a career-high 25 kills from sophomore Rachael Kidder, 12th-ranked UCLA stunned No. 1 and undefeated Stanford in five games (25-21, 16-25, 25-27, 25-23, 15-12) on Saturday. Senior outside hitter Dicey McGraw and junior middle hitter Katie Camp chipped in 14 and 10 kills, respectively, for the Bruins as Kidder added 11 digs for her first career double-double. Junior libero Lainey Gera led all players with 25 digs in the win, as sophomore outside hitter Bojana Todorovic picked up 16 digs and Camp posted a team-high six blocks for UCLA. For Stanford, senior outside hitter Alix Klineman pounded 27 kills as sophomore outside hitter Hayley Spelman notched 12 and junior Stephanie Browne led all players with nine blocks. “The girls were just ready,” said UCLA head coach Mike Sealy. “They wanted to play, they wanted to beat Stanford. It’s a great win, I’m going to enjoy it. It gives us the confidence that maybe we were lacking. We knew we were a good team but we had some ups and downs. . I think (Kidder’s) finally discovering actually who she is, so it’s nice to finally meet the real Rachael.”

Indiana Shocks Penn State
For the first time in program history, Indiana defeated Penn State, ousting the fourth-ranked Nittany Lions in four games (25-19, 27-25, 18-25, 26-24). Sophomore outside hitter Jordan Haverly pounded 21 kills as senior middle hitter Ashley Benson notched 12 kills on .529 hitting. Indiana was hot from behind the service line, racking up seven aces, including four from sophomore setter Whitney Granado. Junior libero Caitlin Cox picked up 15 digs to lead the Hoosiers, while Benson topped the blocking list with five. For Penn State, senior opposite Blair Brown recorded 16 kills while senior middle hitter Arielle Wilson and freshman outside hitter Deja McClendon added in 15 and 14 kills, respectively. "Everybody stepped up tonight, and in order to win we needed every single person to do just that," said Indiana head coach Sherry Dunbar. "When you play a team like Penn State, if you don't take some big swings you're simply not going to win. I felt we did that tonight, especially early on, we took some huge swings."

Michigan Takes Down Illinois
Led by senior setter Lexi Zimmerman’s second career triple double (43 assists, 13 digs, 13 kills on .500 hitting), No. 18 Michigan took out No. 6 Illinois in four games (28-26, 25-19, 19-25, 26-24), handing the Fighting Illini their first loss of the Big Ten season and moving into a tie with them for first in the Big Ten. Junior outside hitter Alex Hunt pounded 19 kills in the four-game win while junior libero Sloane Donhoff led the team with three service aces and 22 digs. Freshman middle hitter Jennifer Cross recorded six blocks, including two solo efforts, while Zimmerman added four stuffs. Junior outside hitter Colleen Ward led Illinois with 17 kills while senior outside hitter Laura DeBruler and junior outside hitter Michelle Bartsch added 12 and 10 kills, respectively. The Fighting Illini were once again without the services of 6-3 sophomore middle hitter Erin Johnson, who is out with mono. “We are trying to progress through the season,” said Michigan head coach Mark Rosen. “In the Big Ten, you have 20 matches, and you want to get as many wins as you can. You don't get any more points for beating a high-ranked team or a low-ranked team. That is what our team really feeds off of, playing a great opponent who is going to give you a really good challenge. I thought we really stepped up to that challenge today.”

USC Ousts Cal
The Women of Troy handed the Golden Bears their first loss of the season as No. 8 Southern California downed No. 7 Cal in five games (25-19, 25-23, 23-25, 23-25, 17-15), including rallying from a 14-12 deficit in the fifth game. Junior outside hitter Alex Jupiter posted a season-high 26 kills while freshman outside hitter Falyn Fonoimoana notched 15 kills and freshman middle hitter Alexis Olgard recorded a career-best 12 kills. Junior setter Kendall Bateman dished out 64 assists and added 12 digs as Jupiter led the team with 18 digs and four blocks. For Cal, junior outside hitter Tarah Murrey posted 34 kills. “Both teams were where they wanted to be (in the fifth game),” said USC head coach Mick Haley. “Once we tied it (at 14-14 in game five), then it seemed like it was going to be ok. Cal is a real good team, like Stanford, but I think that no one is dominating right now.”

Kansas Stuns Iowa State
For the first time in program history, Kansas defeated a top-10 opponent as the Jayhawks stunned No. 10 Iowa State in four games (25-14, 25-23, 20-25, 25-17). Senior outside hitter Karina Garlington led Kansas with 18 kills as senior outside hitter Jenna Kaiser posted 12 and sophomore middle hitter Tayler Tolefree posted 11 kills with only one error on 15 attacks to hit .667. Senior Melissa Manda led all players with a career-high 32 digs as junior setter Nicole Tate dished out 48 assists and added in 14 digs for her fourth straight double-double. For the Cyclones, senior outside hitter Victoria Henson led the squad with 22 kills as junior Kelsey Petersen chipped in 10 and senior libero Ashley Mass picked up a team-high 22 digs.

Northwestern Tops Minnesota
Senior middle hitter Sabel Moffett recorded a career-best 14 blocks, one off the school record, to lead No. 24 Northwestern to a four-game victory (20-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-21) over No. 16 Minnesota, and move the Wildcats into a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten with Michigan and Illinois. As a team, the Wildcats outblocked the Golden Gophers 18-9, and six Northwestern players recorded multiple blocks in the contest, led by Moffett. Sophomore outside hitter Madalyn Shalter posted five, freshman outside hitter Stephanie Holthus and senior setter Elyse Glab each notched four, senior middle hitter Naomi Johnson tallied three and senior outside hitter Christina Kaelin posted two. Offensively, Kaelin and Johnson led Northwestern with 13 and 10 kills, respectively. Glab dished out 36 assists and sophomore libero Julie Chin led the Wildcats with 17 digs. For Minnesota, sophomore outside hitter Tabi Love and freshman outside hitter Ashley Wittman each tallied 14 kills as junior libero Jessica Granquist led all players with 25 digs and junior middle hitter Ariana Filho recorded six blocks. "Our entire team came ready to play tonight, and especially Sabel," said Northwestern head coach Keylor Chan. "She was having a quiet match offensively, but more than made up for it on the block. That seemed to energize the rest of the team, and this was a great team effort to beat a very good Minnesota team. Just another phenomenal weekend to be a 'Cat."

Other Notable Matches:
- Louisville def. Notre Dame, 3-1 (25-21, 23-25, 25-19, 25-17). Freshman outside hitter Emily Juhl’s career-high 16 kills helped the Cardinals snap the Fighting Irish’s 19-match regular-season Big East winning streak.

- Buffalo def. Ball State, 3-2 (28-26, 20-25, 25-19, 19-25, 15-13). The Bulls picked up their first-ever win over the Cardinals led by senior middle hitter Kristin Bignell and senior outside hitter Marisa Hornbaker with 10 kills apiece.

- Miami (Ohio) def. Ohio, 3-1 (10-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-20). Four RedHawk players reached double-digit kills in the win, led by junior outside hitter Colleen Loftus with 12.

- TCU def. New Mexico, 3-0 (25-21, 27-25, 25-23). The Horned Frogs stretched their conference home winning streak to 11 matches with the sweep. Junior outside hitter Jordan Raines posted her third double-double of the season with 12 kills and a career-high 19 digs.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Volleyball and Girls' High School Sports

By Kathy DeBoer

Whenever I attend a high school clinic I ask the attendees what they think is the most popular sport for girls in their state. I almost always get the same answer – basketball – and, more often than not, that answer is wrong. Basketball is the top participation sport for girls in only 9 states nationally, as opposed to 22 for volleyball and 13 for soccer.

Actually, we come by our misperception honestly because the bulk of the coverage of girls' sports by the media in both print and broadcast is basketball. The assumption made by those that choose what is covered is that male and female athletes will gravitate to the same sports, and that the viewing public will follow. Even though there is now much evidence to the contrary, this bias persists.

Let me give you an example: in August of 2009, Jim Lee, the president of the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association, told me that the state high school league was on the verge of signing a new long-term agreement to televise certain state championships and volleyball was not one of them. Examination of participation statistics made this a ridiculous decision: girls' volleyball had 15,552 high school participants in Minnesota, second only to football, 2000 more than boys' basketball, 4000 more than girls' basketball and 10,000 more than either girls' or boys' hockey, the other sports that were slated for the TV package. Fortunately, Jim and his counterparts on the MVBCA board made a great case for volleyball with both the league and KSTC-TV, and, the likelihood of the state volleyball championship appearing next month on Channel 45 ( is a possibility.

When I questioned those in the state association about their criteria for sports in the television package, they said volleyball was not included because there was no market demand for it. I asked what kind of success they were having selling the other girls' sport in their package. ‘None’, they said, but these sports were included because the boys' counterpart is popular in Minnesota.

The most effective way for our community to counter this ‘popular boys' sport’ argument is to show the phenomenal success girls' volleyball has had nationally based on its own merits. To do this, we must know our facts.

In 22 states, starting in Ohio and going across all of the upper Midwest to the west coast, volleyball is the top team sport for girls. Find your state and look at the numbers.

In 27 states there are more girls playing high school volleyball than basketball. This is relevant because volleyball and basketball compete for the same body types – we both want the long, lean, athletic ones. My own bias is that they all play both sports through high school, but that is another blog.

Over the last five years, volleyball participation has grown most significantly in the south and the east. What we know for sure is girls will play if a team is offered.

As Jim Lee demonstrated in Minnesota, WE must be our own advocates and knowledge about the popularity of volleyball is our best weapon.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Yikes - A Social Network for Bad Coaching

By Terry Pettit

Bingo Hermann – Assistant Coach – UKA
I want some advice. We went 3 and 23 this year and I think the head coach is going to get fired, which is really unfair, because in the video we got of our freshman setter from Slovakia you couldn’t tell she only had three fingers on her left hand, and what I want to know is when the head coach gets the footballarooski, what are my chances for the head job?

Wally Fodemski – Yorkville Window Replacement College:
Sometimes I deliberately turn in the wrong lineup just to see how my team handles it. Also, I like to order applesauce at Burger King. Same thing.

Guenther Stinkfowl – Tammy Faye Baker University
Give each of your players a few bucks depending upon how good they hit the ball. This is not so good idea. This is what my athletics director tells me. But what I don’t get is why it is good for basketball player?

Tammy Lou Turnipseed – Chatahoochie Community College
In the last four years we are 527 and 3 and I can’t get an xxxxxxx
interview at a xxx xxxx Baptist college. What’s up with that?

Boyd Webber III – Wyoming Institute of Technology
On recruiting: If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it is probably a duck . . . or a coot . . . or a grebe or maybe a dwarf dressed up as a blue winged teal . . . or maybe some sort of pigeon mutation or . . .

Shirley Cleavage – Mount Pleasant
Has anybody out there ever used Member’s Mark Volleyballs? My S.W.A. says they are OFFICIAL. They look like xxxxing soccer balls to me.

Goat Bukowski – Newark Chef’s Academy
We have an open date on Sept 5, 12, 21, 28 and October 3, 10, and 21. We will travel if you promise to return sometime soon, preferably this season. Also we need five teams for our six-team invitational on Thanksgiving weekend.

Tom Tripe – Volunteer Coach MISTAK U.
I came up with this wonderful anagram for team building. Tell me what you think of it:

· T – Togetherness : We do everything together, well not exactly everything, but most things, except when we don’t.

· E – Eventually: Eventually everything will come together with our togetherness and we will start to win or at least not lose as much as we have been.

· A – A: A is our passing formation backwards in our fifth rotation because our libero who is at the top of the “A” which is near the baseline can’t pass.

· M – Mighty Marmots: This was our old nickname until one of the players looked it up on Wikipedia and discovered what a marmot is, which is not very attractive or athletic, and then we looked at ourselves and our record, and decided a more accurate description would be Relatively Mighty Marmots, but that wouldn’t fit in the anagram.

· Tammy Lou Turnipseed
· Boyd Webber III
· Goat Bukowski

Farmville to Shirley Cleavage – Mount Pleasant
Wally Fodemski found a deflated Voit volleyball on your Turnip Farm. It was being used as a doorstop.

Terry Pettit is the author of Talent and the Secret Life of Teams. From now through December 1, 2010 Coaches who order 5 or more copies of Talent and the Secret Life of Teams at will receive a free telephone consultation with Coach Pettit on a coaching issue of their choosing.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Facing the Floodwaters and Adversity – Iowa State Volleyball

By Jen Armson-Dyer

YouTube Video by Iowa State of the floods of 2010 and Hilton Coliseum:

Preseason is hard enough for many athletes and coaches, but when Mother Nature gets involved, things get a little more difficult.

It was a wet summer in Ames, Iowa, and a storm that dropped reported amounts of up to nine inches of rain over three days forced the waters of Squaw Creek out of their banks and turned parts of the Iowa State campus into a lake. Unfortunately, the partially-submerged island in the middle of the lake turned out to be Hilton Coliseum, the home of the Cyclones men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball and wrestling teams.

When head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch first heard that there was flooding at Hilton Coliseum, she didn’t panic.

“At first I thought it would be a minor inconvenience,” she said. “I didn’t realize the extent of the damage and what it would mean for the season. I thought we’d only be out of there for a couple of days. And then I actually walked into Hilton and saw the volleyball floor floating on water and went into our offices and saw how deep the water was there, and I got an idea of what all was ruined. Then it started to dawn on me that we weren’t talking just a couple of days, that it was going to be pretty significant.”

The arena floor of Hilton Coliseum was covered with more than eight feet of water, and since early August equates to preseason in the women’s collegiate world, the team was in full swing of training. That means that all of the equipment necessary for practice was also out on the floor – the nets, the balls, the ball carts, the hitting boxes, the whistles and ball pumps. The locker room was also a hub of equipment – shoes, uniforms, practice gear, personal items – and since it’s located on the floor level, it was completely submerged.

But perhaps the most ironic and overwhelming part for the Cyclones coaching staff to deal with was their office. They had been working out of temporary offices on the ground floor of the arena because they were getting ready to move into new offices that were being built for them – a floor above. All of their files, their computers and video equipment, their storage of matches and their books were ruined by the floodwaters that came pouring in.

Now, in addition to preseason training, the staff had to figure out how to get everything back. They found space to practice on the west side of Ames that had hosted some spring training and the staff moved into the women’s basketball offices. They began the grueling job of inventorying and reordering everything, and getting it the way it was, especially for the computer equipment.

“Almost every single thing that had to do with the program was lost,” said Johnson-Lynch. “It’s been stressful on our staff but we have a really positive group of people and a really great support staff and administration that has really chipped in.”

The largest and most difficult item to replace was the Hilton Coliseum wood floor, which was floating on the floodwaters and would take several months to replace. So now in addition to replacing everything, the team had no home.

As soon as the extent of the storm and the damage was becoming clear, Judge Johnston, the Athletic Director at Ames High School, said he knew he needed to do something. He sent an email to the athletic department letting them know that whatever they needed, Ames High would be there to help. The athletic department took him up on the offer.

In addition to volleyball, the soccer and cheerleading teams also temporarily used the facilities at Ames High School, but because of the floor at Hilton, volleyball needed to find a place to play its matches.

“The people at Iowa State sat down and made the decision to stay local and use our facility, which would mean selling fewer seats, but the atmosphere they wanted to create in our gym has been amazing, fun and exciting,” said Johnston.

The Ames High School gym has a capacity of 2,000. Iowa State ranked ninth nationally in attendance in 2009 with an average of 2,700, including a match of more than 10,000 people in Hilton Coliseum when the Cyclones took on Nebraska. What happened next is one of the silver linings of the situation, according to Johnson-Lynch.

Because people wanted to make sure they were able to see Iowa State play in the smaller facility, season ticket sales went from around 600 in 2009 to selling out at 1,500 for the 2010 season. The additional seats at Ames High School are reserved for Lil Clone Club members and their chaperones and students on a first-come, first-served basis. Once each match begins, athletic department officials determine if any more seats are available and will sell a few single-match tickets at the door for some matches.

“Our fans have really taken notice and wanted to guarantee that they’d be able to see us play,” said Johnson-Lynch. “They have been great and understanding. I’ve heard a couple of coaches say that it’s a hard place to play because the crowd is so packed and so close and rowdy. It’s so loud you can’t hear anything. It’s a pretty nice home court advantage.”

Senior libero Ashley Mass agrees, and even though she’d like to be playing her final season at Hilton Coliseum, she’s more than happy to call Ames High her home court.

“It gets crazy sometimes not having your space and living out of your gym bag, but our fans are awesome, they’re the best. They pack the gym and that place can get loud and crazy and there’s times where you can’t hear what’s going on on the court. It’s an awesome environment.”

Even with the great environment, there were some logistics to deal with, including a big one that no one saw coming.

“We didn’t realize that the size of the court for volleyball in high school in Iowa is different than for college,” said Johnson-Lynch with a laugh. “Someone thought to measure it before our first match. I had no idea.”

For the first weekend of play, they had to tape down lines, and then attempt to cover the high school lines with neutral-looking tape to cut down on the confusion. After that, Iowa State was able to obtain a Sport Court to clean up the look of the court, which also came in handy when Nebraska came to town and the match was televised on ESPN.

The television match presented another host of problems for the event and support staff, as they had to check the lighting and space for cameras all while looking to support a sellout crowd. Johnston credits basketball in helping Ames High being prepared for these challenges.

“The good thing for us, and what has helped from our side, is that we’re coming off one of the greatest basketball players ever at Ames High in Harrison Barnes (the nation’s top prospect according to many), so for the last two years we’ve been maxed out in our gym, not only from a fan standpoint but also with media and technology.”

Iowa State has lost its ability to stream matches live on the internet but in the grand scheme of things, the Cyclones seem to be gaining more than they’ve lost.

“This has shown us that we can come together in situations like this, being thrown into something, and be able to stay together as a team and work hard and still try to accomplish our goals,” said Mass. “It shows us that you can lose something instantly and you have to work around your problems and find other ways to make things better. I just think that we’re blessed to have the opportunity to play. Things could be way worse.”

For Johnson-Lynch and her staff, dealing with the circumstances has been trying but it’s all working out. And even though they lost everything in the flood, it’s making them appreciate what they do have.

“We’ve learned some good life lessons. Things happen unexpectedly that you can’t control, and you can complain about it or accept it and realize that sometimes bad things happen in life and you have to deal with it and stay positive and do the best you can to get through it. I think sometimes our teams get used to having things pretty easy, like having nice locker rooms, staying in nice hotels, having charter flights, that you can begin to take that for granted after awhile. This was a reminder to appreciate what we have and to put it in perspective, that even though this was a trying time for us, there were people that lost their homes in the flood, there were people that lost their lives in the flood, and when you look at it, what happened to us wasn’t really that bad. We were all safe, all of our homes were safe, we’ll get through it. It was just preparation for life. Sometimes in life bad things happen and you just have to deal with it.”

Friday, October 1, 2010

Volleyball and Practice Injuries

by Kathy DeBoer

I’m listening to Tom Black’s webinar on Serving Statistics, which, by the way, was full of really useful information, and he asks the question: do you serve more balls in practice than you hit?

As I’m contemplating his question, I’m also reviewing Dr. Bill Briner’s article on injuries that will appear in this month’s Coaching Volleyball. Briner using data from the NCAA Injury Surveillance Survey( gives us a second reason to consider serving more balls in practice than we hit: injury prevention.

I’ve inserted a chart from the ISS that reveals a troubling statistic: of the 15 team sports tracked, women’s volleyball is 2nd lowest in game injuries, but 10th in practice injury rate. If you put these two into a ratio comparing the rate of practice injuries with the rate of game injuries, women’s volleyball is higher than any of the 15 team sports tracked (4.1/4.6 = .89). In fact, our practice to game injury rate is significantly higher than men’s lacrosse (.25), men’s ice hockey(.12), and football (.11), all collision sports.

So, while we can brag about our game injury rate, only 4.6 per 1000 athlete-exposures, we must be concerned that almost as many athletes are getting hurt in our practices as in our matches, an unpleasant fact that negatively sets volleyball apart from the other sports.

Dr. Bill Briner posits in his article, Preventing Volleyball Injuries: Knees, Ankles and Stress Fractures, that overtraining may be the culprit. Our patterns of having young athletes engaged in high school and club volleyball for 10-11 months of the year, combined with the fact that volleyball is a high jump rate sport puts legs and backs at greater risk for injury than other sports where training is more controlled or sequenced.

I thought I would ask a coach, so since Tom was top-of-mind, having just completed his webinar, I asked for his thoughts on the reason for our high practice injury rate. He cited the habit of passing the ball ‘to the net’ which increased the risk of contact between the setter and blockers. He also spoke of hitter’s preferences, especially at the lower levels for ‘tight’ sets, which again increase the chances for landing on feet other than our own.

Clearly, both Briner’s and Black’s opinions are simply thoughtful speculations rather than researched data on this negative variance in women’s volleyball. Briner informed me that the NCAA will start publishing data on men’s volleyball injuries shortly and this will give us a same-sport comparison which we currently do not have. But, certainly, we have data that calls for further investigate.