Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Drill to Improve Quick Hitting

by Gregory Shell, Assistant Coach - Central Connecticut State University

Statistically, the most efficient attack in Volleyball is the Middle quick set, or “1” ball.  A good “1” hitter is an outstanding weapon, especially in transition; therefore the ability to slow down or stop a quick attack, especially with one blocker, is a really valuable defensive commodity.  Beyond controlled reps, and full live game action, we like to use a 1 vs. 1 vs. 1 “round robin” middles tournament to keep our players in a competitive environment while they work on this high value skill set.  (Note: this is NOT a good idea for athletes with overuse injuries—it is a fairly high number of jumps (24 total, 6 attacks and 6 blocks in each of 2 rounds) in a limited time frame, so be careful if you are in a gym that uses a jump count).

The drill format requires 2 passers, 2 setters, 3 Middles, 1 Coach or player to initiate the drill, and 1 Coach or player to score it.  The setup is a Middle, Setter, and passer on each side of the net.  The person initiating the drill sends a free ball to the passer on one side.  The ball is passed to the Setter, who sets a “1” for her Middle, who must swing—no tipping is allowed.   The opposing Middle attempts to block the attack.  The person initiating then tosses a free ball to the second Middle, and she attacks against the first Middle.  This is one complete rep.  After 3 reps, the Middles switch sides (so there is no advantage in working off of one particular passer/Setter combination), and they complete 3 more reps to finish off the first round. 

 Since this is a “round robin” drill, there are a total of 3 rounds, Middle A vs. Middle B, B vs. C, and A vs. C.  Middle A has a pretty clear advantage, with the break of the second round to rest…the pace the drill is run at can have a significant impact on the outcome—deliberately paced gives a more realistic comparison between your Middles.

The most interesting variable in the drill is the scoring.  This can be adjusted to reflect your individual preferences; it can emphasize offense, defense, or a combination of both.  The following scoring system is solely offense based:  the offense scores 2 for a clean kill, 1 for a kill off the block, 0 for a ball hit off the block that the defense should be able to play, 0 for a blocked ball, and -1 for a ball hit directly out of bounds or into the net.  Defense does not score, but does prevent the offense from scoring.  (If you want to stress this as a “2 way” drill, +1 to the defense for a block, but be sure to balance it out—a net violation on D should score as -1 for the Defensive Middle, to keep everyone honest.)

Outside of adjusting the scoring format, there is one variation that you can make depending on your personnel.  If there is one Setter that is much stronger than the others, and you want a better read on her connection with your Middles, the same Setter can set both sides of the drill.  A slow pace is critical if you use this variant, or you will have one very tired, very dizzy Setter. 

I wouldn’t recommend this drill as a starting place for training the Middle position or the quick attack—it is more of a measuring stick to gauge the Middles’ progress and relative ability.  It will give you some comparative player data (on not only your Middles performance, but also the Setters’ ability to set a good quick to each hitter if you choose to track it), a very competitive positional environment, and probably a few highlight kills along the way.  Happy (Quick) Hitting!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Compliance Hot Topics

 by Kat Devenport, Compliance Coordinator - University of Arkansas
Over the past year, the NCAA has significantly modified many pieces of its Division I legislation from deregulating the rules regarding meals to changing the definition of a “full-grant-in-aid” to include “other expenses related to attendance at the institution.”  However, one of the most significant changes has been to the initial-eligibility requirements for both Division I and Division II institutions.  Although these changes do not take effect until August 1, 2016, for Division I schools or August 1, 2018, for Division II schools, the impact of these changes could affect your recruiting strategies now.
Outlined below are the new initial-eligibility requirements for college-bound student-athletes enrolling on or after August 1, 2016 (Division I) and on or after August 1, 2018 (Division II). 
I.                  New Division I Academic Eligibility Requirements (Beginning August 1, 2016)
Three Possible Initial-Eligibility Outcomes: (http://www.ncaapublications.com/productdownloads/CBSA15.pdf)
  • (1) Qualifier: If a college-bound student-athlete meets all the requirements listed below, he or she may receive athletics aid, practice and compete in the first year of full-time enrollment.
    • Must complete the 16 core course requirement;
      • Ten of the 16 core courses must be completed before the start of the seventh semester (senior year) of high school.
        • Seven of those 10 core courses must be English, math or natural or physical science.
    • Must earn at least a 2.300 GPA in NCAA core courses.
      • Grades earned in the 10 courses required before the seventh semester, including seven in English, math or natural or physical science, are “locked in” for purposes of core-course GPA calculation.
    • Must meet the sliding scale of core-course GPA and SAT/ACT sum score (see diagram below); and
    • Must graduate from high school.
  • (2) Academic Redshirt: If a college-bound student-athlete does NOT meet all of the initial-eligibility standards for a qualifier listed above, a separate certification is completed using the 16 core courses with the best grades in the student’s academic record (no core-course progression requirement) to calculate the core-course GPA for academic redshirt purposes. An academic redshirt certification means the student-athlete may receive athletics aid in the first year of full-time enrollment and may practice in the first regular academic term. However, he or she may not compete in the first year of enrollment. The student-athlete must successfully complete nine semester hours (or eight quarter hours) in the initial term at his/her college or university to continue to practice in the next term.
    • Must complete the 16 core-course requirement;
      • Courses, including repeats, may be completed at any time during the first eight semesters of high school (no grades or credits are “locked in.”)
    • Must meet the sliding scale of core-course GPA and SAT/ACT sum score (see diagram below); and
    • Must graduate from high school.
  • (3) Nonqualifier: You will not be able to practice, receive an athletics scholarship or compete during your first year of enrollment at a Division I school.

II.               New Division II Academic Eligibility Requirements (Beginning August 1, 2018)
Three Possible Initial-Eligibility Outcomes: (http://www.ncaapublications.com/productdownloads/CBSA15.pdf)
  • (1) Qualifier: If a college-bound student-athlete meets all the requirements in this category, he or she may receive athletics aid, practice and compete in the first year of full-time enrollment.
    • Must complete the 16 core course requirement;
    • Must earn at least a 2.200 GPA in NCAA core courses.
    • Must meet the sliding scale of core-course GPA and SAT/ACT sum score (see diagram below); and
    • Must graduate from high school.
  • (2) Partial Qualifier: If a college-bound student-athlete does NOT meet all of the initial-eligibility standards to be certified as a qualifier, he or she may still be certified as a partial qualifier if the requirements below are satisfied.  A partial qualifier may receive an athletics scholarship during his or her first year of enrollment and may practice during his or her first year of enrollment, but may NOT compete.
    • Must complete the 16 core-course requirement;
    • Must meet the sliding scale of core-course GPA and SAT/ACT sum score (see diagram below); and
    • Must graduate from high school.
  • (3) Nonqualifier:  A college-bound student-athlete who does not meet the initial-eligibility requirements for a qualifier or a partial qualifier, will be a nonqualifier.  A nonqualifier will not be able to practice, receive an athletics scholarship or compete during his or her first year of enrollment at a Division II school.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Simplifying the Game Over Fish Tacos

by Andrew Fuller - Sand Assistant Coach, University of Southern California
Something that's on my radar right now was brought to me by Will Montgomery, a beach player from Santa Barbara, Calif. who is working to establish himself as one of the top defenders in America. Will won an NCAA National Championship as a member of the UC Irvine Men’s Volleyball team and is generally regarded as one of the hardest working players on tour. 

Over a dinner of fish tacos that kept me up way past my bedtime, Will described his decision making process that can be applied to a lot of facets of the game. 

His first example is in sideout. If he gets a perfect set, that's an “A" situation, in which he's going for a clean kill on the first ball. If the set is a grade below, that's a "B," which necessitates a reasonably tough swing INTO the court, hopefully at the person who you'd rather have hitting back at you. Live another day! 

Linkedin/Will Montgomery
I love the simplicity of Will's thought process and how it gets you thinking about not only the situation given to you, but how to create better situations. I encourage a lot of the college players I work with to emulate the game being played at the World Tour and AVP level, which has more aggressive serving and swings, hand setting, varied offensive systems and more complex defensive schemes. 

I urge our players to look for opportunities within their practices or matches that are "A" opportunities, which they can use to push past our comfort zone and try something that's being used at a higher level. 

Is the pass “A” quality and lifted enough to a good location on the court? Try a hand set that perhaps you aren't typically going for!

Do you have an easy free ball being sent your way? Try passing it wide for an untouched option swing! Did we throw up a jump serve toss? Is it an “A" toss? Take a crack! Is it a “B” toss? Chip it deep middle!

Does the other team have an "A" attacking opportunity? It could be your chance to audible and try something different on defense. Does the other team have a “B” attacking opportunity? Lock them down and play disciplined defense because you have the advantage now. 

I like that this thought process promotes the creation and pursuit of good “A" opportunities, and then capitalizing on any opportunities created or found. It also creates a coaching language that applies to many facets of the game, which simplifies communication when matches get tight.

If we aren't continually trying to develop our game then we aren't operating at the edge of our abilities, and “A” or “B” makes it easy to assess our opportunities to grow. 

By the way, the fish tacos were an “A,” and we devoured them.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Improving Quality of Life for Volleyball Coaches

by Erik Sullivan - University of Texas, Assistant Coach

Volleyball has been very good to me. It has been an integral part of my life since the moment I took it up as a young teenager. It has afforded me amazing experiences as both a player and now as a coach. Since making the transition from player to coach, I have been fortunate enough to work with three great staffs at three wonderful universities. This journey has come with a bit of luck, a tremendous amount of hard work and many tough choices relating to managing my life outside of volleyball. It is so easy to get wrapped up in this sport and lose sight some of the most important things in life.

I have had numerous, heated discussions regarding “quality of life” with other coaches, especially as it relates to keeping females in the profession. What’s amazing to me, though, is that there is not more of a voice coming from the male side as well. It almost seems taboo to bring it up, as it might imply that we are not willing to work hard if we have the desire to be more actively involved in our children’s lives or have a life outside the gym. I have made certain decisions that have shaped my volleyball career, both as an athlete and a coach, based on my desire to do just that. I retired from the international game shortly after starting our family because the travel was extensive and I felt that I was missing so much being on the road such a large part of the time.

Is there an easy way to change the coaching profession to help accommodate a better quality of life? I’m not sure, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try. Sometimes it seems that we are simply along for the ride. We as coaches seem to have a reactionary existence, “What are the rules and how can I function within them to be successful?” Why shouldn’t we be proactive in creating the rules that shape our profession to our benefit?

 One idea being thrown around pertains to adjusting the recruiting calendar. I know this has been discussed ad nauseam and we will never have a consensus where this is concerned, but it seems to me that managing our recruiting calendar is the simplest way to find more balance in our lives. By creating additional quiet periods and/or reducing the number of recruiting days allowed, we could elicit the following benefits:

•    More time that we can’t and therefore don’t feel like we have to be on the road.
•    Reduce pressure on clubs and PSAs by giving them more time to prepare as well as alleviating the feeling that they have to be at their best in January.
•    Even out the playing field for programs that don’t have the manpower or the means to take advantage of all 80 days.
•    Reduction in recruiting budgets or the ability to use it more effectively.

Perhaps the concept of less evaluation opportunities might also slow the recruiting process down as it will be difficult to spend time evaluating the younger age groups if our time is limited.   As technology continues to develop, video evaluation could also become a more integral part of the process. Could we not spend more time evaluating video the way football and basketball do?

                                     (Editor's Video)

I know that in the past we’ve tried making changes only to quickly move back to what we did previously. I also understand that every program is unique and has its own set of needs.  There is certainly no one-size-fits-all set of rules that would benefit everybody, but I think we can find a better system.  I hope this article will illicit more good discussions about the coaching profession and how we can create some balance in order to all have long, healthy coaching careers while still being able to enjoy life outside the gym.