Fall 2014 Blog – Post # 3


How much are you willing to invest in your role as a coach? For many years in clinic settings, I have challenged coaches with that question.   When the topic was related to assessing player and team performance, my position has been clear for a long time – reach into your pocket if that is what it takes. I don’t believe a coach can afford not to know with certainty what happened in the last match. Video takes care of that. Years ago, we were using some form of a camcorder.   Hopefully, our program had our own video equipment, but if we didn’t, then that became the first item on our fundraising agenda. I learned long ago that an investment in 1) video equipment and 2) my time and time delegated to assistant coaches, allowed our staff to walk into the gym the day after a match, and provide an accurate assessment of the team’s performance.  

Sure, we were keeping statistics during the match, and we were utilizing them to make adjustments, but often those statistics were not 100% accurate. Taking the time to watch matches back and charting all the statistics, allowed us to have solid public relations stats (in other words, to produce a box score for our Sports Information office). Equally, if not more important, and part of my challenge to coaches reading this – it allowed me to establish a part of our program culture at the beginning of practices following matches. Using the Socratic Method as we gathered around the white board at the beginning of practice, I would often ask our players open ended questions about our recent performance.   “In our four sets last night, in which set did we have our lowest attack percentage?”   “Which server for our opponent had the most effective serve rating?”   “How did we do with our performance objectives?”   These were the types of questions that had meaning in our program, because during practices we had a competitive environment where we were tracking statistics like this and reporting them.

Our players understood the difference between attack percentage (kills minus errors divided by total attacks) and first swing kill percentage. Our players had the effectiveness of their passes on serve reception rated on a scale of 0 to 3, and we often used a reverse scale for their serve by rating the opponent’s serve reception effectiveness. Our players went into every match with reminders of our particular performance objectives which typically included our target goal for kill/error ratio for each set; a team pass rating goal for each set; a serve ace to error ratio for each set; and a defensive percentage objective for each set.

The key to all of this was Video.

So, when I heard coaches at clinics tell me they did not have staff to take statistics – my response was, ‘how much are you willing to invest in your role as a coach”?   In other words “find a way to get your matches on tape”. Add to that recipe, your investment in whatever time it takes to watch each set and accurately create statistical information, and now you are in a much stronger position to effectively assess performance.

OK, fall of 2014 Coaches: Your team has already played some matches, so you have already established a pattern with your team this season related to the use of video, and statistical analysis. Take a minute and think about what that pattern is? Think about the volleyball IQ of your players.   To what degree are you challenging their thinking? Do you use performance objectives? Are you sure that the statistics you are sharing with your team are accurate?

Our program culture included the use of computer statistics/video technology – thanks in large part to the work of our assistant coaches. What was the result? Eventually, if we had a two hour bus ride home on a Tuesday night, I could call the setter up before the trip was over to sit with the coaches. We could click a few buttons and let her watch the 26 sets she gave to one of our middles during the match that night. She could go home having already looked at her technique, along with the consistency or lack of consistency with the location of sets.   The commitment to get the funding needed, and to train staff to utilize the technology, enhanced the quality of the athlete’s experience.

I’ll finish this week with a comment on TIVO. Looking back over 30 years of coaching, would I do things differently? YES! I would have purchased a TIVO system the first time I heard about it. In the last few years of my coaching, we added this to our practice culture. We had our live practices being videotaped on TIVO with a 30 second delay.   We used the TIVO in many ways. Often a coach would work with positional players where they were performing for 20 to 30 seconds, and then they could rotate to the TIVO and immediately watch it back with a coach and get specific skill feedback.

We gave permission for any players who rotated out of 6 vs 6 activities to go right to the TIVO system and play back two or three minutes to watch their performance or ask an assistant coach to review it with them. We often stopped practice and took the whole team over to watch the last few minutes of practice, and you can imagine the mileage we got out of that. My favorite memory was about “catching someone doing it right”. I brought the team over when a long rally ended and said, “Watch Itza for this whole rally”. She was a perfect model of a defensive specialist “effectively playing” when she was not touching the ball. Her movement from base to defense to coverage during our transition offense was amazing. She stayed low all the time. Her movement was efficient and purposeful. These were keys we had emphasized, and the video made her shine in front of everyone.

What do you need today to be a more effective coach in this area? An iPad and available “apps” out there would be a great start.

Next week > Blending the Pieces

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