Deciding on the starting lineup weeks in advance? I don’t.

Coach Houser:
We’ve been practicing 2 weeks, and I want to let my players know their role on the team this week. We start our lineup and practices on Tuesday with running our offense and defensive systems. We have five weeks before our Power League, which is a national qualifying event. We have to qualify for the league then finish first in the league to win the bid. If we finish in the top three then we will qualify with an allocated bid if the region gets one.

Dear Coach:
Why do you have to make a decision? If you have kids who can play different positions, I wouldn’t finalize my starting lineup until the week before. BUT, I’d give my kids A LOT of reps FOR WEEKS in the positions I feel like they will eventually be playing in.

Example: Last night I had my smaller of my 4 OH’s playing libero. At practice Wednesday I will rotate them, Sunday rotate again…. and I will continue to do that practice after practice until about a week before our first tournament (Jan 14-16). That’s when I’ll finalize my starting lineup. Regardless of whether that works well or not, the first practice of the next week, the girls will be rotated again.

I do this because I want (a) the girls to be very knowledgeable at playing those positions b/c there will be emergencies, injuries, etc.; (b) I want there to be competition….”If I stink, I’ll lose this spot,” and; (c) I want to see what these girls can do. I want to see if the 5’7″ OH can hold her own vs. the 5’10” girls. I want to see if the 5’10” MB can beat out the 6’2″ MB! It’s great to watch. (d) this early in the season I NEVER want a girl to think, “Coach only thinks I can do x. I KNOW i can do y and maybe z. But I’m not going to get the chance.” 😦 HECK YEAH, she’ll get the chance.

So even two weeks before our regions bid tournament (maybe my team’s only chance of making Nationals), I will be rotating my players….. OH’s to the right, rights to middle, middle to outside, 5-1 or 6-2, etc.

Coach Houser

Tom Houser
Head Coach, 2012 Next Revolution In Volleyball 15 Nationals Coach
2006 and 2009 Junior Nationals Participant
Director, STAR Volleyball Camps
Author, “I Can’t Wait” Drill Collection and Ebooks.
The 2nd volumes of “I Can’t Wait To Coach” and “I Can’t Wait To Coach Volleyball” hopefully coming out soon.

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See the block? Is it possible?

Coach Houser:
My daughter started off last night with 5 or 6 kills.  The opponents started to slide their MB over to block with their RS and blocked her a couple of times.  My daughters needs help on what to do when there is a wall in front of her. She currently tries to hit it harder but that does not always work.

When there’s a wall in front of her.
a) Does she know when that wall is there?   For an 8th graders, this usually similar to asking a 16 year old, “Do you know when there’s a bee in your car while you’re driving?  And if there is, what do you do?”
b)  If Bre doesn’t see the “bee,” but just believes that it’s there, then she will unaware of it’s exact location, how to avoid it, etc.  All this while is supposed to be concentrating on driving!  See the analogy?
c)  Not being able to simultaneously spike & see the block is normal for a person her age.  My stepdaughter didn’t learn how to concentrate on the ball & avoid the block until she started playing school ball in the fall of her 11th grade year.  And this was after she had been on my club team for four years (7th – 10th grade) and we had practiced it several times each season.
c) Your daughter will probably see the block eventually.  But it may be 2 or 3 years from now.  Until then, she’ll have guess whether it’s there or not.

At 5’6″ seeing the block and tooling/avoiding it was how my stepdaughter earned her front row playing time at a D1 school!  While some her teammates who couldn’t see the block would have better nights vs. weaker teams (b/c they could blast the ball over & through the opponents’ blockers), they would be shut down vs. the better teams.

From what I’ve said, you can believe that not ever learning to see the block is common.  As you, a dad, sit in the bleachers day after day, month after month, and you see that one OH on your daughter’s team is blocked 20% of the time, while the other one if blocked 3% of the time, night after night, month after month, then there can be no doubt that the 3% is seeing the block, the 20% isn’t.  It’s not luck.  And it’s not guessing right.

Girls who play on my teams are exposed to “see the block” drills several times a season.  The girls may not be able to do it at their present age, but I hope that they realize that it can will be done eventually.

Please don’t mention this much to your daughters.  It will be like mentioning to a 7 year old outfielder, “You don’t know where the ball is landing yet? Why not?”   What will the 7 year old say?  She can’t be expected to do what she’s not capable of doing yet.  I remember asking my stepdaughter about twice a year, “Can you see the block when you’re hitting,” just b/c I wanted to know.  She would always answer “some”.  But, when she was blocked like 5 or 6 times her ENTIRE high school 11th grade season, I said, “You can see the block now, can’t you?” and she said, “Yep!”   Then as a college player, she would put on “tooling the block” exhibition that were just unreal.  Some nights, she’d get 6 to 8 tools, while the rest of her team combined might get 5.

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Typical Volleyball Stats: How Useful Are They To A Coach?

Subject: Re: Training your players to play their position correctly
To: “Coach Tom Houser” <>
Date: Monday, November 21, 2011, 3:36 PM

Coach Houser:

It’s great timing that you sent that article out to your members.  I just talked to my team about this.  They are going to be required to keep stats just as you stated (watching for mental positives, not physical actions).   We will also keep normal box score stats, but those stats do not tell the whole picture.

Thanks man!

Hello Coach:

Normal box score stats will tell some things.  But, they are woefully lacking in some areas.  For example:

  • serve receive stats.  All they tell me is the number of times a player was aced?  OF COURSE my main receivers are going to get aced some.  And OF COURSE no one else is going to get aced.  I want to know passing quality (3,2,1,0).  Who is passing 1.5, 2.0, 2.3?
  • setting stats.  One setter has 15 assists, and the other has 14.  But, what % of those sets were 3-step-spikable-and-ripable?  That’s what I want to know.
  • serving stats.  One girl served 4 aces, one had 3.  But, did one of them serve 20 times, the other one 5?  Did one of them create a shank pass 60% of the time, while the others were 30%?  20%?  I have to know that.

NCAA stats are only a little better than meaningless to an experienced coach.  You will read that Cindy had 17 kills; but, she was 65 times, so sure she’s going to get more kills that her teammates.  Sure Jenny had 22 digs; but, she’s the libero and she played nearly every point.  Of course she will have more.

We call these stats “heart-beating stats”.  In other words, as long as a player’s heart is beating, she will accumulate stats.

Experienced coaches need to know more.

p.s.  I learned early on that if a coach wants to help his team bond, then allowing every team member to weekly study the team’s individual stats can be counterproductive.  Making everyone aware as Janice goes past 100 kills, then 200 kills, then 300 kills, etc. will usually not conducive to bringing the girls closer.  Hey, there are some girls who don’t even have that many touches for the entire season!  As coaches, we have to be more empathetic, or we become one of the reasons our team isn’t bonded as tightly as it could be.

Tom Houser
Head Coach, 2012 Next Revolution In Volleyball 15 Nationals Coach
2006 and 2009 Junior Nationals Participant
Director, STAR Volleyball Camps
Author, “I Can’t Wait” Drill Collection and Ebooks.
The 2nd volumes of “I Can’t Wait To Coach” and “I Can’t Wait To Coach Volleyball” hopefully coming out soon.

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