No way out

March 29, 2014

 

image found via google on tmmorris1.blogspot.com

Admittedly, Cortes’s conquest is a cringeworthy moment in human history. It does however, illustrate how having “no way out” can motivate people to be truly committed.

Late last year at the Australian Junior Women Development Camp, we were fortunate to be visited by Australian beach Volleyball team coach Mick Nelson and player Louise Bawden, who spent 3 days helping us with the beach component of the camp. Mick spent a lot of time talking to the coaches, and the one thing I took away was what he said about creating situations for athletes where there is no way out.

Enjoying a high standard of living, Australians are not as often exposed to the same “no way out” situations as some of their competitors overseas. Nevertheless, Mick described ways that he could create “no way out” situations that motivated them to find solutions and accomplish more than they would have thought possible. This could be as simple as not letting up on players when they are struggling to finish a drill.

As a coach that wants to address a list of stuff in a given training, I’m in the bad habit of moving on when things don’t go well to get to the next thing. Recently, I tried the “no way out” approach with a serving drill for beginners and while we didn’t spend too much longer on the drill, the players did improve a lot more than they would have originally thought themselves capable of doing.

The Most Important Coaching Research Ever II

February 24, 2014

The title for this post comes from a post Mark Lebedew wrote a few years ago about the Hawthorne Effect. Indeed, the studies of Elton Mayo & Co formed the cornerstone of modern motivation theory in the workplace replacing the medieval notions of financial reward and punishment. However, I recently read a book which would have to be up there in significance. I would go as far as to say if you only read one book about coaching, it should be Mindset by Carol Dweck.

For the last 30 odd years psychologist Dweck has dedicated her life researching how a simple idea in our minds can profoundly influence the way we approach challenges and adversity that appear along the road to success. In short, Dweck describes two types of mindsets: The “Fixed Mindset” where a person believes their talent, intelligence and character are innate and unchangeable; and the “Growth Mindset” where a person believes their talent, intelligence and character can be cultivated through effort.

For fixed mindset people there is an urgency to prove and validate themselves over and over again (and avoid situations that might disprove their talent or intelligence); for growth mindset people, there is a need to continue improving and getting better at things.

In one famous test (see video above), a group of children are given a math puzzle to solve. Afterwards, half are praised on their intelligence (promoting a fixed mindset) and half are paused on their effort (promoting a fixed mindset). The kids are then given a harder puzzle – the kids praised on their intelligence give up earlier, want to go back to the easier puzzles or lose interest completely; the kids praised on their effort try for longer and are keen for harder challenges. Afterwards the kids are asked to write about their experiences to students at the next school and give their results. The kids praised on their intelligence lie about their results and always in the same direction (upwards). Just by giving a kind of feedback was enough to change a group of students into liars.

Mindset gives plenty of insights and advice into how to promote the growth mindset in educational, parenting, sports and professional contexts. Some stuff I thought was useful:

Fixed Mindset Growth Mindset
In one world—the world of fixed traits—success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other—the world of changing qualities—it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself
Failure is about having a setback. Getting a bad grade. Losing a tournament. Getting fired. Getting rejected. It means you’re not smart or talented. Failure is about not growing. Not reaching for the things you value. It means you’re not fulfilling your potential.
Effort is a bad thing. Like failure, it means you’re not smart or talented. If you were, you wouldn’t need effort. Effort is what makes you smart or talented

On stories like “The hare and the Tortoise” and “The Little Engine that Could”

The problem was that these stories (The Hare and the Tortoise) made it into an either—or. Either you have ability or you expend effort. And this is part of the fixed mindset. Effort is for those who don’t have the ability. People with the fixed mindset tell us, ‘If you have to work at something, you must not be good at it.’ They add, ‘Things come easily to people who are true geniuses.’

Dweck suggests praising people on successfully completing things quickly and without error is a bad idea:

Speed and perfection are the enemy of difficult learning: “If you think I’m smart when I’m fast and perfect, I’d better not take on anything challenging”

Instead it is better to deny praise and apologise for wasting their time on something too easy.

Dweck’s research is important in that everything seems to point to it. It’s cited in “The Talent Code”, “The Goldmine Effect” and works by Gladwell (she’s just the kind of character who’s spent her life  researching a counter-intuitive niche concept that always pops up in his writing). After years of academic research, Mindset was written as the kind of New York Times bestseller list book that could be accessible to a broad base of readers. The book was on the required reading list for the USA women’s team under Hugh McCutcheon and the Arizona State University Sun Devils volleyball team.

Read it. You won’t regret it

 

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Running DataVolley on an Apple

February 23, 2014

I’m a big fan of DataVolley/DataVideo, but one of the things that sucks about it is there’s no OSX version. I’m partial to my Apple MacBook and take it wherever I go. Which means I’ve had to take both my MacBook and Windows laptop the last few times I’ve travelled (one of my “first-world problems” is having to take out my laptop at the security queue of the airport, so 2 laptops sucks).

The IT organisation I work for focuses on consolidating our IT infrastructure from 240 server rooms with a lot of hardware to cloud-based shared services  on virtualised services. So with that I tried installing DataVolley and DataProject on a virtual machine on my MacBook. With a bit of fiddling, I got it to work. A friend laughed that it wasn’t anything new and plenty of people have been doing it for years. Since I couldn’t find any articles about it online, I thought I’d post my solution on this blog.

  • Virtual Machine software: Oracle VirtualBox (the good thing about VirtualBox is you can set a size limit of the VM, but the space is allocated. So what hard drive space you don’t use stays on OSX)
  • OS: Windows 7
  • Also need to add the dongle as a USB device in the settings.
  • After that, I still had issues getting the VM to recognise the dongle, so tried running VBoxWindowsAdditions, and installed  Eutron InfoSecurity SmartKey update. I’m not sure why it worked but it did.
  • It’s also worth changing the keyboard preferences to set all the F1, F2…F12 keys as standard function keys without having to press the Fn key in tandem, and giving the trackpad a “right click” function. there’s no “Page down” or “Page up” key so you have to use Fn + cursor to navigate down the codes.

Looking forward to carry one less laptop in my bag when I travel next!

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 10.14.58 pm

Setter Following the Receiver

February 23, 2014

Commonly, most teams play now with the setter following the middle blocker in the rotation (the middle is clockwise to the setter). It’s considered common wisdom this is the way to play that we assumed everyone always played this way. Having the setter following the receiver is often considered a bad idea – the setter has to run a long distance on reception when in 5 behind a receiver; it’s hard for the middle to run an attack on reception when the setter is in 1; you need a receiver who can hit from the right side.

Curiously, watching the USA Men’s team play in the Olympics in ’84, ’88 and ’92 on youtube, the team always played with the setter following the receiver. The obvious benefit being that in their 2 receiver system, 5 out of 6 rotations, the receivers passed on the same sides (a left side receiver and a right side receiver).

I spent quite some time in the AVL season last year scouting a team that ran this lineup. One thing I noticed is they scored a lot of middle attacks. The obvious reason was two of their strongest attackers were the middles. Looking at it more closely, in most of the rotations it’s a lot easier for the middles to run an attack on reception (not much lateral movement manoeuvring around other players) – and in more rotations, the setter can see the middle in front of them before setting. Maybe sometimes it’s not such a bad idea.

Lost Months: Part 5, Women’s AVL (5 Oct 2013 – 10 Nov 2013)

January 22, 2014

I try to write a post a month. That went well for about 4 years straight, until July this year. I was busy. Turns out being an amateur volleyball performance analyst is quite time consuming. It’s no excuse, but thought I’d fill in what I’ve been up to….

First round v Monash/Melbourne University Blues

First round v Monash/Melbourne University Blues

I got involved with the Canberra Heat team in the Women’s Australian Volleyball League last year. There’s a strong commitment to play AVL in ACT from both the men’s and women’s teams given the low level of competition in the Capital Volleyball League and peoples’ desire to play at a good level.

As such, we started training in February – nearly 7 months before the first match. The format this year was home and away (last few years has seen a Grand Prix format), with match ups consisting of a Saturday game and Sunday game at the same location between any two given opponents.

I helped out at trainings but my main role was performance analysis (video delay and game/training review video) and scouting. During the competition season, I spent a lot of time on video work. Coding 35 odd games was not an issue during AJVC when I took the whole week off, but doing it around a full time job has it’s challenges. Typically, the schedule to deliver review video and scouting of our opponents was:

  • Saturday: Before Game: Show clips of opponent to team for game plan. During Game: Code match and provide stats to coaches. After Game: Prepare review video
  • Sunday: Before Game: Show review video of team’s performance of previous match. During Game: Code match and provide stats to coaches. After Game: Prepare review video; Export clips of next opponent for coaches to study
  • Monday: Put together attack tendency charts per rotation for coach’s game plan.
  • Tuesday: Before Training: Show team review of Sunday’s match. During and after training: Begin coding video of opponent we will playing after this week’s opponent
  • Wednesday-Friday: Continue coding video of opponent we will playing after this week’s opponent

As a whole coaching and playing group we put in more time and effort into preparing for the games that any of our opponent likely did. However, this was no enough to break our 3 year run of going winless. Fortunately, we ended the year competing in the annual Good Neighbour tournament where we won bronze against one of the Junior Women’s Development Group teams after being 2-0 sets down. On to next year.

Team photo after winning bronze at the Good Neighbour tournament in December

Team photo after winning bronze at the Good Neighbour tournament in December

 

Lost Months: Part 4, BBAS/EIV Camp (20-22 Sept 2013)

January 21, 2014

I try to write a post a month. That went well for about 4 years straight, until July this year. I was busy. Turns out being an amateur volleyball performance analyst is quite time consuming. It’s no excuse, but thought I’d fill in what I’ve been up to….

I was fortunate to be invited by friends to help out at the Bendigo Bank Academy of Sport (BBAS) Volleyball program/Eastern Institute of Volleyball  (EIV) camp, held in Bendigo. The coaches who I worked with at AJVC were head coaches of the respective academies.

The programs have developed several players that have gone on to represent Australia at the  junior or senior level. It was just good to see how they do things and their philosophies. It was also good to see my colleagues in a different setting with players that were less developed than their state teams and needed more specific instruction with technique. Definitely picked up some good cues and teaching techniques.

Toddy using lengths of elastics tied from blocker's hands to defenders to show seams and areas of defensive responsibility (1)

Toddy using lengths of elastics tied from blocker’s hands to defenders to show seams and areas of defensive responsibility (1)

Toddy using lengths of elastics tied from blocker's hands to defenders to show seams and areas of defensive responsibility (2)

Toddy using lengths of elastics tied from blocker’s hands to defenders to show seams and areas of defensive responsibility (2)

Toddy using lengths of elastics tied from blocker's hands to defenders to show seams and areas of defensive responsibility (3)

Toddy using lengths of elastics tied from blocker’s hands to defenders to show seams and areas of defensive responsibility (3)

Lost Months: Part 3, CVL finals (15 Sept 2013)

January 19, 2014

I try to write a post a month. That went well for about 4 years straight, until July this year. I was busy. Turns out being an amateur volleyball performance analyst is quite time consuming. It’s no excuse, but thought I’d fill in what I’ve been up to….

The Capital Volleyball League in Canberra is unusual in that it plays Wednesday nights but has its medal matches on a Sunday at the AIS. Wednesday nights works in ACT because people tend to go away on weekends, but there is the downside that people have to rush from work to get to the game and try to leave as early as they can because they have work the next day. So playing on the final on the weekend is cool – you get to make a day out of it and you get crowds and players stick around or come earlier to watch, and bring their friends and families.

This year I coached 2 teams for ANU (Australian National University): a “Premier” and “Division 1″ womens team. It was a set-up that I think works well – having 2 teams that compete but are effectively 1 in training letting us do a lot of 6-on-6 stuff. My methodology this year was to make everything in training a 6-on-6 situation whether we were working on technique, tactics, warming up etc.

The players were great and came from all over Australia and the world. Turnover of the players is quite significant year to year as people come to study and only stay for a  year or 2. I think they got a long quite well due to their willingness to pack up and make a new life somewhere else translated to a willingness to make things work with new people.

Both teams did quite well and finished 2nd in their divisions. Going into the final the Premier team had won the first 2 regular season games against their opponent but lost the next 2; the Division 1 team had not beaten their opponent (who had not dropped a set all season). I spent quite a lot of time gathering scoresheets, video and breaking down opponent tendencies for both teams in semis and finals. We guessed their starting rotations and practiced the tactics we would use in the month leading up to the final. A few days before the game, we went through the gameplans in a lecture theatre in the Uni boarding college followed by dinner at the on-campus dumpling restaurant downstairs where a lot of the students and staff eat.

In the end we lost both games in 4 sets. The work we put in got us to perform much better than anyone could have expected but still came short. The Div 1 team took a set off a team who had not lost a set all season. The Premier team had 2 set points in the 4th and nearly took it to 5 sets. The losses were bittersweet – losing always suck when you know you were;t far off winning, but there’s closer knowing that you left no stone unturned in your preparation.

It was a great season with a great bunch of players.

Premier team. With a middle blocker from Texas, libero from Hong Kong, setter from Germany and players from QLD and NSW

Premier team. With a middle blocker from Texas, libero from Hong Kong, setter from Germany and players from QLD and NSW

Division 1 team + a few premier players who stayed back to support us

Division 1 team + a few premier players who stayed back to support us

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Lost Months: Part 2, World Champs Qualifiers (7-9 Sept 2013)

December 27, 2013

I try to write a post a month. That went well for about 4 years straight, until July this year. I was busy. Turns out being an amateur volleyball performance analyst is quite time consuming. It’s no excuse, but thought I’d fill in what I’ve been up to….

The weekend following the SA State League Grand Final saw the Men’s World Championships Qualifiers hosted in Canberra, contested by Australia, Kazakhstan, Thailand and Kuwait. It was great to catch up with friends from other states who all visited to support Australia or volunteer to make the event a success.

I volunteered as one of the stats guys providing data for the FIVB’s “Volleyball Information System”. The computerised component of the system is a command based application that runs off Windows 95. One person, the “spotter”, calls out the play for another person to key in the data. Given the unreliability of the technology, the stats team also includes anther person who manually writes down the action and another who records how each rally is terminated.

The chief VIS volunteer would give us a copy of the rotation sheet before the set. In one set, the rotation we got was not how the team started. The 2nd ref had missed it. Midway through the set there was an out of rotation call that took ages to sort out. possibly the worst thing in the interests of spectators.

The highlight for me was getting to watch a couple of my hometown heroes, Nathan Roberts and Greg Sukochev start, play and win in front a of a big home crowd. The best fans in the house were a bunch of supporters from NSW all dressed in Kangaroo onesies. The games were broadcast on Foxtel. Oh, and the team qualified for World Champs too!

Me sitting on the end of the table behind the court during warmup with the other VIS volunteers

Me sitting on the end of the table behind the court during warmup with the other VIS volunteers

Volunteers posing in photo with victorious Volleyroos!

Volunteers posing in photo with victorious Volleyroos!

In the thick of the Onesie supporter club

In the thick of the Onesie supporter club

Onesie supporters pose with Volleyroos

Onesie supporters pose with Volleyroos

Great crowd. Note the Volleyroos #1 playing tops worn by supporters

Great crowd. Note the Volleyroos #1 playing tops worn by supporters

Hometown Heroes Nathan Roberts and Greg Sukochev. As starting Outside hitter and setter they played huge roles in qualifying the team for World Champs.

Hometown Heroes Nathan Roberts and Greg Sukochev. As starting Outside hitter and setter they played huge roles in qualifying the team for World Champs.

 

 

 

Lost Months: Part 1, SA State League (24-31 Aug 2013)

December 27, 2013

I try to write a post a month. That went well for about 4 years straight, until July this year. I was busy. Turns out being an amateur volleyball performance analyst is quite time consuming. It’s no excuse, but thought I’d fill in what I’ve been up to….

I’ve lived in ACT since March 2013 but I’m still quite attached to SA – particularly my club, Norwood, which is doing some cool things like the Senior Women touring Myanmar/Thailand in October. Given my desire to stay involved I did a lot of video analysis for both men’s and women’s teams. I flew bad to Adelaide on the Prelim and Grand final weekends to help out.

The women made finals but were eliminated in the first round. The men made it to the grand final by beating Mt Lofty in a terrific 5-set match, but lost in the final to Henley (my old club). Though it was sad Norwood lost, it was good to see Henley, who only a few years ago could not even field a Men’s League team.

Me and the Henley Mascot on Grand Final Day

Me and the Henley Mascot on Grand Final Day

Australian Junior Volleyball Championships 2013

July 26, 2013
VIC U17M

After a week and a bit, I have finally recovered from this year’s Australian Junior Volleyball Championships, hosted in my current home town of Canberra. This is the 5th year I’ve participated as a “coach” (or more accurately someone who is NOT playing, officiating or helping to run the event). It was a bit different for me on a couple of levels:

1) I worked with the Victorians and not South Australia. This was the first time I have represented a different state. I had applied to coach SA but since they had enough coaches apply, didn’t get a coaching or assisting role. I was offered a performance analyst role but declined (in truth I probably would have spent the week setting up tripods and putting together video no one was really interested in watching or using). I decided that since flying to Adelaide to be a performance analyst wasn’t all that different to flying to any other city in Australia to do the same, it was a good opportunity to experience working with different people. So I decided to work with a couple of good friends in Victoria – Bill (U19M Blue) and Sketch (U17M Blue) – who I had wanted to work with for years. I travelled to Melbourne 3 times to help out with the teams in preparation. Before that I helped by putting together video examples illustrating the aspects of the team playing systems.

2) I was a scout/performance analyst working with 3 teams. So i didn’t “belong” to a team but got to help teams in all 3 competitions. I have coded video for all my teams over the last year as a part of my coaching duties, but this was the first time I worked exclusively as a performance analyst/scout. Besides the mentor coach, I probably saw more men’s games than anyone else in U17s, U19s and U23s. Originally I was just helping out Bill (U19M Blue) and Sketch (U17M Blue) but as my schedule got lighter at the end of the week (all teams scouted) i helped out with Luke (U23M). I ended up watching and taking statistics for 29 games over the week which included VIC games and their opponents for scouting. It was enjoyable to work with a bunch of coaches who cared about doing a good job and worked in a very collaborative environment.

The Victorian coaches and players were really welcoming and appreciated the stuff I did. At the end of each day, a bunch of coaches across most of the Mens teams would hang out in one of the hotel rooms and we’d watch videos I put together. We’d watch clips from their games during the day and discuss player performances, or scouting video and come up with ideas for game plans. It was all very collaborative.

Interestingly the coaches all wanted different things from the video. One coach wanted to see what the other team did on Reception by rotation; Another just wanted to see what his own players did in certain situations (setter decisions, players transitioning etc); Another wanted individual spikers and individual receivers both on his team and the opponent.

In the end Sketch’s U17 team won the Gold medal in a classic 5-set match. One of the highlights was seeing the improvement of the setter, who at the beginning of the tournament would scarcely set a 1st tempo attack. By the Gold Medal Match he set the middle 5 times in the 5th set alone, including at 12-9 in transition. Persistent coaching and video review definitely helped.
(Match point of U17M Gold Medal Game)
Bill’s team had a great start to the tournament winning against strong teams from SA and WA. They didn’t have dominant stars but were incredibly disciplined in executing gameplans and each player stepped up to lift the team’s performance. On the penultimate day they played their worst game against a winless QLD White team and were knocked out of the Gold Medal game by a set. Unfortunately, the team could not repeat it’s win against SA in the bronze medal game and lost the bronze medal in 5 sets.
(VIC U19M’s kills from match against SA)
Luke’s team played some great volleyball all week and had the most attractive game to watch at the tournament. The 2 games they played against ACT where the highest quality matches of the whole tournament with both teams siding out for 10+ rallies straight to take the sets past the cap. In the first game, VIC needed to win to make the gold medal game, whereas ACT needed to win in straight sets to make the gold medal game. a 3-1 win to ACT knocked both teams from the gold medal match and set up a date for the bronze the next day. To ACT’s credit they continued to play well in the match for pride after a starter got injured in the first set, and the first set loss cost them the gold medal match. The rematch in the bronze medal match did not disappoint with both teams too strong siding out. The first set finished 39-37.  After a long stalemate, ACT won the game in the forth set at 33-31. The notable performance from the VIC team came from one of the middle attackers who scored 4 times in a row in the business end of the 4th set at 24-25, 25-25, 26-26 and 27-27.

(VIC U23M Middle Blocker Trent O’Dea kills 4 in-a-row on 24-25, 25-25, 26-26 and 27-27)

It was a great week, but life moves on. I’m back at work, and players are already asking for highlights and full games on video for college and overseas applications. Already I’m looking forward to next year’s tournament in Sydney!

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