Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I still don’t like screening

August 24, 2014

So screening on the serve is still against the rules. But referees are apparently not allowed to call it. This one team at Asian Junior Championships used it a lot. One referee called them on it and they stopped… but the referee got marked down in the assessment for calling it. Good on them I say. Volleyball is about reading, which you can’t do when people are blocking your view of the cues.

They played against Japan in the finals and got smashed. It’s good to see gimmicks like that not working on the best teams.

Asian Women’s (U19) Volleyball Championship – Part 3: Players < 175cm

August 14, 2014

Often in sport we talk about “growing the base of the pyramid”. More participation translates into a larger number of elite athletes at the pointy end (surely). However, a friend of mine who works as a High Performance Manager told me recently this is not a paradigm that will help Australia compete with larger countries. As such, sports such as volleyball in Australia focuses many of its development resources on (let’s be blunt) tall players. In countries where the pyramid paradigm works, “tall” players are still developed, but smaller skilled players can stay in the system for longer… This post is dedicated to those short players at the Asian Women’s U19 Volleyball Championships who I found impressive. I define short as 175 cm or below.

#1 Mizuki Yanagita (JPN)

  • Height: 168cm
  • Spike: 300cm
  • Block: 276cm

Japan’s inspirational captain. She was a great back row attacker and coolly stepped into the role of setter in the semi final after the starting setter went down in the 2nd set with an injury on set point 24-21. Unfazed, Yanagita setting won the set point and she led the team to win the 3rd set and match, as well as the first set in the Gold Medal game. Despite losing, Japan still outscored China in Attacks 50 kills to 43.

#13 Tseng Wan Ling (TPE)

  • Height: 175cm
  • Spike: 285cm
  • Block: 282cm

Tseng was exceptionally good at hitting a B-Ball. possibly the best in the tournament. As a middle attacker, she was the top scorer for Chinese Taipei in their win against Korea where she scored 10 points.

#7 Patcharaporn Sittisad (THA)

  • Height: 164cm
  • Spike: 278cm
  • Block: 263cm

Thailand’s captain Sittisad was not a starter but made an impact when she came on. She led her club team Bodindecha to beat Australia in the Bronze medal match of the Sealack tournament in April, scoring most of the points. She looked tiny with this worried look on her face but absolutely kicked us. It was good to see her play well when she was on at the Asian Junior Championships.

#7 Pham Thi Hue (VIE)

  • Height: 170cm
  • Spike Reach: 280cm
  • Block: 278cm

A starter for Vietnam playing passer-hitter next too the setter. Often hit a metre ball. Vietnam were a short team and also had a starting middle, opposite and setter all below 175cm.

#2 Emma Flynn (NZ)

  • Height: 169cm
  • Spike: 278cm
  • Block: 268cm

She killed us when we played them in the crossovers as the 2nd highest scorer on her team and getting 2 kill blocks. She played a lot bigger than her size often going for the line shot at the antenna.

Asian Women’s (U19) Volleyball Championship – Part 1

August 7, 2014

Last month, immediately after AJVC, I had the privilege of participating in the 17th Asian Women’s (U19) Volleyball Championships in Taiwan as part of the Australian team’s coaching staff.

I love volleyball events and it was like I had died and gone to heaven. I thought tournaments here were a lot of fun. But this is something else… Everything is done for you. The tournament organisers provide the accommodation, food and transport. You don’t have to bring a water bottle with your name on it to games – there’s bottled water in eskies; you don’t have to organise meals – just make sure your team turns up to the buffet when it’s open. There aren’t 8 games on the same court in one day. Only 4. etc etc.

My job on the coaching team was to be the performance analyst – stats and video info on our own team’s performance as well as scouting the opponent. You are allowed 3 coaches on the bench, so during games I would sit in the stand on a 2-way radio with one of the bench coaches to tell him what I saw our opponent doing. For the remainder of the time, I didn’t spend much time with the team as I was usually out scouting. Besides that there’s other responsibilities too. You need to have the video and statistics ready at least a day earlier so the coaches can study it – that means weeding out 4hrs of games into 10 minutes of video. After the game plan, there’s more editing to come up with about 2 minutes worth of footage to show the team at the meeting… You’re also expected to set up a projector and screen just about anywhere with a few seconds notice. There’s also all the stuff you need to put together on your own team’s performance. Luckily we had another coach on the staff that focused on that stuff.

Being good at coaching school/club/state teams doesn’t necessarily prepare you to be a good coach on these tours. On tour they need people who are good at specific skills – stats/video, physiotherapy, logistics etc – all things you don’t get the luxury of spending a lot of time on when you have to do a million other things as a school/club/state coach… Anyway, here are some interesting things I sam.

The stadiums you play in are just beautiful. No multiple courts in the same space and "other lines" on them

The stadiums you play in are just beautiful. No multiple courts in the same space and “other lines” on them

Everything has to be of a certain standard. The organisers have to provide transport and accommodation. Everyone stays at the same hotel, eats at the same buffet and there are a fleet of buses that take teams to the games. Here I'm hitching a ride with Japan. While our uniforms lacked a coherent colour scheme, Japan were decked to in their impressive black Mizuno gear.

Everything has to be of a certain standard. The organisers have to provide transport and accommodation. Everyone stays at the same hotel, eats at the same buffet and there are a fleet of buses that take teams to the games. Here I’m hitching a ride with Japan. While our uniforms lacked a coherent colour scheme, Japan were decked to in their impressive black Mizuno gear. We had 5 staff. They had 8, including a team doctor, 2 trainers and a scout. Their head coach was the assistant of the Women’s team that won the Bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics!

In Asia, sleeping in public in the middle of the day isn't a big deal.

In Asia, sleeping in public in the middle of the day isn’t a big deal.

The tournament also gives each team a Liaison - a local who helps you navigate around the city and is your point of contact with the tournament organisers... they organise the buses for you, tell you where you can shop and get your laundry done, serve as translators etc. Often these are students. We got 2 who spoke excellent English. It's a thankless job. Here IO am with our 2 excellent liaisons, Daisy and Johnny.

The tournament also gives each team a Liaison – a local who helps you navigate around the city and is your point of contact with the tournament organisers… they organise the buses for you, tell you where you can shop and get your laundry done, serve as translators etc. Often these are students. We got 2 who spoke excellent English. It’s a thankless job. Here IO am with our 2 excellent liaisons, Daisy and Johnny.

Evan and Annie - Kazakhstan's liaisons. They had one of the tougher jobs being given a team where most of the staff and players couldn't speak english... except Sabina.... as a scout getting to know the other teams liaisons is useful when you need a lift to the stadium to do some scouting and your own team is going to another venue.

Evan and Annie – Kazakhstan’s liaisons. They had one of the tougher jobs being given a team where most of the staff and players couldn’t speak english… except Sabina…. as a scout, getting to know the other teams liaisons is useful when you need a lift to the stadium to do some scouting and your own team is going to another venue.

So the stadiums are amazing, but for the most part empty. Coaching is a people oriented activity. Unless you're the scout. Then it's just you, a camera and laptop, and a bag of unhealthy snacks for the 7-11. I find nuts, dried fruit and biscuits to be the best. least mess. Crumbs are easy to get rid of but dripping liquids are not.

So the stadiums are amazing, but for the most part empty. Coaching is a people oriented activity. Unless you’re the scout. Then it’s just you, a camera and laptop, and a bag of unhealthy snacks for the 7-11. I find nuts, dried fruit, potato chips and biscuits to be the best. least mess. Crumbs are easy to get rid of but dripping liquids are not.

Me and the other scouts - from Iran, Korea and Japan. You spend a lot of time together watching games. You become friendly, swap food, share powerboards, exchange video when someone can't film a game or their camera screwed up. Not every team has scouts, and the quality of performance analysis varies from team to team. Japan had the best scout, who worked professionally for a J-League team. One team had a coach who turned up to games with just a rolled up tournament program.

Me and the other scouts – from Iran, Korea and Japan. You spend a lot of time together watching games. You become friendly, swap food, share powerboards, exchange video when someone can’t film a game or their camera screwed up. Not every team has scouts, and the quality of performance analysis varies from team to team. Japan had the best scout, who worked professionally for a J-League team. One team had a coach who turned up to games with just a rolled up tournament program.

Japan setting up the performance analysis equipment before the game. While my collection of broken cameras i bought off ebay and laptop with dents is carried around in a backpack I bought from Costco because our uniform supplier ran out of bags, Japan's gear comes out of a Mizuno trolley suitcase and includes 2 laptops (from the scout's club sponsor - Fujitsu), a wireless modem and a small laser printer.

Japan setting up the performance analysis equipment before the game. While my collection of broken cameras i bought off ebay and laptop with dents is carried around in a backpack I bought from Costco because our uniform supplier ran out of bags, Japan’s gear comes out of a Mizuno trolley suitcase and includes 2 laptops (from the scout’s club sponsor – Fujitsu), a wireless modem and a small laser printer.

We took this photo before protocol. During protocol, there's actually time allocated for the official team photo - but only those allowed on field of play can be in it. We have all the coaching staff and our liaisons in this one. We are wearing the Green uniforms. You allocate a numbered order for each of your playing strips and where them in that order. That way you have 2 days to wash each strip. always wondered how they did that.

We took this photo before protocol. During protocol, there’s actually time allocated for the official team photo – but only those allowed on field of play can be in it. We have all the coaching staff and our liaisons in this one. We are wearing the Green uniforms. You allocate a numbered order for each of your playing strips at the tech meeting and wear them in that order – except if there’s a colour clash with the other team. That way you have 2 days to wash each strip. I always wondered how they did that.

VIP area behind team benches

VIP area behind team benches

There's lots of volunteers. It's like World League. These are the statisticians. The game info they capture gets distributed in a daily bulletin.

There’s lots of volunteers. It’s like World League. These are the statisticians. The game info they capture gets distributed in a daily bulletin.

More volunteers – Field of play guys (Moppers, Ball-kids etc) having a pickup game before the teams come out of the dressing rooms.

I got to see Sri Lanka win a big game against Iran. This sealed them a quarter-final spot. I was the only spectator in that late game, that when i came down from the balcony to congratulate the coaches (and ask for a lift back to the hotel) they gave me a big hug… because there wasn’t anyone else around.

Besides Kazakhstan, I also hitched rides with Thailand, Iran, Japan and Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankans always sang songs on the bus – everyone together including coaches and players; Japan sat quietly in deep contemplation and focus; Thailand always felt like a party.

That’s it for Part 1… just what the atmosphere is like at one of these cool events. In Part 2 we’ll look at the best teams in the semi-finals and medal matches

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.

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

1229928_701847963177451_1229761588_n 644243_701868683175379_419828806_n 1000974_701868039842110_1309701106_n 1231362_701868403175407_1993978625_n 1231348_701868449842069_1174449972_n 1000979_701868353175412_1518741581_n 563000_701870593175188_1533097928_n

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.

 

 

 

Teams

May 6, 2013

The word “team” is used so liberally now to describe a collection of people with a common purpose. I’ve worked in several “teams” in my professional life that weren’t really teams. We just shared a common supervisor and divvied up the work.

There are teams that are exactly the sum of their parts; there are teams that are less than the sum of their parts; there are teams that are greater than the sum of their parts. The latter is what makes sports like volleyball satisfying – even when you lose against teams that are equal to or less than the sum of their parts.

The 12th Player

March 2, 2013

“I thought one of the most valuable players in the game for us didn’t play, and that was Damon Huard (#19). I thought the look he gave us in the scout team for our defense was fabulous.” – Bill Belichick after the Patriots win over the Baltimore Colts for the AFC Championship

One thing I like about American sports is that they give out championship rings to a broad base of people within the sporting organisation that wins the championship. The NFL pays for 70 rings for the Superbowl winning team to give out to players, coaches, executives, owners, and general staff. It’s a nice way of recognising it takes more than just the people on the field on the day to win a championship (I would probably draw the line at commentators and cheerleaders).

I’ve never liked how Australian Rules Football competitions only recognise the players that play in a grand final when they give out the medals. There have been too many Footballers that have made contributions to their teams to miss out. I’m sure purists will talk about how it’s a big part of the charm of the game that makes it unique and gets people talking – something along he lines of that bullshit Sepp Blatter said about why they shouldn’t use goal line technology after Lampard’s goal was incorrectly disallowed (thankfully he’s recently backflipped).

The good team cultures are the ones that recognise the contribution of players off the field. One story that struck me was the contribution 3rd string quarterback Damon Huard made in the New England Patriots preparation before the AFC championship game against Indianapolis in the 2003-2004 season. The “America’s Game” documentary shows footage of Huard mimicking Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning to a tee including mannerisms, habits and speech to thoroughly help prepare the Patriots defense. Belichick praises his 3rd string quarterback after the game by acknowledging his work in front of the media and team and giving Huard the game ball.

Grantland recently wrote a sentimental yet tongue-in-cheek article on the “12th men” on NBA rosters in the 80s who “enjoyed” long careers. As 7’5 Center Chuck Nevitt, who won a championship with Boston said of his playing days with limited court time:

“My job was preparing the other guys… And I was fine with that.”

In Volleyball, there is ongoing debate over substitutions and court time. I was surprised to hear a coach of a high profile college program in the US explain that he used the 15 sub rule so he could give a generous amount of court time to 9 players and “keep the locker room happy”.

Back home in SA, it’s interesting to see how the various clubs treated their bench players. At some clubs they were peripheral players that were just picked on the day to make up the numbers. Some clubs didn’t train with 12 and would just have their best 7-9 players train on their own while their reserves team trained on the next court. At my last club, #10-#12 on the League men’s team were treated with a lot of fondness and respect by the rest of the team, and it was made clear they were very much part of the team. As a player from another club commented to me “the club makes a bigger deal of what these players do than other clubs would.” It’s probably how they kept good players that could, and should have moved to other clubs for a starting spot.

A Sad Day

January 2, 2013

http://video.adelaidenow.com.au/2322541449/Adelaide-Newsbyte-January-2

While I was watching New Year’s Eve fireworks with friends from my volleyball club on Brighton beach (SA), an 18-year-old was killed only a few streets away in a moment of madness that is incomprehensible. We saw ambulances driving past as we headed back to the house but thought nothing of it until news broke. I didn’t know Lewis McPherson personally. He graduated from Brighton secondary, where he played in last year’s Open Honours Boys team. He also won a reserves premiership with USC Lion earlier in the year. It was barely three weeks ago that we sat in the same crowd watching a gold medal match. He had tied a blue helium balloon to his bag to celebrate his 18th birthday. It’s a tragic loss for a family, a community and a sport.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 25 other followers