Archive for September, 2010

Winners and Losers in a Draw

September 27, 2010

This is truly an astonishing year. No only have we been unable to decide on who should run our country, but on Saturday, we weren’t even able to decide who the best team in our premiere sporting code was. Absolutely astonishing.

So OK, this post isn’t really about volleyball, but it is too much of an interesting phenomenon to ignore. To me, it’s more about the peculiarity of how sports, politics and business intersect.

Hung parliaments aren’t all that bad. The downside is no one can get anything done. But on the upside, no one can get anything done!

Similarly Saturday’s draw (which will now need to be replayed) had winners and losers:

The winners:

  • The Bookies
  • The MCC
  • The AFL
  • Clubs (who get to sell more ticket)
  • Channel 7

The losers:

  • The spectators at last week’s game
  • Anyone who placed a bet on either team to win
  • The Commonwealth Games
  • The SANFL Grand Final
  • The NRL Grand Final
  • Anyone who was looking forward to Channel 7’s originally scheduled broadcast of Lesley Nielsen’s spy spoof, Spy Hard next Saturday afternoon (on second thoughts, maybe i need to rephrase this and put it in the “winners” column)

there are probably more winners and losers then i’ve named. Of course they can’t let everyone who paid squillions of dollars to go see the game last week see it for free this week. You just can’t “wear” the cost of hosting an event for 100,000+ people without anyone paying for it (it’s also a valid argument that you cannot charge people hundreds or thousands of dollars for a ticket to what is promised to be a “special” event that will be cheapened by a non-result and a subsequent replay).

As someone in a “minority sport”, I can feel for the other sporting codes who rely on the fact that football should have been over last week. Having State Schools Cup Volleyball in August last year meant that we could only enter 2 teams from Willunga, and one of them had to forfeit a game because of netball commitments.

Likewise, the NRL would have been hoping that it’s own big event wasn’t “double-booked”. The SANFL and NRL grand finals are on the day after, but they would still have assumed that an AFL-free week would give them more publicity. They just aren’t enjoying the Australian public’s undivided attention this week like they would usually do. It’s a rule in filmmaking that it’s generally a bad idea to open a film around election times: 1) everybody has to go vote; 2) you can’t get any publicity; 3) all the advertising media has already been bough and whatever’s left is expensive. we can assume similar inconveniences are being experienced in the sporting world this week.

Like the prisoner’s dilemma, the best result for multiple sports is achieved when there is some level of collusion.

For the Commonwealth Games, it truly has become a case of “bad publicity is better than no publicity”. Pity, because they could really do with ANY publicity right now that isn’t to do with security issues and the quality of the infrastructure. But that probably won’t happen with 2 grand finals on this week.

On one hand, the Commonwealth Games is a really hard sell. It’s the poorer cousin to the Olympics and it has no memorable moments that are part of the national psyche. watch the ads – when athletes and commentators talk about what is good about the commonwealth games, it’s incredibly vague. there’s no iconic vision that is distinct from something that happened at the olympics. it’s just generic victories. On the other hand, it can be quite an easy sell to what the Australian public wants to see – Australian athletes pummeling other (minnow) countries in sports that most Australians are familiar with. After all, isn’t it better to be the best at a sport that nobody plays, than be pretty good at a sport that everybody plays?


Aaron Sorkin on all-consuming passions

September 27, 2010

One of my favourite screenwriters/showrunners is Aaron Sorkin. He wrote A Few Good Men, and created shows like The West Wing, Sports Night and Studio 60. He’s considered one of the best dramatists of his generations and responsible for taking television drama to the standard of cinema.

I never understood what I liked about his work so much until I read this article. Sorkin is brilliant but has struggled for much of his life with substance issues. But the one thing he does well is write and he does it brilliantly. Mirroring his own life, his work has always been about the following themes:

“the longing for acceptance, the wish for success, the idea that work will give you a home, and that home will solve your problems.”; and that “it’s okay to be alone, if you can find family at work. It’s the romance of being good at your job and being committed to it.”

I’m fortunate i don’t share Sorkin’s ailments, but i certainly relate to what he is saying to my own job and the amount i spend coaching. i see it in a lot of the people i work with too. It’s the idea that much of the meaning in your life comes from the life you have in your work rather than outside it. Sorkin’s right. It can be lonely. But you do find “family” that comes and goes. I think of the itinerant people I know who work in animation who just move from country to country in big flocks to work on the next blockbuster. It’s not exactly a settled life but home and family is where the work is in any given moment.

Coaching is the same. you spend so much time working with people who grow up and move on. Your “family” is always  changing, but you’ll find it wherever the work is. I can only imagine that playing professionally abroad is very much the same sort of deal as it takes certain qualities to be able to be good at it. After all, it’s one thing to love a sport, but another thing entirely to love the work that comes with being good at it.


September 21, 2010

With VTAM playing friendly matches against Japan in preparation for the World Champs, I thought I’d post up this video of an exhibition game between the “Australia All-Stars” and Japanese club team Fuji in 1989:

For about $60 you can but a little USB gadget that converts VHS to digital. I got this video from Raul Tuul’s nephew, Alex, when I coached him years ago. Some anachronisms:

  • It’s old school rules and scoring. Serve-point to 15. Must win by 2 but capped at 17.
  • The AIS programme with a full-time coach is about to commence.
  • AVF life member Tomas Santamaria is coaching the men’s team
  • Dual Olympic Gold Medallist Craig Buck (who bears an uncanny resemblance to the FooFighters’ drummer) and All-American Tom Duke are playing the team
  • VSA life member Mike Reu is playing (none of the players in his state U21 team this year would have been born at the time of this match). He’s got a sick mullet.
  • The Australians can’t win against a Japanese Club team more often than they lose.

SASIVC – Sunday

September 19, 2010

It had gone well for a while on Saturday. Paringa Park Primary girls won all 4 of their games against year 8 teams. Meanwhile in the other pool, West Beach primary won all 4 of their games and it looked to be a classic showdown between the two teams in the U14 final. Paringa Park had a couple of good players too sick to play and West Beach won quite convincingly. I didn’t get to see the game but apparently the 2 teams bonded and had a great time. it’s great to see teams bond over competition.

The Concordia Open Honours boys, won 2 games against the 2nd Heathfield side, but lost 2 games against the 2nd Brighton side. They finished 4th but are still keen for honours. they improved and have more improving to do before AVSC. It’s good to se them qualify for the 3rd spot.

The Willunga U16 and U15 girls had qualified for honours by Saturday night. The U16 girls, with some ring-ins from last year’s div 2 team beat heathfield twice to play off for gold. The u15 girls only had 2 other teams in their pool. Unfortunately our U17HG who had won a silver and bronze the 2 years before weren’t so lucky. After winning 4 games against both brighton and both heathfield teams, they lost the semi to Brighton and the 3rd place playoff to Loxton. They’ll have to apply for a wild card which is getting harder to get.

All in all i thought it was a good tournament. Loxton got at least 2 teams qualifying for honours as did Willunga. Concordia will be a new team in honours too, and maybe Hallett Cove if they take the opportunity in the divisions they have automatically qualified for. We could be seeing the biggest number of non-SIV honours teams travelling to Melbourne ever.

Was also interesting to see the South Adelaide press gang out in full force with a mad recruiting drive. would be great to see more of these kids staying in volleyball.

SASIVC – Friday

September 17, 2010

Tournament office at Westminster

Tournament office at Seymour College

I don’t know what it is about seeing a tournament office set up in a squash court that brings me such joy. Maybe it’s the idea that a volleyball tournament can take over somewhere it’s not usually meant to just gives me hope that the sport can grow. Like volleyball is reappropriating the territory of other sports. In this case it was seeing Seymour College being used for the first time as a playing venue for state schools cup.

Many moons ago, when i first started playing senior club volleyball, the venue had just changed from St Claire’s to Marion Leisure Centre. State Schools Cup was all run there too. 6 courts running and not a lot of free space. They obviously changed it after for safety reasons. It became 2 venues, then 3, then 4.

This is the first year since I’ve played and coached that Marion has not been a part of any non-social volleyball competition. I didn’t really appreciate it until I spent most of today watching games at 4 venues and missing games at the fifth: I started at Brighton at 9am watching the concordia open boys i help out with; then the 10:10 game at Seymour College to watch some of my norwood players play for seymour; then the 11:40 game at Westminster where my Willunga girls played their hoodoo team Loxton (we still lost by 3 points on countback); then the seymour girls again at 1:40 at seymour; and finally the paringa park kids up at Mt Lofty at 2:50.

There just aren’t a lot of 4 court venues going around. Losing a 4-court venue like Marion makes the profound difference that you need to get 2 x 3-court venues to make it up. At most Heathfield can run 5 courts (if the old gym is included). Brighton has 3 courts in its newer gym. There’s not a lot of room in the old gym, so if they use it, it’s usually a “showcourt”. Between these two State Volleyball Centres, we just can’t fit in the whole event.

Seeing Seymour College being used as a venue was cool. They use if for the independent girls schools league in the summer and i findly remember seeing a friendly match between the AIS women and Kenya there back in 2000.

We really need a bigger venue here. Reading up on what other people do, In the US they just use big convention halls and set up poles planted in barrels full of water to tie them down. It’s just a massive hall with heaps of courts, a bit like the Daniel David Beard Arena but bigger.

Anyway, there was some good stuff to see. There was some good stuff from the concordia boys but a bit patchy; Willunga U16GH beat the top Heathfield team; Willunga U17HG lost to Loxton again, but beat the top Brighton team; Paringa Park Primary Kids played year 8s all day and took a set off a heathfield team and took a hallett cove team to 24-26; The seymour girls didn’t realise they needed playing top numbers and had to buy some from the sports store minutes before the game and quickly iron them on in the changerooms.

I’d really like to see all these games in the same place. But we gotta make do and i guess improvising with 5 venues will just have to suffice. for now.

SASIVC Preview

September 16, 2010

I can’t help but feel a bit lost at the moment. But it’s that nice refreshing feeling you get when you have a day off and no plans.

We’re in that transition period of volleyball between when club competition finishes and everyone puts their undivided attention towards AVSC at the end of the year. In SA, it means that after a week off, you’re straight into State Schools Cup (of course this experience is really only relevant to players and coaches who are involved in club and school volleyball). For the last few years i’ve been in the habit of booking 6 days of leave for these two events.

Usually right now, i’d be stressing out about State Schools Cup (now renamed the SA Schools Indoor volleyball Cup – SASIVC). Well most of the stress would actually be on the teachers trying to organise everything, i’d just be stressed about the team being ready to be competitve. I’d be worrying about kids who hadn’t played for months because of footy and netball commitments; kids that were injured. because of footy and netball commitments; unable to play because they were in grand finals etc etc.

This year is different. I stopped actively coaching Willunga a few weeks ago.  I’m still helping out here and there with Concordia College’s Open Boys Honours team and Paringa Park Primary’s teams, but i’m not really “driving” or committed to any team. It’s a very different feeling. On one hand, there’s none of the anxiety of whether my teams will play well; pull off backcourt setting; qualify for honours; no early morning trainings; no teams “cramming” in trainings at the last minute after months of doing nothing; no thinking about what the other teams are doing etc. On the other hand there’s the  phantom pain of the missing excitement that coincides with when the rain stops and the hayfever comes.

But moreover, i’m enjoying the break. Of having multiple nights of the week off and just turning up to trainings to help out without much thought. AVSC used to be something i thought i couldn’t live without, but i think i seriously overestimated how much i would miss it. It used to be that coaching AVSC was the highlight and club volleyball the chore, but after having a really different and enjoyable season coaching at Norwood, the distinction isn’t so clear anymore. Maybe i’m not in love with AVSC as I used to be?

In any case, after a week of hearing a number of coaches complain about the SASIVC draw, I finally got round to reading it last night. I have the day off but no coaching responsibilities, so i’m just going as a spectator. Will be hard though. There are a lot of new teams, and it’s going to be held over 5 venues (we really need a bigger better venue).

The anxiety now is that i won’t be able to see all the teams i want to. There are the concordia guys i’ve been working with as well as the 2 paringa park teams. then there’s seymour college who will have a lot of the girls i coached at Norwood. And of course there’s willunga who i will always have a soft spot for. anyway some interesting things that may make it more interesting than the run-of-the-mill SIV dominated event:

  • Concordia College making its debut contesting for a spot in Open Honours Boys. There are 2 other heathfield and brighton teams in there. does that mean they automatically qualify? Could we have a new team in OHB in december?
  • Hallett Cove in 3 honours events – in U17HB they’re up against 3 SIV teams. Could we see the first Cove team in an honours event?
  • Willunga in 4 honours events – including U15GH which only has tow other teams. Could they possibly have 2 or 3 honours teams at AVSC this year? It was my dream for years! ironic that when they have all these teams pushing for honours i’m not there anymore!
  • Paringa Park Primary and West Beach in the U14s divisions. Must be some minivolleyball programmes going well!
  • A lot of teams we’re less familiar with: Christies Beach, craigmore, seymour college.

there are still slightly more girls teams than boys (49 to 45). and SIV teams still make up more than half the teams entered (49/94). it’s good to see some diversity come through. who knows, we may even see the day that an honours event in AVSC doesn’t have an SIV team?

Happysnap: SASI Trials

September 13, 2010

SASI under new head coach Alexis Lebedew held it’s trials on Sunday. I often drop in to trials for a bit of moral support for the players who are trying out. The girls trialed in the morning session from 9 till noon, while the boys trialed from 2 till 5. Wedged in between Norwood had its junior league presentation event.

I missed the morning session as i was out at paringa helping Ross coach the primary school kids preparing for state schools cup. But i managed to catch the afternoon session. The South Australian Sports Institute is the first step in a long journey towards elite volleyball. SASI  is based out of an old high school in the western suburbs of Adelaide. Apparently it used to be Kidman Park Girls school. The Office of Sport and Rec has a branch there, and the AIS beach programme courts are adjacent to the gym.

The trials were half run indoors and on the beach. Brad Tutton was running a tight ship. He was back to work straight after coaching the Mt Lofty League Men to a premiership with one of the shortest lineups I have ever heard of in League Men’s volleyball (i didn’t see the game but Tom told me about it afterwards). I wonder if he had much of a chance to celebrate after?

Apparently only 30 or so girls who tried out. most 16 years or younger. There were a lot more guys than that with a huge range in ages. from one of the paringa park kids i had urged to try out, to guys who were 18 and maybe even older. There was a lot of height going around! But in higher level volleyball, height is always relative.

Jr League Finals

September 13, 2010

It was a busy evening. First, the Div 2 girls managed to win, coached very well by Nik. It was a good inclusive win that took the whole team to win it so it was a great result.

Tom’s div 1 boys started before the girls finished and it was full of drama. i didn’t get to see the match, but they started off nearly getting points deducted for playing shorts and a player they said hadn’t qualified. The boys won the first 2 sets but then lost the next two. one of them got a yellow card too. But they got there in the end.

The div 1 girls started after the boys game started but finished before. It wasn’t the best game we had played but enough to win comfortably in 3 straight sets. It was a good last game for 6 of the girls who were turning 18 and had been playing for a while. They had a disappointing loss in 5 sets in last year’s grandfinal after being up 2-0. Most of the girls already play seniors but just enjoyed playing with each other on a junior team so much that they kept playing.

We didn’t have much time to celebrate after the win. we didn’t even wait to get our medals. the girls went to support the boys in their 5th set and I had to run over to coach the Div 3 girls game that had already started. They won the first set narrowly 26-24… then the next set quite easily, but ended up losing in 5 sets. Mt Lofty (our opponent) just played too well in those sets and we were just too nervous. It was their first 5-set game.I was still really proud of the team that started the year with 3 forfeits then turned it around to drop only 1 game for the rest of the season (before the Grand Final). They were probably the most improved team we had.

There was a great crowd cheering on all 4 of the teams and everyone went back to McDonalds after. My brain was fried from fretting over 12 straight sets of volleyball and i couldn’t taste anything i was eating. It was a good atmosphere.

I was pretty happy with how Volleyball SA organised the finals. It was a good venue, all at the same place, and all best-of-5 set games that were of a pretty good standard. I know the players loved it and it would now be a treasured memory.

We had the presentations on the sunday after at the city beach centre. the kids played pick-up games on the courts before and after the trophy presentations. We had to fit the presentations in a 2hr window in between the two SASI trial sessions with people coming and going before and after. It was a great weekend that capped off an awesome season of coaching junior volleyball.

Now, onto State Schools Cup, AVSC and summer league. No rest for the wicked.

Stuff you find on the FIVB site

September 13, 2010

no comment. you can get the whole video here.

Kessel-mania IV

September 4, 2010

I’ve been reading and watching a lot of John Kessel’s stuff online, and consequently posting some of his insights up recently. Devo posted up links to this stuff ages ago. In case you don’t know, Kessel is the guy in charge of Grass Roots Development and Disabled Programmes for USA Volleyball. His job is to get as many people as he can playing and enjoying volleyball quickly and easily.

To do this well Kessel has to teach people how to teach volleyball really easily, and show them how they can get complete novices to start enjoying volleyball really quickly. Kessel didn’t invent the ideas of motor learning: “Whole” vs “Part” training; “Random” vs “Blocked” training. But he definitely has been the evangelist in taking the ideas from elite application to the grass roots masses with his succinct “Game Teaches the Game” mantra. If you read Gladwell’s The Tipping Point you’ll know that not everyone can do this effectively.

Anyway, Kessel has had a massive influence that has reached even here in Australia. At some point many years ago, he came down to Australia and did some sort of seminar or work with coaches. I know because I’ve heard at least 3 or 4 coaches (Gen X-ers and Boomers) talk about “Positive and Negative Errors”, “Gamelike drills” etc. His ideas have definitely left a mark here.

There’s one particular anecdote Kessel used that all these coaches remember. The story remains the same, but people often forget who it was about, and who told it to them. However, the detail of it being about someone having to serve under pressure in an Italian League match remains consistent. As the story varies through Chinese Whispers, I thought I’d let another generation of volleyballers enjoy the story from the horse’s mouth: