Archive for the ‘Performance Analysis’ Category

Asian Girls (U17) Volleyball Championships – part 2: The Big 4

January 4, 2015

I previously wrote about China, Japan, Korea, Chinese Taipei and Thailand at the AVC U19 championships. This time, in my follow up to my post about the AVC U17 championships, I will focus on China, Japan, Korea and Thailand. Taipei regularly makes the top 5 with the rest, but I didn’t get much of a chance to watch them play at U17s. Just like at U19s, China, Korea, Japan and Thailand played off for the medals. For ease, I have placed the teams referred to on the close side of the net.

General impressions

  • The teams float serve hard, with many players able to put a floating ball to consistently land in the back metre of the court just clearing the net by centimetres. It was common to see teams receive below 50% positive
  • The offence is not always wide. It was common to see fast outside balls set to 30cm to a metre inside the antenna. The good spikers were drilled to make adjustments and play good angles to make use of a hittable ball that stayed in tempo.
  • Combinations using an outside hitter or opposite to attack in the middle zone were common. A simple solution for the fact many teams didn’t have hitters who could kill the ball consistently in all 5 zones.
  • All star awards were just weird with the winners of the best and 2nd best middle blocker awards both being players who played as passer-hitters. Seriously, compare the awards published with the videos below!

Korea (4th)

The smallest of the 4 semi-finalists, Korea relied on it’s Middle attackers #3 An, #4 Kim and #9 Jeong, where the mis-match at the net was minimalised. Out of system, the team relied on diminutive outside hitters #10 Ko Minji (who won the Best Outside Hitter award), and #18 Yoo. Korea was also one of 2 teams with a dedicated scout (the same scout Korea had at U19s), and implemented a great plan against Thailand to take a much stronger team to five sets. Unfortunately they fell ever so close and couldn’t back it up against China the next day losing the Bronze medal.

China (3rd)

The tallest of the 4 semifinallists. The standout on the team was 14-year-old #1 Li Ying Ying – A left handed outside hitter who led the scoring in just about every game she played, she probably deserved the best outside spiker award, but somehow managed to win best Middle Blocker (Perhaps a nod to the time Russian setting great Vyacheslav Zaitsev won the Best Receiver in the 1977 World Cup).

Towering Chinese outside hitters #3 Han Wenya (left) and #1 Li Ying Ying (right)

Towering Chinese outside hitters #3 Han Wenya (left) and #1 Li Ying Ying (right)

China was big but seemed less advanced than the other 3 teams. They were slower and played the simpler system with less variation. Their attack tendencies were more predictable and their attackers had a limited (but still formidable) range of shots. While the team that played ay U19s was serious and all business, this team seemed a lot more playful and friendlier – they would talk to the other teams, take photos with them and even swap uniforms on the last night.

* * *

One of the odd quirks at AVC tournaments is the occasional requirement for each team to perform a musical number on stage at the opening ceremony. I think it’s a weird Asian thing and happens at all sorts of other events. While this used to happen more frequently, it’s becoming less common and we weren’t required to perform this time.  This didn’t stop China from volunteering (yes folks, this actually happened). And for the life of me I have no idea why our team volunteered after with a bizarre rendition of “Land Downunder”. Anyhow, i digress.

* * *

Out of a combination of pride and youthful confidence, China managed to take a much stronger Thailand to 5 sets  in the crossover round, before being methodically dismantled by Japan in the semi finals. They were able to finish strong with a win over Korea for the Bronze medal.


What can I say? They were awesome to watch and on paper possibly the best team with an unstoppable offence when they got going. No other team created as much time pressure on their opponents as Thailand. The reception or dig was usually low and tight to the net, and the ball came out fast to the outside or middle. They had 3 players who were starters  in the U19 team that lost the Bronze medal at AVC in July in 5 sets – #1 Anisa (Libero), #9 Chutchuon Moksri and #12 Pimpichaya Kokram. Chutchuon had been in the Thai World Champs team that competed in Italy earlier in the month! Pimpichaya won best opposite attacker (deservingly, scoring 20 kills in the semi-final and 15 kills in the  gold medal match), while Chutchuon won 2nd best outside hitter and setter #13 Natthanicha Chaisan won best setter.

They played in the rotation with the middle following the setter. They were simply fun to watch because of their dynamic game and the large crowds they drew due to the popularity of the sport (you’ll notice the attendances are much better in the Thai scouting video). Both Korea and Japan, with scouting were able to exploit weak rotations, and put them under enough pressure to make them predictable enough to beat or get very close.


Once again Japan turned up as the most professional outfit, with the best uniforms and the best equipment, and the best scout. They didn’t seem to have anyone who was the best at anything but had the uncanny ability to collectively make the best on-court decisions time and again. Captain and opposite #5 Airi Miyabe won MVP and was simply clutch in the Gold medal match scoring off a lot of high balls. Her teammates #9 Kanoha Kagamihara won best Libero and #12 Miyu Nakagawa won 2nd best middle blocker (like China’s Li Ying Ying who won best middle blocker, Nakagawa was also an outside hitter).

Japan didn’t drop a set until the Gold Medal match, and facing an intimidating Thai offence with the competition’s 2 best spikers, came up with a game plan that did enough to help them win narrowly. Japan had the 2 best “actual” middle blockers in #4 Shiori Aratani, who received serve in EVERY rotation and #12 Haruka Sekiyama. What impressed me most about Japan is they had the deepest understanding of the game to get the best out of themselves. Where China and Thailand became one-dimensional under pressure, Japan could improvise and find a way to keep their weapons in the game.  They played a system where the middle blocker and receiver next to the opposite went off for the libero, and were somehow less confused than the other teams that played a simpler system. They also had wonderful role players, from #14 Miku Shimada who as a serving sub scored aces, and backup setter #8 Manami Mandai who closed a 6 point deficit in the semi final match to get them to 21-21 during a double sub stint.

Semi Final 1: Japan v China (Statistics)

Not much to say. The scores flatter China but they were never in it. Japan didn’t play at 100%. China looked confused out-of system, whereas Japan seemed comfortable. China (receiving at 48% positive and 36% perfect) received better than Japan (21% positive and 10% perfect), but scored much less in the middle – China’s middle blockers scored a combined 6 kils from 19 attempts while Japan’s middle blockers scored 12 from 21 attempts. Japan were just much better at scoring off reception and in transition, in fast tempo offence and in high ball situations.

Semi Final 2: Thailand v Korea (Statistics)

This was definitely the best game to watch. Korea threw everything they had at Thailand with some small unathletic looking players doing extraordinary things. Korea fell 16-14 at the very end, with both teams scoring 112 points. Korea played slightly better in attack and reception but it wasn’t enough. Korea’s effort in its combination of scouting, execution, team play and guts was just impressive, but alas, not enough. The stronger team playing below its best went through.

Bronze Medal Match: China v Korea (Statistics)

I didn’t actually see this match live as we were doing 1-on-1 meetings with the players. I watched and coded it after. Disappointingly, Korea didn’t back up their performance the night before and a proud China were determined to finish on a high.

Gold Medal Match: Japan v Thailand (Statistics)

This was a great game. We had played Thailand in a practice game and they seemed invincible. They had the two best spikers and aggressive serving to force teams to play slow. The question was could Thailand put Japan under enough pressure to prevent Japan from playing it’s game? Thailand attacked better on reception, but Japan was able to create enough transition points to stay level and win. Both teams received as well (or poorly), but Japan managed to attack more with its middles – 17 kills from 32 attacks compared with Thailand’s 4 kills from 11 attacks.

Japan had clearly prepared well. You could see their leftist blocker holding on the B-Ball not concerned about the backcourt attack. Japan didn’t neutralise Thailand’s two biggest weapons Cutchuon who scored 17 kills or Pimpichaya who scored 15 kills. Thailand really could have won. They were leading 23-22 in both the 2nd and 4th sets. Japan was just slightly better. Miyabe and Nakagawa were Japan’s best performers on 16 kills each, many off high-balls from poor reception and good defensive plays. As a sign of their flexibility, Japan moved Miyabe to Outside hitter so they could start their second opposite and reverse the 3rd set 18-25 loss to win the 4th set 26-24. The change in lineup wasn’t a big deal for them. The reception lineups changing and the libero changing for different players wasn’t a big deal. Japan’s maturity, adaptability and understanding of the game were just phenomenal.


Perana VideoTagger – The best video tagging software ever

September 16, 2014

There is not hyperbole in the title. After years of testing, the Perana Sports folks who made VBStatsHD have made VideoTagger – an easy-to-use video tagging application that lets you create your own templates and interfaces.

VBStatsHD is great – in fact I love to use it for both our match analysis during games and for scouting when I am assisting coaches. However many people who have tried VBStatsHD are overwhelmed by the number of buttons and options (you usually have to key in 3 buttons to code an action).

This is where VideoTagger comes in. You can create really simple templates and interfaces.

Create your own custom template

Step 1: Create your own custom template

Step 2: Code the game

Step 2: Code the game

Step 3: Upload the video, synch and then select the events you want to see or export.

Step 3: Upload the video, synch and then select the events you want to see or export.

For example, I use a simple template to code my own matches while I am coaching the game on my own without an assistant. The interface simply has a button for each player, and a button for 6 actions (Serve, Receive, Set, Spike, Block, Dig). So it’s only 2 buttons for any touch.

Other coaches use it for scouting, where they only code the rotations (S1, S2, S3 etc).

Just like VBStatsHD, you can code stuff live and upload the and synch the video later, or upload the video first and code later.

It’s a great entry level application for video analysis for only $10! Trust me, it’ll be the best $10 you ever spent on volleyball related stuff.


VVI State League Grand Final – 16 Aug 2014

August 30, 2014
Yarra Ranges - Winners!

Yarra Ranges – Winners!

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to be a ringer on the coaching staff in a Victorian State League Grand Final. My good friend Bill was the assistant coach of Yarra Ranges Premier Men, and I had worked with 8 of the players and coaching staff in the Victorian state teams over the last couple of years, so was more than happy to help out when asked. I’ve now been involved as a coach in state league grand finals in 3 states.

Most of my work was done before I even arrived in Melbourne for the game having coded the semi-final and preliminary final matches.  I coded games the head coach, Luke, had posted on youtube and provided statistical and video analysis that helped Bill and Luke come up with the game plan. In the end the game plan we started with didn’t work, but the research, and in-game stats we took on both sides of the net helped us make the adjustments to win. During the game I took stats on the other team while one of the other coaches, Allan, kept stats on our team.

The Teams

Yarra was playing Southern Cross Cobras. The 2 teams had been the 2 strongest teams all season. Yarra had comprehensively beaten SSC in 3 straight sets in their semi final but SSC would not be so easy this time round. Both teams were coached by ex Olympic Middle Blockers: Yarra by the former Australian captain Luke Campbell and SCC by Ben Loft. Yarra had won last year’s premiership and despite losing 3 starters, still had the best all round player (Steve Wallace), middle blocker (Campbell) and scorer (Kiwi Ben O’Dea). SCC had the best libero (Cam Blewett) and two formidable passer hitters (Jason Hughes and Matt Richards).

The Game

Yarra won the first set narrowly 27-25. They had outscored SCC 18 kills to 11, but 14 unforced errors from spiking and serving had kept SCC in the game. SCC owned the next set winning 25-15 as Yarra struggled with consistency. Our best player Steve Wallace was struggling in attack scoring only 1 kill in each of the 2 sets. SCC’s best player was Matt Richards scoring 7 from 12 in the first 2 sets. Although he lead his team’s scoring, Richo’s numbers didn’t jump out at me, but did something to stir Bill’s gut feeling. Impressively while we were being thoroughly beaten in the 2nd set, Luke swapped his player’s hat for his coach’s hat and subbed himself off to talk tactics with Bill and figure out what to do.

Bill suggested a revised lineup for the third set. The two key moves were Steve (who had been playing as a receiving opposite-hitter) would be moved to passer-hitter next to the setter, and Ben O’Dea (who had been playing passer-hitter in front court, but hit right side in backcourt) would be moved to opposite to create a match up on Richo. Ben had lead our team in attacks up to that point getting set just under half of the balls hitting 16 from 28, and so there would be a risk making the move. The other consequence was it matched up the playing-coaches Luke Campbell on Ben Loft in the front court.

The moves worked. In the third set, SCC’s setter responded to the bigger block on Richo and set him less. He only scored 4 more kills in the next 2 sets. Steve got out of his funk and dominated scoring 8 kills in the next 2 sets. The move didn’t affect Ben O’Dea’s scoring effectiveness at all as he scored even more points in the 3rd and 4th sets than he had in the first 2. He would finish the game as our best player scoring 35 kills. Luke Campbell and Ben Loft’s duel was great to watch and Luke got the last word winning a huge joust on 17-9 in the 4th set. We won the 3rd set narrowly 28-26 (we dominated but made 12 unforced errors) and 25-11 in the 4th set (we made less errors, and SCC lost some steam)

* * *

The celebration afterwards was great. Two of the Yarra families owned vineyards and so there was plenty of great wine at an intimate party at a cellar door. They also inducted the first of their life members and the stories that flowed during the citations and mingling were great. There was plenty of celebrating with our young Div 2 men’s team also winning their premiership playoff. The good news also came that Ben O’Dea had won a contract to play professionally in 2nd Division in Germany and our setter, Linford had scored a contract in 1st Division in Holland. It was a pretty cool weekend!

(Videos edited using VBStatsHD)

Asian Women’s (U19) Volleyball Championship – Part 2: The big 5

August 13, 2014

Interestingly at this tournament, the only 2 teams where the players and staff have to pay to participate are Australia and New Zealand.  All the other teams had their costs covered by their federations or government funding. Some of the top players in the other teams had semi-professional players playing in the top domestic league competitions in their countries. A couple of the players were already playing in their senior national teams in World Grand Prix events.

So the top 5 countries at this event is usually (in no particular order) Japan, China, Korea, Thailand and Chinese Taipei (OK, that was a pretty specific order). There is a big gap between them and the rest, so everyone else is playing off for 6th. For Australia, this event is the most important indoor event at the end of a 4-year program. For countries like Japan and China, where their players are in high standard daily training and competition environments, this is the 2nd most important event in a 6-moth program (They’re really thinking about Junior World Championships).

So what do the top 5 teams look like?

Chinese Taipei. Smallest out of the 5 teams. Chinese Taipei uses the 1st and 2nd tempo attacks through the middle of the net more than any other team in the competition with great proficiency. During their quarter-final against Korea, their fast tempo attack was enough to win them a set from 21-14 down. They were also able to go out of their comfort zone and win some clutch high balls at the antenna, but were not quite consistent enough on reception to beat Korea.

Thailand. Possibly the team with the least resources in the big 5 but with the most interesting offence. Setter Tichaya Boonlert was the most able setter at the tournament at running 1st and 2nd tempo offence in the middle of the net, as we saw in Thailand in April when her club team won the Sealack tournament. She was also able to add a fast ball to the antenna in the repetoire. After reviewing the video I think she was the best setter in the tournament. No other team played faster and closer to the net. Thailands 2 outside hitters (Wipawee Srithong and Chutchuon Moksri) were born in 1999 and their opposite (Pimpicchaya Kokram) was born in 1998, making them a serious threat if all 3 compete at Asian Youth Championships in Thailand in October.

Korea. This was my favourite team to watch. They were led by identical twins Lee Dayeong (winner of best setter award) and Lee Jaeyeong (joint winner of best outside hitter award), who are both on the Korea’s World Grand Prix roster. While most other teams were either emotionally reserved or played with what seemed to be a “scripted enthusiasm”, Korea was the team that wore its heart on its sleeve. They seemed to be the team playing closest to their limits to achieve their results. Most of the attack went through Lee Jaeyeoung on the left side, although she could also get set a “short” outside set, or a metre ball from 2 or 4. They were not particularly strong with the middle attack, with Dayeong not getting a consistently timed set to her hitters.

The Awesome Twins: Setter Lee Dayeong (#4) and Captain/Passer Hitter Lee Jaeyeong (#12). Both won the award for best player in their positions.

The Awesome Twins: Setter Lee Dayeong (#4) and Captain/Passer Hitter Lee Jaeyeong (#12). Both won the award for best player in their positions.

Japan. Another fun team to watch. The team had arguably the best player in Sarina Koga. Playing with ultimate precision and control, the team possessed a number of players who could hit hard as well as the control balls into the gaps to create uncertainty in the defence. Also the strongest team in reception and defence. Japan had won this age group at Asian Youth Championships 2 years previously but had lost to China at World Youth Championships when Koga was called up to the national team. Japan’s promise in the media guide of “resolute and speedy combination volleyball, which is regarded as a tradition of Japanese” was severely put to the test when their starting setter was injured in the semi-final. Their inspirational captain (Yanagita) and libero (Koike) had the wildly entertaining warmup ritual of handstand walking from one sideline to the other.  The players were the most professional of any team. Nothing seemed to unsettle them – not even the injuries of their best player (Koga) and setter (Shirai) during the semifinals seemed to affect them as they crusised to win the game against Thailand.

China. They were just bigger. While the other teams had players who could spike reach at 2.90-3.00 and block reach between 2.80-2.90, China’s starting lineup could al spike reach at 3.10+ and block reach at 3.00+. While the other teams relied on speed, angles and skill, China could just hit over the top of the block – which they often did, hitting angles we teach players to avoid – and make it hard for the other teams to to score. China possessed a capable setter (Sun) and the 2 best middle attackers (Hu and Zhang). They had a lot of depth on the bench and didn’t show their true lineup until the finals.

The Semifinals. Both these matches were fantastic and full of drama. All 4 teams had been able to play varying lineups during the 2 weeks but played their best lineups with a gold medal game on the line. In the first game, Korea gave China a decent scare winning the first set and narrowly losing the 2nd set after leading for much of the time. Lee Jaeyeong was mercurial in leading in the attack in these 2 sets, but an injury to middle blocker Kang caused disruptd the momentum. The stadium was silent when Kang fell and screamed in agony. In the silence, an ultra-competitive  Hu yelled something to her teammates as Kang was being carried off which prompted an awkward murmered laugh from the crowd. One of the locals explained to me that she had yelled “Don’t worry about her. Just do your jobs!”. By the end of the 2nd set, Korea had played 100 rallies at their best level and ran out of steam. Korea were unlucky to not win. They scored 60 kills compared to China’s 48. They scored about the same amount of points off blocks and aces. They just made too many errors. China just prevailed with strength, size and consistency.

The 2nd semifinal between Japan and Thailand was not without injury. The crowd was shocked with disbelief when Japan’s Koga was carried off late in the 1st set after landing on the foot of the Thai opposite spiker going under the net. After the substitution, Thailand ran the same play again and the opposite spiker once again went under the net. You could see the Thai coach yelling about it afterwards. Late in the 2nd set Japan lost its setter landing on the spiker’s foot. Japan’s captain and other passer hitter, Yanagita took over setting duties and Japan cruised to an easy 3-0 win over Thailand. After both injuries Japan seemed to perform at the same level, siding out and straight away as if nothing had happened.

Bronze Medal Match – KOR v THA

This was a fantastic match going to 5 sets: Korea finding something in the tank after giving everything they had the night before against China in the semi; Thailand really putting Korea under pressure and finding  ways to score points through its young players out of system. By the time Thailand worked out they were good enough to win it was too late. While Lee Jaeyeong was a strong contributor to the win scoring 19 kills off 45 balls, she had a quiet 2nd and 3rd sets where she scored only 2 points. While she was struggling, her teammates Ha Hyejin (20 kills from 40 balls, including 8 kills from high balls), Jeong Yuli (11 kills from 28 balls) and Kang Sohwi (10 Kills from 16 balls) stepped up to keep Korea in the game.

Thailand relied largely on their 3 young players hitting 90% of the ball. To add variety these players attacked along the width of the net. Although preferring to use the 1st and 2nd tempo attack in the middle 6 metres of the net, Thailand also found ways to win when forced to play a high ball on the outside.

Gold Medal Match – CHI v JPN

Japan’s lineup adjustments due to injuries to their starting setter and best attacker changed their game significantly. Their other starting outside hitter Yanagita took on setter’s responsibilities and players Sakamoto and Nakamoto came off the bench to play the 2 passer hitter positions. The result of the lineup change was that Japan played a slower offensive game setting mainly to the 2 players coming off the bench (they got set 98 times). Mabashi, who eventually won the Best Opposite award only got set 16 times, and Yanagita struggled to set a 1st tempo ball in the middle, placing enormous pressure on the passer hitters. Japan was able to win the first set with some great attacking from the left side. The sets were higher and slower but China initially only put up a double block, allowing Sakamoto and Makamoto to hit line when china blocked cross and vice versa. It was fantastically executed. As the game progressed, China worked out the set was going to the left side and began using triple blocks. However they left the line allowing the Japan’s left side hitters to score there. Finally they set the triple block at the antenna and it was game over for Japan. Japan actually performed OK considering the 1 dimensional attack the implemented outscoring China in Attacks (50 to 41).

China on the other hand started off nervously losing the first set, but eventually were just too big. Their middles were set 32 times, with Hu scoring 11 times. This took the pressure off the outsides and opposite hitters, who were able to score anyway by hitting over the top of the block into position 6. Finally, stacking the block on Japan’s main attackers took away the Japan’s last chance to win (They scored 13 block points to Japan’s 4).

It was kind of a disappointing game: Japan played well below their best but better than China and still lost; Japan did everything right within their means to win but China still won (So yes, the team that scored less kills than their opponents in both the semi and gold medal game became the champions!).

Anatomy of a win

July 14, 2014

“I learned a lot from you this week. We worked really well together because you use statistics and I coach with my gut. I hope we can do this again some time.” – Michael Miller

Coaches and some of the team after the closing ceremony

Coaches and some of the team after the closing ceremony

This was some flattering words from my fellow Victorian U19 men’s team assistant coach as we said our goodbyes at the end of an emotional week at Australian Junior Volleyball Championships. We had both been called in to assist due to the original coaches being called up to coach the Australian Junior Women’s team at the Asian Junior Championships. I would be joining them later and was allowed to stay back till the end of AJVC.

Only a few hours before we had “technically” beaten QLD Maroon for the first time in the state careers of most of the players – a QLD team who had left some emotional scars 2 years ago in an ugly incident that was never truly resolved. The win earned us the Bronze medal. We had actually beaten them 2 days earlier, in 4 sets after siding out on 4 set points to win 28-26 in the last set. We had shaken hands and signed off the score sheet and thought we had conquered some old demons when the QLD coach protested. He had suspected they were out of rotation in the 4th set and had asked several times for the next server but was dismissed by the scorer’s desk.

Turned out the scorers had not entered in the rotation slip correctly. The referee delegate was called who upheld the request. It was determined that the 4th set and game was invalid and we had to replay the 4th set from 5-7. As the referee delegate had “upheld the protest” our head coach and head of delegation were not allowed to appeal. We lost the 4th and 5th sets and in doing so the game. To rub salt in the wound, our opposite hitter, Phil, who had lead our scoring with an average 20 kills a game had his left thumb dislocated blocking in the 4th set.

Our head of delegation appealed later that night and the referee delegate realised he got it wrong. The win was overruled the next day and we awarded the win 25-7 in the 4th set. QLD appealed against the decision and it was decided that the clause in the rules dictated that once a protest was “upheld” no appeal could be made. Everyone knew we had won the game but could not do anything about it. I have never been so disgusted with refereeing in my life.

So it turned out we had to play the same team again for the bronze medal and no one was feeling too good about it. We prepared for the game as clinically as we could by reviewing the statistics and video.

Our team was “small” but had a number of strong receivers (we had 3 Liberos in our roster of 10). QLD had exploited our weak blocking particularly over our short setter, Dan, and one of our outside hitters, Richo. This had been a persistent concern over the months of preparation. Reviewing the video and stats on vbstatshd it turned out that the setter had not been that poorly exploited in the front court as much as we thought. The handful of occasions were annoying but not great in number.

Our stronger blocking outside hitter and captain, Darcy usually started next to the setter and I suggested the radical idea of having him start next to the opposite, and Richo next to the setter. Although not a great blocker or receiver, Richo attacked the ball high and had possibly the fastest armswing in the competition. He had terrorised QLD in our last game hitting 7 kills from 9 attempts in the replayed sets. Andre, one of our spare hitters who had been doing a good job moonlighting as an outside hitter would sub on for Richo in the back court. Instead of spreading our strongest blockers around the rotation, they would all be next to each other and give us 2 formidable blocking rotation but expose us to 2 extremely vulnerable ones.

The risk of putting the 2 weaker blockers next to each other would be mitigated by starting them both in the backcourt to limit their time in the frontcourt and the fact we knew that we had strong side out percentages in those rotations, meaning we should break even in those rotations and pile on the points in the others.

The head coach, Linford also decided that in the frontcourt setter rotations, Dan would occasionally swap into the middle and have the middle blocker blocking outside.  This had worked in the previous match against QLD prompting them to change their offence and use the pipe over Dan in the middle. Our other assistant Michael had a good feel for when to do this and would be calling the plays. When blocking on the outside, Dan would block to the stick to remove the the blocker’s option of playing off the outside hand, and maybe bait the spiker into hitting the antenna. the position 6 defender would also swing to the line side behind the block.

We didn’t worry too much about creating blocking match-ups or particular serving targets. We were not a strong blocking team and needed our best blockers focused on scoring through attack and Linford found it worked better to let players take a bit of risk with the serve.

By morning of the match, Andre had a fever and could not play, Richo had a sore foot and Phil’s dislocated thumb was still hurting after being re-set. Harry, our 2nd backup libero would play the backcourt rotations for Richo instead of Andre. We let Phil make the call whether he would play with the proviso that if he did, he would be playing 100% and to expect 40+ sets.

The set started slowly with the team tentative. We would need a big game from our opposite Phil, but he had scored 2 from 10 sets with no errors, missing a lot of the pace that made him a problem for opponents. Darcy and Richo had embraced the occasion and were carrying the attack, scoring 9 from 18. Darcy’s job was made the more difficult as the serving target but he responded well passing 15 balls at 2.20. His strong reception and scoring definitely undermined our opponent’s confidence in their gameplan,

During the timeouts and breaks I constantly stressed to Phil and Richo to keep swinging, and that we would rather they got blocked 20 times than get dug 20 times. I instructed Dan to keep setting them with the ratios we had been working with throughout the tournament. By the 2nd set, Phil’s Nurofen had kicked in and Dan feeding him the ball had paid off. Phil would hit 19 kills off 35 sets with 6 errors over the next 3 sets. Dan’s distribution to Phil was equal in backcourt and frontcourt and Phil’s efficiency was consistent in frontcourt and backcourt.

Meanwhile Matt was doing a great job as Libero. He received 18 balls at 2.28 and got 17 digs. More importantly, he organised the receivers to pass at 2.09 in a 2-receiver system, which made it harder for QLD to server Darcy and allowed us to play Richo without exposing the risks to reception.

By the 3rd set I had noticed that QLD was hitting a lot of slower balls. If we could get them to pass at 2.0, we could generally make a dig. I stressed the team to go moderate risk on the serve but stay high risk on the attack.

In addition to calling the blocking plays, Michael was also calling the subs to find opportunities when someone could add value from the bench. We often argued over the subs, but his instinct often prevailed and we got great outcomes. Michael also identified the serving targets.

So did it work? Well, we did win the next 3 sets after dropping the first. Teams in the tournament needed to average hitting 14 kills to win a set and we had scored 18, 17 and 16 in those sets.

Watching the video, in the 4 rotations with the weaker blockers (setter in 1, 2, 3 and 4), QLD scored 17 kills by exploiting one of the blockers. But we managed to sideout 32 times (24 times on the first ball), so we didn’t stay there long and more or less broke even (55 points won, 53 points lost). In the strong blocking rotations (setter in 5 and 6), we did rack up the points (41 points won, 25 points lost).

Sideout Report: Team siding out 24 times in rotations with 1 or both weak blockers (Rotations 1, 4, 5 and 6, or Setter in 1, 4, 3 and 2)

Sideout Report: Team siding out 24 times in rotations with 1 or both weak blockers (Rotations 1, 4, 5 and 6, or Setter in 1, 4, 3 and 2)

Team breaking even in rotations 1, 4, 5 and 6 (Setter in 1, 4, 3 and 2), and winning more points in rotations 2 and 3 (Setter in 6 and 5)

Team breaking even in rotations 1, 4, 5 and 6 (Setter in 1, 4, 3 and 2), and winning more points in rotations 2 and 3 (Setter in 6 and 5)

This was only possible because of the contributions of our unique team: Matt able to run a 2-receiver system and take most of the court so we could put more attacking players on court; Our Middle Blocker Sam Nothnagel scoring 8 from 12 with 1 error – playing next to the setter, he allowed us to sideout in the frontcourt rotations, and being our best server on our team, he burned up most of QLD’s timeouts; Our outside hitters Darcy and Richo attacking out of their skins for a combined 28 kills from 49 balls; Our middle blockers James and Zach sharing the other slot to keep the blockers honest on block, score points and make blocks; Our opposite hitter Phil playing with a dislocated left thumb to kill 50% of the balls he got whether in frontcourt or backcourt at the same volume to win a deserving all-star selection; our backup liberos Harry and Andre playing utility roles as passer hitters with overqualified receiving abilities and a penchant to score points at the right time; and our setter Dan, who although having never played for the first team, more than any other setter I worked with was able to deliver the offensive concept planned in each game he played, and to set the right guy a well set ball when it mattered.

Had we won the first game against QLD we could have made the Gold medal match, although i’m skeptical SA would have dropped the game we needed them to against VIC white on the last day if they knew they weren’t a game clear. After winning the Bronze, the sting from the game earlier in the week had gone. It was a good way to finish the tournament!

** All statistics, videos and charts generated using VBstatsHD, an app that costs $30 on iTunes. 


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 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

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!