Manny Johnson: Blog 11 at 2008 HP Youth Holiday Camp

Jan. 21, 2009, 5:16 p.m. (ET)

Day 5 session 2

Broke into some positional training today; one court had OH working on pass + hit, pass + shuffle (3) + hit and no pass + shuffle (5) + hit.  The outsides also worked on back row transitions going from left back and right back to hit a pipe (shuffle 3) and from middle back to hit the pipe (shuffle 2).

The other court had the middles, setters, & libero; they worked on middle transitions out of serve receive.  In rotations one, three, four, six & sometimes five the middle transitions from left front and hits a quick set in front of the setter or a slide set behind the setter (rotations 4, 6, & sometimes 5 because the setter is front row).  In rotation two a middle starts at right front and has to shuffle around the setter and hit a quick.  We want the middles to shuffle three or five steps then go into their approach.

The other responsibility the middle has in serve receive is to pass short. Middles need to be ready to hit at all times especially because we want the setters to set quick when the pass is in the seams (passes off center) & when balls are off the net.  We then brought the two courts together and did a doghouse game focusing on the transitions and shuffles we just worked on.  We finished the day with a 6v6 transition wash drill.

This drill requires a team to win to balls in order to score a point and rotate.  The first ball is coach initiated and the defending team must block and transition.  The winning team gets a free ball and play resumes.  The coaches alternate sides entering a ball in play. 

We had a discussion about swing blocking and blocking in general before we went into trans/wash.  Some of the key points of that discussion were 1) drift happens, the nature of swing blocking causes the body to drift a little creating a hole in the block, this is not the big deal people make it out to be because if the blockers are using their eyes correctly they will both see their hitter and penetrate the net at the right spot.  2) Another common misconception about swing blocking is that blockers can't get their arms around fast enough to penetrate with their hands.

To combat that we make sure that the blockers have a slight bend at the elbows when they are bringing their arms around and also we limit how much the blocker opens up.  If your blockers are constantly late in sealing the net (penetrating) then they are most likely opening their hips too far to the sideline.  They should open their hips to the pole (belly facing the pole) and they should use their eyes to find the hitter sooner so that they can seal the net or drop off and cover depending on what the hitter is capable of doing.

The last myth of swing blocking is 3) that the block gets tooled more often.  This too is false because when done correctly the hitter has no idea where a swing blocker is or where she will end up penetrating the net therefore the hitter cannot consciously tool the block.  If she does it is usually because the blocker did not finish with her hands over the net.  As Neil said "You want to finish your block move (seal the net) and let the hitter find the block.  You don't block the ball as much as hitters hit into your block."

The last thing we discussed was the four types of balls hit at someone. First is the easy ball hit right at you, second is the easy ball hit away from you, third is the hard ball hit right at you and fourth is the hard ball hit away from you.  In order to be successful defensively you must create and hopefully convert on the first three types of balls.  If you can create on the fourth type of ball you are playing extremely good defense.  By create we mean dig a ball and by convert we mean win the rally; by digging you have created a point scoring opportunity and if you win the rally you have converted the dig into a point.