Manny Johnson: Blog 13 at 2008 HP Youth Holiday Camp

Jan. 21, 2009, 5:19 p.m. (ET)

Day 7 session 1

Blaine and I took the girls to the San Diego Zoo today.  They went off as group of 12 while Blaine and I took in the zoo and talked volleyball all day.  After the zoo we headed back to the OTC for an evening session. 

This session was designed to be grueling and difficult.  Before we started Neil wrote some quotes on the whiteboard.
"Don't mistake kindness for weakness."
"Everyone has to pay a price."
"Defense is all desire effort and fire."
"This is not a penalty; this is the intensity we need."
"Gonna see what you are made of today."
"Pressure causes some to break, others to break records."
"It's a different game when we keep score, or is it?"

These quotes set the tone for the session and were designed to show the girls that the mental side of the game is just as important if not more important than the physical.  We all know the player who is lights out on offense and can put away the perfect sets but forgets to bring that intensity to the defensive side of things.  This same player is usually rah rah when the her team is winning but where is she when her team is down, what does she do w/a bad set, what kind of attitude does she bring at 15-14 in the deciding set?

These quotes address the importance of being all in all the time whether on offense or defense, whether winning or losing no matter what team you are playing.  The drills we did today expose those players who only play on offense, those who are afraid of crunch time and those who are not good teammates. 

We started with our pre-practice routine, followed by cover pepper and jump serving.  Then coach on 3 reminding the players to be mindful of digging 10-20-middle and not pre-hopping.  We then went onto the USA wash drill.  USA is a 6v6 game to 6 points, one per rotation.  Coaches initiate the drill with a free ball; the winner of the rally gets the next free ball. Teams get a letter for winning the free ball but only one team can have a letter at a time.  Once a team wins three free balls (USA), they get a chance to score a point by receiving serve and siding out.  If they lose the serve the serving team earns a U and gets a free ball opportunity.

As you can imagine with athletes of this level the game can be rather long and intense.  After USA, we did another 2 MVP games and wrapped up practice with Middle Hitter baseball.  In Middle hitter baseball every free ball that a team earns has to be set to the middle otherwise the rules are the same.

The session closed with the coaches reiterating the points made at the beginning about the mental edge.  We reminded the girls that at the highest levels (international volleyball) everyone is talented, everyone is tall, and everyone is good.  The difference in matches where both teams are equally skilled and equally physical comes down to inches.  The team that wins those matches is the team that is mentally prepared, the team that is better equipped for the psychological chess match that occurs on every play, the team that is thinking ahead wins the tight matches.