Manny Johnson: Blog 5 at 2008 HP Youth Holiday Camp

Jan. 21, 2009, 5:09 p.m. (ET)

day 3 session 1

"The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling but in rising again after you fall" Vince Lombardi. Blaine put that quote on the whiteboard to start practice.  It applies to camp well b/c we want the kids to be unafraid of making mistakes (falling) when training because mistakes mean you are learning.  As Neil told the kids today if you are uncomfortable that means you are probably doing it right. 

Today began w/our pre-practice routine followed by 6 touch pepper.  We did a passing review starting w/ a butterfly and progressing into a 3 person serve receive and finally adding a setter to the serve receive.  After the review we went into a doghouse game focusing on serve receive then into a monarch plus one also focusing on serve receive.  One of the subtle tweaks to the standard 3 person serve receive we have made is to move the passers up to  about 12/13 feet so that they are able to pass the short serves.

What about the short ball you may ask; if you recall distance =time therefore the passers have more time to shuffle back and pass the deep serve b/c it is in the air longer.  One other change we made is to move our target and by extension our setters off the net; we want the passes to go 5 feet off the net about 15 feet in the air and in middle of the court.  We did this to eliminate over passes and to keep our setters moving forward when they set.  For the super hard jump serve rockets we may even move the target as far off the net as 10 feet.

One of the other topics we covered was setter responsibilities.  Neil distilled it to 8 things; 1. setters need to compete 2. setters need to win 3. they need to bring something to their team 4. setters need to be confident 5. they need to give their teammates feedback (encouragement, lead by example) 6. they need to be able to make the team want to fight for them 7. they need to have heart and 8. they need to compete. If your setter can incorporate these traits into their play then you will be in good shape.  How do setters accomplish these things?  They can start by playing defense first, they can set an example by being the first player in the gym getting extra reps, and they can make sure their feedback is meaningful.  Telling the passers come on I need passes is not meaningful, saying create an angle and get that ball five feet off the net is meaningful and productive.

We finished the session by introducing individual defense.  On defense we want the digs to go 10-20-middle (10 feet off the net 20 feet in the air in the middle of the court).  We want players stopped w/arms ready when the ball is contacted; don't go until you know. We also introduced the overhand series of defensive maneuvers; 1. catch and throw, this is the basic overhand dig 2. tomahawk for an easy ball over your head that you cant quite catch 3. fist for a ball deep behind you that you have to jump for.  We prefer the fist over turning and running b/c most balls are to flat to chase down and it keeps the ball and play in front of you (you aren't turning your back to the play).

One other point we covered was the four stages of learning.  First is unconsciously unskilled; where players are not good and don't know they are not good.  Second is consciously unskilled; where players are not good but they know why they aren't good.  Third is consciously skilled; players are good but they have to be mindful and think about executing the skill correctly.  Fourth is unconsciously skilled; players are good and they don't have to think about the skill they just do it.