Ryan Millar, Olympic Gold Medal Setter….

July 07, 2009, 12:50 p.m. (ET)

Of late, one of my favorite "trivia" questions for volleyball coaches is who set the gold medal match point for the USA Men's team in Beijing? Most guess of course Lloy Ball, the four time Olympic setter who so skillfully bettered ball after ball and gave his hitters the sweet set they desired. But the answer is in the title, as in the chaos and randomness of our fast moving sport, the final rally ended with a dig going to Ryan who set that final ball. One of my favorite quotes shared in the coaching clinics I do follows...

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."  -- Lazarus Long (Robert Heinlein)

Hugh McCutcheon put it this way for our USA players, saying that he wants players who are good at all the skills in volleyball and great in one or two.

I wrote an article long ago, called "You will be a Better Player if you Coach, " and strongly feel the most important way we can grow our sport is by getting every one of you reading these blogs, to go back to your club and getting your players to coach littler kids DURING those player's practice times of either the HS/College or your Jr. Olympic Volleyball season. Take one hour out of your normal two hour weekly practice to coach youth volleyball. Sit back as the head coach and see how your players interpret what you have taught them as they coach kids. Divide your court down the middle and create FOUR lil kids courts. Play over rope if you have to....just mark the corners, no need for more lines...just give your players the chance to be better players by teaching the sport they love in season.

Well, in a related way, I feel strongly that you will be a better hitter if you set. Karch Kiraly our new women's USA assistant coach, spent much of his time at UCLA not only winning NCAA Championships, but running a 6-2. Younger programs are asked/guided/prodded to run a 6-3 or a 6-6 for kids 14 and under - Click here for more on that idea. The European youth volleyball leaders require their youth to play circulation volleyball - rotating after ever time the ball crossed the net. The idea is when they are young to NOT specialize. If you get your players out this summer - just put up courts and provide a big container of water/lemonade, and leave them be - to play doubles, these wonderful athletes get to work on their weaknesses. The tall hitter sees the serves going to their short partner such that the hitter now sets the second ball. The "IAMASETTERASIAMTOOSHORTTOBEAHITTER" player gets to pass and HIT all summer long. We create the more well rounded players our national team program needs. Cuba, who won THREE Olympic Gold medals in women's volleyball in the last 20 years, does it in part by running 6-2. This small island nation has beaten the world - including giving the USA women a Beijing pool play thrashing we avenged in the playoffs - by taking their most powerful/fast armed/high leaping hitters - and teaching them to set.

So, the picture below shows yet another way to grow our sport - letting kids hit first, and off of the Olympic Gold medal "setter" Ryan Millar.

The Viper Club in San Antonio Texas brought Ryan and me in early to do come kids volleyball development, and the shot below was one of my favorite - the boy overhead passed a tossed ball from Ryan, back to Ryan, who set the youngster and then watched in anticipation. Pass-Set-Hit...the essence of our game...More ideas on youth volleyball/mini volleyball as the world calls it, are coming soon. We have been sharing them for years here at USA Volleyball, and it seems that many of you are finally starting the pipeline earlier, where it is needed, without specialization and with the game teaching the game. The ideas in part our in the "Rule Sheet" you can download by clicking here - where these 30 plus years of minivolleyball rules are summarized into the article about 2-3-4 person kids volleyball. With any luck, the next Ryan Millar will come from your neck of the woods, thanks to the great pipeline you created in growing our sport through USA Volleyball.

Thanks all, for your thoughts and ideas. More to come!


The following comments were made on our previous web platform and have been transferred here to maintain the historical record.

On July 07, 2009 Joel Stanford wrote

I love these blog entries and eagerly anticipate each new posting! However, I often see references to links such as "you can download by clicking here" that aren't hyperlinked or to or photo's that don't show up. Is this an error in the website or an anomoly of IE8? Any others fail to get the active links?

On July 07, 2009 Joel Stanford wrote

The two links mentioned in the article above don't appear to be valid. Is there somewhere else that they might show?

On July 17, 2009 John Kessel wrote

Joel - Thanks for the heads up on the links. Brent fixed them and now both should work with all browsers. John

We very much welcome additional new comments, to be contributed below: