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100 Years of Volleyball Research Secret

July 13, 2010, 8:10 p.m. (ET)

This week finds me in Edmond, Oklahoma, somewhere on Tornado Alley (noted in part by the bright green “Severe Weather Shelter” signs in the gyms we are working, for the 2010 World Sitting Volleyball Championships. We have made it through days of set up, and an inspiring opening ceremonies and of course the teams came in several days early for advance training and getting used to our time zone. 
Like working the Paralympics, being around hundreds of disabled and talented athletes is simply humbling and inspiring all at the same time. You can go to www.wovd.info and click on events for 2014 World Championships as the 2010 website has been closed down.  Additional competition information can be found on the WOVD Competition Calendar:http://www.wovd.info/Docs/Calendar/Model%20Calendar%202011-2020.pdf

My son, Cody, is with me, along with an intern, Soonki Jin working with our department from the Korean Volleyball Federation. We drove my trusty Yukon “Columbus” with just shy of 200,000 miles on it, the 12 hours from Colorado to Austin, where Cody was playing in the 18 Open division. There I did some CAP clinics with Sean Byron of Ohio State, took lots of pictures, and cheered – rejoicing that after every day of intense competition, my body was not sort at all…lol. We all have to be pleased at how packed the finals were for the championship flights for the boys, standing room only when Outrigger lost its first match ever on the court  – 13-15 in the 18 Open finals to the strong Manhattan Beach Surf team. I brought Soonki along as he could not comprehend that we can put from 30-100 courts in one place, or the concept of a wave format with two tournaments held on one court, so best for him to experience it all.  His biggest surprise? How all the players at the end of their competition do a jersey swap, as hundreds of boys exchange their collections of uniforms and tshirts.  Every college program was there too, looking at players of all ages, and Bill Kauffman did a great job of capturing their presence in the article you can see by CLICKING HERE.   I took a time lapse one morning from an office window, capturing over an hour of getting ready to play from the moment the doors open, that came out pretty cool. My favorite part is the national anthem, look for it about ¾ of the way thru the 1 minute clip that can be found in the video section of our website.  There are lots of match play clips and photos in the video and photo galleries of the USAV website, check them out.

So with thousands of matches played in Austin for the boys, and concurrently for over 800 girls teams in Reno – this same fact found in the FIVB study came true again – so I will share it now. When I was on the Technical and Coaches Commission for the FIVB, in the Centennial year of our sport, 1995, we gathered knowledge of all the matches played from the start of the creation of our sport. 100 years of playing, 200 nations playing from National team level to youth, totaling over a billion matches. In this data, one thing came out with a high percentage. That is, in every match played, at a .99999998 percent rate, FIFTY (50) PERCENT OF THE TEAMS LOST. I mean, that is a BIG percentage, not some measly 10 percent which is not so often – it is fully HALF of every match played, that one of the teams goes home a LOSER.  From the way many coaches and parents were acting along the sidelines, you would think they all would expect their success level to be in the over 90 percent range. 

Nonetheless, as the late, great John Wooden understood, your success really is defined by playing the your hardest and best in a competition, regardless of the outcome – for the outcome takes care of itself. It is far more troublesome to play poorly and win, than to play your best and lose. Good teachers, and coaches, focus on performance day in and day out (a value of the competitive cauldron tool), by helping their players see this performance improvement.   One very strong suggestion to all reading is to video tape the team/individuals at the start of your season. Then half way thru, do it again, and show your players their performance improvement – even if they are not winning. That will come. Close the season down with yet another clip series of the players at their new level of playing, for we don’t see this improvement, and a good teacher helps us see it clearly as the training winds down.

My son competed just four years ago in his first Junior Olympic Volleyball Championships with a very young 14’s team, and did not win a match. This year, on a team of mostly 17 and unders, he competed at a level so much higher it was a joy to see. They ended up losing many times in three, and winning but one match. Yet this performance improvement was clearly seen by many, including the men who Cody and Mitch Beal beat along the way to the semifinals of the men’s BB in the 38th annual King of the Mountain in Vail. I was played in the first event,  and played nearly 40 years later on Sunday, Father’s day, with my daughter McKenzie – losing in the semifinals, do to my poor wearied performance, not hers.  My favorite division was the Father and Son for 12 and unders, where the tall dads worked together to encourage both young partners to pass, set, spike and serve hard and over. That Cody and Mitch went last September to the finals of the Motherlode Men’s B, to losing only twice, both times to the King of the Mountain BB men’s champions in pool then the semis, is a great way to show this skill performance improvement we need to show. That clubs encouraged their players to play a weekend of doubles less than two weeks before the Junior National Championships they might be playing in, also shows great hope – and we responded by allowing the juniors to receive serve and digs overhead, letting them understand this is not how they might play in the same event against adults, but for giving them an extra tune up – passing in the wind, sun and whole court coverage demands found in playing doubles. Another place to see the impact of role modeling, improved training, and younger start up was seen with this year’s 14 team from Colorado, which took third in the 14 Open. Well done by all at Front Range.

So we came in direct from Austin and have been working operations since arrival. Sharing an apartment with TJ, Paralympic archer, and laying down courts, cutting lines, paying per diems and other fees, taking lots of pictures, and just helping out where needed opertationally. The UCO Staff, behind the work of Katrina Shaklee, Mark Herrin, and Elliot Blake, have done a tremendous job in preparing and making this fly. The biggest challenge for all, USAV’s amazing Carla Hall included, has been getting visas for national teams like Iran and even Egypt.  Each delegation member paying well over $100, and having to travel hours, even out of the country, appearing in person, to get a visa to come to compete here. In the end, only Kenya, Iraq and Cuba who were expected, did not show. Competition and practice goes on from 8am to 10pm, the battle currently in pools and then half the teams will play up in the A flight and the bottom half in the B flight. In a fast getaway from the workload here, Cody twice drove up a carload of interested players the two hours it takes to get to Wichita, Kansas, and watched the USA team, behind a large kill level performance of Reid Priddy, split in their last World League weekend match sets.  The second nite he brought all the gear down from the event, buzzer, hydrometer and other items.

The play here is the best in the world for this discipline. Iran and Bosnia are tops in the men – professional leagues help them be at the pinnacle. China and the USA are the best in the women, with China taking the last two Paralympic Golds to the USA’s bronze and silver. There are some powerful stories on the USA teams, with wounded warriors and more – and two new USA women are joining the team, 13 year old Kaleo Kanahele and Monique, a former top softball player who lost her leg in a forklift accident working her summer job after her high school graduation – and now  on the team as a developing fast outside hitter.  The night before play began at about 10pm, Bill Hamiter and Edgar Miraku brought the team into the main gym and delivered his version of the Hoosier speech, and I spoke about controlling what you can control and Citius, Altius, Fortius. The women are undefeated after four matches, keeping seed, while the men won tonite over Libya 3-0 to hold to their seed so far as well. I urge you to pass along the www.wovd.info link, to obtain updated information on future competitions.

Internationally speaking still, I would like to give a shout out to Doriano Rabotti, who writes a great blog in Italian on “Pallavolo” called “Oltre la Rete.” He shares some neat insights into the game in Italy on all levels, and with the helpful click of Google Translator, you can get the gist of each writing by the click of a button. So click on HERE  and start learning from overseas the fun way from a guy who knows the game well.

Back to courts here, but remember, you can get lesson plans, images, pictures and ideas on how to coach in the minivolleyball book and from the poster section and more – or just email me at john.kessel@usav.org if you have questions on bringing the sitting game to your club, school or program to grow the game in a new way. 

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