Holiday Gifts for Volleyball Leaders and Athletes - 2012 Edition

By John Kessel | Dec. 21, 2012, 4:30 p.m. (ET)

So another calendar year of growing the game together comes to a close. Thus it is again time for some “gifts” to all of you who are coaches, club directors, officials, players and of course parents. Videos to download, books to read and things to consider for your New Year’s volleyball resolutions; hopefully all new to most of you, with thanks for USA Volleyball and the Sport Development & Region Services departments especially.

Thanks to the hard work of this year’s USAV Sport Development interns, who learned lots more about our game by reading and compiling my last 5 years of blogs, you can now download two versions of ALL the blogs in book form.

The Growing the Game Together  - Coaches & Club Director version can be downloaded by clicking HERE, while its companion volume Growing the Game Together – Players and Parent edition can be downloaded HERE. Unlike other “ebooks” that promise you “secrets” and more at a cost, both of these books are free, just like the USAV Minivolley book (with more than 30,000 copies in print, available HERE) for coaching 3-14 year olds, and the USAV  Youth Coloring books (Click HERE) to get that for the little ones in your extended volleyball family. I will be adding several new blogs over the holiday, and the plan is to update both books as these also are added to the grassroots section of the website. 

Finally, as to what book I am reading right now, it The Final Word, about the New Zealand All Black coach, Graham Henry, as we helped this great team and program and I am proud to say that a long time volleyball/mental coach and friend Gil Enoka, was also part of the Kiwis finally winning the World Cup in Rugby    … We hope ALL these books will help you become better at the most important skill for you in the gym, being a better teacher of the game, while also helping your players with their most important skill – learning.

Last year’s blog “Videos and Worth a Thousand remains the same, with my top video clips I use in my clinics around the USA and the world. I logged over 100,000 miles this year, now that my nest has emptied with both my kids in college playing volleyball (McKenzie, a freshman, and her Bowdoin Polar Bears tied for 9th in the NCAA Division III championships, losing 13-15 in their match to advance to the final eight, so proud dad). These are the ones I have added to my hard drive, and why…

Unstoppable – Canadian Paralympic Committee inspirational video – shot in one take, I have watched this clip about 100 times and it still gives me chills and pride in the work I am doing as development Director for ParaVolley (formerly the WOVD) .

Paralympic Inspiration - New USAV sponsor Liberty Mutual filmed this powerful 15 minute clip on a Paralympian that I think every parent, player and coach should view .

DIG UP! – Some of you are starting to see the success which comes from teaching your players to dig to themselves/UP, not back to a partner in “pepper,” as covered in my blog “The Evolution of Pepper” – These two new versions of international men digging the ball UP are must watches I believe for any level of team -  165 Volleyball Digs in 3 Minutes                                             155 Volleyball Digs in 4 Minutes -

The Team Behind the Team – In case you missed our USOC/USAV thank you video in advance of London 2012, we just want to say thanks to all of you for being our team behind the teams…

Maximum Contact Net System – part of our USAV Sport Development/Region Services outreach programming, which thanks again to Proctor and Gamble, we have been able to help get hundreds of PE Teachers and Clubs to change how they set up their nets systems and training for players 4-14 years of age. PE teachers love this way of maximizing their gym space as it also allows them to teach badminton, tennis and sitting volleyball, all using the same “4 nets on a rope.” Check it out, and if you want to buy one, or share other ideas with us, just email

Silent Night – Chuck Rey shared with me this great example of a creative team tradition and support idea…

The Athlete Machine – Gotta hand it to Red Bull, they know how to creatively make a video that inspires a kid to do something they love…

Zeitgeist 2012: Year in Review  - Another video, like the “People are Awesome” series, compiling the things the human race has done in the past year, which gives me chills…and I expect it will do the same to you too.

Blake Griffin Volleyball Spike Approach – So as you watch this second part of the video, where you see NBA star win the dunk contest, tell me what sport he played when younger. With perfect back row attack form, we can show all volleyball players how motor programs are specific, and see how a former volleyball player uses that skill set to dunk over a car…go two minutes in and start watching his “presentation” also..

Jamie Escalante – Math Who Needs It – The passing of the great teacher, Jamie Escalante, means I want all to see how he made math interesting and fun, and how he uses pattern interruption to assist in learning.  If he can do it in calculus for gosh sakes, we sure can help our players have higher” volleyball IQ” too.

11 Year Old Playing Varsity Basketball - One of the things that “age group” competition has done, is not allow for younger players to learn by playing athletes much older than they are, including against adults. This is not something in for example the international club system, where young players play by skill level, and thus with/against adults.  This clip makes me smile…

Edward Yudenich – 7 Year-old Conductor.  – I often say that coaches set limits on their players…and this kid clearly was not trained in blocked/progression form but allowed to conduct the whole way…

I dunno, I have shared the information on these great tools in past blogs, and in the last few months shared them again in the USAV Grow the Game Together (GTGT) newsletter TECHNOLOGY section, yet in the clinics I recently conducted for USAV Regions in Texas, Washington and Hawaii, when I show them, these wonderful teachers of our game go – “WHAT’S THAT?!!” If you are a USAV member and have not seen the newsletter, let me know and we will look into why, as we send it to over 25,000 coaches/club directors. If you are not a USAV member and would like to get it, email me at and I will add you to our Sport Development list so you too can get it – just let me know where you are growing the game in our world.

Coaches Eye – Mentioned in the first edition of the GTGT newsletter, it’s my favorite iPad video recording/playback app for how fast it analyzes and is do easy to draw highlights onto the screen, without any Internet connections needed.

Ubersense – Also mentioned earlier this year in a GTGT newsletter, this app is another solid video program which has the advantage of having split screen display. Worth the $5 also, no doubt..

Bam Video Delay  -   Mentioned in last month’s GTGT newsletter, it lets you set 2-30 second delays on your iPad of what is being videoed. So set it up on a clamp down the net, and have players block a hitter then go see how their timing was…along with a myriad of other uses, as it is like a Tivo unit on your iPad.

Pocket Radar – Super handy size, the size of most cell phones. It is not a stopwatch like some apps, but a full-fledged radar gun. To teach great serving, and to help spikers as well, a radar gun gives accurate and specific feedback to each player, so they can intrinsically strive for what they are doing to reach higher speeds.  Get it for school volleyball and share the cost with the baseball/softball/lacrosse/hockey teams if need be, but once you get one and put it into your pocket, you may not give it to anyone else!

Bushnell Radar gun – Much larger option but lower cost for accurate radar measurements in a volleyball practice or competition.

Casio High Speed Cameras  – Blogged about last year, there is a new model out, the  Casio EX-ZR100 - it shoots up to 40 Frames per Second and captures slow motion video at 1000 frames per second. Plus it features Full HD 1080p movie recording with stereo sound, and the ability to capture still images while shooting a movie – GREAT tool to teach the subtleties of reading an opponent’s spike, set, and serve…

Volleyball Ace & Tap Recorder -   Comprehensive stats, Serve and pass ratings, Serve and attack charts Instant consolidations Fast one tap recording for iPhone/iPad and laptops ...

Video Occlusion – As noted in the blog “STOP Teaching Passing”  we simply must get better at teaching our serve receivers to watch the ball from before the server hits it, to right through contact. This was also shared in last year’s video gifts, especially this one showing how Ronaldo can read the corner kick and even perform in the dark. We have been teaching this use of video to teach/predict where a player is sending the next contact in IMPACT for a couple of years as well. Last week at presentation by former USAV national team staffer Jamie Morrison,  noted that the same thing can be done with video for players, using any video editing program, where you black out the skill set, and ask the

VertMax – so this one is NEW….and darn it won’t be available till April – but next month I am going to speak at the National Pole Vaulting Summit in Reno, on specificity in training mostly. Peter Vint, USOC Senior Director of Competitive Analysis, Research and Innovation was in my office last week and I asked him where are we in sensors to track real time performance information. Peter helped USA Track and Field this summer (look next month for the USAV ICECP Webinar by Eric Hodgson and Steven Hutchinson in January 2013 for more) take what used to be a six month turn-around time of researchers and get most of the information to the athletes right after their training or performance. This VertMax device will do just that, letting a coach know how many times each athlete has jumped over six inches and the height of each of those jumps – so for attackers/blockers and also jump setters, some info in real time of value.

DropBox – For the past two years my work as a trainer for the Positive Coach Alliance has used this program to keep staff in synch with the material being produced in Palo Alto. It works simply to keep a team, club or even an entire RVA in synch.  Jamie said the USA team also uses the cloud program SugarSynch – which puts it directly into folders, an advantage over Dropbox when working with a team or club that is across platforms for sure.

TIVO, Kinovea, Dartfish Oh My! – Back in February this blog on the importance of immediate feedback and how Jim Coleman pioneered this work was posted.  Worth the reminder of how to make these things happen in your gym. and the value of  and was also noted in past GTGT newsletters.